Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Sue Guevara firmly believes in putting her team through the ringer early in the season, the better to prepare it for the rigors of the Mid-American Conference.
The 2017-18 schedule is no different from that in previous years for Guevara’s Central Michigan University women’s basketball team.
“I know for sure that our nonconference schedules the last couple years have gotten us ready for the MAC,” said Guevara, whose team is coming off the program’s first MAC regular-season title since 1985. “This is a team that welcomes the challenges, embraces the challenges.”
The Chippewas are certain to get them in an 11-game slate that features opponents representing the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic 10, the Ohio Valley, and the Horizon, among others.
Three of CMU’s 2017-18 potential non-conference opponents – Quinnipiac, Purdue and Iowa State – played in the NCAA Tournament last season, and two more, Duquesne and Tulane, played in the Women’s NIT.
CMU, which recorded the second-most wins (23) in program history a year ago, opens with three consecutive home games: Purdue on Nov. 10; Vanderbilt on Nov. 14; and College of Charleston on Nov. 17.
The Boilermakers finished 23-12 last season, falling in the Big Ten Tournament championship game and then bowing out of the NCAA Tournament with an overtime loss to No. 2-ranked Notre Dame. Vanderbilt, which plays in the SEC, went 14-16 in 2016-17. The Chippewas and Vanderbilt have never met.
Purdue finished last season with an RPI of 58, while Vanderbilt was at 115. The Chippewas finished last season with an RPI of 43.
CMU will face San Diego State and either Iowa State or Tulane in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend.
Iowa State, which plays in the Big 12, was 18-13 and earned an NCAA Tournament berth a year ago, finishing with an RPI of 60; Tulane, which plays in the American Athletic Conference, was 18-15 last season with an RPI of 74. The Green Wave reached the third round of the Women’s NIT.
All three of those schools will give the Chippewas a look at unfamiliar opposition. CMU last played Iowa State in 1995, last played San Diego State in 1985, and has never met the Green Wave.
Among the other highlights on the non-conference schedule are dates with Oakland (18-12) and Duquesne (18-16), which come during a four-game stretch away from McGuirk Arena.
The CMU-Oakland rivalry has produced some highly entertaining and memorable results, including last season’s Chippewa win in double overtime and a 110-87 CMU victory the previous season. Duquesne reached the A10 Tournament championship game and played in the WNIT last season.
CMU closes the non-conference portion of its schedule at home on Dec. 21 against a very strong Quinnipiac squad. That game, like Purdue, will serve as a barometer for the Chippewas as they embark on the MAC schedule, which will be released later.
The Bobcats finished 29-7 a year ago, winning both the regular season and tournament titles in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. They also reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where they bowed to eventual champion South Carolina.