By Brad Locke and Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
The SEC’s new-look men’s basketball schedule was released on Friday.
Play in the 18-game league slate starts Jan. 9, which means new Mississippi State coach Rick Ray will make his SEC debut that night. His Bulldogs will host South Carolina and its new coach, Frank Martin, after completing a travel-heavy non-conference schedule.
Ole Miss opens SEC play on the road for the 12th time in the last 15 years with a trip to Tennessee. Coach Andy Kennedy is 0-6 in SEC openers, with four of those games on the road.
Both the Bulldogs and Rebels will have nine home games and nine on the road. MSU’s road slate includes a trip to reigning national champion Kentucky on Feb. 27, while Ole Miss will host the Wildcats on Jan. 26.
The new scheduling format includes five home-and-homes for each team, with four of those opponents rotating each year. MSU and Ole Miss play each other twice every year. This coming season, they meet first in Oxford on Feb. 6 and then in Starkville on March 2.
State’s other home-and-home foes in 2013: Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina. Ole Miss will get two games apiece against Auburn, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Missouri.
Texas A&M and Missouri are new to the SEC, and both teams will visit Starkville – the Aggies on Jan. 30, the Tigers on Feb. 13.
MSU will already have logged some miles by the time SEC play begins. The Bulldogs have only five non-conference home games and will take trips to Troy, Providence and Loyola-Chicago, in addition to playing in the Maui Invitational.
Ole Miss plays its first seven games at home. The first road game is at Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 8. Also highlighting the non-SEC slate is a holiday tournament in Hawaii, the Diamond Head Classic – the Rebels’ first games there since 2001.
On the way to Hawaii, the Rebels will stop in Los Angeles to play Loyola Marymount.
The regular season ends March 9, and the SEC Tournament will be held March 13-17 in Nashville.