OXFORD, Miss. - A pair of showdowns with nationally ranked BIG EAST teams and eight Southeastern Conference home games highlight the 2008-09 Ole Miss men's basketball schedule, head coach Andy Kennedy announced Tuesday. On the docket for Ole Miss are 16 teams that won 18 or more games a year ago and 13 teams that advanced to postseason play. The Rebels will host a total of 16 games in Oxford. The non-conference slate features eight contests in Tad Smith Coliseum, where the Rebels went 16-2 in front of a school-record number of fans last season. Included among this year's home games is a Dec. 3 tilt with the BIG EAST's West Virginia Mountaineers, who reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen a year ago. "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 the helm after directing Ole Miss to back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances. "My good friend and mentor Bob Huggins has a top-20 team that will be a very challenging opponent for us." Ole Miss also hosts Arkansas State (Nov. 14), NCAA participant South Alabama (Nov. 18), Morgan State (Nov. 26), UCF (Nov. 29), Alabama State (Dec. 15), Florida A&M (Dec. 22) and Nicholls State (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 (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 (Dec. 6) and New Mexico (Dec. 13) and a neutral-site encounter with Southern Miss (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 versus Kentucky on Jan. 27 highlights the Rebels' home conference slate, which also includes dates with Arkansas (Jan. 14), LSU (Jan. 17 on Raycom), Auburn (Feb. 4), Tennessee (Feb. 18 on Raycom), Georgia (Feb. 21), Alabama (Feb. 28 on Raycom) and the regular-season finale against Mississippi State (March 7). Ole Miss opens league play at Florida on 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 (Feb. 7), they will make trips to Alabama (Jan. 21), South Carolina (Jan. 24), Mississippi State (Jan. 31 on Raycom), LSU (Feb. 14), Auburn (Feb. 25) and Arkansas (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. For ticket information for the 2008-09 hoops season, call the Ole Miss Ticket Office at 662-915-7167.
2008-09 Ole Miss Men's Basketball Schedule: Date Opponent Location TV
Nov. 14 Arkansas State Oxford, Miss.
Nov. 18 South Alabama Oxford, Miss.
Nov. 21-23 Glenn Wilkes Classic Daytona Beach, Fla.
Nov. 26 Morgan State Oxford, Miss.
Nov. 29 UCF Oxford, Miss.
Dec. 3 West Virginia Oxford, Miss.
Dec. 6 at New Orleans New Orleans, La.
Dec. 13 at New Mexico Albuquerque, N.M.
Dec. 15 Alabama State Oxford, Miss.
Dec. 18 vs. Louisville% Cincinnati, Ohio ESPN/ESPN2
Dec. 22 Florida A&M Oxford, Miss.
Dec. 30 vs. Southern Miss Biloxi, Miss.
Jan. 3 Nicholls State Oxford, Miss.
Jan. 10 at Florida* Gainesville, Fla.
Jan. 14 Arkansas* Oxford, Miss.
Jan. 17 LSU* Oxford, Miss. Raycom
Jan. 21 at Alabama* Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Jan. 24 at South Carolina* Columbia, S.C.
Jan. 27 Kentucky* Oxford, Miss. ESPN
Jan. 31 at Mississippi State* Starkville, Miss. Raycom
Feb. 4 Auburn* Oxford, Miss.
Feb. 7 at Vanderbilt* Nashville, Tenn. CBS
Feb. 14 at LSU* Baton Rouge, La.
Feb. 18 Tennessee* Oxford, Miss. Raycom
Feb. 21 Georgia* Oxford, Miss.
Feb. 25 at Auburn* Auburn, Ala.
Feb. 28 Alabama* Oxford, Miss. Raycom
Mar. 4 at Arkansas* Fayetteville, Ark.
Mar. 7 Mississippi State* Oxford, Miss.