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Big 4 has the players and a competitive schedule

Best of the Big 4

Men: Yassin Idbihi and Parnell Smith, UB; Charron Fisher, Clif Brown and Lorenzo Miles, Niagara; Darnell Wilson and Corey Herring, Canisius; Paul Williams and Michael Lee, St. Bonaventure.

Women: Amanda Cavo, Jessie Lamparski and Megan Lyte, Canisius; Heather Turner and Stephanie Bennett, UB; Shaunna Ambrose, Niagara; Audrey Latendresse, St. Bonaventure.

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On the tube

The Metro Atlantic has a 12-game schedule on ESPNU for the second straight year but Time Warner dropped the channel when it took over from Adelphia during the summer and cable subscribers will probably be shut out.

The Canisius women play an ESPNU game Jan. 19 at Siena while the Niagara women have a Jan. 26 contest at Fairfield. The Niagara men are on Feb. 2 against Manhattan and Feb. 4 against Canisius while the Golden Griffins are also on Feb. 9 at Loyola. The Feb. 13 Canisius-Niagara game will air on MSG.

The MAAC was one of the first conferences to sign a deal with ESPNU and Ensor said he's hopeful its reach will grow.

"We entered into a five-year deal knowing providers may not have it on right away," Ensor said. "It's going to take time to settle it but we hope they see it's a rapidly growing network with great programming."

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On the Web

To get information direct from the schools, go to gogriffs.com, purpleeagles.com, buffalobulls.com and gobonnies.com.

Niagara women's player Toni Smalley is expected to continue her weekly diaries on the NU site, with past seasons featuring breezy reads about the team's travails on the court as well as the ups and downs of travel and college life.

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Who will be dancing?

Metro Atlantic -- Men: Marist. Women: Canisius.

Mid-American -- Men: Akron. Women: Bowling Green.

Atlantic 10 -- Men: Xavier, Massachusetts, George Washington. Women: George Washington, Temple.

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Tough choice nights

Nov. 25 -- The Syracuse-Canisius game won't be the only place to be. A potentially more competitive contest, also featuring a likely NCAA Tournament team, will take place at Niagara as Mid-American favorite Akron, with a roster with some of LeBron James' high school teammates, takes on the Purple Eagles.

Dec. 9 -- A rare Big East double-header. St. John's plays Niagara at 4 and, barring overtime or UB's parking troubles, you should come close to making the 7 p.m. tap in Alumni Arena for UB and Pittsburgh.

Jan. 18 & 20 -- MAAC favorite Marist and Iona come to town together to play Niagara and Canisius. Marist goes to Niagara, then Canisius while Iona opens in the Koessler Center then plays in Gallagher.

Feb. 17 -- St. Bonaventure hosts always entertaining Saint Joseph's while UB and Niagara have ESPN BracketBusters games against mid-major opponents to be named.

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Field trip

School kids in both Buffalo and Olean will get a treat Jan. 12 when the Canisius and St. Bonaventure women stage noon tip-offs in Friday games designed to fill the seats.

Canisius hosts Marist, the defending MAAC champion and the team the Griffs beat in the 2005 conference tournament championship game. Meanwhile, Bona hosts three-time Atlantic 10 champion Temple, coached by former Olympian and WNBA player Dawn Staley, in the Reilly Center.

Kids Days were big draws last year. Canisius drew a school-record of 1,768 -- nearly filling Koessler -- for a win over Siena while Bona had 1,620 in the house for a loss to Duquesne.

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Around the rim

Todd Callen has moved from the analyst's chair to the play-by-play role for Niagara's radio broadcasts as Steve Vonsik left the area for business reasons. Ex-Purple Eagle center Sean Schiano is the new analyst. Josh Whetzel, who did the UB women's games last year, will take over the Bulls' men's games. . . . Niagara and UB will be home teams for the BracketBuster games while Canisius will travel. Matchups will be announced in late January. . . . The Duquesne men, ravaged by the September shooting incident that injured five of its players, comes to town to play Niagara on Dec. 16 and St. Bonaventure on Feb. 3. . . . The Pittsburgh women play Nov. 21 at St. Bonaventure and one of the Panthers' assistant coaches is former Connecticut star and national player of the year Shea Ralph.

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Save the date

Nov. 25

Paul Harris Homecoming, also known as Syracuse vs. Canisius in HSBC Arena.

Dec.9

A Big East two-for-one as St. John's plays at Niagara at 4 p.m. and UB hosts Pittsurgh in Alumni Arena at 7.

Jan.12

Jan. 12: It's Kid's Day in Buffalo and Olean as the Canisius entertains Marist and St. Bonaventure hosts Temple in women's games with noon tip-offs.

Feb.17

This could be a scramble as St. Bonaventure hosts Saint Joseph's while UB and Niagara have ESPN BracketBusters games.

Feb.13

The second meeting in 10 days of Canisius and Niagara will air on MSG.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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