Abilene Christian and Lipscomb to start a home-and-home series in 2017-18

Garrison Mathews will look to lead the Lipscomb Bisons to a pair of non-conference wins over Jaylen Franklin (top) and the Abilene Christian Wildcats during the 2017-18 season. (Source: Lipscomb Sports)

CALGARY, Alta. — Every time a new home-and-home series is developed, it adds more excitement to the non-conference schedules for the teams involved.

It’s rare to see these types of games being scheduled between power conference schools and smaller programs. If they are, they are sometimes billed as two-for-ones, where the power conference school will travel on the road for one game, while the smaller school will go on the road for two games in back-to-back seasons.

However, a new home-and-home series between two smaller schools is a great way to add excitement to their non-conference slates, and it generates a ton of buzz around campus. They provide schools who may struggle with scheduling high-caliber opponents with the opportunity to have two meaningful games, one each at home and on the road.

One of the new home-and-home sets that has been announced for this year was released on June 5th. The Abilene Christian Wildcats and the Lipscomb Bisons have scheduled a home-and-home series for the 2017-18 season, and you can bet that this will be a great set of games for both programs.

The Wildcats released the news on Twitter on the 5th of June, asking fans to pack the Moody Coliseum for the first game of the set.

Game one is in the second week of the season in Abilene, Texas, with the return game coming the week before Christmas down in Nashville.

Abilene Christian and Lipscomb are two teams who don’t get a ton of attention on the national scene, but are two programs who are undoubtedly on the rise in their respective programs. With both expected to be in contention for conference crowns in 2017-18, the series makes a lot of sense for both sides.

Both teams will be led by a pair of star juniors, as the Wildcats will be led by Jaylen Franklin and Jaren Lewis, while the Bisons will counter with Garrison Mathews and Eli Pepper.

Last year, Franklin averaged 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per contest for the Wildcats. While his scoring average dropped by over five points from the season before, he increased his rebounding and assist averages. He is a versatile guard who can impact the game in several different ways, and on both ends of the floor.

Lewis finished tied for first on the team in scoring in 2016-17, averaging 13.7 points per contest. For the second year in a row, he shot above 50.0% from the floor (51.2%). Lewis was also the team’s top rebounder, pulling down 6.6 boards per contest.

The key for the Wildcats may lie in the hands of sophomore center Jalone Friday, who is coming off a stellar freshman campaign in 2016-17. The native of Oklahoma City, OK averaged 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest, while also showcasing his shooting range.

Friday shot 45.6% (36-of-79) from beyond the arc last season, adding another element to the offense for the Wildcats.

In Mathews, the Bisons have one of the nation’s top scoring guards, and one who has flown under the radar on the national scene for two years. Mathews averaged 20.4 points per contest for Lipscomb last year, and was one of four players to average double figures for the team.

Up front, Pepper is a big body who saw his production dip slightly from his freshman season, but the potential is there for a breakout year in 2017-18. He averaged 5.4 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per night out.

These two games will mark the first time that the two teams have squared off against one another. Abilene Christian moved to the Division I level as members of the Southland Conference back in 2013-14. The 2017-18 season marks the first year that they are eligible for post-season tournament play.

In 2016-17, the Wildcats finished with a record of 13-16 overall, while the Bisons finished with a record of 20-13.

– T. Bennett