Men's 2008-09 hoops slate announced

Potential top 5 team Louisville, in the Elite Eight last season, a home game vs. preseason top 20 West Virginia, a Sweet Sixteen team last season, as well as an ESPN Super Tuesday game in Oxford against Kentucky are highlights of the upcoming men's basketball schedule for Ole Miss.

Andy Kennedy has wanted to upgrade the Ole Miss men's hoops schedule, but he also adds it's a year-to-year challenge to get things set up just right.

While the "perfect" schedule may never be achieved, the 2008-09 slate has a lot of flavor to it, with some big home and road games, another non-conference game within Mississippi's borders but outside of Oxford, a trip to New Orleans, and a first game for the Rebels in the SEC-Big East showdown series.

One highlight for Kennedy and Ole Miss will surely be on Wednesday, Dec. 3, when West Virginia comes to Oxford. The Mountaineers should be a preseason top 20 squad and one of the favorites for the Big East title.

"We are bringing in several quality non-league opponents to Oxford this year, headlined by our first game in the new series with West Virginia," said Kennedy, who enters his third season at Ole Miss with 21 and 24 wins his first two years. "My good friend and mentor Bob Huggins has a top 20 team that will be a very challenging opponent for us."

Ole Miss plays 16 teams that won 18 or more games a year ago with 13 of this season's opponents advancing to postseason play.

The Rebels play 16 games in Oxford. The non-conference slate features eight contests in Tad Smith Coliseum, where the Rebels went 16-2 last season (including two NIT home games) in front of a school-record number of fans.

Ole Miss opens the season at home hosting Arkansas State (Fri., Nov. 14) under familiar but new-to-ASU head coach John Brady, the former LSU head coach and Mississippi State assistant. That game is to be played the night before the Rebels' home football game against Louisiana-Monroe.

2007-08 NCAA participant South Alabama comes to Oxford (Tues., Nov. 18) as do Morgan State (Wed., Nov. 26), Central Florida (Nov. 29, which is a Saturday and is the day after football's Egg Bowl), Alabama State (Mon., Dec. 15), Florida A&M (Mon., Dec. 22) and Nicholls State (Sat., Jan. 3).

Other non-league highlights include a pre-Thanksgiving tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla. (Nov. 21-23), and a nationally televised matchup with Louisville (Thurs., Dec. 18 on ESPN or ESPN2) as part of the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational in Cincinnati. The Cardinals return four starters from last season's team that reached the NCAA Elite Eight and finished at No. 6 in the national rankings.

The Rebels also hit the road for back-to-back away games at New Orleans (Sat., Dec. 6) and New Mexico (Sat., Dec. 13) and a neutral-site encounter with Southern Miss (Tues., Dec. 30) at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.

"The quality of our non-league schedule should provide us with the challenges we need to prepare our guys for the rigors of SEC play," Kennedy said. "We have the opportunity to play a preseason top-five opponent on national television when we face Louisville in Cincinnati. That will be a huge test and will help us gauge where we are as a team before we get into league play."

An ESPN "Super Tuesday" game against Kentucky on Jan. 27 highlights the Rebels' home conference slate, which also includes dates with Arkansas (Wed., Jan. 14), LSU (Sat., Jan. 17 on Raycom), Auburn (Wed., Feb. 4), Tennessee (Wed., Feb. 18 on Raycom), Georgia (Sat., Feb. 21), Alabama (Sat., Feb. 28 on Raycom) and the regular-season finale against Mississippi State (Sat., March 7).

Ole Miss opens league play at Florida on Sat., Jan. 10, which will mark the ninth time in the last 11 years for the Rebels to play their SEC opener on the road. In addition to a nationally broadcasted CBS game at Vanderbilt (Sat., Feb. 7), they will make trips to Alabama (Wed., Jan. 21), South Carolina (Sat., Jan. 24), Mississippi State (Sat., Jan. 31 on Raycom), LSU (Sat., Feb. 14), Auburn (Wed., Feb. 25) and Arkansas (Wed., March 4).

"We are in year three now, and we have a better understanding of the challenges you face in this conference," said Kennedy, who was the 2007 SEC Coach of the Year in his initial campaign. "There are no nights off in SEC play, and we've got to be up to the challenge every night, regardless of the order of games. I know our guys are excited to get started."

The 2009 SEC Tournament will be staged for the first time in league history at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., March 12-15.

Seven games on the Rebels' schedule are already slated for television, with three of those being national telecasts. The Feb. 7 Vanderbilt game marks the first time for Ole Miss to appear on CBS since March 2, 2003, at Alabama. Additional TV games will be announced in the coming days. Ole Miss set a school record with 22 TV appearances in 2006-07 and added 20 more last year.

*** Joey Jones of UM athletics media relations contributed to this story.

For ticket information for the 2008-09 hoops season, call the Ole Miss Ticket Office at 662-915-7167.

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