All four Big 4 teams. In one place. At one time.
The four local Division I teams will meet in a true basketball doubleheader for the first time since 1998. Niagara and St. Bona will open at 2 p.m., followed by Canisius and UB at 4:15 in the Nov. 29 twin bill at First Niagara Center.
“We are excited to be able to bring a true Big 4 doubleheader to First Niagara Center,” Canisius AD Bill Maher said in a Big 4 release issued through Canisius. “Setting up an event like this takes a lot of cooperation and coordination between all four schools and First Niagara Center. With four strong fan bases and alumni groups locally, and the fact that this year’s event falls on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we believe this will be a must-see event for sports fans across Western New York.”
What’s the potential?
A Big 4 doubleheader on Nov. 30, 1996, drew 12,508.
Big 4 doubleheaders went by the wayside as the schools, members of three different conferences, pursued their own agendas motivated by maximizing home dates and revenues. However, it stood to reason that it was in their common interest to combine forces one day a year to leverage exposure for all involved.
That day is back.
The genesis of the renewal dates to last year, when Canisius and Niagara needed to play games at First Niagara Center as run-throughs for the NCAA Tournament’s arrival in March. UB agreed to move its home game against the Griffs to the arena to accommodate the mandate. The Griffs, in turn, agreed to play its 2014 home game against UB at the arena instead of the Koessler Center. The final piece came when Niagara agreed to move this season’s home game against St. Bonaventure downtown.
Will this become an annual event? Sources close to the negotiations expressed hope that’s the case, but ultimately it will come down to each of the four colleges making the sacrifice to place a home game downtown, as Canisius and Niagara are doing on this occasion.
Tickets for the Big 4 Basketball Classic will be available through Tickets.com, at the First Niagara Center box office or by phone at 1-888-223-6000. Tickets range from $20 to 30.
In other Big 4 news, UB forward Javon McCrea, the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, has signed a pro contract with Medi Bayreuth of Basketball Bundesliga (BBL), the highest level league in Germany.
McCrea finished his career as UB’s all-time leading scorer and the only player to surpass 2,000 career points (2,004). The Newark native also finished third in career rebounds (988) and was a three-time first-team All-MAC performer.
The signing was preceded by a stint with the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Summer League. McCrea averaged 4.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in five games.