MHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts released the 2005-06 men's basketball schedule on Tuesday. Under new coach Travis Ford, the Minutemen will take some of the nation's top teams including 17 games against teams that played in the NCAA or NIT Tournaments over the last two years. UMass faces teams from the ACC, Big East and Conference USA in addition to a very challenging schedule in the Atlantic 10. At the time of release at least eight UMass games will be televised (with more to be added soon) including three national television broadcasts against Connecticut (Dec. 8), Temple (Jan. 21) and Florida State (Feb. 12).
"We are ready to take on an extremely challenging schedule," said Ford. "The non-conference schedule is filled with tough games on the road including Boston College and Florida State of the ACC and Connecticut of the Big East. The home schedule features the Atlantic 10 teams with the richest basketball history such as Temple, Saint Joseph's, Xavier, Dayton and Charlotte. We think our fans will be very excited that the top teams in our conference will be coming to the Mullins Center, especially late in the year when they can support us."
Tickets are now on sale by calling 1-866-UMASS-TIX.
UMass takes on seven teams in ESPN's Preseason Top 50: Connecticut, Boston College, Florida State, George Washington, Charlotte, Xavier and UAB.
UMass opens the 2005-06 schedule with an exhibition game against Division II Dowling (N.Y.) on Nov. 10. The regular-season opener is set for Friday, Nov. 18 against Hartford at 7 p.m. Following a road game at 2005 NIT team Davidson on Nov. 22, UMass returns to the Commonwalth to take on 2005 NCAA Second-Round team UAB on Nov. 25 in the Tip-Off Classic at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. The Minutemen play Savannah State on Nov. 28 at the Mullins Center before a nice stretch off to prepare for the annual UConn game. After last year's stunning upset at the Mullins Center, UMass will take on the Huskies at the Hartford Civic Center on Dec. 8 in a game televised on ESPN2. That will be followed by back-to-back home games with Boston University on Dec. 12 and Siena on Dec. 23.
The Minutemen travel to New York City for the Panasonic Holiday Festival hosted by St. John's at Madison Square Garden, the "World's Most Famous Arena." UMass will play St. Peter's on Dec. 27 and will take on either St. John's or Columbia on Dec. 28. Prior to the start of the conference slate, UMass travel accross Massachusetts to take on rival Boston College on Jan. 3.
The conference schedule opens on the road at Duquesne on Jan. 7 in the first of four games to be televised as part of the A-10 Television package. UMass returns home to host 2005 NIT Finalist Saint Joseph's on Jan. 11. The Minutemen head to Saint Louis to face the Billikens on Jan. 14 for the first time since the 1998 NCAA Tournament. UMass returns home for a pair of home games vs. Fordham on Jan. 18 and Temple on Jan. 21, in a game that will broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Minutemen play six of their next eight games on the road starting with a trio away from home, at Rhode Island on Jan. 25, at La Salle on Jan. 29 and at Temple on Feb. 1. After a pair of home games vs. Rhode Island on Feb. 4 and La Salle on Feb. 8, its back to the road as UMass travels up the East Coast from the South. UMass returns a trip to Florida State to take on the Seminoles on Feb. 12 in a nationally televised game on FOX Sports Net followed by a game at 2005 Atlantic 10 Champion and NCAA team George Washington on Feb. 15. The road trip finished with a game at St. Bonaventure on Feb. 19.
UMass closes the season with three of four games at home against some of the top teams in the conference taking on league newcomer and preseason favorite Charlotte on Feb. 22 along with Dayton on Feb. 25. After a road game at Richmond on March 1, UMass finishes the regular-season against Xavier on March 4 at the Mullins Center.
The 2006 Atlantic 10 Basketball Championships will be held at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati for the second year in a row beginning on March 8 and running through March 11.
he anticipation is over. The University of Massachusetts finally has a men's basketball schedule.
UMass had one game to fill for almost a month since they were selected to play Alabama-Birmingham in the Tip-Off Classic. The Minutemen agreed to home-and-home games with Savannah State, beginning this season in Amherst Nov. 28, to finalize their schedule.
The Tigers were the nation's only winless team a year ago at 0-28 and finished with an RPI of 328 out of 330. Had Miami and Gonzaga not backed out of game commitments, UMass would have played a much stronger schedule in 2005-06. However, the current slate could make it difficult for the Minutemen to have a strong RPI.
In addition to Savannah State, UMass will face four other schools ranked 297 or below according to CollegeRPI.com - Siena (297), Hartford (300), Rhode Island (301) and St. Bonaventure (313).
Minuteman athletic director John McCutcheon estimated that UMass officials contacted between 50 and 75 potential opponents in four time zones before finally finding a team which matched up with an available date and was willing to make a reasonable deal.
'It's been a very difficult year for a lot of schools in the country,' McCutcheon said. 'We can't pay $100,000 just to schedule our last home game. As you get later in the process, finding a team that matched up datewise was a real challenge. We've had dialogue going with a lot of schools for quite some time, but couldn't get them to make a decision.'
The Travis Ford era opens with Hartford at the Mullins Center Nov. 18, the first of four games in the season's first 10 days. UMass is at Davidson (Nov. 22) and returns to western Massachusetts for the Tip-Off Classic (Nov. 25) and Savannah State.
St. Peter's is UMass' first-round opponent in the ECAC Holiday Festival (Dec. 27). The Minutemen will play either St. John's or Columbia the next night.
Eight games are scheduled to be televised, including three - at Connecticut (Dec. 8, ESPN2), Temple (Jan. 21, ESPN) and Florida State (Feb. 12, Fox Sports) - nationally. The other five are either on CN8 or Atlantic 10 television.
Atlantic 10 play begins Jan. 7 with the Minutemen at Duquesne. With the league at 14 teams, UMass plays only three teams - Rhode Island, Temple and La Salle - home and home. The Minutemen have a favorable schedule as many of the league's top teams come to Amherst including Saint Joseph's (Jan. 11), Charlotte (Feb. 22), Dayton (Feb. 25) and Xavier (March 4).
PRESEASON - The Minutemen host Division II Dowling in an exhibition game on Nov. 10. And UMass will face Seton Hall in a closed scrimmage on a date to be determined.
NO GONZAGA - The Zags will never return the game with the Minutemen that was scheduled for Nov. 30 in Amherst.
Gonzaga had a conflict and decided not to play the game. The contract originally called for three games, two in Washington and one in Amherst. The teams played last December in Seattle.
The schools' legal departments are working out a financial settlement.
NEXT YEAR - UMass has five nonconference games already set for the 2006-07 season. In addition to the continuation of the Boston College and Connecticut series, UMass will host Miami and is at Boston University and Savannnah State.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.