If the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team is indeed a Final Four contender, the Commodores will get tested early and often.
On Wednesday, Vanderbilt released its nine-game non-conference schedule, which begins with the season opener on Nov. 11 against Oregon at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores also will play Big East opponents Louisville and Marquette and Atlantic-10 giant Xavier. They’ll host the preliminary rounds of the TicketCity Legends Classic before heading to the finals in East Rutherford, N.J. They will play North Carolina State in a semifinal on Nov. 19 and face either Texas or Oregon State in a consolation/final.
Therefore, the Commodores’ non-conference slate could feature five games against teams (Oregon, Texas, Louisville, Marquette and Xavier) that reached the NCAA Tournament last year.
"It should be very challenging, to say the least,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “It will definitely be fun for our players and our fans. Beginning with our home opener against Oregon, the schedule ranks among the most difficult we have had during my [13-year] tenure. We are in a good tournament in the Legends Classic, have three difficult road games, and a good home schedule. I am confident this schedule will help us prepare for the rigors of SEC play.”
Vanderbilt holds a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series against Oregon, which was the last Pac-12 team to visit Memorial Gymnasium. The Commodores edged the Ducks 76-75 on Nov. 30, 2005 thanks to a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Mario Moore.
Cleveland State and Bucknell will come to Memorial, on Nov. 13 and 15, respectively for the first two rounds of the Legends Classic before the Commodores head to New Jersey.
They’ll return home on Nov. 25 for a contest against Monmouth and first-year head coach King Rice, who took the job in April after five years as a Vanderbilt assistant.
On Nov. 28, the Commodores will match up against another likely top-25 team in Xavier. It is the first game of a home-and-home against the Musketeers, with a return trip to Cincinnati next season. It will also be a homecoming for Andre Walker. The former Vanderbilt forward transferred to Xavier this summer for his last year of eligibility.
The Commodores then will play back-to-back non-conference road games for the first time in six seasons. They’ll play at Louisville on Dec. 2 as a part of the Big East/SEC Challenge. The game will be televised on ESPN. On Dec. 7, they’ll go to Davidson for the second installment of a home-and-home.
Vanderbilt then welcomes Indiana State, Longwood and Lafayette for three straight home games before Christmas break. On Dec. 29, the Commodores will play at Marquette for the first time since the 1926-27 season. Vanderbilt edged the Golden Eagles last December on a layup by Walker with 4.1 seconds left.
On Jan. 2, the Commodores will host Miami (Ohio) before wrapping up non-conference play on Jan. 28 against Middle Tennessee State. It will be the fourth chapter of a five-game series against the Blue Raiders, as both teams will meet up next season downtown at Bridgestone Arena.
Vanderbilt was 23-11 and 9-7 in the SEC last year. The Commodores return all five starters, their top three reserves and welcome three incoming freshmen.
Before their opener against Oregon, they’ll host Xavier (La.) in an exhibition game on Nov. 7.