LITTLE ROCK (UALR) – The UALR men's basketball team unveiled its 2011-12 schedule on Monday, a challenging slate highlighted by road games against the University of Kentucky and Michigan State. Fresh off a berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the Trojans will test their mettle against a non-conference slate featuring nine teams which won 18-or-more games last season – six of which reached the postseason.
"We've put together a non-conference schedule that is very challenging and will more than prepare us for Sun Belt Conference play," said UALR head coach Steve Shields. "Nine of our twelve non-conference Division I opponents won at least 18 games last season, so our guys will certainly be put to the test early on."
UALR will take on Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday, Nov. 20 and square off against the Wildcats at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Michigan State won 19 games last season and earned its 14th-straight NCAA Tournament berth, losing to UCLA in the second round. Kentucky, meanwhile, is coming off a 29-9 season and a Final Four appearance, ending the year ranked No. 3 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
In addition to its non-conference games against UK and Michigan State, the Trojans will play two teams which participated in the National Invitation Tournament (Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Missouri State) and two teams from the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (SMU and Oral Roberts). All six squads won at least 18 games last season, along with 2011-12 opponents Tulsa, IUPUI and Northwestern State. The Trojans will actually face Northwestern State twice during the 2011-12 season, as UALR will host the Demons on Sunday, Nov. 13 and then travel to Natchitoches, Texas on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
The Trojans open the year on the road with a bout against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Friday, Nov. 11. UALR returns to Little Rock on Nov. 13 for its home opener against Northwestern State and then hosts IUPUI on Tuesday, Nov. 15 before traveling north for games at Eastern Michigan (Nov. 18) and Michigan State (Nov. 20). UALR and Michigan State last met during the 2005-06 season, when the No. 13 Spartans edged the Trojans, 72-67, at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.
UALR will play five of its next six games at the Jack Stephens Center following its meeting with Michigan State, with four of those home games coming against teams which reached the postseason in 2011. The Trojans will host Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Nov. 26, before taking on SMU (Dec. 4), Missouri State (Dec. 10) and Oral Roberts (Dec. 12).
UALR's toughest stretch of the season will take place after hosting ORU on Dec. 12, as seven of the team's next eight games will take place on the road. The Trojans travel to Louisiana Tech (Dec. 17) and Illinois State (Dec. 20) before opening Sun Belt Conference play at North Texas (Dec. 29) and Denver (Dec. 31). The Trojans then head to Louisville, Ky. for their fifth-straight road game to take on the Wildcats (Jan. 3), before returning to Little Rock to host Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Jan. 7. FAU went 13-3 in league play last season to claim the Sun Belt's regular season championship and earn a spot in the NIT. The Trojans round out the road swing with contests at ULM (Jan. 12) and Arkansas State (Jan. 14).
UALR wraps up the conference schedule with a pair of home games, as it welcomes North Texas (Feb. 23) and Arkansas State (Feb. 25) to the Jack Stephens Center the final week of the regular season. The 2012 Sun Belt Conference Championships will take place March 3-6 at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.