Penn State Confirms Participation in Cancun Challenge, Adding Four Games to 2018-19 Non-Conference Schedule

By Dan Smith on June 11, 2018 at 1:41 pm
Mar 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; General view of the basketball net prior to the game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Nevada Wolf Pack in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State men's basketball team will participate in the 11th annual Cancun Challenge this fall, the program announced Monday. Its first two of four total games will be stateside at the Bryce Jordan Center, with the final two games being played at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The first two games at the Bryce Jordan Center will be the first two games of the team's season. The opener is Friday, November 9 against North Florida, out of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The second is against the Ohio Valley Conference's Jacksonville State on Monday, November 12.

Penn State will then travel to Mexico a few days before Thanksgiving, opening with a game against defending Horizon League champions Wright State on Tuesday, November 20. They will then play either SMU or Belmont in the finale on Wednesday, November 21. Both games will air on CBS Sports Network.

North Florida is a legitimately terrible program in its current state, but Belmont (83rd in KenPom) and Jacksonville State (142nd in KenPom) were two of the better programs in the OVC last season. In 2017-18, due to buy games and down years from programs like Pittsburgh and George Washington, nine of Penn State's non-conference games were against teams 190th or worse in KenPom rankings, placing most of them in RPI quadrants 3 and 4. That number will most certainly be lower in 2018-19.

Penn State now knows where and when seven of its out-of-conference games will take place. Already on the schedule are DePaul (road), Virginia Tech (home), and NC State (neutral - Atlantic City).