Ball State eyes tourney berth, faces grueling non-conference schedule

Ball State tips off a new men’s basketball season in less than two weeks, and they open with high expectations coming off back-to-back 21-win seasons.

“I think you have to be careful not to put all your eggs in that basket,” fifth year head coach James Whitford said. “I always talk about being consumed with the process of excellence. If you live that way, it’ll happen for you.”

The Cardinals boast a grueling non-conference schedule that includes games against Oregon, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

“It’s going to be really fun going out to these places that are going to have big crowds and nice arenas, but we’re excited to play any team right now,” junior guard Tayler Persons said. “We’re just excited to put on the jersey against somebody else and compete.”

BSU hopes enduring those daunting early season opponents will help position them for a strong conference run, as the Cardinals are in search of their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000.

“Coach is putting us in the perfect position to be successful by putting those teams on our schedule for non-conference because those games are going to help us get ready for conference, and then we can just take it from there,” senior guard Jeremie Tyler said.

Whitford is in his fifth season has eight former Indiana High School All-Stars on his roster. Former Hamilton Southeastern standout Zach Gunn among them, and the freshman forward is excited for the prospect of that schedule and playing a role when called upon.

“With our schedule early on, those games regardless of if I get minutes or not, those are going to be fun playing those big time teams,” Gunn said. “Oregon got to the Final Four, Oklahoma went to the Final Four two years ago, so it’ll be fun.”

Ball State opens the season with an exhibition game at home against St. Francis. They’ll visit Dayton on November 10 as the first game of the regular season.