New schedule highlighted by road tests

(Jonathan Segal/The Beacon)

Kevin Castaneda/ Staff Writer

This season, FIU men’s basketball schedule is daunting. Going against five postseason teams from a year ago, the Panthers will face the tough task of rebuilding an 8-21 record from last year.

The quality of opponents is not the only thing working against the Panthers this season. The team plays 29 games this year, with 16 of those on the road. The 13 home games are by no means easy either. Seven of the 13 opponents coming into the U.S. Century Bank Arena had winning records last year.

Change is another challenge FIU must overcome this season. Only six players from the 2011-2012 roster are making their way back this year, along with 12 new additions.

New Head Coach Richard Pitino’s experience and non-conference knowledge is the fresh change FIU needs.

“We are going to face a lot of good programs this year and we look forward to the challenge,” Pitino said in a press release. “Our non-conference portion of the schedule should get us prepared for what I expect to be a very competitive Sun Belt Conference.”

The Panthers begin their season on the road Nov. 11 at Boston College. The Eagles lost 11 of their last 13 regular season games, finishing with a record of 9-22.

The Panther’s home opener on Nov. 17 is against Stephen F. Austin, a team that has put together four 20-plus winning seasons in the last five years.

The Panthers will go on the road for one game, but come back for two home games against conference opponents. They first take on Arkansas State Nov. 29 followed by South Alabama on Dec. 1.

Following the small home stand, the Panthers go on a seven-game road trip facing some quality opponents.

The most notable game happens on Dec. 19 versus Rick Pitino, Richard Pitino’s father, and his Louisville Cardinals team.

This will test FIU considering that the Cardinals not only finished 26-9 in the regular season, but tacked on four more postseason wins in the NCAA Tournament to reach the Final Four. The last time Louisville and FIU matched up was in 2010 when the Cardinals defeated the Panthers 92-55.

The road trip ends at Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 29, where FIU will have to face their toughest conference opponent. Not only did Middle Tennessee finish 27-7, but they are bringing back 11 players from last year.

In January, FIU faces off against eight conference opponents, with an even split of four games at home and four on the road.

The harder games will be on Jan. 12 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and against Louisiana-Lafayette on Jan. 5 at home and then Jan. 24 on the road, capped off by a home game against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 30. All the teams mentioned had winning percentages above .625 last year.

In February, FIU will have five games against teams with losing records. The Panthers take on Louisiana Monroe twice, then Florida Atlantic, Troy and Western Kentucky. Those four teams combined for a 21-43 record last season. The final game of the season will be on March 2 at Florida Atlantic.

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