BELTON- Coming off a second straight run to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Clif Carroll and the UMHB men’s basketball program will take on a challenging 2023-24 slate.
The entire 2023-24 schedule was announced on Friday.
14 of UMHB’s 24 games will be on the road, as The Cru plays in a competitive early season tournament in Illinois, and at two of the top teams in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. A duel with a southeastern program that won 25 games a year ago highlights the home portion of UMHB’s schedule.
Hall of Fame Invitational begins season
Bloomington, Illinois is the site of the season opener for The Cru, who begin the year at the Sikma Hall of Fame Invitational, hosted by Illinois Wesleyan University. One of D-III’s legendary programs, IWU ranks third all-time in wins by a D-III program, with 1,483 victories as the program enters its 102nd season in 2023-24.
The Titans host the four-team invitational on the season’s opening weekend each year, and joining UMHB in Bloomington is Wisconsin-Stout. The Blue Devils battle The Cru in a 5 p.m. matchup on Nov. 10, with UW-Stout coming off a 5-20 campaign last season. Brody Fox averaged 25.9 points per game in 16 contests in 2022-23, and the 6-foot-6 guard returns for his junior year.
On Nov. 11, UMHB will face either Ohio Wesleyan or IWU, with a consolation game at 3 p.m. and the championship at 5 p.m. Ohio Wesleyan, out of the North Coast Athletic Conference, went 16-10 in 2022-23 and is led by veteran head coach Mike DeWitt, who enters his 25th season at the helm of the program.
This will be the third edition of the Sikma Hall of Fame Invitational.
SCAC contests continue non-conference schedule
Upon arrival from Illinois, three straight SCAC opponents meet UMHB, beginning with Texas Lutheran on Nov. 15. The 7 p.m. matchup in Seguin will be the 34th time since 2001 that the two in-state programs have met on the court, with UMHB holding a 25-8 record in the previous 33 matchups. TLU posted a 10-15 record in 2022-23.
A week later, St. Thomas (TX) battles The Cru on Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. in a contest on Thanksgiving weekend. This matchup features two NCAA Tournament teams from last season, as UST and UMHB both played at the Belton Regional.
The Celts, who won the SCAC regular season title but lost to Schreiner in the league’s championship game, fell to ETBU in the First Round. UST has been a program on the rise for several seasons since joining D-III from NAIA and went 23-4 in 2022-23. UMHB and UST have never played each other since UMHB became a D-III institution.
Trinity rounds out the first portion of the non-conference schedule, and once again, UMHB hits the road, this time playing the Tigers in San Antonio. The 7:30 p.m. matchup on Nov. 28 is a rematch of the 2022 Second Round NCAA Tournament game in Belton, a contest that UMHB won 98-82.
The Crusaders and Tigers are common foes, having faced off in every season since 2011-12, with the exception of the 2020-21 season, which made for scheduling challenges due to Covid. UMHB has won the last three meetings against Trinity. The Tigers are coached by UMHB alum Jimmy Smith, who played for The Cru from 2000-2004 as a four-year letterwinner and All-ASC West Division honoree.
Conference play kicks off
Much like the non-conference schedule, UMHB begins its ASC slate on the road, traveling a short distance to Concordia (TX). The 3 p.m. matchup in Austin comes on Dec. 2, followed by the home opener on Dec. 7 against LeTourneau. A rematch of last year’s Second Round NCAA Tournament duel against ETBU follows on Dec. 9, before the Crusaders head west to Howard Payne and Sul Ross State.
Berry College comes to Belton
Dec. 20 features a huge matchup that is likely to draw national attention as Berry College meets UMHB just before Christmas. With a noon tip-off, the Vikings face The Cru at the Mayborn Campus Center, and both teams will be legitimate NCAA Tournament contenders in 2023-24. Berry narrowly missed out on a tournament appearance last spring, falling to Sewanee in the Southern Athletic Association title game, 86-82. Despite its 25-3 record, Berry did not receive an at-large tournament bid. The Vikings will have plenty of experience on their roster, with five seniors and four juniors returning this season.
ASC play resumes
UMHB hosts Ozarks and UT-Dallas just after New Year’s on Jan. 4, and Jan. 6, respectively. Of the next five matchups, four are on the road, with trips to Abilene and Marshall/Longview, and a home duel against Concordia on Jan. 20 sandwiched between. UMHB hosts SRSU and Howard Payne in early February, and closes its conference slate on Feb. 17, battling Hardin-Simmons in Belton.
The ASC Tournament will once again feature the top six teams in the league, though dates have not yet been set, according to the conference website. Quarterfinal matchups will be hosted by the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, with the semifinals and championship game played on the campus of the No. 1 seed.