PIKEVILLE - Six teams from last season's NAIA National Tournament and five who were ranked in the postseason NAIA Top-25 are on the slate for the University of Pikeville women's basketball team in 2017-18.
The Bears, which open play on Oct. 31 at Marian in Indianapolis, will play 15 home games at the East Ky. Expo Center, nine true road games and six contests on a neutral court. The Feb. 6 home game with Kentucky Christian will be played as an exhibition.
UPIKE's home openers are scheduled for Nov. 3-4 in the Appalachian Wireless Classic where they will face Bluefield (Va.) at 2 p.m. ET on Friday and Milligan (Tenn.) at the same time on Saturday. Mid-South Conference play gets started at home on Jan. 6 with Shawnee State (Ohio) coming to town.
Shawnee is one of the five previously ranked teams on the schedule as it closed 2016-17 ranked No. 3 in the NAIA. The Bears will play SSU twice, as well as No. 4 Lindsey Wilson and No. 10 Campbellsville in conference play alone. At the MSC/SSAC Challenge on Nov. 9-11 in McKenzie, Tenn., UPIKE will play No. 18 Bethel and Martin Methodist which was receiving votes in the final poll.
All five of those previously ranked teams, as well as No. 20 Central Methodist which the Bears will play on Nov. 17 on the Walters Auto Classic, participated in the 2017 NAIA National Tournament.
After the regular-season finale on Feb. 24 against Cumberlands at home, UPIKE won't have to leave town to start the postseason as the MSC Tournament is scheduled to be held in the East Ky. Expo Center for at least the next five seasons. This season's MSC Tournament is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 3.
The NAIA National Tournament returns to Billings, Mont., on March 14-20. The Bears advanced there last year, giving it three straight trips to nationals, but lost in the first round to Lyon (Ark.).
UPIKE finished last season with a 21-11 overall record and 8-6 mark in MSC play under first-year head coach Clifton Williams. Williams returns for year two with a roster that includes three returning starters from the NAIA loss to Lyon - 5-9 Rachel Lee, 5-3 Jamie Castle, 6-0 Emily Baker - and a class of five newcomers, including four freshmen and UVa.-Wise sophomore transfer Kayla Mullins. Castle is a Magoffin County High School graduate.
Single-game and season-ticket packages available through the East Kentucky Expo Center Box Office will be announced soon.