HARROGATE, Tenn. -- Lincoln Memorial University men's basketball coach Josh Schertz has announced a four-year series agreement with NCAA Division II power Bellarmine, which begins on January 2 at Knights Hall in Louisville.
The Railsplitters will travel to Bellarmine for the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons, while the Knights will return the favor with visits to Tex Turner Arena during the 2016-17 and 2018-19 campaigns.
This January's contest marks the first meeting between Lincoln Memorial and Bellarmine since the 2007-08 season, one year prior to Josh Schertz's arrival, when the Knights came away with an 82-70 victory in Greeneville, Tenn. It will be the third meeting between the two programs all-time.
"We are certainly excited to add this non-conference series against Bellarmine to what already was a very difficult schedule," said Schertz (pictured). "Coach [Scott] Davenport, along with his players and staff both current and past, has built an outstanding program. Outside looking in, I have tremendous respect for them, not only for what they have accomplished, but for the way in which they have done it. I hope it's something that's good for both programs and fan bases, and due to our relatively close proximity I would assume both teams will travel well and create a terrific atmosphere each game."
The LMU-Bellarmine series pits two of the heavyweight NCAA Division II programs head-to-head, as the Railsplitters claim the second-highest winning percent in the country over the past five seasons, while BU has the third-best winning percentage, three Final Four appearances and a National Championship over that same span. Only West Liberty (91.8%) has a better winning percentage than either LMU (86.6%) or Bellarmine (84.3%) since the start of the 2010-11 season.
Boasting the second-longest active streak and the fourth-longest all-time streak of consecutive weeks ranked in the NABC national poll (74), the Railsplitters enter the 2015-16 season looking to secure their fourth-consecutive South Atlantic Conference regular season championship and sixth-straight NCAA tournament berth. Lincoln Memorial has advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons.
The Railsplitters finished 30-3 last season, breaking the South Atlantic Conference single-season record for wins and winning percentage. LMU - who matched the 1976-77 team for the most wins in program history - hosted the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional and became the first team in SAC history to win three-straight outright regular season championships.
Bellarmine has compiled a 140-26 record since the start of the 2010-11 season, which was unsurprisingly the Knights' most accomplished season over that stretch, as BU tallied a 33-2 mark and defeated BYU-Hawaii to capture the program's first National Championship. The Knights returned to the Final Four in 2012 and 2015, falling to eventual National Champion Florida Southern last season.
Bellarmine graduated its two leading scorers, Jake Thelen and Chris Whitehead, from last season's Midwest Region championship squad, but returns three-fifths of its starting rotation in Josh Derksen, Rusty Troutman and George Suggs.
The Knights are entering their 11th season under the watchful eye of Scott Davenport, who has orchestrated a 232-82 record - a .739 winning percentage - during his stay in Louisville. Josh Schertz is gearing up for his eighth season with the Railsplitters, as he has accounted for 170 wins and a .794 winning percentage, the second-highest mark among active NCAA Division II coaches.