Aug. 20, 2008
The preseason is shorter in one respect and it’s a little easier in another for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team.
With its Big Sky Conference opener scheduled for the early date of Dec. 6, Eastern will have just seven non-conference games and two exhibitions to prepare for conference play as second-year Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine has announced his 2008-09 schedule.
Eastern’s non-conference campaign will once again include difficult opposition, with road games scheduled against the likes of Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, Washington and Boise State. However, back-to-back road games are rare.
"I like looking at this schedule more than the one we had last year," said Earlywine. "I like the balance of home games versus road games, and I like the fact we aren’t playing more than two consecutive road games."
Last season, the Eagles finished 11-19 overall and 6-10 in the league, but failed to advance to the six-team Big Sky Tournament for the second-straight season. A year after having just three players with NCAA Division experience, this year Earlywine will have eight.
Six returning letter winners join three 2008-09 redshirts and five newcomers to Earlywine’s roster this season, giving the Eagles a team of 14 players he hopes will be a team to reckon with in the Big Sky Conference.
League play -- easily the earliest Big Sky start in school history -- starts just seven games into the season with a home game versus Montana State on Dec. 6. A nine-team league and the participation of some teams in the ESPN Bracketbusters in February necessitates the early start. Last year’s Dec. 22 league start was previously the earliest in EWU history.
"I’m definitely not in favor of playing conference games the third week of the season," said Earlywine. "But one good thing is that it’s a conference game on a Saturday at home with our students here. We did not have too many of those last year."
In all, Eastern has six non-conference home games and seven on the road. Eastern opens the season at Illinois and UC Irvine, but after that, only during the league season does Eastern play back-to-back road games again. Last year, Eastern had only two home games in its first 11 outings of the season.
As a result, Eastern was just 3-8 to start the season before going 8-9 in their next 17 games. The Eagles ended the season with a pair of road losses and finished the season 8-5 at Reese Court and 3-14 away from home.
"It’s a challenging schedule, but it’s a little more playable than a year ago in terms of the balance of home games versus away games," explained Earlywine. "We don’t get stuck on the road too long."
Last season, Eastern played a trio of NCAA Tournament teams (Kansas, Washington State and Portland State), and this year the same is true. Texas-Arlington, which lost to Memphis 87-63 in the first round, plays at EWU on Nov. 22. Boise State, a 79-61 loser to Louisville, hosts the Eagles on Dec. 29 and is scheduled to play at Eastern the following season.
The Eagles will play Big Sky Conference rival Portland State on Jan. 24 before hosting the Vikings in Cheney, Wash., on Feb. 28. Last season, Eastern lost at Kansas 85-47 and PSU fell to the eventual national champions 85-61 in the NCAA Tournament.
"We have some games against the power conferences that our guys are really excited about," said Earlywine of the schedule. Besides games against the Big 10, Pacific 10 and Western Athletic Conference, Eastern plays a home-and-home series against UC Irvine, a team from the Big West Conference that won seven of its last nine games of the 2007-08 season.
Earlywine expects Portland State to be the early favorite to repeat as league champions. The past two seasons there have been six first-year coaches in the league, and Earlywine thinks those two years of building programs by those schools will pay-off this season.
"The word out there is that everybody thinks the Big Sky is going to be very, very good. I would agree," he said. "Portland State and Montana are loaded, and you can never count out Northern Arizona -- Mike Adras keeps doing it year-after-year. And I think Idaho State has a chance to make a huge jump. I think the league is going to be good."
Day - Date - Opponent - Site - Time
Saturday - Nov. 1 - #Carroll - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Nov. 8 - #Puget Sound - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Friday - Nov. 14 - at Illinois - Champaign, Ill. - TBA
Wednesday - Nov. 19 - at UC Irvine - Irvine, Calif. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Nov. 22 - UT Arlington - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Monday - Nov. 24 - Idaho - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday - Nov. 26 - at Minnesota - Minneapolis, Minn. - TBA
Sunday - Nov. 30 - UC Irvine - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday - Dec. 3 - at Portland - Portland, Ore. - TBA
Saturday - Dec. 6 - *Montana State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Dec. 13 - at Hawaii - Honolulu, Hawaii - TBA
Thursday - Dec. 18 - Missouri-Kansas City - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Dec. 20 - at Washington - Seattle, Wash. - TBA
Monday - Dec. 22 - Evergreen State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Monday - Dec. 29 - at Boise State - Boise, Idaho - TBA
Friday - Jan. 2 - at *Northern Arizona - Flagstaff, Ariz. - 6:05 p.m.
Sunday - Jan. 4 - at *Sacramento State - Sacramento, Calif. - 7:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 8 - *Idaho State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Sunday - Jan. 11 - $*Weber State - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 15 - at *Northern Colorado - Greeley, Colo. - 6:05 p.m.
Wednesday - Jan. 21 - *Montana - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 24 - at *Portland State - Portland, Ore. - 7:05 p.m.
Thursday - Jan. 29 - at *Montana State - Bozeman, Mont. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 31 - at *Montana - Missoula, Mont. - 6:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 5 - *Sacramento State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 7 - *Northern Arizona - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 12 - at *Weber State - Ogden, Utah - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 14 - at $*Idaho State - Pocatello, Idaho - TBA
Saturday - Feb. 21 - *Northern Colorado - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday - Feb. 24 - Seattle University - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 28 - *Portland State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - March 7 - Big Sky Tournament Quarterfinals - Higher Seeds
Tuesday - March 10 - Big Sky Tournament Semifinals - Reg. Season Champion
Wednesday - March 11 - Big Sky Tournament Championships - Reg. Season Champion
All Times Pacific. *Big Sky Conference Game. #Exhibition Game. $Televised regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment.
DATES & TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE . . . CALL NUMBERS BELOW FOR CHANGES
All Eastern Home Games Played at Reese Court on the Eastern Washington University campus.
Athletics Web Site: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM or HTTP://WWW.EWU.EDU
Schedule or Ticket Information: 509-359-6334 or 509-359-4339 or 509-359-2463 or 1-866-4GO-EAGS