ST. LOUIS - The Saint Louis University department of athletics has announced the Billikens' 2011-12 women's basketball schedule. The 29-game slate includes 13 teams that advanced to postseason play a year ago, 11 teams that won 20 or more games and 12 squads that finished among the top 100 in the final NCAA Ratings Percentage Index.
The Billikens will play 15 home games at Chaifetz Arena, including an early-season contest against Missouri. Other intrastate rivals on the non-conference docket are Southeast Missouri State, UMKC and Missouri-St. Louis.
"We're excited about all of our non-conference match-ups, because the variety of playing and coaching styles will prepare us for what is sure to be another tough year of Atlantic 10 Conference women's basketball," head coach Shimmy Gray-Miller said. "The No. 1 objective for a non-conference schedule should be to prepare your team for conference play, and we've accomplished that goal.
"We are facing some teams we have yet to play during my tenure," Gray-Miller said. "That's always exciting because it's new, yet challenging because it's unknown."
UT Martin (21-11 last season), which won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament and played in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, also is on the home non-conference slate, along with Murray State, Drake and Nebraska-Omaha.
In A-10 play, Saint Louis will welcome four 2011 postseason qualifiers to Chaifetz Arena - Temple (24-9, NCAA second round), Charlotte (27-10, WNIT semifinals), Duquesne (24-9, WNIT third round) and Richmond (WNIT). League foes La Salle, Massachusetts and Rhode Island also come to St. Louis.
SLU begins the season Nov. 11 at Memphis (21-13, WNIT) before taking on Southeast Missouri State in the home opener Nov. 13. Missouri comes to town Nov. 16 for the first meeting between the Billikens and Tigers since the 2004-05 campaign.
"We couldn't be happier that the new coaching staffs at Missouri and Southeast Missouri State have agreed to start home-and-home series with us," Gray-Miller said. "You need those in-state games to help boost interest and attendance."
The Bills trek north to face Illinois-Chicago Nov. 18 before opening a three-game home stand Nov. 22 against UT Martin. Following the Thanksgiving break, Saint Louis hosts Murray State Nov. 26.
A return game at Murray State Dec. 3 begins a three-game road swing. The Billikens challenge Big Ten foe Wisconsin (WNIT second round) Dec. 5 and travel to Florida Atlantic Dec. 10, then host Missouri-St. Louis Dec. 13, Drake Dec. 18 and UMKC Dec. 20 before breaking for Christmas.
Following the holiday, Gray-Miller enjoys a homecoming as she takes her team to the Seattle University Holiday Hoops Classic. The Billiken mentor's career includes three seasons as a University of Washington assistant coach and one-year stints as a volunteer coach with the WNBA's Seattle Storm and as an assistant coach at nearby Bellevue Community College.
SLU opens the tournament Dec. 29 against Eastern Michigan (24-13), which reached the 2011 WNIT third round after finishing second in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The following day, the Bills will hook up either with host Seattle or Saint Francis (Pa.) (22-12), an NCAA qualifier that captured the Northeast Conference regular-season and tournament titles."The Seattle trip will be a great opportunity for our team to face some quality opponents while at the same time being exposed to the great Northwest," Gray-Miller said.
The new year begins with Saint Louis' final non-conference game of the season, a meeting with Nebraska-Omaha Jan. 3 at Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens stay at home for their A-10 opener against La Salle Jan. 7.
Four of the next six contests are on the road, beginning Jan. 11 with the first of two games against Charlotte. Next is a trip to St. Bonaventure (21-12, WNIT second round) Jan. 14. Following a midweek bye, the Billikens host Rhode Island Jan. 22 in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS Sports Network. SLU plays at George Washington Jan. 25, hosts Richmond Jan. 28 and closes the first half of the league schedule Feb. 1 at Xavier (29-3, A-10 regular-season and tournament champion, NCAA second round).
A Feb. 5 battle at home against Duquesne begins a stretch in which Saint Louis plays three of four on the Chaifetz Arena hardwood. Temple comes calling Feb. 8, followed by a Feb. 12 meeting against Saint Joseph's (20-12, WNIT second round) at the Hawks' Hagan Arena, site of the A-10 Championship. The Bills host Massachusetts Feb. 15.SLU finishes the regular season by playing two of three away from home. The Billikens trek to Dayton (21-12, NCAA qualifier) Feb. 18, host Charlotte in the home finale Feb. 22 and travel to Fordham Feb. 26. The A-10 Championship will be contested March 2-5 in Philadelphia.