Winston-Salem State will see a lot more of its CIAA opponents because the conference going to a 22-game regular-season schedule.
The WSSU men tip off their season at North Carolina on Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in an exhibition game. Playing in the Smith Center is something Julius Barnes, a senior point guard, said will be exciting.
“It’s a great opportunity to get better for our team going into the season,” Barnes, who is from Raleigh, said earlier this summer. “I actually grew up a Duke fan, but UNC is a great program, and I’m looking forward to the game. This will also be good for our school and program as well.”
WSSU will receive $25,000 for playing the game.
Coach Cleo Hill, Jr., whose wife works in fund-raising at the University of North Carolina, said playing the Tar Heels is a great way to tip off the season.
“That’s an experience they will like — playing in the Dean Dome — so we’re excited about the opportunity,” Hill said.
Unlike in past seasons where CIAA opponents play twice within the same division and once in the other division, schools now will play everybody twice. The Northern and Southern divisions will remain intact, and schools will still be playing for seeding for the CIAA Tournament based on divisional play.
“There are pros and cons with the 22-game schedule,” Hill said. “There are obviously less nonconference games that you are free to schedule because the CIAA games take up most of our schedule space.”
The Rams will play four nonconference games in November, all at home at the Gaines Center, starting with UNC Pembroke on Nov. 12.
Conference play will begin on Nov. 23 against Bowie State at the Gaines Center.
The WSSU women will play exhibition games against N.C. Central on Nov. 3 in Roanoke, Va., and at Elon on Nov. 5.
Coach L’Tona Lamonte said getting two exhibition games with Division I opponents is a good way to start the season.
“We are excited about playing N.C. Central in an exhibition game,” she said. “We hope our nonconference games will prepare our team early for the toughness of the CIAA we have to bring this year from day one.”
Lamonte, who was the assistant head coach at N.C. Central during the 2015-16 season, said it will be different starting conference play in mid-November.
“I’m excited about this upcoming season,” Lamonte said. “It is definitely a little different having 22 CIAA games. I do miss having an opportunity to play nine nonconference games to establish our team philosophies and tendencies prior to conference.”
The CIAA tournaments will be held in Charlotte from Feb. 24-29. The CIAA’s crown jewel will move to Baltimore for the 2021, ’22 and ’23 tournaments.