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Wichita State basketball to open season with road game for first time in 32 years

Scheduling a road game in November is a rarity, but opening a season on the road?

That’s unheard of, especially for the Wichita State men’s basketball program.

The Shockers are bucking a recent trend by electing to open the 2024-25 season away from Wichita. They will play Western Kentucky at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky., on Monday, Nov. 4. The date was first reported by Made For March and confirmed by The Eagle.

It has been more than three decades since the Shockers opened a season with a true road game, the last time being December 1, 1992 when the Scott Thompson era began with a 93-71 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

WSU hasn’t begun a season outside of Koch Arena since the 2003-04 season started with a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam Invitational.

It has become customary for programs like WSU to stack home games early, play in a multi-team event at a neutral location the week of Thanksgiving, then take on a road challenge or two in December as a tune-up for conference play.

Looking back on the last 15 years, WSU has only scheduled three true road games in November: VCU (2012), Tulsa (2015) and Missouri (2021).

But none of those were in the first game of the season, a challenge WSU head coach Paul Mills will embrace to begin his second year on the sidelines.

It will be quite a different game from the 71-61 scrap WSU survived against the Hilltoppers last November. Former WKU coach Steve Lutz, who eventually led the Hilltoppers to the NCAA Tournament last season, has since departed for Oklahoma State and has been replaced by Hank Plona, plucked from the Iowa junior college ranks.

While the playing style might differ, the Hilltoppers figure to once again be a competitive team as Plona managed to retain the bulk of the starting lineup, including leading scorer Don McHenry (15.1 points).

The trip to Bowling Green, Ky. will conclude a home-and-home agreement signed by the two schools in 2022.

It was also recently announced WSU will play Saint Louis in Kansas City on November 22, which will be right before a trip to Orlando for an ESPN event to play some combination of Florida, Wake Forest and Minnesota on a neutral site. WSU also recently announced it has moved back its home date against Kansas State at Koch Arena to December 21.

That leaves the road trip to DePaul as the only known game on the schedule without a date.