The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team has 58 days until its first official action takes place. The Penguins will play 13 games before Horizon League play. Going near .500 in non-conference play is paramount for this Penguins team.
YSU hosts six home games including two contests against non-Division I opponents in Thiel College and Westminster College. Those are two games that the Penguins should obviously win.
Its first Division I opponent is North Carolina Central University on Nov. 19. The Eagles went 18-16 last year and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That was after winning the MEAC tournament and the automatic bid.
The Penguins host Robert Morris University on Dec. 4. The Colonials finished last year with an 18-17 record and earned a berth in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT). They defeated Cornell University and then lost to Presbyterian College. They also have postseason experience just as NC Central does.
They then host Southeastern Missouri State University which is unlike the first two schools. The Redhawks went 10-21 last year with five of those coming in the Ohio Valley Conference.
YSU’s final non-conference home game is against Binghamton University. The Bearcats also won just 10 games with a record of 10-23. No matter, they defeated the No. 2 seed, Stony Brook, in the America East tournament. So despite the record, the Bearcats can play a little bit.
Going on a road trip
With six away games, YSU will need to find a way to bring a few wins home. After hosting Thiel College, YSU goes on the road to take on the Louisville Cardinals on Nov. 10 and then the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Nov. 15.
The Cardinals ended last year with a record of 20-14 including an NCAA tournament berth. They lost to Minnesota in the second round of the tournament by a score of 86-76.
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished with a 19-13 record including 10 Sun Belt Conference wins. They didn’t qualify for any postseason play. They will be hungry for postseason play this year.
After its game against NC Central, the Penguins hit the road for two more away games.
First, they take a short trip to visit the Akron Zips. The Zips finished the year at 17-16 and also didn’t qualify for postseason play.
Two days later, the Penguins take a trip down south to visit the University of South Carolina-Upstate. The Spartans won six of its 32 games last year. They will also be hungry for improvement. The Penguins need to win games like this to prove they are real.
YSU’s last two road games are both in the state of Michigan. First, they visit Central Michigan on Nov. 30. The Chippewas are coming off a great season in which they went 23-12. They defeated the Penguins last year at the Beeghley Center in triple overtime by a score of 100-94. CMU did make the postseason but lost to DePaul in the first round of the CBI.
The last true road game for the Penguins is against Western Michigan. The Broncos defeated the Penguins, 88-77, at the Beeghley Center last year. WMU went just 8-24 last year so the Penguins need to find a way to avenge its losses to both Michigan schools it played before.
One last game
The Penguins final non-conference matchup is against West Virginia University off-campus. They play each other at the off-campus Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown, Ohio. The Mountaineers had an underwhelming season last year with a 15-21 record which included a 4-4 neutral record and an 0-10 road record. WVU beat up on YSU last year to the tune of 106-72. The Penguins were able to convince WVU to come to Youngstown on head coach Jerrod Calhoun’s relationship with WVU Head Coach Bob Huggins.
With 13 total non-conference games, the Penguins could use at least five wins to deem that part of the schedule a success.