Niagara hoops slate unveiled

The 2021-22 Niagara University men’s basketball schedule was released in full over the past week, headlined by a trip to play a pair of national contenders in Ohio but light a few familiar foes.

The Purple Eagles open at Xavier and Ohio State but will not face Big 4 rivals St. Bonaventure or Buffalo during their nine-game non-conference slate, which was released Tuesday.

The season actually starts Nov. 1 with an exhibition against Division III Cazenovia College at the Gallagher Center. Then comes the trip to Xavier (Nov. 9) and Ohio State (Nov. 12), programs with ties to NU coach Greg Paulus. Both were once coached by Thad Matta, under whom Paulus was an assistant at Ohio State from 2011-17. Xavier coach Travis Steele was a graduate manager at OSU under Matta in 2004-05.

The following weekend, Nov. 19-21, Niagara will play in a multiple-team event hosted by Youngstown State, facing Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, first-year Division I program St. Thomas (Minnesota) and the host Penguins.

The Purple Eagles close the early-season road trip with a Nov. 29 game at Colgate. They open their home and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference slates Dec. 3 when Monmouth visits the Gallagher Center, followed by a Dec. 5 meeting with Fairfield, where former coach Chris Casey remains an assistant.

NU plays another non-conference road game Dec. 8 at Eastern Michigan before it’s only non-conference home game, Dec. 12 against D-3 Buffalo State. It then hosts Albany on Dec. 18 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, the opening game of a doubleheader that will close with Canisius playing UB.

The non-conference slate ends Dec. 21 at Binghamton. The final 18 games are MAAC contests, including a pair of Battle of the Bridge rivalry meetings with Canisius (Jan. 14 at home; Feb. 19 in Buffalo) and Rick Pitino’s first visit to the Gallagher Center, Feb. 6 with his Iona Gaels.

The MAAC championships are scheduled March 8-12 in Atlantic City, N.J.

This will be the second consecutive season Niagara does not play UB or St. Bonaventure after the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to scramble for any available games last winter.

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Former Niagara coach Patrick Beilein, who resigned from his position before ever coaching a game just ahead of the 2019-20 season, has rejoined the coaching ranks.

Beilein, the 38-year-old son of Burt legend John Beilein, was named head coach of the Syracuse Stallions, a minor professional franchise in The Basketball League. Prior to taking the Niagara job, Patrick Beilein coached four years at Division II LeMoyne, located just outside of Syracuse.

Beilein stepped down from Niagara on Oct. 24, 2019, citing personal reasons.

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