Three Rivers men’s basketball released its 2019-20 schedule online, and it’s a tough one as the Raiders will try to reverse their fortunes after two straight seasons under .500. Here's a breakdown of what's to come.
Right off the bat, there’s a slew of early tests for a young Raiders squad to deal with. Four of the team’s first five opponents finished last season ranked in the Top 25 in Wabash Valley, Indian Hills, Southeastern Community College and John A. Logan.
Three Rivers opens its schedule against Link Year Prep, which dealt the Raiders a 91-85 loss a season ago.
Three Rivers coach Gene Bess wants the early gauntlet to challenge his group and ready the Raiders for their Region XVI grind.
“We’re at the point now where we’ve had a couple of mediocre years for us,” Bess said. “And this is going to be tough on us, but I think the bottom line is going to be we’re going to have to make great preparation; we’re going to have to work early, and then we’re just going to have to be prepared to nurture our younger guys through because, basically, we’re going to be a fairly young team.”
After starting the year hosting Link Year Prep and Wabash Valley in the 1st Midwest Bank Classic on Nov. 1 and 2, Three Rivers will take to the road for seven straight games away from home, by far its longest such stretch of the season.
“We just tried to schedule as tough of teams as possible early, and if we’re going to get beat, we need to get beat by good teams,” Bess said. “... It’s not the results so much as it is how you handle those results of the game.”
Home at last
Once they return from their road trip, the Raiders can get comfortable in the confines of the Libla Family Sports Complex with six out of seven games at home before Christmas break.
In addition to Roane State Community College and Southern Arkansas University Tech, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M is a fixture in the Thanksgiving Classic for the third straight year. NEO was an NJCAA Tournament team a season ago and beat Three Rivers 79-69 in last year’s Thanksgiving Classic. The Raiders scored an 81-68 win over NEO in the 2017 Classic.
Region schedule and future changes
The January schedule looks like a tough out for the Raiders. They’ll play their first three Region XVI games and four out of their first five on the road to begin the new year.
Once that stretch of road games is finished, Three Rivers has a chance to gather momentum toward the end of the season, finishing with seven of its last eight games at home.
In a repeat of last season, the Raiders will face Missouri State-West Plains three times during the regular season. Two of those matchups will count toward the teams’ region records.
After this season, Three Rivers and the rest of Region XVI will play each other three times instead of twice. With the extra game, it could prevent the Raiders and the other teams from having to schedule Divsion II teams or prep schools throughout the year, thus helping their strength of schedule in the eyes of the NJCAA Tournament selection committee.
“We’re really at a disadvantage here in this part of the country,” Bess said. “There’s not a lot of Division I Junior College basketball teams that close to us, so we ended up having to schedule prep schools and JV teams more than we should.
“And of course, when it comes time for the national tournament, they’re now starting to rank teams in the national tournament and they use our record against Division I Junior College teams as being the significant thing on how we’re ranked.”
There are 221 total NJCAA Division I schools. Of those, 206 have men’s basketball programs in 31 different states, an average of just under seven per state. Texas (30), Florida (25), Kansas (18), Illinois (17), Mississippi (15) and Alabama (19) account for 124 of those schools.
Missouri, meanwhile, has five DI men’s basketball programs, all of which are Region XVI members. The lack of nearby schools mixed with budgets for travel make it easier to add the third region game to increase the strength of schedule in the eyes of the committee by season’s end. So, changes are on the horizon for Region XVI scheduling.
Three Rivers men’s basketball 2019-20 schedule
|1||Link Year Prep||7:00|
|8||Indian Hills at Sedalia, Mo.||6:00|
|9||Southeastern CC at Sedalia, Mo.||1:00|
|13||at John A. Logan||7:00|
|15||Kennedy King or Highland at Park Hills||5:00|
|16||Kennedy King or Highland at Park Hills||5:00|
|22||Cowley County CC at West Plains||5:00|
|23||Murray State CC at West Plains||5:00|
|28||Roane State CC||7:00|
|30||Northeastern Oklahoma A&M||7:00|
|8||TBA at St. Louis CC||TBA|
|16||John A. Logan||7:00|
|4||at Mineral Area*||7:00|
|10||at Moberly Area*||7:00|
|11||at State Fair CC*||7:30|
|15||Arkansas St. Mid-South||7:00|
|18||at MSU-West Plains*||7:00|
|21||at Arkansas Baptist||7:00|
|1||State Fair CC*||7:00|
|4||St. Louis CC||7:00|
|10||at Arkansas St. Mid-South||7:30|
|22||West Kentucky CTC||7:00|
*Region XVI game
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic