It seems like football season just got under way, but it won’t be too long before college basketball teams across the country begin practice for the 2010-11 campaign.
Sam Houston State recently announced its hoops schedule for the upcoming season and Bearkat fans should be pumped because new head coach Jason Hooten and his staff have secured some solid nonconference matchups which are sure to whet the appetite.
Highlighting Sam Houston’s schedule is a home contest against Houston on Dec. 4. That’s right, the Cougars and new head coach James Dickey are coming to Huntsville for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
If that isn’t enough to get folks excited, the defending Southland Conference champion Bearkats will also head to Austin to battle the Texas Longhorns on Nov. 23.
“Coach Dickey is a good friend of mine and he actually called to congratulate me on getting the Sam job. About a week later he called again and asked if we would be willing to play a home-and-home series this year since we were both having trouble finding games,” Hooten said Wednesday. “I also hired Alvin Brooks (III) as one of my assistants and his dad is on the Houston staff, so that is pretty cool. We are really looking forward to playing Houston and for them to be coming to Johnson Coliseum.
“As for the Longhorns, I have gotten to know coach (Rick) Barnes over the years and my really good friend Rodney Terry has been on his staff for a long time. I also hired two assistants from Texas, so that helped us schedule that game. It is great exposure for us and we are thankful that coach Barnes is giving us the opportunity to come to Austin.”
The Bearkats have had some solid teams agree to play at Johnson Coliseum over the years, but a stretch in early December could be one of the best to date.
It all begins when Houston comes to town on Dec. 4. Four days later, North Texas returns to Johnson Coliseum on Dec. 8. Sam Houston closes out the homestand with Cleveland State on Dec. 11.
“In my six years working with Coach (Bob Marlin) we had like one year when we had a stretch of those kind of teams come here,” Hooten added. “Houston and North Texas were both NCAA tournament teams last year, and Cleveland State made it two years ago. We are glad to get those schools to come here, and it should be exciting for our fans.”
The Bearkats open the season with a pair of home games against Mary Hardin-Baylor (Nov. 13) and Northwestern Oklahoma State (Nov. 15). Sam Houston then begins a challenging nonconference schedule at Texas and Colorado State (Nov. 27).
After returning home for the stretch with the Cougars, North Texas and Cleveland State, which begins Dec. 1 against Saint Thomas, the Bearkats hit the road for Miami to face Florida International on Dec. 18 before a return trip to Houston on Dec. 21.
Sam Houston will then spend the New Year in El Paso. The Kats will battle Air Force (Dec. 28) and Western New Mexico (Dec. 28) at the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
Following the tournament, the Kats will hang around a few days before closing out nonconference action at UTEP on Jan. 2.
“We were going to play UTEP regardless, so when they had somebody drop out of their tournament, they asked us if we wanted to come early. That gives us another quality game with Air Force,” Hooten said. “You want to play good teams in nonconference because that prepares you for the league. We feel like we have a very good nonconference schedule.”
Another good thing for Bearkat fans is the fact that Sam Houston will play archrival Stephen F. Austin twice in the regular season this year. The Lumberjacks and Lamar rotate every two years between the East and West Divisions.
SFA is back in the West, so the Jacks and Kats will play Jan. 26 in Huntsville and again on March 2 in Nacogdoches.
“Getting SFA twice is good for the fans,” Hooten said. “They always have a good team, and the fans get excited because this is one of the best rivalries in the conference.”
Sam Houston has a home-heavy schedule to begin SLC play. After opening at UTSA on Jan. 8, the Bearkats get Texas-Arlington (Jan. 12) and Nicholls (Jan. 15) in Huntsville.
SHSU heads to Texas State (Jan. 19) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Jan. 22) before another home stretch with SFA, UTSA (Jan. 29) and Southeastern Louisiana (Feb. 5).
The Bearkats close out the SLC slate with road games at UTA (Feb. 9), McNeese State (Feb. 14), Central Arkansas (Feb. 19), Lamar (Feb. 26) and SFA (March 2). The remaining league home games are A&M-Corpus Christi (Feb. 12), Northwestern State (Feb. 23) and Texas State (March 5).
“I really didn’t look at it that way, but it is good to start conference with a lot of home games because we have some new guys coming in,” Hooten said. ‘We have some great players coming back, but by playing at home early it gives our new guys a chance to build some confidence. Our fans always do a good job of backing us at home and that will really help.”
The Bearkats begin practice Oct. 16.
Still looking for win No. 1 — There are two teams in the Southland Conference which are hoping to finally break into the win column this weekend.
Sam Houston State and Nicholls have both gotten off to rocky starts with road-heavy schedules. The Bearkats (0-2) host their first home game Saturday against Gardner-Webb at 6 p.m. The Colonels also play at Guidry Stadium for the first time when Bacone College comes to Thibodaux, La., for a 4 p.m. start.
Skid comes to an end — Northwestern State finally snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 17-14 victory over Tarleton State last weekend. The Demons went 0-11 in 2009 and started this season 0-2.
The last time Northwestern State notched a victory was Nov. 22, 2008, a 34-24 victory over rival Stephen F. Austin in the season finale.