The Owls, who finished with a 3-23 overall record and failed to win an A-Sun game last season, started last year’s conference slate with last year’s A-Sun champion Belmont and archrival Lipscomb at Nashville, Tenn. They lost by wide margins and it seemed to carry over against most of their remaining conference opponents.
Kennesaw State’s conference schedule is structured differently this season. It all begins at the KSU Convocation Center on New Years Eve against Florida Gulf Coast before the Owls host Stetson and Mercer to start the new calendar year.
It’s a chance for the Owls, who have five newcomers, to win its first A-Sun game under second-year coach Lewis Preston and start conference play with momentum.
“We go initiated by playing Belmont and Lipscomb on the road,” Preston said. “The first three (conference) games at home are very important. I think it’s a balanced (A-Sun) schedule. It gives us an opportunity to play early at home and it’s also important to the Cobb County community and I’m excited about that.”
Good news for Kennesaw State — the Owls won’t have to worry about Belmont, which left the A-Sun to join the Ohio Valley Conference and won’t be making that Nashville trip to see Lipscomb until Jan. 24. However, they will be traveling quite a bit in February with only four conference home games.
Kennesaw State will open the season in SEC territory Nov. 9 when it plays at Tennessee. The Volunteers were tied for second in the conference and made the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The Owls will stop at South Carolina State three days later and then it’s on to Richmond, Ky. to participate in the Eastern Kentucky Tournament where they will face the host, Radford and Towson.
Kennesaw State will begin its home schedule Thanksgiving week where they will host a pair of Southern Conference opponents, starting with Georgia Southern Nov. 21 and Chattanooga on Nov. 24.
After two more non-conference December games at Tennessee Martin and at home against UNC Charlotte before heading north to take on two Big East Conference opponents in Notre Dame (Dec. 19) and Pittsburgh (Dec. 23). Preston is familiar with both opponents, having spent six seasons at Notre Dame and three at Penn State.
“The first thing, we will have an opportunity to play more teams at home as opposed to the schedule from last year,” Preston said. “The second thing, we have an opportunity to play the big opponents early before (conference).”
Second-team All-Atlantic Sun forward Markeith Cummings is returning for his senior season after leading the Owls with 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. Sophomore point guard Delbert Love also returns after averaging 12.4 points.