Sports Information Director Josh Darling has announced that the Lakers will play 22 PBC games with six non-conference games that include two in-season tournaments. The slate also includes six contests against four teams that qualified for the 2017-18 NCAA Division II Tournament.
While they’ll have 12 home games, fans won’t see a lot of them at The Loch to start the season as they’ll begin with seven road games. That includes a Division I exhibition at neighboring Kennesaw (10-20) on November 1st and back-to-back tournaments.The first of those will be the 2018 SAC/PBC Challenge hosted by USC Aiken from November 9-10. That will see Clayton State line up a rematch with last year’s No. 1 team in the country, Lincoln Memorial (32-2) in the opener before taking on Tusculum (6-21). This will be the second meeting in program history and first since November 12, 2010 while LMU swept the South Atlantic Conference championships.
From there the Lakers will head to Mount Olive, North Carolina for the 53rd Annual Pickle Classic from November 17-18. They’ll open against host Mount Olive (17-12) before taking on Barton (17-13) in the finale. Clayton State will continue the road show on December 1st as they make their way to St. Augustine, Florida for their PBC opener at Flagler (9-17). Two more non-conference rivals will wrap up that portion of the schedule but also kick off the home slate at the same time. On December 12th the Lakers travel to Hickory, North Carolina to face Lenoir-Rhyne (11-16) for the first time since the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The home opener will finally come on December 14th when Conference Carolinas Regular Season Champion and NCAA Tournament First Round qualifier King (19-11) visits The Loch. After not having played in the team’s history, this will mark the third season the programs have faced off, with Clayton State claiming both meetings. That will also begin a three-game homestand that will see USC Aiken (16-12) and Lander (11-17) come to Morrow, Georgia on December 17th and 19th.
Following the holiday break, the Lakers will head to Augusta (16-13) on January 5th and Young Harris (8-20) four days later to jump start 2019. Their first home game of the new year will see them taking on another NCAA Tournament team as Francis Marion (20-10) comes to town on January 12th. Four days later it will be Georgia College (11-17) at The Loch before return trips to USCA and Lander on January 19th and 21st. Clayton State will cap a three-game road trip with their first meeting of the season with North Georgia (12-17) on January 23rd. It will be their first game since closing down historic Memorial Hall with a 89-63 decision last February.
A return home on January 26th will also bring with it a new rival as PBC Tournament Champion UNC Pembroke (27-6) visits The Loch. The Braves won that title here last year with a 70-60 decision over the Lakers and advanced to the NCAA Division II Southeast Region Semifinals. Georgia Southwestern (13-14) closes out that mini homestand four days later before Clayton State heads south to face rival Columbus State (9-17) on February 2nd. YHC then makes their return trip to Morrow on February 6th. Three days later it’s another NCAA Tournament matchup with a trip to Florence, South Carolina to take on Francis Marion, followed by a swing to Georgia College on February 13th. The Lakers will then match their longest home stretch of the season as they welcome Flagler (2/16), Augusta (2/18) and UNG (2/20) to The Loch. Another showdown, this time on the road in Pembroke, N.C. awaits Clayton State on February 23rd when they take on UNCP on their home turf. They’ll then wrap the road regular season at GSW four days later before closing with Senior Day against Columbus State on March 2nd.
Following the close of the regular season, PBC Quarterfinal action will be hosted by the higher seed, this year on Tuesday, March 5th, and the tournament’s highest remaining seed after that round will host the men’s basketball Final Four, something the Lakers did last season. The dates for the semifinals are Saturday, March 9th and the championship will be on Sunday, March 10th. The league champion will then advance to the 2019 NCAA Division II Tournament, with Southeast Regional action being contested from March 16-19 at the highest regionally ranked program that submitted a bid to host. The Southeast Region Champion will then advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana from March 27-30.
The Lakers have quite the busy schedule don’t you think? Lakers head coach Jimmy Link had to say, “The Southeast Region has some of the best teams in the country and this schedule is going to give us a good look at a number of them. There’s a very good chance that this is one of the toughest schedules in program history and I’m looking forward to our guys stepping up to the challenge.”