WASHINGTON, D.C. - Heading into his first season, Catholic University men's basketball head coach Aaron Kelly will face a challenging schedule that includes 11 home games, including three 20-win teams from a year ago and the annual College Park Holiday Inn Tournament.
"I am super excited for our first season together and really looking forward to the process of building this team," said Kelly. "Relationships take time to form so we will remain patient and committed to the process and we look forward to seeing where this season will take us."
Kelly will open his first season as a head coach in familiar territory when Catholic travels to Division I George Mason for an exhibition game on Wednesday, Oct. 30. Kelly spent the previous four seasons at nearby George Mason where he was instrumental in the resurgence of the Patriots' program, contributing to in-game management and overseeing all recruiting efforts.
"We have a great schedule beginning with a really challenging early season exhibition at George Mason," said Kelly. "I know our student-athletes embrace the opportunity to play the best, so this will be a great chance for our program to tip it up against a storied Division I program."
The Cardinals will officially begin the Kelly era on Tuesday, Nov. 12 when they host Messiah at home on Franny Murray Court. Like Catholic, the Falcons finished last season with a 10-15 record and a mark of 6-10 in the MAC Commonwealth Conference.
From there, the team will begin a three-game road trip starting on Friday, Nov. 15 at the DMV Classic hosted by Hood College. The Cards will take on St. Mary's (Md.) before facing either Gallaudet or Hood on Saturday in either the championship or consolation game. Hood finished 17-10 last season, falling to Widener in the MAC Commonwealth semifinals before advancing to the quarterfinals of the ECAC Division III Men's Basketball Championship. Catholic fell at Hood a year ago, 86-74.
The Cardinals conclude their road trip at the aforementioned Widener on Wednesday, Nov. 20. The Pride went 15-12 last season, falling to Arcadia in the MAC Commonwealth championship game.
"Our non-conference schedule is packed with competitive games, great programs and a continued focus on renewing or maintaining some great rivalries within the DMV," added Kelly.
The Cards could potentially face their third-straight opponent from the Middle Atlantic Conferences on Saturday, Nov. 23 when they host Stevens who went 16-10 last season.
The team renews its crosstown rivalry with Marymount (Va.) on Monday, Dec. 2 after the Saints escaped with a 70-67 win a year ago.
Kelly makes his Landmark Conference debut at home on Saturday, Dec. 7 when Catholic opens league play against Drew. The Rangers were 23-7 last season as the top-seeded Rangers fell to Moravian at home in the Landmark Conference championship game. They went on to the title game of the ECAC Division III Men's Basketball Championship before falling to Brandeis.
"From what I can gather the conference is wide open and very balanced this year," said Kelly. "I anticipate every game to be a dogfight and every win hard-fought and earned."
The Cardinals close out 2019 at Ferrum on Sunday, Dec. 15 and at the Catholic Basketball Invitational hosted by Saint Vincent College Dec. 28-29.
Catholic opens the new year at home with the College Park Holiday Inn Classic where it welcomes Manhattanville, Ursinus and Hobart Jan. 4-5. The Cardinals take on Manhattanville in the opening game of the tournament on Saturday before facing either Ursinus or Hobart in the championship or consolation game on Sunday. Assistant coach Justin Klingman spent the last four years as an assistant coach at Ursinus while Hobart was 17-11 last season, advancing to the Liberty League title game.
"I am very excited to welcome three very competitive programs to our Holiday Classic and believe this year's tournament will be as challenging as any in year's past."
After concluding non-conference play, the Cardinals will close out the regular season with 13 conference contests beginning at defending league champion Moravian on Saturday, Jan. 11. The Greyhounds finished 20-9 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship.
Juniata and Scranton come to Franny Murray Court on Wednesday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 18 before Catholic hits the road for contests at Elizabethtown and Susquehanna on Wednesday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 25. Klingman's alma mater, Scranton went 20-6 last year while Susquehanna finished 16-10.
The Cards open a three-game homestand against Goucher on Wednesday, Jan. 29 before hosting Moravian on Saturday, Feb. 1 and Elizabethtown on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Catholic finishes the regular season with four of its last five games on the road, beginning with back-to-back road games at Scranton and at Juniata on Saturday, Feb. 8 and Wednesday, Feb. 12, respectively.
Senior Day is on Saturday, Feb. 15 versus Susquehanna before the team wraps up at Goucher on Wednesday, Feb. 19 and at Drew on Saturday, Feb. 22.
The Landmark Conference Men's Basketball Championship begins with the semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 26 and concludes with the championship on Saturday, Feb. 29. The second-winningest team in Landmark history with 212 wins, including 110 in conference play, the Cardinals have won two league titles in 2013 and 2016.