SAINT LEO, Fla. – Just days after the men's basketball team was allowed to begin full practices, head coach Lance Randall announced the final 2013-14 regular season schedule. The Lions' squad, which consists of eight newcomers, is set to compete in 29 total games while playing 17 home contests.
Following a season that led them to the NCAA Regional Tournament, Saint Leo will compete in 12 non-conference match-ups in November and December before hitting their stride in the Sunshine State Conference portion of the schedule in January and February.
"We try to play the toughest non-conference schedule we can," says Randall. "I feel that playing against great non-conference opponents helps us prepare for the always rugged Sunshine State Conference."
During the 2012-13 season, Saint Leo played an exclusively Division II regular season schedule, and won a school record 22 games, including their first in the NCAA Regional Tournament.
The Lions will hit the court for the first time this season in Puerto Rico, where they will be participating in the 2013 Mayaguez Basketball Classic on Friday, November 8. In the three day round-robin, Saint Leo will face opponents such as Florida Memorial, P.R.-Ponce, and the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. The following Tuesday, the Lions will battle the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez before returning stateside.
Upon their return, the Randall's squad will host five consecutive home games against some of the nation's top-ranked Division II programs.
"We have built a great following for men's basketball here last year and our large crowds were a huge part of our home court advantage," says Randall. "I hope that our fans enjoy cheering this year's Lions as much as we enjoy coaching them."
With home-court advantage in their favor, the Lions will face Shorter, a contender for the Gulf South Conference title, in their home opener on Sunday, November 17. Last year, Saint Leo hosted Shorter for their 2012-13 home opener, and the Lions were able to pound home a 15-point victory.
Two days later (Nov. 19), the Lions will do battle against a familiar regional foe when the Flagler College Saints enter the Marion Bowman Center for Saint Leo's second home contest of the year.
The following Friday (Nov. 22), Saint Leo will face the visiting Virginia Union Panthers, who have won three National titles in the last 20 years and have seen multiple players make it to the NBA, but fell to the Lions last year by a 76-49 score. The next day (Nov. 23), the Lions will take on the No. 4 University of South Carolina at Aiken.
Rounding out a five-game home stand, Saint Leo will then host one of the best Division II teams in North Carolina when Elizabeth City State visits Saint Leo, Fla.
After a week of practice, the team will then head to Winter Park, Fla. to take on the Rollins College Tars in the Lions' only Sunshine State Conference game in the 2013 calendar year. In the 2013 NCAA Regional Tournament, Saint Leo made history by taking home their first-ever NCAA tournament win when they defeated the Tars by a 59-53 score.
For the rest of the month of December, Saint Leo will face three strong regional opponents, beginning with Albany State on December 7. After almost a two week break, the Lions will take the court again against Palm Beach Atlantic (Dec. 20), before hosting the perennial NCAA tournament team, Shaw University on December 22.
The turn of the 2014 year will signal the final stretch of Sunshine State Conference contests for the Lions, as they kick of the year with a home game against Florida Tech on January 4.
Shortly after, Saint Leo will face the University of Tampa in their first conference road trip of the 2014 year (Jan. 4), just before heading to Miami Shores, Fla. for the Lions' match-up against Barry.
The team will then return home for a three-game home stand, which they will kick off with a match-up against the reigning 2013 Sunshine State Conference tournament champions, Florida Southern, on January 15.
The following weekend, Saint Leo will host Palm Beach Atlantic for a non-conference regional contest (Jan. 18), just before hosting the Eckerd College Tritons (Jan. 22).
Rounding out the month of January, the Lions will hit the road to south Florida for road games against Lynn University (Jan. 25) and Nova Southeastern (Jan. 29).
The start of February will signal the final trek through the conference schedule for the Lions, as Saint Leo jumpstarts the month with a home game against Rollins on February 1.
Following a mid-week trip to Melbourne, Fla. where the Lions will play Florida Tech (Feb. 5), Saint Leo will host back-to-back SSC matches against Barry (Feb. 8) and Tampa (Feb. 12)
On February 19, the Lions will head to Lakeland, Fla. to take on Florida Southern in what is always an exciting SSC matchup. The final two games of February will feature a weekend home game against Lynn (Feb. 22) and a mid-week trip to Eckerd (Feb. 26).
In the Lions' final contest of the 2013-14 regular season, Saint Leo will host Nova Southeastern on March 1 when they honor their seniors on senior day.
Last season, the Lions finished the year as the Sunshine State Conference regular season co-Champions. This year, the Sunshine State Conference tournament will be played at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla. The tournament dates have been set for Wednesday, March 5 to Sunday, March 9, 2014.
For the full 2013-14 men's basketball regular season schedule, click here.