Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Paladins' schedule includes Final Four teams

Furman senior guard Andrew Brown is recovering from a broken foot, but
should be ready for the season opener Nov. 6. Photo courtesy of Furman
Each Final Four participant from last men's basketball season will face a Southern Conference opponent this year. Half of them will take on Furman. While Chattanooga plays at Michigan and Wofford travels to Kansas, the Paladins will take on Loyola (Ill.) and reigning national champion Villanova.

The 2018-19 schedule kicks off when Furman hosts Bob Jones on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at Timmons Arena. Three days later, the Paladins hit the road to Chicago to face Loyola, the Cinderella story of last season's NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers became the third No. 11 seed to ever reach the Final Four, where they fell to Michigan in the semifinals.

After home games against Gardner-Webb and North Greenville the following week, Furman wraps up week two with a trip to Philadelphia to take on Villanova. The Wildcats steamrolled their way to the 2017-18 national championship, winning each of their NCAA Tournament games by at least 12 points. It will be the first meeting in the series since the Paladins topped Villanova at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium 29 years ago.

The Paladins have seven more non-conference games after Villanova, wrapping up that portion of the schedule at LSU on Dec. 21. Under first-year coach Will Wade, who formerly coached at Chattanooga, LSU won 18 games last season - including a victory over Michigan - and advanced to the second round of the NIT.

"I think it's a good schedule that's going to challenge us in a lot of different ways," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "You've got two Final Four participants, including the national champion, a very good SEC team and six series games that are very similar to Southern Conference games.
"That combination of Colonial and Big South (opponents) is going to basically test us like it would for league games. That's what our team needs."

Furman opens Southern Conference play at home against Western Carolina on Dec. 1. That's one of three SoCon games that day. SoCon play begins in full force on Dec. 29 when the Paladins travel to ETSU. Furman completes the regular season March 2 at Chattanooga before the SoCon Tournament is held March 8-11 in Asheville.

Richey said he wishes there were one or two more home games, but that's been a challenging aspect of building a schedule. Going 38-8 at home over the past three seasons hasn't made scheduling home games any easier.

"It was one of the reasons why it took so long to get the schedule done," Richey said. "The other thing is the economics behind trying to get a high-major to come to your place. ... The simple economics in that just aren't very favoring for us.
"Those are the difficulties of getting those 'marquee' games at Timmons, but we're excited about what we have. I think it's definitely going to prepare us for the Southern Conference portion of the schedule."

Brown recovering from foot injury
It's been a tumultuous offseason for senior guard Andrew Brown. The Travelers Rest native spent over two weeks in the hospital just after the regular season following a life-threatening complication from a simple hernia surgery.

Brown had completed a full recovery from that ordeal and back in basketball shape by mid-June. Then he found himself back in the hospital in late August. This time it was to repair a broken foot he suffered. Thankfully, this "routine procedure" went much better than the previous one. He's expected to return in October and be ready for the season.

"He had about six weeks of summer activity under his belt before this happened," Richey said. "As he's proven before, he will be ready to go (for the season)."

With season practice beginning Sept. 25, Richey says Brown's absence will actually allow for more reps for less experienced players.

"September's a grueling period of the preseason for these guys," Richey said. "There's one guy that we knew we didn't need to beat up this September and it was (Brown)." 

Fowler sticking around
During his four-year playing career at Furman, Daniel Fowler had a major impact on the program and elevating it to where it is today. Now, he will try to continue to impact the program off the court as part of Richey's staff. Fowler was hired as the team's director of recruiting this offseason.

Also new to the staff this season is director of operations Jon D'Angelo. D'Angelo comes to Furman after a one-year stint as a graduate assistant at Virginia, which went 31-3 last season.

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