The Big 4 basketball doubleheader returns to the First Niagara Center

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The Big 4 logo for the event, used with permission.

By Nick Veronica

Niagara and St. Bonaventure will play at the First Niagara Center on Nov. 29 before the Canisius-UB basketball game, setting up the first true Big 4 doubleheader since 1998.

The event, confirmed today in an official release, is being branded as the Big 4 Basketball Classic.

“We are excited to be able to bring a true Big 4 doubleheader to First Niagara Center,” Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said in the release. “We believe this will be a must-see event for sports fans across Western New York.”

Niagara-Bonaventure is at 2 p.m., followed by Canisius-UB at (roughly) 4:15. The event is the Saturday following Thanksgiving, which should help ticket sales since many fans will already be back in town.

Tickets start at $20 and are good for both games; floor seats will be $30.

Canisius, UB and Niagara played downtown last December in a doubleheader that also served as the First Niagara Center’s mandatory dress rehearsal for hosting the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure was not at the event, as Niagara hosted Davidson instead (Canisius beat UB 69-55, Niagara beat Davidson 83-72).

The first Big 4 doubleheader played downtown was in 1996. The event continued in 1997 and 1998 but has not been recreated with all four teams in the last 16 years.

Javon McCrea signs with Germany’s Medi Bayreuth

By Nick Veronica

Former UB Bull Javon McCrea will join Medi Bayreuth of the German First Division, the club announced today.

“I think [McCrea] is the player exactly who has been missing in our team,” Bayreuth coach Michael Koch said in the release, through Google translate.

Bayreuth was promoted to the first division in 2010 after winning a title in the German second division. The team finished 14th out of 18 last season with 11 wins, 21 losses and two overtime losses.

The release said Koch came to the United States to find a new center and selected McCrea, the MAC Player of the Year. Koch said he watched McCrea play in Las Vegas Summer League.

Here’s Koch’s full quote on McCrea, via Google Translate:

Javon is 201 cm certainly not the greatest player, his lack of inches in height, he makes up with an enormous range of his arms up for it. He is very agile and powerful jumper, which are benefits that fit right into our game. I’ve seen him play not only in Las Vegas but could also talk to him, which is very important to me. The impression I got from Javon is very good and I think he is the player exactly who has been missing in our team. A look at his stats shows that he is tremendously versatile. He gets in, but also has a good eye for his teammates. He is rebounding strongly and can also clean under their own basket. In short, he is exactly what we need.

McCrea’s contract runs through the 2014-15 season, according to the release.

(And re: the header picture – yes, that’s really the team’s logo)

Billy Baron to play for Lithuania’s Lietuvos Rytas

By Nick Veronica

Former Canisius guard Billy Baron will join the Lithuanian club Lietuvos Rytas, he announced Monday evening on his Instagram account.

The team confirmed the signing Tuesday morning and a representative told me Baron is on a one-year deal with no option. He will be a free agent after the season.

Lietuvos Rytas is ranked fourth in the latest EuroBasket Top 100 rankings. The team had the best record in Lithuania’s domestic league last season at 18-2 but was upset in the semifinals.

Rytas will be featured in NBA 2K15. The team’s Siemens Arena seats 11,000.

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Lithuania touches the Baltic Sea and borders Poland, Belarus, Latvia and a chunk of Russian land in Eastern Europe. The team is located in Vilnius, the capital city of more than half a million people — roughly the size of Tuscan, Ariz. One US dollar is worth 2.55 Lithuanian Litas, though Lithuania plans to adopt the Euro in 2015.

Baron was the MAAC Player of the Year this past season and averaged 5.6 points per game with the Chicago Bulls in NBA Summer League with 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Jimmy Baron, Billy’s older brother, plays professional for Virtus Roma in Italy and previously played in Russia.

Canisius hockey opens HarborCenter era vs. Ohio State

By Nick Veronica

CCLogobigCanisius hockey opens the 2014-15 season with two games at the First Niagara Center and ushers in the HarborCenter era against Ohio State on Halloween, according to today’s schedule announcement.

Because HarborCenter may not be completed by the start of the season, Canisius opens with a two-game series against Western Michigan at the First Niagara Center on Oct. 10 and 11, with both games starting at 7:35 p.m.

The Griffs then have two weekends of conference games on the road before the inaugural HarborCenter series against Ohio State — coach Dave Smith’s alma mater — on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Canisius played Ohio State for the first time in school history last season, losing 3-0 and 3-1 in Columbus.

Canisius will not face Niagara at the HarborCenter this year, traveling to Dwyer Arena for games on Jan. 22 and 24. The Griffs face RIT at the HarborCenter on Nov. 14 and 15. Canisius plays both teams only twice this season instead of four times (an option under the new 11-team scheduling format), but with Niagara and RIT being two of the better AHA teams, four fewer games against them may end up helping Canisius in the standings.

Canisius travels to Maine for its final nonconference action, Jan. 2 and 3.

The Atlantic Hockey playoffs begin March 6. The championship weekend at Blue Cross Arena is March 20 and 21.

Here’s a nifty infograph from GoGriffs:

Full schedule:

Oct. 5 Toronto (Exhibition), TBA 6:35 p.m.
Oct. 10 Western Michigan, First Niagara Center 7:35 p.m.
Oct. 11 Western Michigan, First Niagara Center 7:35 p.m.
Oct. 17 Army, West Point, N.Y. 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 18 Army, West Point, N.Y. 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 24 AIC, Springfield, Mass. 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 25 AIC, Springfield, Mass. 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 31 Ohio State, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 1 Ohio State, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 7 Sacred Heart, Milford, Conn. 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 8 Sacred Heart, Milford, Conn. 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 14 RIT, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 15 RIT, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 21 Mercyhurst, Erie, Pa. 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 22 Mercyhurst, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 28 Air Force, HarborCenter 2:05 p.m.
Nov. 29 Air Force, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Dec. 5 AIC, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Dec. 6 AIC, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 2 Maine, Maine 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 3 Maine, Maine 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 9 Holy Cross, HarborCenter 11:05 a.m.
Jan. 10 Holy Cross, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 16 Bentley, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 17 Bentley, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 22 Niagara, Lewiston, N.Y. 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 24 Niagara, Lewiston, N.Y. 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 6 Robert Morris, Pittsburgh, Pa. 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 7 Robert Morris, Pittsburgh, Pa. 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 13 Army, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 14 Army, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 20 Mercyhurst, Erie, Pa. 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 21 Mercyhurst, HarborCenter 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 27 Air Force, USAF Academy, Colo. 9:05 p.m.
Feb. 28 Air Force, USAF Academy, Colo. TBA