If there's a downside to the University at Buffalo's Mid-American Conference affiliation, the extensive travel would be it. No other school in the conference is less than three hours away by bus. Learning to travel well can be as much a key to the season as X's and O's.
But their success in the collegeinsider.com tournament has shown the Bulls a more glamorous side of life on the road. A first-round victory last Monday over Quinnipiac in Hamden, Conn., resulted in a tournament-paid charter flight to Saturday's second-round game at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. And while the Bulls were back on a bus for tonight's quarterfinal game against Iona in New Rochelle (7:30 p.m., Radio 1230), the strain was minimal thanks to Saturday's streamlined arrangements.
"We were able to get back at a decent hour," coach Reggie Witherspoon said by phone Monday. "We've been to Western a bunch of times but we've never gone there and back on a charter. We got back at like 7:45 after a 2 o'clock tip. We were looking around at each other going, 'You mean some teams travel like this?' "
There could be another charter in UB's immediate future if the Bulls (20-13) can knock off a 23-11 Iona team that was overlooked for the National Invitation Tournament despite tying for second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Gaels had won nine straight before losing, 62-57, in the MAAC championship game to Saint Peter's.
Iona ranks 15th in the country in scoring at 79 points per game and is led by 6-foot-7 junior forward Mike Glover (18.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg). Glover went for 17 and 10 in Iona's first-round victory at Valparaiso.
Defense was UB's salvation in its victory at Western Michigan. The Bulls rallied from nine down with 11 minutes left by holding the Broncos without a field goal for seven minutes.
Ohio is at East Tennessee State and Santa Clara is at San Francisco in CIT quarterfinals tonight. SMU defeated Northern Iowa on Monday.
The CIT schedule already indicates that UB will be on the road if it wins tonight. Why no home games? Schools are required to pay a fee believed to be slightly more than $30,000 to host a game.
"You got to have some money to do it and we haven't exactly been long on money," Witherspoon said.
But if there's another charter flight to be had, the Bulls can live with it.