WCU Mens Basketball to Play in the Cancun Challenge

As Western Carolina’s 2018-19 men’s basketball schedule for first-year head coach Mark Prosser continues to take shape, some of the tumblers fell into place on Monday afternoon as Triple Crown Sports out of Fort Collins, Colo., announced the teams and schedule for the 2018 Men’s Cancun Challenge that includes the Catamounts.

The eight-team field for the popular Thanksgiving Week event to be held at the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya includes two divisions – the Riviera Division and the Mayan Division. WCU out of the Southern Conference is in the latter grouping with Jacksonville State (OVC), North Florida (A-Sun) and Southern Miss (Conference USA); the Riviera Division features Bradley (Missouri Valley), SMU (American Athletic), Penn State (Big Ten) and Wright State (Horizon League).

The Cancun Challenge begins with games played at host sites in the US as teams in the Riviera Division play host to teams in the Mayan Division between Nov. 7-17. Divisional match-ups will take place in Cancun Nov. 20-21 in the modified ballroom at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya; teams and their fans are in walking distance from their rooms to the games to the restaurants to poolside.

Each game between Mayan Division teams is slated to be streamed online through the CBS Sports Digital platform (cable or satellite subscription required) while Riviera Division games each day in Cancun will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

Western Carolina has road games at Wright State (Nov. 7) and SMU (Nov. 14) as a part of the tournament arrangement before heading south to Mexico. The Catamounts are slated to pull the curtain back on the games in Cancun, facing Jacksonville State at 12:30 pm EST on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The winner will face the winner of the North Florida / Southern Miss game for the divisional championship at 3:00 pm EST on Wednesday, Nov. 21 while the losers of the two games will meet at 12:30 pm on Wednesday.

The remainder of the 2018-19 Catamount men’s basketball schedule will be released later.

This marks the 11th edition of the men’s event. The Cancun Challenge continues to be one of the most sought-after destinations for a pre-conference tournament; last year’s champion was Louisiana Tech, and previous champions include Purdue (2016), Maryland (2015), Northern Iowa (2014) and Wisconsin (2013).

“With a decade in the books, the Men’s Cancun Challenge comes up in conversation very quickly when people in the game talk about an ideal tournament,” said event director Brent Amick. “Our relationship with the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya means fans who travel in get the best in food and entertainment options; meanwhile, the teams can move around easily in the gated, secure setting and get their work done on the floor while also getting some time in the sun.”

Western Carolina makes its second appearance in the Caribbean holiday week hoops tournament, finishing third in the Mayan Division back in 2012. The Catamounts came up a point short in the opener in Cancun, falling to Austin Peay, 72-71, before rallying from a 10-point second half deficit to edge Howard, 69-67, on a pair of Tom Tankelewicz free throws in the closing seconds to take third place.