For a team with no returning starters, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings isn’t shying away from a daunting opposition.
The Commodores will face Xavier and Butler and will have a neutral-site showdown against Middle Tennessee State as part of their non-conference schedule, which was released Saturday.
“There are a number of difficult games, high and mid-major teams, that are very, very good,” Stallings said. “It’s a very aggressive schedule, particularly for a team that is as inexperienced as this one will be. But, I think these are the types of schedules and types of games that our players are used to playing in, and they prefer to play in. I think it will do a great job in preparing us for conference play.”
Vanderbilt opens its season on Nov. 10 against Nicholls State at Memorial Gymnasium the goes on the road the next couple weeks.
The Commodores finish a home-and-home series against Oregon by traveling to Eugene, Ore., on Nov. 16. They defeated the Ducks 78-64 in last year’s season opener.
After that Vanderbilt travels to Orlando, Fla., to play in the previously announced Old Spice Classic. After opening on Thanksgiving Day against Davidson, it will try to advance in a tournament that features West Virginia, Gonzaga, Oklahoma and Clemson.
The Commodores return home to host Villanova on Dec. 1 as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational. They’ll head to Cincinnati on Dec. 6 to face Xavier, which beat Vanderbilt in overtime last November before eventually reaching the Sweet 16.
After home games against Alabama A&M and Cornell, the Commodores make the short trip downtown to play in-state rival Middle Tennessee State at the Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 21. Vanderbilt edged the Blue Raiders, who won the Sun Belt Conference, with a 84-77 victory last January at Memorial Gymnasium.
They host Butler on Dec. 29 for the first part of a home-and-home series. The Bulldogs failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012 after reaching the national championship game in consecutive seasons.
The non-conference season wraps on Jan. 2 with a home game against William & Mary.
Vanderbilt went 25-11 last year, won the SEC Tournament championship and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But the Commodores will be hard pressed to match those feats after losing their top six scorers.