"This certainly is the most challenging schedule we have put together since my arrival at SLU," fourth-year head coach Shimmy Gray-Miller said. "The competition in the A-10 is more intense every season, so we know what we're in for come January. The non-conference schedule satisfies our two main objectives of adequately preparing us for the A-10 and giving us an opportunity to be successful. The schedule definitely is competitive and indicative of the direction in which our program is headed."
"Our women's basketball program will experience a tremendous boost playing in Chaifetz Arena, which we believe is second to none in the nation among on-campus athletic facilities," director of athletics Chris May said. "The Arena, as well as the demanding schedule coach Gray-Miller and her staff have compiled, are befitting of a program that is on the way up. We look forward to watching the Billikens compete against some of the nation's elite in their new home this season."
The Billikens will play 14 home games this season, including four of their first six outings, after playing just 11 contests on campus last year.
"Our players and season-ticket holders are ecstatic that we will be playing at home more this year than in the past," Gray-Miller said. "The beautiful new Chaifetz Arena was an incentive for us to try to get as many home games as possible. Clearly we host some extremely competitive teams, which we hope will attract people to come out and support us."
The non-conference ledger features a heavy Midwestern flavor. The Billikens will take on three opponents from the Big 12 Conference, three from the Missouri Valley Conference and two from the Mid-American Conference. In all, 11 leagues are represented on the schedule.
"I am thrilled that we have started series with so many regional programs," Gray-Miller said. "In addition to our A-10 rivalries, those are the type of games that draw fans and appeal to the competitive nature of our players. In attempting to establish tradition and maintain interest, developing good non-conference rivalries close to home is a priority for us."
The Billikens open the 2008-09 campaign at Southern Illinois Nov. 14, while the home opener takes place Nov. 16 against Western Michigan. Saint Louis travels to Morehead State Nov. 19 prior to an attractive three-game homestand during Thanksgiving week. Kansas visits Chaifetz Arena Nov. 23, followed by Creighton (21-12), which reached the second round of the WNIT last season, Nov. 25. A battle against in-state rival Missouri State concludes the homestand Nov. 29.
The Bills then head to the West Coast to play in the Contra Costa Times Classic Dec. 6-7. Host California (27-7) was the 2007-08 Pacific-10 Conference regular-season and tournament runner-up to eventual NCAA Tournament finalist Stanford, and the Golden Bears reached the NCAA second round. TCU (23-12), a WNIT quarterfinalist, and Princeton round out the tournament.
The Billikens face Canisius on the road Dec. 14 and return to Chaifetz Arena to host Oakland (20-10) Dec. 16. Perhaps the most ambitious portion of the non-conference schedule follows, with Saint Louis traveling to NCAA qualifier Wyoming (24-7) Dec. 20 and WNIT semifinalist Colorado Dec. 22 before hosting Oklahoma (22-9, NCAA second round) Dec. 30 as part of a doubleheader that also includes the Billiken men taking on Maryland-Baltimore County. SLU hosts Ball State Jan. 4 and travels to Hampton Jan. 6 before beginning A-10 action.
"Rarely does a team as highly regarded as Oklahoma, with a potential four-time All American (senior center Courtney Paris), roll into town," Gray-Miller said. "That will be an alluring game for local fans."
Dayton, coming off its best season ever (25-9) and a WNIT appearance, comes to St. Louis Jan. 10 to open A-10 play, followed by Fordham Jan. 13. The Bills' first conference road tests happen at La Salle Jan. 17 and Charlotte (WNIT) Jan. 20, a pair of games that begin a stretch during which SLU plays five of seven away from home. Saint Louis hosts Saint Joseph's Jan. 24, travels to Massachusetts Jan. 31, entertains Charlotte Feb. 3, and heads to Temple (21-13, NCAA qualifier, A-10 regular-season co-champion) Feb. 8 and Duquesne Feb. 11.
SLU plays three of its final five contests at home beginning Feb. 14 against George Washington (27-7), which advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 after tying Temple for the A-10 regular-season crown. The Billikens play at Rhode Island Feb. 18 prior to hosting two-time defending A-10 Tournament champion Xavier (24-9), an NCAA qualifier, Feb. 21. The regular season concludes with a home game against St. Bonaventure Feb. 25 and a contest at Richmond March 1.
Prior to the beginning of the regular season, the Billikens host Washington (Mo.) University in an exhibition game Nov. 7.