×

Madison Square Garden dropped from UMass’ 2016-17 men’s basketball schedule



@MattVautourDHG
Monday, May 16, 2016

Stop spreading the news.

There will be no New York for the UMass basketball team in 2016-17.

When the Minutemen signed to play in the Gotham Classic, it was expecting three home games and a matchup with a Power 5 conference opponent at Madison Square Garden. Last year’s event pitted Davidson vs. Pittsburgh.

The Minutemen will still be a part of the Gotham Classic, but there will be no New York, New York. All four games are in Amherst and there is no marquee opponent.

UMass will host Pacific (Dec. 8), North Carolina A&T (Dec. 13), Kennesaw State (Dec. 17) and Rider (Dec. 22).

Kennesaw State is coached by UMass alum and former Boston College coach Al Skinner.

According to Ray Cella, a spokesman for the Gazelle Group, which runs the Gotham Classic as well as several other November and December Tournaments, the hope had been for UMass to play a marquee opponent in the Garden as part of a doubleheader that would have featured two other high profile teams that weren’t part of the Gotham.

“There were some date conflicts with the Garden. We wanted to have a doubleheader with a stand-alone game and we just couldn’t make that work,” Cella said. “We changed the format a little to give UMass four home games instead of three.”

UMass has two remaining games available to schedule. One could be a game against South Carolina. The Minutemen and Gamecocks are set to play a home-and-home series as part of the contract that created the 2016 football game between the two schools.

But the basketball series might not begin until 2017 as the two programs haven’t been able to find a suitable date.

Losing the MSG game could open the door for a neutral site game, although that can be tricky to schedule this late.

The Minutemen’s ability to add a series with an elite opponent in 2016-17 could be affected by its commitments the following season as most home-and-home series are completed in consecutive seasons.

In 2017-18, UMass’ schedule already has games against Georgia, Harvard, Providence and South Carolina, as well as an appearance in the Barclays Center Classic (which likely features two top-level games).

Not many teams with NCAA aspirations play seven elite nonconference caliber teams in one season.

The 2016-17 season will be a rare year when UMass doesn’t play in either of New York City’s NBA arenas as the Atlantic 10 Tournament will be in Pittsburgh in 2017.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage