BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Home games against Wisconsin and Saint Mary’s – as well as the
opportunity to potentially face teams from all five Power 5 conferences – highlight
a challenging 2018-19 non-conference schedule for WKU Hilltopper Basketball, as
announced Monday by head coach Rick Stansbury.
The Hilltoppers will play at E.A. Diddle Arena seven times before the start of
Conference USA play, including two exhibitions and five regular-season contests on
John Oldham Court.
The schedule also includes many challenges on the road, including trips to
Washington, Arkansas and Belmont, and three games in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
See the full schedule here.
WKU could face as many as six teams ranked in the top 90 of last year’s final RPI in
non-conference action, and as many as eight in the top 150. Including the Conference
USA portion of the schedule, which was previously announced in July, WKU will play
16 total home games this season.
“We have a very exciting, challenging opportunity,” Stansbury said. “We’re playing
in some great venues against some very good teams, along with some fantastic games
here at home in Diddle Arena. I like the challenge of our schedule. It can only make
our team better.”
The Hilltoppers begin play with a pair of home exhibitions against Campbellsville on
Oct. 30 and Kentucky Wesleyan on Nov. 3. Campbellsville is Stansbury’s alma mater
where he was a four-year letterman and got his coaching start as a student
assistant. Stansbury received Campbellsville’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1999
and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Hilltoppers will then begin the regular season Nov. 6 with a trip to Washington,
which won 21 games last season and advanced to the second round of the NIT. WKU has
faced the Huskies just once before, a neutral-site loss in Las Vegas in 2016.
WKU heads back for its home opener against UT Martin on Nov. 10 before traveling to
Conway, S.C., for the inaugural Myrtle Beach Invitational.
The Hilltoppers will face Valparaiso at 4 p.m. CT Nov. 15 on ESPNU in their first
game of the tournament, then play either West Virginia or Monmouth in the second
round Nov. 16. They’ll play a third game Nov. 18, and all games of the event will
air on ESPN Networks.
WKU next travels to Indiana State on Nov. 24 before returning home to host Tennessee
State on Dec. 1, followed by a road swing to Missouri State (Dec. 5) and Arkansas
WKU last squared off against the Razorbacks during the 1974-75 season when the
Hilltoppers came away with a 74-63 victory inside Diddle Arena. Stansbury,
previously a longtime coach in the SEC at Mississippi State, is 16-14 all-time
The Razorbacks went 23-12 last season, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and finished
the season with an RPI of 30. They’ll make a return trip to WKU in 2019-20.
WKU is back in Diddle Arena on Dec. 16 for a matchup against Troy. The head coach of
the Trojans is Phil Cunningham, a longtime assistant coach to Stansbury at
Mississippi State and an assistant at WKU in 2012-13.
Next follows a Dec. 19 trip to Belmont that begins a new series between the
programs. The teams have played each of the last four seasons with the Bruins
winning each matchup. Belmont won 24 games a year ago with an RPI of 81.
The non-conference slate concludes with two massive home games inside Diddle Arena,
as WKU welcomes Saint Mary’s on Dec. 22 and Wisconsin on Dec. 29.
Saint Mary’s won 30 games in 2017-18 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT
with an RPI of 40. The contest is a return game for WKU’s 2016 trip to California to
play the Gaels, which won the matchup 73-51 on their home court.
Saint Mary’s has been a dominant force in college basketball over the last decade,
winning at least 21 games in each of the past 11 seasons, including nine seasons of
at least 25 victories. That span includes five NCAA Tournament berths.
Wisconsin will be the first active member of the Big Ten Conference to play in
Diddle Arena since Michigan on Nov. 26, 1977. The Badgers had appeared in 18
straight NCAA Tournaments before last season, advancing to at least the Sweet 16 in
six of seven years at one point with a national championship game appearance in
The Hilltoppers lost 81-80 at Wisconsin last year, tying the game in the final
seconds before falling on a single free throw as WKU was called for a controversial
foul on the final in-bounds play.
WKU is guaranteed to face programs from the Pac-12 (Washington), SEC (Arkansas) and
Big Ten (Wisconsin) this season, but could also add the Big 12 and ACC in Myrtle
Beach with potential matchups against West Virginia and Wake Forest.
WKU was one of four schools in the nation – along with Kansas, Syracuse and Texas
A&M – with wins last season over teams from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. The
Hilltoppers were the only school outside the Power 5 to accomplish the feat.
The Hilltoppers begin the previously announced C-USA schedule Jan. 3 at Charlotte.
Home games against four of the top six finishers in the conference last season and a
home-and-home series with defending league champion Marshall highlight the league
slate, which will conclude with four final games to be determined in February by a
new seeding model.
The 2019 C-USA Basketball Championships will take place March 13-16 at Ford Center
at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
C-USA’s television partners could still ask for date changes to accommodate
broadcast schedules. Game times will be announced at a later date.
The Hilltoppers went 27-11 in 2017-18, their most wins in 10 seasons, while
advancing to the semifinals of the NIT for the first time since 1954. WKU ranks
third in NCAA history in regular-season league titles (42), seventh in 20-win
seasons (44), eighth in all-time winning percentage (.661) and 17th in all-time wins