Heard today that the release of USI’s entire 2013-14 men’s basketball schedule may not come about until late next week. Apparently, coach Rodney Watson has a line on one or two exhibition games with Big Ten teams and he wants to scope out those possibilities. Since he became head coach, the Eagles have played five Division I schools in exhibitions: Southern Illinois (his alma mater and where he was an assistant coach for 21 seasons), Illinois, Vanderbilt, Purdue and, of course, the University of Evansville last year at the Ford Center. USI has not won any of them, of course, but that’s never been the point of the exercise. Watson just wants his players to get a look at superior talent and discover what their (the USI players’) weaknesses are and figure out how to counter them. And if USI gives the D-I squad a game, even better.
Much of the schedule, however, is up on USI’s web site here. The earliest game listed is at Kentucky Wesleyan in Owensboro, Ky., on Nov. 19, which would be a heck of a way to start the season — against your archrival, who now plays in a different conference (Great Midwest Athletic Conference). I figure the Eagles will find a couple of games to play to open the season before diving into the Sportscenter. The next game is Nov. 23 at the PAC against another Midwest Region school, Lake Erie College, which is in the GLVC’s rival conference, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, otherwise known as the GLIAC.
After that is the annual Bill Joergens Memorial Classic at USI, featuring Bellarmine playing in the opposite bracket but not playing the Eagles, followed by the Fern Valley Hotel Classic at Bellarmine, with the same format. One game to note in that, however: USI will meet Virginia Union, a three-time national Division II champion (the last time in 2005) in the first game. Next it’s KWC again in a game at the PAC on Dec. 21, the last game before the Christmas break. Then USI plays its first GLVC game, at Rockhurst on Jan. 3.
I’m also trying to track down a report that Orlando Rutledge, last season’s leading scorer, may not be academically eligible for the first semester. I’ve talked to Watson, who would only say he and his staff are working on it. Stay tuned.