Spartans, Cardinal highlight Lions’ hoop schedule

A tournament, two classics and matchups with Michigan State and Stanford all but comprise Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s 2014-15 men’s basketball schedule, which coach George Ivory has just released.

As usual, UAPB will not play any home nonconference games in an attempt to fill its November and December slate with big-name opponents and “money games,” or contests in which a team is paid to visit another program that usually has more prominence.

UAPB’s first major opponent will be defending Big Ten champion Michigan State on Dec. 6 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans went 29-9 last season, finishing with an Elite Eight loss to eventual national champion Connecticut.

This will be the second time in three seasons the Golden Lions and Spartans have met. Michigan State won 76-44 on Dec. 5, 2012.

Three more high-profile teams will follow, including two in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. It has finally been released that American Athletic Conference member Houston will lead off UAPB’s slate in the four-game event Dec. 17 at its Hofheinz Arena.

This will be the Cougars’ first season under Kelvin Sampson, who coached Oklahoma to the 2002 NCAA Final Four and had successful stints at Washington State and Indiana before a six-year run as an NBA assistant.

Texas Tech, looking to return to the NCAA tournament under Tubby Smith, will then host the Lions two days later. All Classic teams will compete in bracket play Dec. 22 and 23, with UAPB playing Southern Utah and either Division I newcomer Abilene Christian or South Carolina State.

Stanford will close the nonconference portion of the schedule on Dec. 29 at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal, who were 23-13 last season, made a surprise Sweet Sixteen appearance under Johnny Dawkins after a share of third place in Pac-12 play.

But the season begins with the Outrigger Hawaii Classic Nov. 14-18 in Honolulu. UAPB will open with High Point (North Carolina) of the Big South Conference, then take on Hawaii and Cal State-Bakersfield.

The Central Michigan tournament, Nov. 21-23, will see the Lions face Valparaiso (Indiana) of the Horizon League and either Central Michigan or Maine.

UAPB also will resume its series with Akron (Dec. 2) and Air Force (Dec. 13), having yet to defeat either team.

The Lions will open SWAC play Jan. 3 at home against Mississippi Valley State.