Bowling Green, Ky. — Five matchups with teams that joined the Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team in the 2008 NCAA Tournament — including four that reached the Sweet Sixteen — highlight the 2008-09 slate for the Lady Toppers, which was released on Wednesday.
In all, WKU will face off with eight teams that participated in the postseason last spring. Nine of its 22 opponents posted 20 or more victories during the 2007-08 season, and 14 of those squads finished with a .500 record or better.
"I couldn’t be more excited about the schedule we have been able to put together for this season. It always has been — and will continue to be — our philosophy to go up against the best every night we step out on the court," said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. "Even with the young team we have this season, I am more than confident with our collective talent, and we’ll be more than up to the challenge that this year’s schedule puts in front of us."
"We saw the value of a challenging non-conference schedule last year with respect to both fan interest and post season seeding," said WKU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig. "Coach Cowles and her staff have always subscribed to the theory that to be the best you need to play and beat the best. Once again Lady Topper fans will see some of the premiere women's basketball teams in Diddle Arena this season. It should be a great place to spend the winter."
The Lady Toppers will play 15 of their 28 regular-season games at E.A. Diddle Arena, including playing five of their first seven games at home. The early-season slate will not be easy, however, as four of WKU’s first five opponents played in "The Big Dance" a year ago. After opening the regular season against defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Murray State on Nov. 14, Vanderbilt visits Diddle Arena two days later for a Sunday contest on the 16th. The Commodores will be the first of three straight Sweet Sixteen teams to visit Bowling Green, as George Washington comes to town on Nov. 21, and Duke makes its first-ever trip to Diddle on Nov. 28.
Those two games are sandwiched around a trip to Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 23.
WKU will also host Kentucky (Dec. 4) and Ball State (Dec. 20) in its nonconference schedule, while also visiting longtime rival Louisiana Tech (Nov. 30), Missouri State (Dec. 7) and Pittsburgh (Dec. 30). The Panthers also reached the Sweet Sixteen of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The home game against Kentucky will be the 26th Annual BB&T Classic game.
The Lady Toppers will play a pair of Sun Belt Conference games before Christmas — visiting South Alabama on Dec. 17 and hosting Troy on Dec. 22. The league slate gets underway in full force right after the new year, as WKU plays host to UALR on Jan. 3. After a roadswing down south to face Florida International (Jan. 7) and Florida Atlantic (Jan. 11), the Lady Toppers open a three-game homestand against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 14 in a rematch of last year’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game. They will also host New Orleans on Jan. 17 and Louisiana-Lafayette on Jan. 21 during that stretch.
The remainder of the 18-game conference slate includes trips to Denver (Jan. 24), Arkansas State (Jan. 28), Louisiana-Monroe (Feb. 4), Troy (Feb. 14), UALR (Feb. 18) and the regular-season finale at MTSU on March 1. WKU will also host North Texas (Jan. 31), USA (Feb. 8), FIU (Feb. 22) and FAU (Feb. 25) during league play.
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament will again get underway with first-round games on campus sites on March 4. The final eight teams will then descend on Hot Springs, Ark., for the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship rounds March 7-10.
For the first time since 1995, the NCAA Tournament will return to Bowling Green and E.A. Diddle Arena in 2009. WKU will be one of 16 first and second-round host sites for this year’s event. Opening-round games will be played on March 22, with the two winners meeting in a second-round contest on March 24.