By MICHAEL MROZIAK firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara University Purple Eagles men’s basketball team will open its first season under new head coach Chris Casey at Seton Hall on November 9, just one of the non-conference opponents the team will face in 2013-14.
Niagara’s athletics department released the men’s basketball team’s non-conference schedule Wednesday, which also includes dates against the University at Buffalo, St. Bonaventure and a matchup against Davidson at First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo.
Steve Butler, Niagara’s Associate Athletic Director for External Relations, told the Gazette that there’s a sense of excitement among fans with all the changes that have happened since the spring, all as Niagara prepares to defend its 2012-13 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship.
“We’ve started our season ticket renewal and our phones are ringing off the hooks,” Butler said. “Folks are renewing their season tickets. We’ve got some folks who want to add additional seats. I think a number of our fans (have) that excitement. It’s a new coach, a new era. They’re excited to see what the Purple Eagles can do.”
While many of the players who led Niagara to their MAAC success, followed by their bid to the National Invitation Tournament, have since transferred out of Monteagle Ridge, there remains leading scorer Antoine Mason, who averaged 18.7 points per game in 2012-13.
After playing at Seton Hall, which is part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Tournament, the Purple Eagles will host their home opener against U.B. on Wednesday, November 13.
Niagara will then resume its NABC Tournament play on the campus of Kent State, facing the hosts on November 21, USC Upstate the following day and then Western Carolina on November 23.
November will remain a busy travel month for Niagara, who also travels to Penn on November 26, Northwestern State on November 30 and then opens December at Arkansas State.
The game versus Davidson at First Niagara Center will take place on Wednesday, December 11. The Purple Eagles will host St. Bonaventure on Saturday, December 21 (a 5 p.m. start) and then welcome Brown on Sunday, December 29 at 2 p.m.
In the meantime, Niagara also announced some changes including a trial shuttle service to complement the preferred parking that was introduced last season. Fans will be encouraged to part at the Dwyer Ice Rink lot and ride the free shuttle to the Gallagher Center.
“(Athletic Director) Tom Crowley and I have spent some time talking to our fans, our donors, our season ticket holders, et cetera, on what we can do to make it more convenient to come to games,” said Butler. “The number one thing was parking, probably like in most places.
“Some of the things that we’ve aimed to do is to address parking in ways that we can be mindful of the folks with handicapped parking and our elderly fan base. We’ve accommodated that with some preferred parking lots and expanded some of the handicapped areas for parking.”
The shuttle is meant to provide convenience for the more general fan base.
“We all know up in Niagara some of those winter nights the wind gets whipping a little bit there and makes for a chillier walk from Dwyer to Gallagher Center or even from the Power Authority lot to the Gallagher Center,” Butler added. “What we’re going to look to do is have, on a trial basis, a shuttle that accommodates really anyone that wants to get on it.”
Season ticket prices, as shown on the Purple Eagles’ website, range from $145 to $535, with the more expensive end representing courtside seats with access to a hospitality room.