MHERST — The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team pulled out of the Black Coaches Association Classic because it would have put the Minutemen over the limit of allowable certified tournaments.
NCAA rules allow teams to play in two such tournaments over four years. In the next four years, UMass is scheduled to play in a tournament in Hawaii and return to the Preseason NIT, where the Minutemen played in 1998.
A certified tournament may include two or three games per team, but only counts as one game toward a team's scheduling limit. UMass originally thought it could play in the Black Coaches Association event by voluntarily counting both games it was to have played in the tournament, but was denied that option.
The field was to have included UMass, Oregon, Rice and host Arkansas. UMass has substituted a single game against Oregon in Portland, Ore., as part of a 2000-2001 schedule that will also include a game at Ohio State.
The full schedule, with dates, has not been announced. But the Minutemen have filled all but one date.
They will play Holy Cross at the Worcester Centrum and Providence, Boston College, Iona and Hartford at the Mullins Center. Also scheduled are games against Connecticut in Hartford and at Boston University, and two games in the Food Lion Classic in North Carolina.
The Food Lion field also includes College of Charleston and North Carolina, with Tulsa expected to be the fourth team.
UMass could still play in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, which has yet to finalize its matchup. The Minutemen have been interested in playing in the Tip-Off in Springfield, but may not be able to wait much longer.
Tip-Off officials, meanwhile, have been concerned that including UMass, at a time the team is not a nationally-ranked program, would make the contest look too regional and unattractive for TV. But UMass has been considered an option, as opposed to skipping the game for a year.
Despite the lack of final word on the matchups, thousands of tickets have already been sold for the Tip-Off, which will be played Nov. 24 at the Civic Center.
As it stands, UMass may open against Iona for the second straight season. The Minutemen, who opened last season with an 85-77 win in New Rochelle, N.Y., will meet the Gaels Nov. 17 or 18.
The Boston University game reflects UMass coach Bruiser Flint's desire to play at least one game in Boston each season. Last year, BU came to the Mullins Center, while UMass played at Boston College.
OFF TO MEMPHIS:
WhenModibo Diarra's chances of becoming eligible to play as a freshman improved, his chances of coming to UMass evaporated. Instead, John Calipari signed the 6-foot-10 Notre Dame Prep of Fitchburg center at Memphis.
Diarra's UMass prospects were tied to the fact that at first, it looked unlikely he'd be academically eligible as a freshman. Had he been ineligible, he could have come to UMass because he would not have counted against the limit of 13 scholarships (which UMass has reached) until the 2001-2002 season.
Spots for next season could open up if either Raheim Lamb or Anthony Anderson, high school seniors who have not yet qualified, do not become eligible. Even if that happens, the Minutemen have likely completed their recruiting for next season.
Former UMass associate coach John Robic, now coaching at Youngstown State, has landed former High School of Science and Technology standout Khari McQueen, according to T.J. Gassnola, McQueen's AAU coach. The 6-foot-6 forward from Springfield played last season with Diarra at Notre Dame Prep.
Ronell Blizzard says he never seriously contemplated transferring, and will be back next season.
"I don't know where those stories start," the 6-8 forward said.
Blizzard will be a junior next season. He has spent three years at UMass, including a medical redshirt year as a freshman, and has played sparingly.