Difficult Slate Faces Panther Men In 2002-03
Sept. 12, 2002
MILWAUKEE - A season-opening contest at Big 10 champion Wisconsin, at least nine contests against schools that qualified for the post-season in 2002 and an appearance in ESPN's "Bracket Buster Saturday" highlight the 2002-03 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's basketball schedule, released today by head coach Bruce Pearl.
Among 2002-03 opponents for the Panthers, the Badgers, Georgia, Valparaiso and Illinois-Chicago each played in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, while Butler and Detroit played in the NIT. UWM will likely face another post-season qualifier in the ESPN "Bracket Buster Saturday" event Feb. 22.
The Panthers will play 11 of their first 15 regular season games outside of Milwaukee during the 2002-03 campaign, while also facing teams from the Big 10, SEC, Missouri Valley Conference and possibly Conference USA. UWM will play 11 regular-season games and two exhibition games at the Klotsche Center. Plus, UWM is afforded the opportunity to host the modified 2003 Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship at the U.S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee for as long as the Panthers are involved in the championship.
The Panthers, who won a school-record 11 Horizon League games last season and posted their best overall mark since the 1992-93 campaign, will begin their 107th year of basketball at the Kohl Center in Madison against Wisconsin Nov. 23. Last year, the two teams played a memorable contest at the Klotsche Center in Milwaukee, with Wisconsin claiming a 79-77 win. UWM will be looking for just its second win in the series and its first win over the Badgers since 1992.
A pair of tournament appearances highlight the next stretch of the non-conference slate for the Panthers. UWM will be one of six teams at the three-game University Hoops Classic in New Orleans. Tulane of Conference USA and Indiana State of the Missouri Valley Conference join the Panthers as headliners in the six-team field. The following weekend, UWM will play in the SMS/Pizza Hut Classic, opening with Samford before hoping to face the host Tigers the second day. The Panthers host perennial NCAA-qualifier Valparaiso in the Klotsche Center Dec. 11 and also host in-state rival UW-Parkside Dec. 17. The league schedule gets an early start Dec. 21 when the Panthers host Loyola at the Klotsche Center. The post-Christmas portion of the non-conference slate finds the Panthers making their first-ever trip to Athens,Ga., to face the University of Georgia Dec. 28. The non-conference schedule also includes a home-and-home series with Mississippi Valley State and a contest at Chicago State in January.
League play does the Panthers no favors as UWM will open the road portion of the league schedule Jan. 2 at Detroit, with a contest at Cleveland State two days later. UWM will also play one-half of its home league schedule - four games - during a busy 10-day stretch of February that wraps up with a road game at Youngstown State.
Defending regular-season champion Butler visits the Klotsche Center Jan. 25 for a special 4 p.m. contest. Last year's contest at UWM drew a Klotsche Center-record crowd of 5,015. Defending tournament champion UIC visits the Klotsche Center Feb. 13, three days after in-state rival UW-Green Bay makes its annual visit to Milwaukee.
The "Bracket Buster Saturday" event Feb. 22 will send the Panthers to one of seven schools across the country for a key, late-season non-conference showdown. The event is intended to showcase schools for at-large berths into the NCAA Tournament.
UWM is also making plans for its role in hosting the 2003 Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship. Under the new modified format, UWM would host the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the tournament if it finished in the top three in the league during the regular season or won a first-round game. The Panthers would then host the championship contest if they were involved.
UWM returns all five starters and 11 letterwinners from last year's squad and is expected to be amongst the favorites in the Horizon League. Senior Clay Tucker, who is on pace to become UWM's all-time leader scorer during the upcoming campaign, is a leading candidate for Horizon League Player of the Year honors. The team also adds four new players who are expected to contribute immediately. Colorado transfer and former Wisconsin "Mr. Basketball" Jose Winston joins Toledo transfer Rob Sanders, junior college transfer Derek Huff and redshirt freshman Mark Pancratz on the 2002-03 roster.