In the basketball world, it’s amazing what one year can do for a team in terms of their scheduling.
“Mid-major” programs often have a hard time scheduling power conference opponents on a regular basis, due to a stigma that these teams aren’t as strong as others and don’t do as much for tournament resumes come March. However, smaller programs have shown that they can hang with the big boys in recent years.
Take the N.J.I.T. Highlanders last season for example. The Highlanders faced their first-ever ranked opponent, in the Michigan Wolverines, and won on the road. The Highlanders beat the Wolverines on their home floor, and proving to everyone that you can never underestimate smaller programs in today’s basketball world.
Another team who surprised many with their play was the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. Coming off an 11 – 5 record in MEAC play, the Hawks made an appearance in the 2015 CIT. They finished with 18 wins overall on the season, which was more than the previous three seasons combined.
With their strong season fresh in the minds of others in the NCAA, the Hawks were able to put together a strong non-conference slate for the 2015-16 season that features games against several power conference foes. The Hawks also take on a slew of talented teams from smaller conferences, all of which will be equally big tests.
Below, you can find the full non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 edition of the UMES Hawks, along with some notes on key contests.
2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule
Nov. 13th: @ Kansas State
Nov. 15th: @ Missouri
Nov. 21st: @ Wofford
Nov. 24th: v. Fairfield (Home Opener)
Nov. 27th: v. Saint Francis (PA)
Dec. 1st: @ Georgetown
Dec. 9th: @ Michigan State
Dec. 12th: @ Maryland
Dec. 18th: @ Old Dominion
Dec. 20th: @ American
Dec. 22nd: v. Central Pennsylvania
Dec. 29th: @ Saint Joseph’s
Dec. 31st: @ UMBC
Jan. 2nd: @ Pittsburgh
Jan. 6th: @ Columbia
Right off the hop, the Hawks have the potential to pull off two big upsets against power conference opponents. Both Kansas State and Missouri were hit hard on the transfer market after the 2014-15 season, thus leaving them vulnerable for potential upsets. If the Hawks can come out of the gate on fire, they could very well pull off at least one upset.
From there, the Hawks pay a visit to Spartanburg, South Carolina for a battle of talented mid-major programs. The Hawks visit the reigning Southern Conference champion Wofford Terriers, in what will give the Hawks another huge road test. The Terriers will be without Karl Cochran this year, but still return a ton of talent.
In non-conference action, the Hawks only have three home games, and two of them are back-to-back. The Hawks play their home opener against Fairfield, and then welcome the Saint Francis Red Flash to town just three days later. In front of what should be a rowdy home crowd inside Hytche Arena, the Hawks have a great chance to score a win or two at home.
After their mini two-game home stand, the Hawks go back on the road for a difficult five-game gauntlet of a road trip. The Hawks take on Georgetown, Michigan State, Maryland, Old Dominion, and American, all of whom are projected to be top contenders in their respective conferences this season. If the Hawks can muster up a win or two over this grueling stretch, it’ll be a big confidence boost moving forwards in the season. Taking on players like Denzel Valentine at Michigan State, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera at Georgetown, and Maryland’s loaded roster will pit the Hawks against some of the country’s best talent.
After a home date against Central Pennsylvania, the Hawks go back on the road for another four-game road swing to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule. A road trip to take on Saint Joseph’s kicks off the trip, and that will be a tough game for the visiting Hawks.
From there, the Hawks have an easier opponent, in the Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers, although playing on the road is never truly “easy”. To open the 2016 calendar, the Hawks then take on Pittsburgh on January 2nd, then close out non-conference play with a date at Columbia. Both the Panthers and Lions have the look of improved teams from a season ago, so the Hawks will be in tough to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule.
As one can see over the course of their non-conference slate, the Hawks have scheduled themselves against tough opponents all throughout. Playing tough teams, and highly regarded teams from power conferences, will help them get ready for the grind of MEAC play come January.
Based on their current list of games, it’s tough to predict the Hawks besting last year’s total of 18 wins. With that being said, the Hawks still have the look of a top contender in the conference, and shouldn’t disappoint on the hardwood over the course of the season.
For in-depth coverage of the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks over the course of the 2015-16 season, follow along with College Court Report on Twitter (@CC_Report), Facebook (College Court Report), and on our website!