Basketball

The Thundering Word: Herd Seeks One Foe to Join Ohio State, Cincinnati, Pitt

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HUNTINGTON – And then there was one.

That’s what Marshall men’s basketball needs to complete its 2016-17 schedule – one game. Finding it has become something of a task for those involved.

Mark Cline, the assistant coach who coordinates scheduling for Coach Dan D’Antoni, would prefer a home game to start a home-and-home series and finish the 13-game, non-conference portion of the schedule.

He wants the game at the Henderson Center, if possible because if Marshall has to play on the road, it could mean a span of seven consecutive road dates for D’Antoni and Co., a stretch that would include “buy” games at Cincinnati and Pitt.

Cline certainly knows the landscape. He’s scheduled hoops at several of his previous coaching stops as well, and he continues to comb a reasonable area for someone willing to come to Huntington and have the Herd return the visit in 2017-18.

“We’ll finalize the thing with one last game, and we want a home-and-home to start here,” Cline said. “We’d possibly take a road game, but only if it fit well into the travel we need to do then.”

If the Herd can’t find a willing partner for its plan or fit a geographically friendly road date between Akron and Cincinnati, Marshall will play a Division II foe at the Henderson Center.

“We’d rather play a Division I team,” Cline said. “Dan doesn’t want to play a Division II team and neither do I, but it may end up going that route,” Cline said.

The seven-game stretch of road dates is possible because last season, the Herd started Conference USA play with three home games. If that is flip-flopped a season later – and the C-USA schedule is not available yet – then Marshall is looking at a very tough stretch.

Cline has three potential dates left open for that one game – Dec. 14, 19 or 20.

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Coach D’Antoni, coaching Herd to semifinals of Conference USA Tournament last year, has three possible dates left to add one additional opponent before moving on the C-USA schedule. (HI file photo)

After a home game against Toledo to start a four-game contract, Marshall visits Akron as part of a new four-year deal on Dec. 17. Cline would prefer the desired home game on Dec. 19 or 20 before Marshall goes to Cincinnati for a guarantee game that will yield the Herd $85,000. A visit up I-79 to Pitt – which replaces West Virginia on the Herd schedule – is a $90,000 guarantee for MU and the teams’ first meeting since 1992-93.

And if Marshall has to play that remaining date on the road, the Herd could be looking at a one-month span with no Henderson Center games.

It is a different task for D’Antoni’s club in the coach’s third season on his alma mater’s sideline.

There’s no date against WVU for the first time in 40 seasons, with Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins choosing to end the Capital Classic series. The teams had played in neutral-site fashion at the Charleston Civic Center since 1991-92.

And while the 2015-16 Herd played four of its first six games on the road, this season Marshall will play five of the first six this season at “The Cam.” The road game in that stretch is at Ohio State, for a $75,000 guarantee as part of the Global Sports Challenge, a multi-team event that also provides Marshall with three home games.

Those three are a Nov. 12 season opener against North Carolina Central and dates with Western Carolina (Nov. 19) and Jackson State (Nov. 21). The Marshall-Morehead State series also has bene renewed for four years, and that starts Nov. 15 at the Henderson Center.

After going to visit the Buckeyes for the first time since 1977-78, Marshall is home to Ohio to start a four-game contract (Nov. 30), finishes a two-year, home-and-home with Eastern Kentucky in Richmond (Dec. 3), plays at former Southern Conference rival Chattanooga (Dec. 6) to start a home-and-home, and entertains Toledo (Dec. 10) to open a four-year deal.

Marshall will play two home exhibition games against nearby Mountain East Conference members – Nov. 3 against West Virginia State and Nov. 6 against the University of Charleston.

Cline said Marshall already has locked in its Global Sports event for the following season, when the Herd will again get three home dates against opponents to be named, while visiting Illinois for an $85,000 guarantee.

At this point, the Herd’s 2017-18 schedule includes three Global Sports foes, plus Ohio, Akron and Chattanooga at home, with Illinois, Morehead State and Toledo on the road. Marshall will be seeking to be “bought” by a power conference team in two of those remaining dates.

Marshall’s need for one game this coming season could have been a moot point if the 14-team Conference USA would have gone to divisional play in men’s basketball, a concept pushed hard by new Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury.

Although the plan seems to be gaining steam for the future, it didn’t pass muster for 2016-17. And under that concept, the 18-game schedule could have been increased by one date, with teams playing home-and-home within a division (12 games) and meeting teams in the opposite division once (7 games).

“We’ve got a very good schedule,” Cline said. “We just need one game to finish it.”

Marshall’s 2016-17 non-conference men’s basketball schedule, to date:

Nov. 3 — West Virginia State (exhibition)

Nov. 6 — Univ. of Charleston (exhibition)

Nov. 12 — North Carolina Central

Nov. 15 — Morehead State

Nov. 19 — Western Carolina

Nov. 21 — Jackson State

Nov. 25 — at Ohio State

Nov. 30 — Ohio

Dec. 3 — at Eastern Kentucky

Dec. 6 — at Chattanooga

Dec. 10 — Toledo

Dec. 17– at Akron

Dec. 22– at Cincinnati

Dec. 28 — at Pittsburgh

One game TBA in December

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