STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton men’s basketball is transmitting in full across the Division I radar as evidenced by the release of its 2021 schedule by head coach Billy Gillispie on Tuesday.
“Wow! What a schedule,” said head coach Gillispie. “I would think this schedule is one of the most difficult schedules ever put together for a member of the WAC and that’s exactly the way we like it. These 18 conference and 13 non-conference games give us the opportunity to bring tremendous exposure and television appearances to our school, our league, and – most importantly – our players.
“Our players came to Tarleton to play 18 great conference games in a very tough and improving Western Athletic Conference,” he continued. “We promised we would do our very best to schedule non-conference opponents that would bring great exposure to our school and the players. We are fortunate to have three Division I non-conference games in Wisdom Gym for our fans, who provide one of the best home-court advantage anywhere, and we look forward to playing in front of them as we return to a normal setting.”
A road game at 2020-21 national runner-up Gonzaga, trips to the historic Allen Fieldhouse and Crisler Center to face Kansas and Michigan and tilts against perennial NCAA Tournament programs Stanford and Wichita State highlight Tarleton’s nonconference slate. The Texans will also play their first “D1 vs. D1” nonconference home games vs. Charlston Southern (Dec. 5), South Alabama (Dec. 17) and Air Force (Dec. 21) before transitioning to Western Athletic Conference play on Dec. 30.
“We are appreciative to Mark Few (Gonzaga), Bill Self (Kansas), Jerod Haase (Stanford), Juwan Howard (Michigan) and Isaac Brown (Wichita State) for allowing us the opportunity to play against the best teams, players and coaches in some of the best basketball venues in college basketball,” said Gillispie. “It will be quite an experience for the players to visit these places as they measure themselves against the best there is in college basketball.
“What a challenge! Our players can’t wait to get started,” he added.”
In all, the Texans will play 31 games in their second season at the NCAA Division I level. Tarleton’s combined schedule features 14 home games – six nonconference affairs and eight conference pairings. The Texans face six teams who earned 2021 NCAA Tournament berths, three of which advanced to the Sweet 16.
Before beginning the regular season, fans get their first glimpse of the 2021-22 roster with an exhibition game vs. Central Christian College (MO) on Nov. 2 in Wisdom Gym.
Tarleton will rack up its fair share of frequent flier miles in a hurry. Six of its first seven games are on the road.
The program kicks off the regular season on Nov. 9 opposite the Cardinal in Palo Alto before traveling to the Sunflower State to meet the Jayhawks on Nov. 12 in Lawrence and square off with Wichita State on Nov. 16.
The Texans’ season-opener vs. Stanford is its first matchup opposite a Pac-12 program in school history in any sport and bound to be a litmus test. The Cardinal signed their third consensus top-20 recruiting class in four seasons under head coach Jerod Haase and were on the precipice of earning a 2021 NCAA Tournament bid after earning three wins over eventual Sweet 16 opponents and two over Elite Eight programs.
Tarleton’s visit to Lawrence marks a much-anticipated reunion between Gillispie and Self. The two longtime friends were supposed to be on opposite benches inside Allen Fieldhouse in 2020, as the Texans and Jayhawks were scheduled to square off on Dec. 13 before the game was called off due to positive COVID-19 developments. Gillispie served as an assistant coach under Self at Tulsa (1997-2000) and Illinois (2000-2002) and routinely faced his former boss as the head coach at Texas A&M (2004-2007) and Texas Tech (2011-2012).
The trip to Wichita State grants Tarleton yet another experience inside a college basketball mecca in the southwestern United States. The Shockers have earned eight NCAA Tournament bids since 2012, including an at-large bid in 2021 in their first season under head coach Isaac Brown.
The Texans then make their long-awaited season home debut vs. Paul Quinn on Nov. 19. Following the home-opener is another three-game cross-continental road swing.
Tarleton first meets North Dakota State on Nov. 22 in Fargo. The game marks the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Tarleton treks east to Ann Arbor two days later to meet the Wolverines and concludes its road trip on Nov. 29 in Spokane, Washington opposite Gonzaga.
The ballgames vs. the Wolverines and Bulldogs give Tarleton consecutive matchups against teams that earned No. 1 seeds in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Michigan finished with a 23-5 overall record and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2020-21 in its second season under head coach Juwan Howard. Gonzaga, which has made it to the Big Dance in 22 straight seasons, produced perhaps its most dominant squad last winter. The Bulldogs posted an NCAA-best 31-1 overall record, with their lone loss coming to National Champion Baylor.
Tarleton receives a well-deserved three-game homestand after its clash in The Kennel. The Texans host Dallas Christian on Dec. 7 and Southwestern Assemblies of God on Dec. 8 following their matchup against Charlston Southern. The program secured the first Division I win in school history with a 103-48 victory over Dallas Christian in its 2020-21 season-opener on Nov. 25.
A unique back-to-back – the only matchup of such on Tarleton’s schedule – is next up. The Texans travel to Mobile on Dec. 14 for their final nonconference road before hosting the Jaguars in the Lone Star State three days later.
Tarleton then caps the nonconference potion of its schedule vs. Air Force and breaks for Christmas for nine days ahead of WAC play.
The Texans travel to Utah over New Year’s for their first conference series at Dixie State (Dec. 30) and Utah Valley. Two of Tarleton’s four WAC road wins in the 2020-21 season came against the Utah schools, including the first in school history over the Wolverines on Jan. 30.
Tarleton returns home after its two-game stay in the Beehive State to welcome conference newcomers Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin to Wisdom Gym on Jan. 6 and Jan. 8, respectively.
The program then has an opportunity to make it two straight wins against conference powerhouse New Mexico State when it visits Las Cruces on Jan. 13. Tarleton earned arguably the biggest win of its D1 era when it earned a wire-to-wire 64-55 home victory against the Aggies on Feb. 27. The Texans then head to Phoenix to meet 2021 WAC regular season and tournament champion Grand Canyon on Jan. 15.
Tarleton’s second-of-four conference homestands follows, as the Texans are slated to meet California Baptist on Jan. 20 and Seattle U on Jan. 22.
Up next is a bus ride through south Texas, as the Texans head to Lamar on Jan. 27 for its first of two meetings with the Cardinals in a four-week stretch. Tarleton visits a city that was kind to the program in its first D1 season two days later when it faces UTRGV in Edinburg. Tarleton closed the 2020-21 campaign with a road sweep of the Vaqueros that evened its overall record at 10-10.
A favorable February slate then awaits Tarleton. Five of the Texans six games scheduled in the month are at home.
Tarleton commences a three-game homestand against Chicago State on Feb. 5 in what will be the first-and-final game between the two programs as conference foes inside Wisdom Gym. The Cougars announced they will voluntarily leave the WAC on June 30, 2022.
The Texans then host Abilene Christian on Feb. 12 before Utah Valley makes a return trip to Stephenville on Feb. 17.
Following a trip to the Windy City to face Chicago State on Feb. 19, Tarleton plays its final homestand of the year. The Texans first meet UTRGV on Feb. 24 before hosting Senior Day on Feb. 26 against Lamar.
The season concludes with road trips to Sam Houston (March 3) and Abilene Christian (March 5).
Tarleton’s regular season finale vs. the Wildcats marks its final ballgame of the 2021-22 regular season.
Tipoff time and TV specifications for each matchup will be announced at a later date. Individual home game tickets will be available in the coming weeks at TarletonSports.com/Tickets in the coming weeks.
Games are expected to return to normal operating procedures this winter with capacity back to 100-percent availability inside Wisdom Gym.