The Ball State men’s basketball 2016-2017 schedule has been finalized with the release of the Mid-American Conference schedule.

After finishing 21-14 a season ago, the Cardinals play high-profile non-conference opponents from the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic 10 before opening up Mid-American Conference play Jan. 3 at Kent State.

“I felt the schedule is more challenging this year than it was last year,” head coach James Whitford said. “We have two marquee games going to St. Louis and Alabama before heading to Las Vegas for the MGM Grand Main Event.”

Key games

Nov. 11 at St. Louis (MGM Grand Main Event, season opener)

Nov. 15 vs. Indiana State (home opener)

Nov. 18 at Alabama (MGM Grand Main Event)

Nov. 21 vs Coppin State (MGM Grand Main Event, in Las Vegas)

Nov. 23 vs. Southern Utah (MGM Grand Main Event, in Las Vegas)

Nov. 29 at Valparaiso

Jan. 3 at Kent State (MAC opener)

Jan. 10 vs. Miami (rematch of MAC Tournament first round)

March 3 vs. Northern Illinois (last game of the regular season)

March 6-11 MAC Tournament

Full schedule

Although the MGM Grand Main Event is the highlight of the non-conference schedule, senior forward Franko House said the Cardinals need to focus on every game, like the Dec. 6 rematch with Bradley.

“Being a senior, I know that you cannot look over a game,” House said. “Last year we lost our first game to Bradley [54-53], a team I don’t think we should have lost to.”

Ball State will also get a rematch against Miami (Ohio) on Jan. 10 at Worthen Arena. The RedHawks knocked the Cardinals out of the first round of the MAC tournament last season 49-47.

“I am sure that game will have a taste in our mouth,” Whitford said. “But you know, it is a long season and that Miami game is big, but all 18 conference games are big.”

Ball State plays the five other teams in the MAC West twice, once at home and once on the road. The remaining eight games are crossover games with the six teams in the MAC East.

Because of the unbalanced crossover schedule, Whitford paid extra attention to which teams they play twice. The Cardinals only play defending regular season conference champion Akron once, on Feb. 7, though they have two games against defending MAC Tournament champion Buffalo.

Ball State’s other home-and-home crossover series is against Bowling Green State, which finished last in the conference with a 5-13 record (16-18 overall).

Four of the Cardinals' last six games are also on the road.

“We are going to have to focus in order to close out a strong season,” House said. “The fact our last few games are on the road will help us prepare for Cleveland.”

With the graduation of Jeremiah Davis and Bo Calhoun, House said he is going to try and be a more vocal leader for this team. He’ll get his first chance in an exhibition against the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 3, followed by the season opener on Nov. 11 in St. Louis.

“The biggest difference is knowing this is my last time going out to battle for Ball State,” House said. “It will be the last time I get to lay it all out with my teammates and coaches.”