Chris Casey and Niagara hope to replicate last year's success with non-conference schedule featuring seven home games and several opportunities to build early wins. (Photo by The Buffalo News)
Niagara's long-awaited breakthrough finally arrived last season, when head coach Chris Casey rode the senior leadership of Kahlil Dukes and Matt Scott to an appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, the first tournament berth of any kind for the Purple Eagles since Casey replaced Joe Mihalich in 2013, when a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship and National Invitation Tournament banner were returned to Monteagle Ridge.
Dukes, the MAAC Co-Player of the Year last season, and Scott may have since departed, but Casey holds a firm conviction in his belief that Niagara will be just as competitive, and the first step in his vision was unveiled Thursday morning with the Purple Eagles' non-conference schedule.
The 13-game slate before league play begins features seven home games at the Taps Gallagher Center, beginning with Niagara's season opener against regional rival St. Bonaventure on November 12. The Purple Eagles will waste little time diving into competition from there, as the first of four games associated with the Fort Myers Tip-Off will see Niagara visiting Chicago to battle reigning Cinderella and Final Four participant Loyola University on November 14. A trip to Wyoming awaits two days later before a return home for Fort Myers subregional games against Grambling State (November 23) and either St. Francis Brooklyn or IUPUI on November 24.
Niagara travels to Pennsylvania for each of its next two contests, first taking on probable Northeast Conference favorite Saint Francis University on November 30 before remaining in the Keystone State to face the University of Pittsburgh, and first-year head coach Jeff Capel, on December 3. Return games against New Hampshire (December 9) and Cornell (December 16) at home are next on the ledger before the Purple Eagles' final non-league road trip, which comes against Cleveland State on December 19 and Army West Point three days later. After the Christmas holiday, Norfolk State (December 29) and Albany (December 31) come to Western New York for the last set of tuneups before MAAC play commences.
Niagara Non-Conference Schedule (all times TBD)
Monday, November 12: vs. St. Bonaventure
Wednesday, November 14: at Loyola-Chicago
Friday, November 16: at Wyoming
Friday, November 23: vs. Grambling State (Fort Myers Tip-Off subregional)
Saturday, November 24: vs. St. Francis Brooklyn or IUPUI (Fort Myers Tip-Off subregional)
Friday, November 30: at Saint Francis University
Monday, December 3: at Pittsburgh
Sunday, December 9: vs. New Hampshire
Sunday, December 16: vs. Cornell
Wednesday, December 19: at Cleveland State
Saturday, December 22: at Army West Point
Saturday, December 29: vs. Norfolk State
Monday, December 31: vs. Albany