By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Fairmont State has released its 2013-2014 basketball schedule.
The announcement stated in black and white exactly who the Falcons will play, but it revealed even more about the games which dates, times and locations are still undetermined— the playoff games.
Fairmont State basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun has said repeatedly that his goal is to win the NCAA Division II national championship.
The Falcons took their first step toward that objective by scheduling as many top-tier programs as possible to improve FSU’s ranking and therefore increase its chances of hosting the tournament.
"I took a page out of (West Virginia University coach Bob Huggins') book. He always wanted to play the best competition in the country,” Calhoun said. “If you're going to be a national program, you have to play national programs that are nationally known at the Division II level.”
After opening the season on Nov. 4 with an exhibition game at WVU in what Calhoun called “the game everybody is talking about,” the Falcons will host the first-ever “Joe Retton Classic.”
The tournament is what is known as an “exempt tournament.” Each Division II university is permitted to play a maximum of 26 games. But once every four seasons, a team can hold a tournament and play two additional contests that count for the teams’ overall record.
The Falcons are taking advantage of the rule on Nov. 10 and 11 when they host Bowie State and Virginia State, two NCAA Tournament teams from last season.
“We've got to be very good early,” Calhoun said. "We wanted to get really good teams in that tournament because we think that's really going to kick off our year. It's going to be a great two days of basketball.”
After the tournament, the Falcons will travel to Winston Salem State on Nov. 16 to face another top team in the region. It is just another step to prepare the Falcons to host the tournament.
Fairmont State’s region includes the PSAC, CIAA and Mountain East Conference. By playing teams in the region, but outside of the conference, Fairmont State increases its chances of earning the high ranking necessary to play the post-season at home.
"I don't think there is another Division II team that has as many in-region, non-conference games,” he said. “We have three in-region games that are going to count toward our regional rankings that could really set us up if we have a good season to host the NCAA Tournament.”
Calhoun also has Nov. 19 circled on his calendar when the Falcons host Bellarmine, a private Catholic university in Louisville which won the 2011 Division II national championship and has appeared in several more Final Fours in recent years.
“They are a top 10 program in the country every year,” Calhoun said.
The logic behind hosting the NCAA Tournament is simple. Of the eight teams that advanced to last year’s Elite Eight, all hosted the NCAA Tournament games. Calhoun is hoping that his team can be the next to repeat this trend.
"When you are trying to make the NCAA Tournament— and our goal is to host the NCAA Tournament— we want to put ourselves in a great spot to play the best non-conference schedule in the country,” Calhoun said. “I think we've done that with this year's schedule.”
While the schedule assuredly will be challenging, Calhoun and the Falcons hope to be up to the task.
“"I think we did an unbelievable job of scheduling. We play a very tough schedule, one of the toughest in the country.
“Our expectation is just to win the league first and foremost. We want to win the conference; then we want to compete for a national championship.”
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.