Tulane basketball released its 2014-15 schedule on Tuesday afternoon, its first as a member of the American Athletic Conference, and the differences from its previous home in Conference USA were drastic.
The Green Wave will play eight games against teams who reached last year’s NCAA Tournament, including two matchups against national champion Connecticut. Nonconference opponents include teams from the SEC, ACC, Pac 12 and Big East.
Two of those — the Nov. 6 season opener against Wake Forest and Dec. 6 against Mississippi State — will be held in Devlin Fieldhouse, a perk coach Ed Conroy credited to the American’s lofty status.
“I think one of the exciting things about the new league isn’t just the teams that are going to be in the conference but it gives us a lot of opportunities to schedule some power conference teams and get them to play on our court,” said Conroy, who is entering his fifth season with Tulane after compiling a 17-17 record last year. “To get Wake and Mississippi State here is awesome and speaks to what the American means. I think it’s a great chance for our guys to succeed on a big stage.”
The team’s national coverage will also receive a significant boost, since all but two of Tulane’s games will be available on a national cable network or streamed online by ESPN3. The Green Wave played in just two nationally available games a year ago.
Yet, local fans won’t have to worry about television coverage for a while. Nine of Tulane’s first 10 games, including six in a row to start the season, are scheduled for Devlin Fieldhouse.
“We are an extremely young team with two seniors and one junior, so being home that much early will help with regards to practice time because you’re not having to worry about a travel schedule,” Conroy said. “It also allows us not to miss more than one day of class the entire first semester which is particularly helpful. I think the schedule is what this team needs and allows us to really develop before we get into the American schedule.”
Not all of Tulane’s games are against top-flight competition, however. Four opponents finished worse than No. 270 in the final RPI (Savannah State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Southeastern Louisiana) and Southern-New Orleans is an NAIA school which isn’t even included in NCAA rankings.
There are also two quirks in the schedule, starting with moving the Jan. 24 contest against Memphis downtown to the Smoothie King Center. It will mark Tulane’s first conference game in the arena in over a decade.
The other twist is the inclusion of a football and basketball double-header on Dec. 6 when Temple plays the Green Wave at Yulman Stadium on the same day Mississippi State comes to Devlin Fieldhouse. Conroy said game time will be set around the football game, which is chosen by television 12 days prior.
“I think that’s going to make for a great experience for the people on campus,” Conroy said. “I think it’ll be awesome and we expect Devlin to really be rocking and it will be two big events on campus which should make for a great atmosphere.
“It’s just one of the things we are really excited about with this schedule and this league and it’s time to get started.”