By Collin Giuliani
On September 7, the High Point men’s basketball team officially released their Big South schedule. While the full details of the non-conference schedule were previously released over the summer, the release of the conference portion of the schedule now means that the full schedule for the 2017-18 season has been revealed.
Conference play will begin for the Panthers on December 30 with a trip to Winthrop, the defending Big South champions. It’s the first time in school history that the Panthers will open up the season on the road against the defending conference champions, and the third time that HPU will open the conference portion of the season against the defending champions. The opening Big South game should be a competitive one, as in the last eight meetings between the Panthers and the Eagles, the game has been decided by six points or less seven times.
HPU plays their first home game of the conference season against UNC Asheville on January 3. The first two games signal a daunting stretch for HPU to start off the season, as the Panthers play their first two games against the top two teams in the conference from last season. This is the first time since the 2004-05 season that the Panthers play their first two Big South games against the top two teams from the previous year, as in that season, they opened up conference play against Liberty (first place in the regular season) and Birmingham Southern (second place in the regular season).
One of the highlights on the schedule comes on January 15, when High Point returns to the Millis Center for a game against Presbyterian. HPU has won eight straight meetings against the Blue Hose, including four straight meetings at home, and swept the season series last year. In the home meeting between the two teams last season, HPU won by 33 points, and held Presbyterian to just 44 points, which was the fewest points allowed in a game against a Division I opponent since 2004.
In the Family Weekend matchup on February 3, HPU will host Campbell. While HPU swept the season series against the Camels last year, and has won six straight meetings against the Camels dating back to the 2014 season, Campbell returns junior guard Chris Clemons, who led the conference in points per game last season with 25.1. Additionally, Clemons averaged 37.6 points per game in the conference tournament last year, leading the seventh-seeded Camels to the Big South Championship. Clemons scored 51 points in a quarterfinal game against UNC Asheville, which set the conference record for most points scored in a tournament game.
HPU finishes the conference portion of the season with two of their final three games at home at the Millis Center. After a Sunday home game against Gardner-Webb on February 18, Senior Night will be held on Thursday, February 22, with a meeting against the Longwood Lancers. Despite splitting the season series last year, HPU has won nine of the last ten meetings against Longwood. HPU typically finishes their home schedule strong, as the Panthers have won seven of their last eight conference home finales, with the lone loss in that stretch being an overtime loss to Gardner-Webb last season.
The Panthers conclude the season on the road in Lynchburg, Virginia, with a trip to Liberty to take on the Flames on Saturday, February 24. This marks the first time in school history that HPU will end the season at Liberty, and marks just the second time in school history that HPU will play Liberty in the final conference game of the season (the two teams met at the Millis Center to finish the conference slate of the 2005-06 season).
In the Big South, each team plays each other twice, playing one game at home and one game on the road. In total, HPU will play 18 conference games this season, with nine of those coming at the Millis Center. In the 10-team Big South Conference, every team qualifies for the conference tournament. The first round will be held on February 27 between the bottom four teams in the conference, with the quarterfinals taking place on March 1 and the semifinals taking place on March 2. For the quarterfinals and semifinals, these rounds will take place at the host venue of the number one seed in the conference. Last year, Rock Hill, South Carolina hosted these rounds, as Winthrop finished with the top seed in the conference.
The championship game will take place on Sunday, March 4, at the highest remaining seed. HPU will be looking to advance to the championship game for the third time in school history and for the first time since 2004, and will be looking to win the Big South for the first time in school history.