AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn Basketball will face another difficult non-conference schedule in 2017-18 highlighted by home games against four-time national champion UConn and UAB as well as games against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams, Winthrop, Middle Tennessee and at Dayton, which has reached four-straight NCAA Tournaments, announced fourth-year head coach Bruce Pearl on Monday.
The Tigers play in the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic with the possibility of playing Dayton again or Clemson, which played in the NIT last season.
Auburn, which is ranked 24th nationally in ESPN's BPI preseason ratings, could play 19 games against postseason teams from 2017, 11 which played in the NCAA Tournament and seven in the NIT.
"It's all about challenging your team," said Pearl. "Letting them know that you believe in them. Winning and getting better throughout the season. With four neutral site and two road games, half our schedule is away from Auburn Arena, and that is an RPI booster.
"The Charleston field features really good teams with great coaches. Our fans can get there and travel to Dayton, Ohio; Murray, Ky.; and Birmingham to help us win. UAB is an important series, and it's truly an honor to host UConn, one of the best programs in the last several decades.
Following an exhibition vs. Div. II Barry University, Auburn plays its season opener on Nov. 10 vs. MEAC runner-up Norfolk State, which has played in five consecutive postseason tournaments.
The Tigers play Indiana State on ESPNU in the opening round of the Charleston Classic on Nov. 16 followed by either Temple or Old Dominion on ESPN2/ESPNU Nov. 17.
Temple has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 10 years and a NIT while Old Dominion has reached the postseason in 11 of the last 13 years, advancing to the NIT semifinals in 2015 and playing in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournaments.
Clemson, Dayton, Hofstra or Ohio will be Auburn's third round opponent Nov. 19.
Auburn returns home on Nov. 24 to face Winthrop, the reigning Big South Conference Champion with a 26-7 record that included a NCAA Tournament first round loss to Butler last year, 76-64. The Tigers face the first of two true non-conference road games at Dayton on Nov. 29 as a Charleston Classic non-bracketed game at historic UD Arena, site of the NCAA Tournament First Four.
The Flyers advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in 2014, third round in 2015 and second round in each of the last two seasons.
The Tigers play five home games in December beginning Dec. 3 with Atlantic 10 Conference George Mason, which went 20-14 and made a College Basketball Invitational appearance last year. The Patriots reached the 2006 NCAA Tournament Final Four as a No. 11 seed as well as the third round in 2011 and first round in 2008.
Gardner-Webb and head coach Tim Craft, a former assistant under then Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo, return to Auburn on Dec. 6. The Runnin' Bulldogs went 19-14 last season.
The Tigers play the third of a four-game series with UAB on Dec. 9 in Auburn following a pair of thrilling Auburn wins, 75-74 in the 2015-16 season opener in Auburn Arena and 74-70 in Bartow Arena last year.
A week later after final exams, Auburn plays Middle Tennessee, which made back-to-back NCAA Tournament second round appearances, in Birmingham at Legacy Arena on Dec. 16. The Blue Raiders went 31-4 a year ago en route to the Conference USA title with consecutive NCAA Tournament first round wins over Michigan State in 2016 and Minnesota in 2017. Middle Tennessee also went to the 2013 NCAA Tournament, playing in the Big Dance three of the last five years.
Auburn plays at Murray State on Dec. 19, marking the Tigers' first visit to Murray, Ky. The Racers, which are 231-42 (.846) in the 19-year history of the CFSB Center, have made five postseason appearances in the last eight years, reaching the NCAA Tournament second round in 2010 and 2012 and NIT quarterfinals in 2015.
The jewel of the non-conference schedule takes place when highly-touted UConn makes a return trip to Auburn on Dec. 23 after the Tigers defeated the Huskies 70-67 in overtime in Hartford last year.
UConn is only the fifth non-conference program with a NCAA Championship to play in Auburn. Oklahoma State came to Auburn in 2016, marking twice in the last three years under Pearl a former NCAA Champion played in Auburn Arena.
Other former NCAA Champions to play in Auburn are UNLV in 2004 and 1987; NC State in 1970 and 1931; and Marquette in 1995. Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas of the SEC are also former NCAA Champions.
The Tigers make history as they close non-conference play against Cornell on Dec. 30, the first time an Ivy League member has played in Auburn.
In Pearl's last nine seasons, three at Auburn and six at Tennessee, his teams have a phenomenal strength of schedule ranking of 24.4 in the nation by RealTimeRPI.com, including six rankings being No. 1 in 2007-08, No. 2 in 2010-11, No. 3 in 2008-09, No. 5 in 2006-07 and No. 6 in 2005-06. Pearl is 7-9 vs. top 5 teams, including No. 2 Tennessee's 66-62 win at No. 1 Memphis in 2008.
Times and television for Auburn's entire schedule will be determined.
Travel packages for the Charleston Classic can be found at www.charlestonclassic.com.
It was announced last October that Auburn will play in the 2018 Maui Invitational for the first time in school history against a field of Arizona, Duke, Xavier, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State and San Diego.
Secure your 2017-2018 Auburn Basketball tickets by joining Tigers Unlimited basketball ticket priority program. The Tigers have sold out of season tickets in each of Pearl's previous three seasons. Go to TigersUnlimited.com to join.
|Opponent||2015-16 Record||Postseason||RPI||Final Ranking
|Kenpom.com Final Ranking|
|Norfolk State||17-17||CIT First Round||248||299|
|Clemson||17-16||NIT First Round||75||45|
|Dayton||24-8||NCAA First Round||36||NR/RV||39|
|Winthrop||26-7||NCAA First Round||71||113|
|George Mason||20-14||CBI First Round||123||123|
|Middle Tennessee||31-5||NCAA Second Round||34||RV/RV||43|
|Arkansas||26-10||NCAA Second Round||28||RV/RV||35|
|Ole Miss||22-14||NIT Quarterfinals||68||74|
|Alabama||19-15||NIT First Round||82||56|
|Georgia||19-15||NIT First Round||54||61|
|Vanderbilt||19-16||NCAA First Round||42||33|
|Kentucky||32-6||NCAA Elite Eight||2||6/5||4|
|South Carolina||26-11||NCAA Final Four||24||NR/6||24|
|Florida||27-9||NCAA Elite Eight||8||20/10||5|