One of the youngest coaching staffs in college basketball has put together one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country.
If it was up to defending Big Sky Conference champion Eastern Washington, the slate – compiled by public information or multiple sources close to the program – would be even tougher.
The Eagles, who return four starters and the bulk of its roster after a 23-8 season, will face five teams that would have appeared in March’s canceled NCAA Tournament, including Oregon, USC, Saint Mary’s, Liberty and North Dakota State.
The other five NCAA Division I nonconference teams on EWU’s schedule – Notre Dame, South Dakota State, Monmouth, Washington State and Southern Illinois – had resumes worthy of the NIT, CBI or CIT last season.
The game against NDSU – the defending Summit League champion – is in Cheney. EWU’s full official schedule will be released by the school this summer.
Coach Shantay Legans (38 years old) and assistants David Riley (31), Bobby Suarez (28) and T.J. Lipold (32) are primed to build off last year’s squad that ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (80.9 points per game).
All-Big Sky returnees Jacob Davison (18 ppg) and Kim Aiken Jr. (13.4 ppg, 9.7 rebounds per game) are among the throng of EWU’s experienced returners.
EWU is currently included in ESPN’s 2021 NCAA Tournament prognosticator “Bracketology” as a No. 15 seed facing No. 2 seed Wisconsin at the West Regional in Denver.
The Eagles will face defending Pac-12 champion Oregon in Eugene on Nov. 10 before making the trip south to Los Angeles on Nov. 13 to face a USC team that went 22-9 last season.
EWU then begins its three-game excursion in the Legends Classic, facing Notre Dame (22-12 last season) in South Bend, Indiana, on Nov. 17.
The Eagles then play two Legends games at High Point University in North Carolina, facing two-time defending Atlantic Sun champion Liberty and Monmouth (18-13 last season) on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, respectively.
NCAA Tournament regular Saint Mary’s plays host to EWU on Dec. 5 in Moraga, California, before EWU returns to Cheney to face NDSU on Dec. 8, a program that has qualified for the Big Dance each of the past two seasons.
NDSU shared the Summit League regular-season title with South Dakota State, which hosts the Eagles on Dec. 17. The Jackrabbits have won six of the past eight regular-season Summit titles and have appeared in five NCAA Tournaments in the 2010s.
On Dec. 19 the Eagles face Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Illinois. The Salukis went 16-16 last season and 10-8 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
For the first time in eight years, EWU will face rising Washington State at the Spokane Arena. The Cougars, who had seven straight losing campaigns, went 16-16 under first-year coach Kyle Smith last season and won their first Pac-12 Tournament game since 2009.
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