While the UB men’s basketball team is still in the midst of finalizing their 2020-21 schedule, they do know how their season will begin.
The Bulls will kick off their season by entering “Bubbleville” at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT.
UB is set to take the floor on Nov. 30 against a tough Vermont squad who finished atop the America East standings the past two seasons. Vermont was also No. 13 seed in the 2019 March Madness tournament.
On Dec. 1, UB will play its second game in “Bubbleville” against Iona. This Iona team has a new face on its coaching staff. In March, Iona hired Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.
“Coach Pitino, obviously, his name has a lot of great accolades behind it and brings a lot of notoriety to the [matchup],” UB head coach Jim Whitesell said.
Pitino is the only coach to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to a Final Four.
Iona has also appeared in the NCAA tournament 14 times with the last four served consecutively between 2016 and now.
UB’s next non-conference game will be away at West Virginia on Dec. 29.
UB defeated West Virginia in 2018 when the Mountaineers were ranked No. 13 nationally.
“I just listened to coach Huggins on his podcast yesterday, and he said this will be the best West Virginia team since 2010,” Whitesell said. “Last year when I watched them play I thought they were the best defensive team in the country.”
He says playing these big non-conference games early only makes them better down the stretch.
As of now, UB is slated for three out-of-conference games, there is a possibility that more games can be added as UB is still finalizing its schedule.
Although the Bulls’ non-conference schedule is challenging, Whitesell said the MAC will not be easy to conquer either.
“I think the MAC is the most talented mid-major conference for guards, if not the most talented conference in the country when it comes to guards,” Whitesell said.
With UB senior Jayvon Graves, Bowling Green senior Justin Turner and the reigning MAC Player of the Year, senior Loren Cristian Jackson from Akron, the MAC is loaded with talented guards.
UB opens its conference play against Turner and Jackson respectively as UB faces off against Bowling Green Dec. 6 and Akron on Jan. 2.
The Bulls schedule is to begin Nov. 30 with Vermont and end on Mar. 5 against Kent State. That is if the Bulls can get through its seasons without any COVID “hiccups,” as Whitesell calls them.
Because of the unpredictable nature of this season, the annual NCAA tournament is still not set in stone. Whitesell said it’s “still a little bit of a wait and see” type of situation right now. After seeing how successful the NBA was with their bubble, it’s likely that the NCAA will try to implement their own version to ensure the tournament can start and finish on time.
“We really want the tournament to happen, but while being safe,” Whitesell said.
Whitesell says this season will be different. As the season progresses it’s almost impossible to not think there will be bumps along the way.
“There’s no perfect remedy to this thing right now,” Whitesell said.
He added that as for now, the Bulls main focus this season is to win the MAC.
Game times and TV broadcasts are still TBD.
Robby Salisbury is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalisburyRobby