MU gets ambitious in hoops schedule
HUNTINGTON - He joked about being sick to his stomach over his team's 2012-13 schedule, but Marshall basketball coach Tom Herrion said his third team is up for the challenge.
The Thundering Herd's full schedule was announced Tuesday, four weeks after Conference USA announced the league slate for all 12 teams. Certainly, the Herd won't cheat itself on strength of schedule.
Road games include those at Villanova and Kentucky, with games in Charleston against West Virginia and Cincinnati. National Invitation Tournament quarterfinalist Nevada heads the seven-game nonconference lineup at Cam Henderson Center.
Herd coaches and officials tried to assemble the schedule to maximize its Rating Percentage Index ranking, and improve its "eye test" with the NCAA selection committee. The Herd will play five teams from the 2012 NCAA tournament away from home - South Dakota State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, defending national champion Kentucky and Ohio.
"This group deserves the opportunity to play this tough a schedule," Herrion said. "I believe that."
After an Oct. 29 exhibition game against Bluefield (Va.) College, Marshall opens the season Nov. 9 against Longwood. Two days later, the Herd takes the court at Villanova.
That is part of the four-game 2K Sports Classic, with the last three games hosted by Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y. The Herd plays Division II University of District of Columbia on Nov. 16, South Dakota State on Nov. 17 and Hofstra on Nov. 18.
The Herd was working on a similar event it would host, but that fell through.
"We're playing UDC, a non-Division I game, that's scheduled through the event," Herrion said. "Hofstra will be vastly improved, three or four transfers, high-level kids who sat out last year. You probably don't know how good South Dakota State is. They have one of the best players in the nation, at any level, [Nate] Wolters."
When the Herd gets back from Hofstra, it won't have to travel more than 127 miles for almost eight weeks. Home games are against Nevada, Morehead State, North Carolina-Wilmington, Coppin State, Savannah State and Delaware State.
Two games are played in Charleston, Dec. 5 against WVU and Dec. 15 against Cincinnati. The remaining road games come against Kentucky on Dec. 22 and Ohio on Jan. 5.
"I think that's a game where I hope my damn back flares up," Herrion said of the UK game. "I may not be able to make that one. I'll be in a hot tub in Colorado Springs with a margarita or something like that. Remember, they haven't lost a home game since [John Calipari has] gotten there.
"And I don't have any tickets."
After the Kentucky game, the Herd has an 11-day holiday break before the Delaware State game. That was a product of Akron agreeing to defer Marshall's visit for a year, allowing MU to balance home and road games.
Herrion acknowledged the road schedule is much more challenging, and said that will continue. Getting a big-name team to Cam Henderson Center is tougher than ever.
"Can't. Can't happen, unless you know somebody I don't know," Herrion said. "There's no need to - I was on the other side of it. When I was at Pitt, I did all the scheduling for three years with Coach [Jamie] Dixon, and when I was with Coach [Pete] Gillen I did it for eight years, at Providence [and Virginia]. They have nothing to gain to come here.
"And yeah, we can cry for respect and all that. Some of it's a byproduct of having a team people think is pretty good, it's a tough place to get to and it's a hard place for people to beat us. I take it more as a compliment, yet it offers great challenges in scheduling."
Game times have not been announced, except for the Kentucky game. That is at 4 p.m., with ESPN2 televising.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.