The Washington Times - August 2, 2008, 11:00AM

Here’s another Maryland/D.C./Virginia basketball schedule (and offseason look) to consider during this first weekend of August: Norfolk State, owners of a 16-15 record a season ago.

They’ll miss: Guard Tony Murphy, who averaged a team-high 17.9 points a season ago.


They’re adding: Stability. Coach Anthony Evans had the interim tag removed from his title in late January, bringing some certainty to a program that went without a permanent man in charge for more than eight months.

Home/road/neutral schedule split: 10/15/4

Best team visiting Norfolk: Neither MEAC regular season champ Morgan State nor tournament winner Coppin State come to Echols Hall this year. But perennial league contender Hampton does swing in Feb. 28 for what could be an important game for seeding in the conference tournament.

Best home game subplot: The Spartans had dropped nine in a row to Delaware State before beating the Hornets in February. It was Norfolk State’s first home defeat of Delaware State since 2000, and the Spartans will look for a repeat in the Jan. 17 conference home opener.

Funny seeing you here: Pretty much by default, it’s Jacksonville State playing a return game on Dec. 2. It’s the only home game among Norfolk’s first 14 contests. The Gamecocks hired James Green this spring after he took Mississippi Valley State to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996.

Best road venue: Norfolk State will play in the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Classic at Missouri State, which is opening the gleaming JQH Arena this fall.

Best showcase: Nov. 25 at Michigan. The Wolverines are the only power-conference opponent on the schedule, and the game comes early enough that the Spartans won’t be worn out from traveling all over for two months.

Best opponent: This is a toss-up. By name recognition, it would be Michigan. But it also could be Brad Brownell’s Wright State bunch that will play the Spartans on Dec. 16.

New to the schedule: William & Mary (first meeting since 1982-83), Michigan, Wright State, Missouri State, Middle Tennessee, UC Irvine, Texas-Pan American, Montana State/Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Pivotal stretch: In a one-bid league, you’re only as good as how well you’re playing in late February and early March. Coppin State proved that last year in the MEAC. Norfolk State plays seven of its last nine at home, representing a chance to string together some victories heading into the conference tournament.

Previously: Longwood, Navy

Patrick Stevens