WILMINGTON, NC August 28, 2014 – UNCW men’s basketball skipper Kevin Keatts will carry his revamped team to challenging venues at Louisville and Minnesota early in 2014-15 to prepare for an 18-game Colonial Athletic Association schedule that features several of the league’s heavyweights in the first month of the new year.
The energetic Keatts took over the helm of the program last April and has hit the ground running, restocking the roster, conducting summer and preseason workouts, and assembling a competitive non-conference schedule to go along with the grueling CAA slate.
“We were looking for a good way to challenge the guys before the conference schedule and we’ve accomplished that,” said Keatts, who spent three seasons on the staff at Louisville with Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino.
“It’s going to be difficult having so many road games early, but it will give us an opportunity to see where we are and get our guys accustomed to good competition. It should help us prepare for the CAA schedule that comes after the first of the year.”
The Seahawks entertain NCAA Division II Catawba in an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 8, before stepping on the pedal with four straight road games to christen the regular season.
The Seahawks kick off the campaign against former CAA rival Old Dominion with a Nov. 15 date at the Ted Constant Center. The Seahawks are 1-8 in the arena and picked up their lone win there, 68-65, on Jan. 30, 2008.
UNCW then closes out the month of November with UNC Greensboro, VMI and Davidson in succession before the home opener on Dec. 3 against NAIA member St. Andrews.
The Seahawks head back on the road on Sunday, Dec. 14, when Keatts returns to Louisville and the KFC Yum! Center, where he played a key role in UofL’s impressive run the last three seasons. The Cardinals are the lone first-time opponent on the schedule and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
“It will be bittersweet to return to Louisville,” said Keatts. “I’ll see a lot of familiar faces, but this time I’ll be sitting on a different bench. It will be a tremendous experience for our players to compete in an atmosphere like that. It can only pay dividends when we head into the tough environments in conference play.”
The Seahawks next play back-to-back home games against Liberty and rival East Carolina on Dec. 17 and Dec. 20 before wrapping up the non-conference slate with road trips to Campbell, Minnesota and Ohio.
The visit to Minneapolis will mark the return of the team to historic Williams Arena, one of college basketball’s cathedrals. The 14,625-seat facility opened in 1928 at a cost of just $650,000 and is affectionately known as “The Barn.” UNCW stunned the Gophers, 58-50, on Dec. 4, 2001, in their last visit to the well-known facility.
Keatts makes his CAA debut on Saturday, Jan. 3, when Hofstra’s Pride visit Trask Coliseum. It’s the first of 10 games during the first month of the year, with the string split between home and road dates. The Seahawks will face both Hofstra and Drexel twice in January and won’t see the Pride and Dragons again until the CAA Tournament in March.
UNCW faces CAA newcomer Elon for the first time as a conference opponent on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at Trask Coliseum.
In February, UNCW has eight games on tap, including a pair of games against longtime league foe James Madison. The Seahawks wrap up the regular season slate with their first visit to Elon’s Alumni Gymnasium for a conference match-up.
The CAA Tournament returns to the Baltimore Arena for the second straight year on March 7-10, 2015.
UNCW Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Opponent Capsules
Old Dominion (ODUSports.com)
Second-year coach Jeff Jones will defend his home court when the Seahawks head to the Ted Constant Center on Nov. 11 for the regular season opener for both teams. The Seahawks will be looking for revenge following last season’s 67-59 loss to the Monarchs, who went 18-18 on the year.
UNC Greensboro (UNCGSpartans.com)
The Seahawks travel up I-40 to take on the Spartans for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign. Last season, the UNCG went 9-7 at home and 14-18 overall under Wes Miller. It marks the first visit to the Greensboro Coliseum for the Seahawks since an 81-69 victory over Wake Forest on Dec. 12, 2010.
Virginia Military Institute (VMIKeydets.com)
Led by 10th-year Head Coach Dugger Baucom, the Keydets went 22-13 overall with an 11-5 record in the Big South Conference one year ago. VMI rejoins the Southern Conference after an 11-year absence, having been a member of the Big South from 2003 to 2014.
Davidson enters its first season as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference after departing the Southern Conference. Bob McKillop has piloted the Wildcats for 25 seasons and hopes to maintain the the same success in the new circuit.
St. Andrews (SAUKnights.com)
UNCW entertains St. Andrews in the only non-Division I game on the slate. The Knights, a member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference, will be no pushover, returning four of five starters from last season. St. Andrews is looking to improve on last year’s 5-19 overall record and 3-15 mark in conference play.
Just call this the Reunion Game. New UNCW skipper Kevin Keatts returns to the Yum Yum Center to take on Rick Pitino’s Cardinals. Keatts spent three years on Pitino’s staff before taking over the helm of the Seahawk program last spring. The Cardinals are coming off an outstanding 2013-14 season that included an Elite 8 run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Seahawks entertain Liberty at Trask Coliseum on Dec. 17. The Flames turned in a disappointing 11-21 record last year and will be looking for revenge after losing, 87-76, to the Seahawks at the Vines Center last season.
East Carolina (ECUPirates.com)
It was once one of the most heated rivalries in the state and whenever the Seahawks and Pirates get together, it’s still a barnburner. UNCW escaped with a narrow win last year at Minges Coliseum when Cedrick Williams blocked a last-second layup attempt to preserve the win.
In another longtime rivalry, Campbell visits Trask Coliseum in the final game before the Christmas break on Dec. 23. Led by second-year Head Coach Kevin McGeehan, the Camels struggled through a 12-20 record last season that concluded with a loss to Charleston Southern in the first round of the Big South Tournament.
It’s Reunion Game, Part II, as assistant coach Casey Stanley faces his old team at historic Williams Arena, a.k.a. The Barn. A Big 10 Conference powerhouse, Minnesota steamrolled to a 25-13 record last season, including 18-3 at Williams Arena. Head Coach Richard Pitino guided the Gophers to the NIT Championship after beating SMU in the final, 65-63.
The Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference entertain the Seahawks in the non-conference finale. The Bobcats have won 20 or more games four times in the last five years and have a new skipper in former North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips, who is the 18th coach in OU history.
Non-Conference Opponents By Affiliation
American Athletic Conference (East Carolina, Louisville)
Appalachian Athletic Conference (St. Andrews)
Atlantic 10 (Davidson)
Big 10 (Minnesota)
Big South (Campbell, Liberty)
Conference USA (Old Dominion)
Mid-American Conference (Ohio)
Southern Conference (UNC Greensboro, VMI)