Rio Grande men’s basketball releases 2016-17 schedule

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — An early season road trip to the West Coast, the return of one of the nation’s top events for NAIA Division II programs and an exhibition contest against a neighboring NCAA Division I opponent highlight the University of Rio Grande’s 2016-17 men’s basketball schedule released Thursday by head coach Ken French.

The RedStorm will also play a 13-game home slate which once again features the annual Bevo Francis Tournament, as well as a pair of familiar events – the Newt Oliver Coaches Classic and the Champions of Character Classic.

“Our schedule is going to be a great test for a young team,” French said. “We’re talented, but we’re very young and inexperienced. The early part of the schedule will definitely challenge us prior to conference play. We’ve got an exhibition game at Ohio University, three games against schools from the Crossroads League – all on the road – and a trip to California where we’ll be playing an NAIA DI school. And that doesn’t even take into account the DII Showcase, the Bevo, the Newt and the Champions of Character Classic.”

The schedule begins on the weekend of November 4-5 with a pair of exhibition contests.

Rio Grande will host Wright State University-Lake at the Newt Oliver Arena on Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m., for “Honor Our Veterans Night”. Jim Marshall, who was part of the Rio Grande men’s basketball program in the 1960’s, will be presented with the newly-created Veteran of the Year Award named in his honor.

The pre-game ceremonies will begin at 6:30 p.m. and include all area veterans in attendance, as well as special presentation by Brian Nimmo, the director of the Huntington (WV) VA Medical Center. An exhibit of memorabilia from local veterans will also be on display.

The following afternoon, the RedStorm will head north to Athens, Ohio for a meeting with the NCAA Division I Bobcats. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

The game will mark the sixth all-time meeting between the two schools and the first since the 2000-01 campaign. Ohio has won each of the previous five meetings.

The regular season slate begins on Tuesday, Nov. 8 with a trip to Taylor (IN) University for a 7 p.m. tipoff before the RedStorm fly to California to face Shepherd University on the 11th and NAIA DI Vanguard University on the 12th. Both games in the Golden State will tipoff at 10 p.m. EST.

A visit to Huntington (IN) University on the return trip from California comes on Nov. 15, at 7 p.m., and sets the stage for the 34th Annual Bevo Francis Invitational Tournament and a matchup with Miami University-Hamilton on Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. The tournament concludes on the 19th at 5 p.m. against either Shawnee State University or Kent State University-Tuscarawas.

For the second consecutive year, Rio Grande will also serve as the host school for the NAIA DII Showcase, which is being dubbed “The Show”, on Thanksgiving weekend at Meadowview Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport, Tenn. The two-day event features teams from the River States Conference, the Appalachian Athletic Conference, the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and The Sun Conference.

The RedStorm will face Bluefield (Va.) College on the 26th at 5 p.m. and Union (Ky.) College on the 27th at 5 p.m.

River States Conference play begins on the first weekend in December with a trip to Pittsburgh, Pa. for meetings with Point Park University (Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.) and Carlow University (Dec. 3, 3 p.m.).

The annual Newt Oliver Coaches Classic, which celebrates the school’s legendary former coach and Rio Grande alums who are actively involved in coaching, is scheduled for Dec. 10, with Rio entertaining Wilberforce University for a 4 p.m. tipoff.

A trio of high school games are also on the Classic docket with Bethel-Tate (OH) facing Gallia Academy (OH) at 2 p.m., Oak Hill (OH) battling Meigs (OH) at 6 p.m. and Canal Winchester (OH) squaring off with Wellston (OH) in the 7:45 p.m. nightcap.

Conference tilts at Indiana University East (Dec. 13, 8 p.m.) and with Ohio Christian at home (Dec. 17, 4 p.m.) come before the annual Champions of Character Classic, a special 12:15 p.m. matinee game for local elementary school students on Dec. 20 against Ohio University-Lancaster.

The RedStorm will close out the 2016 portion of their schedule on Dec. 30, with a 2 p.m. tipoff at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

January begins with three of the team’s first four games in the new year at home – vs. Brescia University (Jan. 6, 5 p.m.), Indiana University Southeast (Jan. 7, 4 p.m.) and West Virginia University Tech (Jan. 14, 4 p.m.). All are against conference foes, with a non-conference contest at Wilberforce also in the mix on Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

The month concludes with five of six outings – nearly all conference tilts – on the road. Trips to Alice Lloyd College and Midway University on the 17th and 20th, respectively, precede a visit to Rio by Asbury University on the 24th at 8 p.m., with visits to Indiana University Kokomo and Cincinnati Christian University following on the 26th and 28th, respectively.

Game times at Alice Lloyd and Midway are 8 p.m. each night, with tipoff at IU Kokomo set for 7 p.m. The contest at Cincinnati Christian will begin at 3 p.m.

The only non-conference game during the stretch comes on Jan. 31 with a trip to nearby Portsmouth for an 8 p.m. tip against rival Shawnee State.

The February slate begins with a road trip to WVU-Tech (Feb. 4, 3 p.m.), before the regular season ends with three of the final four contests at home.

Indiana East comes to Rio Grande for an 8 p.m. game on the 7th and, after making a short trip north to Circleville, Ohio on the 11th for the final regular season road game against Ohio Christian (3 p.m.), the RedStorm will close out the regular season by hosting Point Park on the 17th (8 p.m.) and Carlow on the 18th (4 p.m.).

The RSC Tournament, which will be played at the site of the higher seeded team, is slated for Feb. 22, Feb. 25 and Feb. 28.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing