HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall men's basketball Coach Tom Herrion's excitement for the Thundering Herd's 2013-14 schedule wasn't just about what it meant for the team this season. He was excited for what it meant for next season, too.
The Herd will visit teams from the SEC (Vanderbilt and South Carolina) and Big Ten (Penn State) this year, on top of the team's annual Capital City Classic tilt with the Big 12's West Virginia at the Civic Center. But Marshall will get return games at the Cam Henderson Center against the Nittany Lions and Gamecocks in 2014-15.
"I'm so happy for our fans," Herrion said. "They deserve South Carolinas and Penn States to be on our campus. We've got a great fan base, so some of the decisions you make and things you try to put in place are with that in mind."
Marshall, which finished 13-19 last season, will play five teams that won either their regular season or tournament conference titles, three NCAA Tournament teams and four NIT teams. On the schedule this year are games at Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament champion Akron, Western Athletic Conference regular-season champ Louisiana Tech, Southland Conference regular-season champ Stephen F. Austin, Sun Belt regular season champ Middle Tennessee and tournament champ Western Kentucky.
Akron, MTSU and Western Kentucky played in the NCAA Tournament, while Charlotte, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin and Southern Mississippi were NIT entrants.
"We're going to be tested greatly," Herrion said. "Our away-from-home schedule is really challenging, and our home schedule is good as well."
Following an Oct. 28 exhibition game with Concord, Marshall hosts regular season non-conference games with South Carolina State (Nov. 8) and Rio Grande (Nov. 12) before playing at Morehead State (Nov. 17). Then come three home games in the NCAA exempt Roundball Showcase - Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 21), the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (Nov. 23) and Western Kentucky (Nov. 26).
Next come four games away from Huntington - road games at East Tennessee State (Nov. 30), Vanderbilt (Dec. 5) and Penn State (Dec. 7) and the Dec. 14 Capital City Classic game versus the Mountaineers. The Herd hosts Alice Lloyd (Dec. 17) and Arkansas State (Dec. 21) before visiting South Carolina (Dec. 30) and Akron (Jan. 2) prior to finishing the non-conference slate at the Henderson Center versus Presbyterian (Jan. 5).
Herrion appreciated all the work his staff and Marshall's administration did in securing return games in Huntington with South Carolina and Penn State. It's been tough to do in the past, as Marshall had to play Cincinnati last season in Charleston. This season marks the first time since 1991-92 it has hosted Penn State, the first time its hosted South Carolina since 1980-81, the first time it's hosted an SEC team since welcoming Georgia in 1999 and the first time the school has hosted Big Ten and SEC schools in the same season.