With the start of the high school basketball season set to roll out in less than a month, Harrisburg head coach Randy Smithpeters offered up a first real look at the Bulldogs' schedule as they begin a new quest to get back to the IHSA Super-Sectional and a possible state tournament berth.
The Harrisburg basketball season gets underway on Monday, Nov. 26 against Gallatin County in the first round of the Harrisburg Invitational.
The matchup pits what is believed to be the best team in Class 2A against one of the better classes in 1A.
Gallatin County has 6-foot-11 center and Rice University signee Andrew Drone.
Smithpeters believes that matchup could be a real eye opener to start the season.
"It should be exciting, that's for sure. You've got a premier matchup between the best in 2A and 1A. Gallatin is one of the best teams in the south in their class and one of the best players in the south in Andrew Drone. It should be a good contest for both teams. It might be a tough way, but a good way to start the season off."
The Bulldogs will play Hamilton County on Wednesday, Nov. 28 and then will close out the Harrisburg Invite on Saturday, Dec. 1 against Carmi-White County at 8 p.m.
Earlier that day at 1 p.m., Harrisburg will make the hour and half trek to Marshall County, Ky., to play Calloway County (Murray) in the Marshall County HoopFest at 1 p.m.
Harrisburg will play at Fairfield on Dec. 4 and then host Murphysboro to open up Ohio Division play of the River-to-River Conference on Dec. 7.
On Dec. 8, the Bulldogs will make a return trip to the SIU Shootout at the SIU Arena, where they will play Alton Marquette at 8:30 p.m.
Last year, Harrisburg battled Bresse Central in what became a preview of the Super Sectional showdown.
Again, Smithpeters expects another hard fought contest in what is not a lightweight for his program.
"Alton Marquette is one of the top teams in the south," he said. "They were a very good team last year, a young team, but a team that will be better and stronger this year. It will be a terrific challenge."
After the Alton Marquette game, Harrisburg will play at Massac County (Dec. 14), at home against Du Quoin (Dec. 15) and Herrin (Dec. 21) before taking time off for Christmas break before beginning play in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament where the Bulldogs are back-to-back champions and look to be the first three straight champion since NOCE turned the trick in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
The Eldorado Holiday Tournament will be played Dec. 26, 27 and 28.
Smithpeters fully acknowledges that the first part of the season is a real test of how mentally and physically tough his team is — or at least how — tough they are.
Page 2 of 4 - "The first part of our schedule is very demanding in the fact that we play seven games in 11 days. That's going to test us physically as well as mentally."
Case in point is Harrisburg playing two games in one day.
"Hopefully through that, we can build numbers because you need numbers to play the amount of games in the length of time we are going to play," Smithpeters said. "It will be very important for us to develop some depth to help us down the stretch."
Following the EHT, Harrisburg opens up January with a brutal stretch of away games that last the entire month.
On Jan 4th and 5th, Harrisburg begins its Franklin County circuit run with games at West Frankfort and Benton, respectively.
The Bulldogs will then play in one of the last showcases of the season as they have been invited to the Penny Hardaway HoopFest in Dyer County, Tenn.
Harrisburg will play Dyer County on Friday, Jan. 11 at 8:30 p.m.
Dyer County has Robert Hubbs III, a McDonald's All-American candidate and five-star recruit on Rivals.com and the 12th-ranked player in the Class of 2013 by 247Sports, who has committed to the University of Tennessee.
Hubbs III passed up on schools such as North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky and Vanderbilt to become a Volunteer.
Hubbs III is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard that averaged 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 assist per game last season, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
After returning from the Penny Hardaway HoopFest, Harrisburg will spend the week of Monday, Jan. 14 through Jan. 19 at the Carmi-White County Invitational Tournament.
Harrisburg closes out the month of January, playing at Murphysboro on the 25th.
On Friday, Feb. 1 will host Massac County at Davenport Gymnasium and then will play at the Rich Herrin Shootout on Saturday, Feb. 2 although an opponent for Harrisburg has not been named yet.
The last three games of the season for the Bulldogs will include a trip to Herrin (Feb. 8) and home games against West Frankfort (Feb. 9) and Benton (Feb. 15).
"Top to bottom, I don't know if we could have a more complete schedule that is going to challenge us in every way," Smithpeters said. "Not unlike last year, We set up the schedule up not to be undefeated, but to play teams to make us better. We'll probably take one on the chin every once in a while, but that's the only way to get better. That's what we want to do."
Michael Dann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spydieshooter.
BULLDOG HOOPS SCHEDULE
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Page 3 of 4 - Harrisburg Invitational
11-26 GALLATIN COUNTY 7:30 p.m.
11-28 HAMILTON COUNTY 7:30 p.m.
12-1 CARMI-WHITE COUNTY 7:30 p.m.
Marshall County HoopFest
12-1 CALLOWAY COUNTY 1 p.m.
12-4 at Fairfield 8 p.m.
12-7 MURPHYSBORO 8 p.m.
SIU SHOOTOUT (at SIU Arena)
12-8 ALTON-MARQUETTE 8:30 p.m.
12-14 at Massac County 8 p.m.
12-15 DU QUOIN 8 p.m.
12-21 HERRIN 8 p.m.
Eldorado Holiday Tournament
12-26 TBA TBA
12-27 TBA TBA
12-28 TBA TBA
Penny Hardaway HoopFest
1-11 DYER COUNTY 8:30 p.m.
Carmi-White County Invitational Tournament
1-14 TBA TBA
1-15 TBA TBA
1-17 TBA TBA
1-18 TBA TBA
1-19 TBA TBA
Page 4 of 4 - 1-4 at West Frankfort 8 p.m.
1-5 at Benton 8 p.m.
1-25 at Murphysboro 8 p.m.
2-1 MASSAC COUNTY 8 p.m.
Rich Herrin Shootout
2-1 TBA TBA
2-8 at Herrin 8 p.m.
2-9 WEST FRANKFORT 8 p.m.
2-9 BENTON 8 p.m.