Lady Raiders to face Kentucky, Louisville and Vanderbilt

Jul 21, 2020 at 11:00 am by Voice Wire

2020-21 season Middle Tennessee women's basketball non-conference schedule

With a veteran squad loaded with talent returning for the 2020-21 season Middle Tennessee women's basketball coach Rick Insell believed his squad needed to be challenged during the non-conference schedule.

Mission accomplished.

The Lady Raiders' non-conference schedule features two SEC foes and the return of ACC national power Louisville as part of a regionally-based slate filled with formidable foes. In fact, during Thanksgiving week Middle Tennessee will face Kentucky, Louisville and Vanderbilt in an eight-day span.

"We always try to play a tough non-conference schedule for a number of reasons and this year is no different," Insell said. "We believe it helps prepare us for the always-tough Conference USA schedule and if we play well enough in the non-conference then we put ourselves in position for an at-large bid (into the NCAA Tournament). I believe this is probably our toughest non-conference schedule in my (16 seasons) at Middle Tennessee."

Lady Raider Nation should enjoy the non-conference schedule as six of the 11 games will be played at Murphy Center. Three of the five road games are within a three-hour drive, including short drives to Lipscomb and Tennessee Tech.

"With budgets being what they are during this time (Director of Athletics) Chris Massaro preferred coaches to play a more regional schedule in order to cut travel costs," Insell said. "We were able to do that and still play a very attractive non-conference schedule because of the quality of teams in our region.

"Competitors want to play tough competition and that's what we have at Middle Tennessee. This is one of the many reasons players want to be part of the Lady Raider program, plus I believe our fans deserve to get to see us play some of these teams at Murphy Center."

New additions to the 2020-21 schedule include Louisville, Vanderbilt and Troy with all three foes coming to Murphy Center as part of home-and-home series.

The Lady Raiders open the season at home against East Carolina, Nov. 10, before hitting the road for a three-game road swing to VCU, Tennessee Tech and Kentucky.

Middle Tennessee and Tennessee Tech will play for the 83rd time as Division I foes when they battle Nov. 18 in Cookeville. The rivals have played every season since 1975-76. The Lady Raiders will face Kentucky for the 22nd time when they meet Nov. 22 in Lexington. It marks the 12th consecutive season Middle Tennessee has played the SEC power and it has played the Wildcats more than any other SEC squad.

The three-game road swing will be followed by a four-game homestand during Thanksgiving and into the start of December. In fact, the Lady Raiders will play five of six at Murphy Center during this stretch, which begins with a showdown against national championship contender Louisville, Nov. 25.

Four days later SEC foe Vanderbilt to Murphy Center for a Nov. 29 showdown.

Louisville returns to the schedule for the first time since 2017 while the Vanderbilt series is renewed following a one-year break. The Lady Raiders and Commodores have squared off 20 times in their history but only three times since 1992.

"Thanksgiving week will be huge for our basketball program," Insell said. "In a one-week stretch we play two SEC teams and an ACC power starting with that road game at Kentucky and then back-to-back home games against Louisville and Vanderbilt."

The four-game homestand concludes with a contest against American Athletic foe Tulane (Dec. 5) before Middle Tennessee travels to Fort Worth, Texas for a game against potential Top 25 foe TCU (Dec. 13).

The non-conference portion of the schedule concludes with a home game against Sun Belt Conference favorite Troy (Dec. 17) and road contest at Lipscomb (Dec. 20).

Sections: Sports