Kent State and Butler help make the Penguins' 2001-02 slate a challenging one.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- This winter, the Youngstown State University men's basketball team will face what third-year head coach John Robic calls the toughest schedule in the school's history.
The 2001-02 men's schedule, announced Saturday, includes the Penguins' initial season in the new Horizon League and has one of the best pre-conference slates in a long time.
The Penguins, who finished with a 19-11 record last season, will play two teams who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Horizon opponent Butler and Kent State.
They also will play Detroit, a team that advanced to the NIT Final Four.
As a group, the eight teams from the Horizon League ranked as the 11th best conference in the country.
Robic and his staff are excited about the challenges that await the Penguins this season.
"This schedule aligns itself with being consistent of how we have tried to handle things after our first two years," Robic said. "We want to face as challenging a schedule as we can, and in our third year we have done that.
"We have a difficult combination of non-conference games and Horizon League contests to make this the toughest and best schedule in school history."
Getting started: YSU opens the season on Nov. 17 at Evansville. The first home game is set for Nov. 20 against Slippery Rock.
The Penguins play their next four contests on the road beginning Nov. 25 at DePaul, then play former conference opponents Valparaiso and Chicago State before meeting Toledo.
The Penguins will come home on Dec. 15 to face Kent State and Robert Morris. They play road games at UMKC and Western Illinois before getting into the Horizon schedule on Jan. 2 against University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee.
"Kent State and Butler are annual participants in the NCAA Tournament and Detroit advanced to the NIT Final Four," Robic said. "We envision ourselves being on the same level as those teams and to get there, you have to play them."
The complete 2001-02 schedule has:
NOVEMBER -- 2 - exhibition game 7 p.m.; 17 - at Evansville (TBA); 20 - Slippery Rock 7:05 p.m.; 25 - at DePaul (TBA); 29 - at Valparaiso 8:05 p.m.
DECEMBER -- 1 - at Chicago State 5 p.m.; 8 - at Toledo 7:05 p.m.; 15 - Kent State 7 p.m.; 19 - Robert Morris 7 p.m.; 22 - at UMKC (TBA); 30 - at Western Illinois 5 p.m.
JANUARY -- 2 - UW-Milwaukee* 7 p.m.; 5 - Wright State* 7:35 p.m.; 10 - at Cleveland State* 7:05 p.m.; 12 - Butler* 7 p.m.; 17 - Detroit* 7 p.m.; 19 - at Loyola-Chicago* 2 p.m.; 21 - at Illinois-Chicago* 4 p.m.; 28 - at UW-Green Bay* 8:05 p.m.; 31 - at Wright State* 7 p.m.
FEBRUARY -- 2 - Loyola-Chicago* 7 p.m.; 4 - Illinois-Chicago* 7 p.m.; 9 - at UW-Milwaukee* 8:05 p.m.; 14 - Cleveland State* 7:35 p.m.; 16 - at Butler* 3 p.m.; 18 - at Detroit* 7:05 p.m.; 21 - UW-Green Bay* 7:30 p.m.; 23 - IPFW 7:30 p.m.
MARCH -- 1-5 - Horizon League Tournament at Cleveland State.
* -- Horizon League games.