CARTERVILLE -- In Kyle Smithpeters' mad scientist mind, a daunting and grueling schedule last year that saw his John A. Logan College men's basketball team go 27-5 with the nations 10 toughest schedule in NJCAA wasn't good enough when it came to this season.
Smithpeters, by design, upped the ante.
To make sure his team is ready for not on the gauntlet that is the Region 24 regular season, but better prepare his team, which he believes can make a run for a national championship this year.
"It's hard, it's difficult," Smithpeters said. "It was tough last year, but I wanted to make it tougher this year. Especially to the start the season. You look at the quality of our opponent and four of first eight games are against teams that easily win their own region."
JALC will begin its season in Ottumwa, Iowa on November 1 against Otero Community College (La Junta, Colorado) and then take on host Indian Hills Community College.
Last season, Indian Hills led the country in points (3919), Points per game (108.9) and field goals made (37.7).
From there, the Vols will play four games in Vincennes, Indiana on Nov. 8 against Columbia State (Columbia, Tennessee) and Nov. 9 against Kankakee.
"Squads like Columbia State, Motlow and Southwestern are easily the top three teams in the Tennessee region. Kankakee has a good chance of winning its region, so does Otero.
Sandwiched in-between the two road trips is JALC home opener against Southwest Tennessee on Nov. 6, starting at 6 p.m.
Following the trip to Vincennes, Logan will host Three Rivers (Nov. 12), Vincennes (Nov. 26), Lewis & Clark (December 4), Motlow State (Dec. 9), Southeastern Illinois College (Dec. 11) and Wabash Valley (Dec. 14).
"You look at that schedule and two teams, Vincennes and Indian Hills have lost a combined 11 games on their home floor in the last 10 years. We are going to have stretches in our season where it's going to be hard to go in and compete, let alone get a win, even on a neutral floor."
To ring in the year 2020, the Vols will host Lincoln Trail on January 11 and host Southwestern (Jan. 22) and Kaskaskia (Jan. 25). To round out the season, JALC host Lake Land on February 8, Rend Lake (Feb. 12) and Onley (Feb. 24).
Road games for the Vols include trips to Southwestern (Nov. 20), Lake Land (Dec. 7), Three Rivers (Dec. 16), Rend Lake (Jan. 8), Shawnee (Jan. 15), Onley (Jan. 18), Lewis & Clark (Jan. 29), Vincennes (Feb. 1), Southwestern (Feb. 5), Wabash Valley (Feb. 15), Lincoln Trail (Feb. 22) and Kaskaskia (Feb. 26).
"One thing you always want to do as a head coach is make your players better and I feel like this schedule does that," Smithpeters said. "It's true that you can make schedules too hard for teams, but I feel like we need to be challenged on a consistent basis. One thing we try to preach is making practice harder than the actual games. This goes hand-in-hand with that."
Logan returns five players off last year's team that was No. 5 in the country. The Vols returns reigning NJCAA Region 24 Player of the Year Jay Scrubb, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.6 rebounds a game last year, while shooting 46% from 3-point range and 79% from the free throw line.
In the recruiting season, Smithpeters has brought in three transfers in Trace Young (Wyoming), Eric Boone (Tallahassee CC) and Jalen Johnson (Murray State), along with freshman Sydney Curry, Jamarion Sharp and Isaiah Ervin.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.
DATE OPPONENT TIME
11-1 at Otero 5 PM
11-2 at Indian Hills* 7 PM
11-6 SOUTHWEST TENNESSEE 6 PM
11-8 at Columbia State^ 4 PM
11-9 at Kankakee^ 4 PM
11-12 THREE RIVERS 7 PM
11-20 at Southwestern 7 PM
11-26 VINCENNES 7 PM
12-4 LEWIS & CLARK 7 PM
12-7 at Lake Land 5 PM
12-9 MOTLOW STATE 7 PM
12-11 SOUTHEASTERN 7 PM
12-14 WABASH VALLEY 3 PM
12-16 at Three Rivers 7 PM
1-8 at Rend Lake 7:30 PM
1-11 LINCOLN TRAIL 3 PM
1-15 at Shawnee 7 PM
1-18 at Olney 7 PM
1-22 SOUTHWESTERN 7 PM
1-25 KASKASKIA 3 PM
1-29 at Lewis & Clark 7 PM
2-1 at Vincennes 6 PM
2-5 at Southeastern 7 PM
2-8 LAKE LAND 3 PM
2-12 REND LAKE 7 PM
2-15 at Wabash Valley TBD
2-19 SHAWNEE 7 PM
2-22 at Lincoln Trail TBD
2-24 OLNEY 7 PM
2-26 at Kaskaskia TBD
* at Ottumwa, Iowa
^ at Vincennes, Indiana