This season, the Ball State men's basketball team is set to play six non-conference opponents who have made the NCAA tournament in the past two seasons – two of which reached the Final Four in that span.

The full 2017-18 schedule was released on Sept. 7 following the release of the Mid-American Conference season schedules.

Ball State will face a tough task early on, opening with five road games in the first six games of the season.

Key non-conference games this season

Team (Last year's RPI)
  1. Dayton (36) - Nov. 10
  2. Oregon (7) - Nov. 19
  3. Bucknell (66) - Nov. 22
  4. Notre Dame (22) - Dec. 5
  5. Valparaiso (78) - Dec. 9

"It's an aggressive schedule to say the least, but it's exciting for our guys," Ball State head coach James Whitford said in a press release. "For us, it's really about being consumed with the process ... Through good or bad, if your process is right, you'll handle any schedule right."

For the Cardinals, that process starts with a pair of road games at Dayton (Nov. 10) and Oklahoma (Nov. 15). After the home opener against Stony Brook (Nov. 17), Ball State travels to last 2017 Final Four team Oregon (Nov. 19) then Bucknell (Nov. 22).

The high profile games against Oklahoma, Oregon, Bucknell and Stony Brook are a part of ESPN's Phil Knight Invitational, an event that honors the Nike founder.

"We're more prepared to play this type of schedule than we would have been in the past; that's part of it," Whitford said. "But the bigger part of it is ESPN offering us these opportunities."

Ball State is coming off of back-to-back 20-plus win seasons, including one of the best turnarounds from 2014-15 into 2015-16 season. The Cardinals have split a pair of MAC West Division regular season titles as well.

There will be high expectations for the Cardinals coming into this season as they return seven out of their nine men rotation, including seniors Jeremie Tyler, Francis Kiapway and Sean Sellers, juniors Tayler Persons and Trey Moses along with sophomores Tahjai Teague and Kyle Mallers.

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Conference play begins on Jan. 2, where Ball State plays host to Eastern Michigan. In terms of crossover opponents, Ball State drew Akron and Kent State from the East Division – both of which saw 20-plus win seasons a year ago.