Western Kentucky’s 2018-19 season ended Saturday, but the Hilltoppers already know how most of their 2019-20 nonconference schedule will look.
Coach Rick Stansbury’s squad will face 12 nonconference opponents next season. Ten of those slots have already been filled, athletic director Todd Stewart told the Daily News on Wednesday.
WKU currently has home games scheduled against Arkansas, Austin Peay and Belmont. All those games are part of home-and-home series.
Arkansas will visit E.A. Diddle Arena after hosting the Toppers this season in Fayetteville, Ark. WKU won 78-77 on Dec. 8 at Bud Walton Arena and is 3-4 all time against the Razorbacks.
That series also includes a football meeting between the schools that’ll take place Nov. 9 in Fayetteville.
Austin Peay’s visit to Diddle Arena next year will be the third installment of a four-game series. WKU beat the Governors in Bowling Green in 2016-17 and in Clarksville, Tenn., in 2017-18 before the programs took a year off from the series this season.
The Hilltoppers are 41-14 against APSU, a former Ohio Valley Conference foe.
Belmont will face WKU for the sixth straight season. The schools signed a four-year deal before the 2014-15 season, then extended it last offseason for another four games.
Coach Rick Byrd and his Bruins have defeated the Tops each of the last five years. That includes an 80-74 Belmont victory Dec. 19 in Nashville that dropped WKU’s record in the series to 4-7.
Despite those results, Stewart said he’s a fan of the series against a program that’s become a perennial mid-major power. The Bruins earned an at-large NCAA Tournament bid Sunday, beat Temple on Tuesday in a First Four game and will face Maryland on Thursday in the tourney’s first round.
“The two Ricks, I give them credit for playing that,” Stewart said. “Rick Byrd sees a lot of value in playing that and so do we. That’s a really good one.”
Louisville returns to the Hilltoppers’ schedule next season for the first of a four-game series. The teams will meet in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena before playing the next three years either in Louisville (2020-21, 2022-23) or Bowling Green (2021-22).
WKU faced the Cardinals eight times from 2008-15, winning the first of those meetings but losing the following seven. The Toppers are 39-40 against UofL in a series that dates to 1926.
Also on a neutral floor, WKU will play in the 2019 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Fordham, Grand Canyon, Illinois State, Nevada and Valparaiso will also take part in the November event, with each team guaranteed three games.
The Hilltoppers are a combined 4-2 in November tourneys the last two years under Stansbury. WKU went 2-1 in both the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis and the 2018 Myrtle Beach Invitational.
Road games for the Tops are currently scheduled against Eastern Kentucky, Rhode Island and Wright State.
The EKU game is the fourth in a six-game series between the schools. The teams met three times from 2015-17 – twice in Bowling Green, once in Richmond – took a year off and are scheduled to meet three times over the next three seasons – twice in Richmond, once in Bowling Green.
WKU is 113-44 against the Colonels, who, like Austin Peay, are another former OVC rival.
The Hilltoppers will also travel next year to Rhode Island for the first game of a two-year series. The Rams will return in 2020-21 to Diddle Arena.
WKU has never faced URI. The series is part of a scheduling agreement between Conference USA and the Atlantic 10 Conference, Stewart said.
The third nonconference road game currently on the Toppers’ 2019-20 schedule is Wright State. It’s the second matchup of a four-game series that started in 2017-18 in Bowling Green, then skipped this season.
WKU is 1-0 against the Raiders, whose roster includes former Warren Central High School star Skyelar Potter.
As for the two open slots left on the Hilltoppers’ upcoming schedule, Stewart said he’d like to fill both with home dates.
“It could be any and everything,” Stewart said. “There could be a non-D-I in there. We try to stay away from those, but I don’t think there’s an issue in playing one. We like home-and-homes. I think a buy game, it has to be the right team.
“And you never know. We could go on the road for one of those games if we felt like it was an Arkansas-type series where it was worth having the team come back here the following year. But ideally, it would be to have both those be home games.”
WKU 2019-20 nonconference opponents (Dates TBD)
Louisville (in Nashville)
3 games at 2019 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam (Other schools are Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Fordham, Grand Canyon, Illinois State, Nevada and Valparaiso)