The Saint Louis University department of athletics today announced its 2008-09 men's basketball schedule. The slate is highlighted by non-conference games against Boston College and Nebraska. This season marks the debut of the Billikens' new home, Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens will face five teams that earned an NCAA Tournament bid in 2008 and play nine games against opponents that qualified for the NIT or the CBI. SLU will play 11 games against teams coming off a 20-win season and 12 contests versus schools ranked in the official NCAA RPI Top 100.
"Once again, we will be playing a challenging schedule as this season's agenda includes six games against teams that were ranked in last season's Top 25," Billikens head coach Rick Majerus said. "On the docket is a total of 14 games against teams involved in postseason play such as Dayton, Kent State, Nebraska, Saint Joseph's, Southern Illinois, Temple and Xavier. It is an ambitious schedule in that we are playing teams from the ACC, Big 12, Big East and the Missouri Valley, and of course the stalwart competition of the Atlantic 10. The A-10 should field at least four NCAA Tournament teams at season's end, not to mention another handful of NIT teams.
"Our freshmen will receive a baptism of fire," Majerus said. "Our success will be dependent upon the maturity with which they approach practices in light of the fact that we play such a rigorous schedule going from places like New York and Rhode Island to Las Vegas. We open the conference schedule with a top-10 team in Xavier, which returns three starters. Teams such as Saint Joseph's and Temple are certainly viable top-10 teams with anticipated first-round NBA draft picks Dionte Christmas and Ahmad Nivins, as well as Xavier's Derrick Brown. We are working diligently to include teams from every major conference, and we welcome the opportunity to play virtually anyone, anywhere."
"The SLU athletic program eagerly anticipates the inaugural season at Chaifetz Arena," director of athletics Chris May said. "Hosting a local institution like UMSL in the first game at Chaifetz will make an already special event even more memorable and uplifting for the St. Louis area. Our goal is to reach out to the entire area and let everyone know Chaifetz Arena is a true community venue. The Billikens are their team. We have outstanding non-conference opponents coming to town in Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference as well as NCAA qualifiers Kent State and Maryland-Baltimore County."
The Billikens will host Missouri-St. Louis in the inaugural game at Chaifetz Arena on Friday, Nov. 14. Defending Mid-American Conference champion and NCAA squad Kent State visits on Wednesday, Nov. 19, and Boston College comes to town on Saturday, Nov. 22. The Billikens begin a three-game road swing when they travel to Lincoln, Neb., on Nov. 25, to take on a Cornhuskers team which posted a 20-13 record and earned a spot in the NIT. After Thanksgiving, SLU goes to the Motor City on Nov. 29, to face Detroit.
December 2 sees SLU head to Carbondale, Ill., for a tilt at Southern Illinois, which is coming off an NIT berth. The Billikens play the first of four straight at home on Saturday, Dec. 6, versus Savannah State. After a Dec. 13, home game against Samford, the Billikens host the first two games of the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 17, versus South Carolina-Upstate and on Friday, Dec. 19, against Liberty. SLU then heads to Orleans Arena in Las Vegas to conclude the tournament against DePaul on Dec. 22 and either Creighton or Fresno State on Dec. 23. The Billikens close out 2008 on Tuesday, Dec. 30, with a game against Maryland-Baltimore County, which won the America East Conference with a 24-9 record and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. SLU's final non-conference game is Friday, Jan. 2, 2009, against North Carolina A&T.
The Billikens begin A-10 Conference play on Thursday, Jan. 8, at defending regular-season champion Xavier, one of 10 games against league squads that qualified for postseason play. SLU hosts Massachusetts in the A-10 home opener on Wednesday, Jan. 14. The Billikens will close the regular season at home for the first time since 2004 with a game against La Salle on Saturday, March 7. Atlantic City will host the 2009 A-10 Tournament running March 11-14 at Boardwalk Hall.