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Southern Conference schedule: Dates to circle on your 2019-20 calendars

The Nov. 24 league opener will mark the earliest start to SoCon play in 12 years

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Wofford at North Carolina
Jay McAuley’s debut in conference play comes against East Tennessee State on New Year’s Day
Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Southern Conference, one of the most exciting mid-major leagues in 2018-19, has released its schedule for 2019-20. The format of the league’s slate will stay the same for the 10-member institutions, as each school will play a total of 18 league games, with a nine-game, double round-robin format.

The SoCon is coming off an unprecedented 2018-19 season, which saw two teams earn national rankings in the AP and Coaches’ Polls, an NCAA Tournament win, an NIT win and a final ranking of 11 in the NET.

Here are some of the games you might want to mark on your calendar for the upcoming campaign:

Nov. 24: VMI at UNC Greensboro

This is when it will all begin. The Keydets will meet the Spartans in the earliest start to SoCon play since Furman hosted Georgia Southern on Nov. 23, 2007.

Jan. 1: Wofford at East Tennessee State

Wofford claimed the league crown by running through both the regular-season and conference tournaments without a loss to finish 21-0.

The Terriers must replace three starters and will have a new head coach, top assistant Jay McAuley, after Mike Young left for Virginia Tech. Wofford, ranked as high as No. 21 in the nation last March, captured the league’s first NCAA Tournament win since Davidson in 2008, when they beat Seton Hall in the First Round.

The defending champs, who became the first team to win 30 games in a season in the SoCon since North Carolina State in 1950-51, will open league play on New Year’s Day with a doozie. McAuley will make his SoCon coaching debut on the sidelines of Freedom Hall in Johnson City against an East Tennessee State team that returns four of five starters from a 24-win team. The Bucs might be conference favorites heading into the season.

The Bucs have won 100 games over four seasons under head coach Steve Forbes, and will open league play on Dec. 4 against The Citadel — a team the Bucs defeated in both meetings last season. They’ll also get tested early in conference play, with back-to-back road games at Furman (Jan. 4) and UNC Greensboro (Jan. 8).

Jan. 4: Wofford at UNCG

The Terriers snapped the Spartans’ 17-game home-court winning streak last January in convincing fashion, when Wofford blasted the Spartans 72-43 in Greensboro. On Senior Night in Spartanburg last March, Wofford won by 30, downing UNCG 80-50. Think that’ll be on the Spartans’ mind when these two teams meet for the first time in 2019-20?

Jan. 8: East Tennessee State at UNCG

UNCG returns three starters and has made three-straight Southern Conference Tournament title appearances. It comes off a season where it won a school-record 29 games and was a No. 1 seed in the NIT last March. The Spartans also return the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Isaiah Miller.

Jan. 11: UNCG at Furman

The Spartans won two out of the three meetings with the Paladins last season, including a 66-62 thriller in the Southern Conference semifinals following a late flurry by the Spartans. UNCG captured an 89-79 win over the Paladins at the Greensboro Coliseum on Jan. 12 of last season, while the Paladins earned a regular-season split with a 67-57 win in Greenville at Timmons Arena on Feb. 14. The Spartans have won five of the past six in the series.

Jan. 18: Furman at Wofford

The I-85 rivalry between Furman and Wofford is always one to watch. In fact, the Paladins probably came closest to knocking off the Terriers last year. Wofford won 59-54, but it took a three-pointer with 18 seconds remaining from sophomore point guard Storm Murphy to seal it. The Paladins have lost eight straight in Spartanburg.

Feb. 19: Furman at East Tennessee State

Furman returns four of five starters and nine of its top 12 scorers off a team that won a school-record 25 games and qualified for the NIT for the second time in school history last year. Furman will also be at Freedom Hall to visit the ETSU Bucs on Feb. 19.