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YOUR GUIDE TO LOCAL COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The name game

Preseason All-Big 4 -- Men: Juan Mendez and Alvin Cruz, Niagara; Turner Battle and Yassin Idbihi, UB; Kevin Downey, Canisius. Women: Eva Cunningham, Niagara; Becky Zak and Cheri Wittlieb, Canisius; Stefanie Collins, St. Bonaventure; Allison Bennett, UB.

Key men's transfers sitting out until 2005-06 -- Canisius: Timon/St. Jude graduate Corey Herring (Baylor) and Ola Matti (Lamar). St. Bonaventure: Tyler Relph (West Virginia) and Paul Williams (Siena). Niagara: Clif Brown (Kent State).

MAAC attack is back

After another successful run last March, the NCAA Tournament will come back to HSBC Arena in 2007. This season's postseason will be highlighted by the return of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament in HSBC from March 3-7.

It will feature men's and women's brackets. HSBC also hosted the event in 1997, 1999 and 2001, but neither Canisius nor Niagara captured a men's or women's title in those years.

Bracket busting

Niagara opened its season Tuesday night at Providence on ESPN2, and the network's bright lights will come to Alumni Arena for the first time for UB's Feb. 12 game against Ball State. Both teams also might garner another national appearance Feb. 19 when they play in the ESPN Bracket Buster.

It's a one-day event designed for mid-major teams to help boost their RPI ratings for potential at-large looks by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Niagara and UB have been designated as road teams for the event and are guaranteed not to play a team from their own conference.

Here's the list of the Bracket Buster home teams NU and UB could meet: Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State, Butler, Detroit, Illinois-Chicago, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State, Youngstown State, Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, Marshall, Miami-Ohio, Creighton, Drake, Evansville, Northern Iowa, Southwest Missouri State, Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Rice, Tulsa, Louisiana Tech, Pacific, George Mason, Fairfield, College of Charleston and East Tennessee State.

Get your tickets

Sellouts can happen regularly for men's games at Niagara and St. Bonaventure, and are possible this year at UB, where preseason excitement combined with an Alumni Arena renovation that cut capacity from 8,900 to 6,100 will make tickets tougher to come by.

Especially for key conference or Big 4 games, walk up to the door prior to tipoff at your own risk. That caveat applies for Canisius' Koessler Center games against Niagara (Dec. 1) and UB (Dec. 18).

Here's the ticket rundown with phone numbers to call for information.

Niagara (286-8622) -- Men: $11 and $7. Women: $7.

UB (645-6666) -- Men: $16, $14 and $12. Women: $5.

Canisius (888-2885) -- Men: $10 and $7. Women: $5 and $3. Prices for the Nov. 27 tripleheader in HSBC Arena are $25, $15 and $10.

St. Bonaventure (375-2500) -- Men: $14. Women: $3.

On the air and Web

Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will make several appearances on Empire and MSG via their conference's television packages, but things are getting bleak on radio.

WWKB, the 50,000-watt AM station that has carried UB games for several years, has dropped sports to maintain its music format. That has forced UB to take its entire men's schedule(and some key women's games) to WLVL (1340 AM), a Lockport station with much poorer reception.

The other three schools also are on iffy radio outlets, depending upon where you are in Western New York. Canisius games are are CJRN (710 AM), St. Bonaventure is on WPIG-FM (95.7 FM) and WXRL (1300 AM) and Niagara is on WJJL (1440 AM).

An easier bet for all four schools is the Internet, where you can access notes and statistics for all games as well as live radio broadcasts. And the names are a cinch: buffalobulls.com, purpleeagles.com, gogriffs.com and gobonnies.com.

Dates to mark

Nov. 27: A tough choice. Do you go to St. John's at Niagara or the HSBC Arena tripleheader featuring the UB and Lafayette women followed by the men's games between UB-Indiana State and Canisius-St. Bonaventure?

Dec. 4: Western Michigan at UB. The Bulls host the defending MAC champs, who crushed them in Alumni Arena last year by 30 points.

Dec. 11: Niagara at UB in what figures to be the Big 4 game of the season. UB won a last-second thriller last year in the Gallagher Center, 81-79.

Dec. 18: It's a UB-Canisius women's/men's doubleheader in the Koessler Center.

Dec. 20: Niagara at St. Bonaventure. The Purple Eagles broke an 11-game losing streak to Bona with last year's 107-98 win in Gallagher. But they haven't won in the Reilly Center since Dec. 11, 1991.

Jan. 6 and 8: St. Peter's (featuring Division I scoring champion Keydren Clark) makes its annual visit with games at Niagara and Canisius, respectively.

Jan. 9: Toledo at UB in a rematch of last year's MAC Tournament quarterfinal won by the Rockets, 97-85.

Jan. 19 (Gallagher Center) and Feb. 2 (Koessler Center): The annual matchups of the Canisius and Niagara women.

Jan. 20 and 22: Two-time MAAC champion Manhattan, coached by fiery Buffalo State grad Bobby Gonzalez, plays at Canisius and Niagara.

Jan. 29: Temple at St. Bonaventure. How many more chances will we have to see legendary Owls coach John Chaney?

Feb. 2: Saint Joseph's at St. Bonaventure. Hawks coach Phil Martelli learned his lesson last season and won't berate any librarians in the stands this time.

Feb. 15: UB's annual home game with Kent State, a 2002 Elite Eight team that the Bulls beat at home last season to spark a court-storming celebration from the Alumni fans.

March 5: Here's hoping Niagara and Canisius get the evening games at the MAAC Tournament because UB hosts Akron at 2 p.m. That will be the regular-season finale and the most emotional game in Alumni Arena history because it will be Senior Day for Turner Battle, Mark Bortz, Daniel Gilbert and Jason Bird.

March Madness

MAAC Tournament -- March 3-7 in HSBC Arena.

Atlantic 10 -- Men: March 9-12 in US Bank Arena in Cincinnati; Women: March 4-7 at George Washington.

Mid-American -- Men: March 7 at campus sites, March 10-12 in Gund Arena in Cleveland. Women: March 5 at campus sites, March 9-10-12 in Gund Arena.

NCAA men's first and second rounds -- March 17 and 19 in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Boise and Tucson; March 18 and 20 in Charlotte, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Worcester, Mass. (The Cleveland and Worcester regionals are already sold out).

NCAA men's regionals -- Men: March 24 and 26 in Chicago and Albuquerque. March 25 and 27 in Austin, Texas and Syracuse. Tickets for the Carrier Dome games are $90 for a three-game pass. Get them at dometix.com or by calling (888) 366-3849. Syracuse can't play on its homecourt.

NCAA women's tournament: The closest site to Buffalo will be a regional final in Temple's Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on March 27 and 29. All-session passes are $50 and available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (215) 204-TIXX.

Final Fours -- Men: April 2 and 4 in St. Louis. Women: April 3 and 5 in Indianapolis.
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com