UNO announced its men’s basketball schedule Wednesday, and for coach Mark Slessinger, one of its highlights is a trip home.
That happens when the Privateers head to Bloomington, Indiana, for a Dec. 22 game against the Hoosiers.
Slessinger grew up a fan of Bobby Knight. He said a matchup with Indiana will not only fulfill a lifelong dream of his, it will give his team much-needed experience under some very bright lights.
“I grew up there, and my family is Indiana fanatics,” Slessinger said. “My family cried when (Indiana) let coach Knight go. But it’ll be a neat opportunity for my family to watch us play. It’ll be neat for our student-athletes to experience it. We want them to travel the country and see these venues and have a great memory of that.”
The Privateers find themselves staring down a tough six-game nonconference road schedule, including three games against teams from power conferences.
UNO opens the season at home No. 18 against Pensacola Christian College, then plays road games at TCU on Nov. 20, Texas A&M on Nov. 28 and Denver on Nov. 30.
Slessinger said he believes a challenging start will have his team prepared for much important games down the line.
“We’re going to be real young, but these guys are dynamic,” Slessinger said. “They’re quick learners. We’re going to put them in the fire quickly and let them make mistakes. We’re going to see a dividend in February. I think you’ll see a dramatically different team in February than you’ll see in November and December.”
This will be UNO’s second season in the Southland Conference. The Privateers are now eligible for postseaon play after being banned last year because of APR penalties.
“We are ready to compete in the Southland, and we feel we can hang with anybody,” UNO junior forward Kevin Hill said. “Knowing that an opportunity to perform in a conference tournament is waiting for us down the line definitely motivates us to build on what we did last year.
“I think playing in these big games on the road will prepare us for the (conference tournament) and we’ll be ready.”
The Privateers begin conference play with home games at Lakefront Arena against Lamar on Jan. 5 and Sam Houston State on Jan. 10, then begin a three-game conference road trip.
“It’s a big deal to have that first run under your belt and know what gyms are going to be like,” Slessinger said. “Just the fact that we’re eligible for the tournament and we can go to the NCAA tournament is a huge motivational factor for us.
“I want these guys to experience the conference tournament and what it’s like to go through that battle.”