There will be plenty of challenges for the University of Maine's basketball teams this season during the nonconference portion of their respective schedules.
Coach Ted Woodward's men will take on the likes of Atlantic Coast Conference power Maryland, which was ranked No. 23 in the NCAA's final Rating Percentage Index (RPI) last season and Notre Dame (52) of the Big East. Both of them competed in the NCAA tournament last season.
Coach Cindy Blodgett's women will square off against three top-100 programs in Kansas (46th in RPI), Florida (89) and Penn State (95), along with a handful of New England Division I opponents such as Harvard (118), Massachusetts and Holy Cross.
America East has not yet released the conference basketball schedules for 2010-11.
The UMaine men will play six of their 12 nonleague games on the road. That includes four "guarantee" games — Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State and UMass — for which the Bears will receive financial compensation.
"It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us," Woodward said. "It's not an easy thing to play teams on their home court, especially when you're talking about some teams in the top 20 in the country."
The Bears have an Oct. 30 exhibition game against Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) and play their season opener Nov. 12 at Utah Valley.
The UMaine men will play six nonleague home games against NAIA member UMaine-Machias (Nov. 19), Brown (Dec. 4), Delaware State (Dec. 6), Norfolk State (Dec. 12), Colgate (Dec. 19) and Columbia (Dec. 30).
"We have some weekend home games, which I think is great," Woodward said. "Scheduling is a very difficult aspect of college basketball, trying to make all the little things work."
The average RPI of UMaine's opponents this season is 201. The Black Bear men finished last season with an RPI of 152.
Blodgett said the key to scheduling nonconference games is to line up a mix of teams that cover a spectrum of talent levels.
"What we are constantly trying to look at is finding a balance where we're challenged on the court so that we're constantly improving," Blodgett said.
The UMaine women wound up with five home games among their 12 nonleague contests. Those opponents include Harvard (Nov. 13; 118th in RPI), Central Connecticut (Nov. 23) and Navy (Nov. 26, Dead River Co. Classic), along with either Florida (Nov. 27, DRCC; 89th in RPI) or South Alabama and Massachusetts (Dec. 29).
The Navy contest will feature two coaches with Maine ties. Head coach Stefanie Pemper spent 10 seasons as the head coach at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Mids assistant Julie Veilleux is a former standout at UMaine, where she played with Blodgett, and Cony High School in Augusta.
"It's kind of a homecoming for Stefanie Pemper and Julie Veilleux," Blodgett said. "We're excited to bring Julie back."
The Bears also opted to forgo a post-Christmas tournament and instead play Dec. 20-21 in the Stetson Classic at Deland, Fla.
"We're just trying a different format," said Blodgett, who hopes her players will have some down time prior to the start of conference play in January. "It's a chance to go through finals and play in a tournament before that long break."
The women, who have exhibition contests Oct. 31 against Division III Husson University of Bangor and Nov. 6 against the University of New Brunswick, play seven nonleague games.
Those include Bryant of Smithfield, R.I. (Nov. 19), Kansas (Dec. 1), Holy Cross (Dec. 4), Pennsylvania (Dec. 10) and Penn State (Dec. 12), along with Winthrop (Dec. 20, Stetson Classic) and Stetson (Dec. 21).
The Kansas game, which Blodgett said was a late addition, will allow junior transfer Sheay Longstaff to play in her home state.
The average RPI of the women's opponents is 204. UMaine wound up at 270 last season.
"Our schedule should get us more than prepared for our conference schedule," Blodgett said.
Burchill commits to Vermont
Kayla Burchill of Deering High School in Portland has verbally committed to attend the University of Vermont and play basketball beginning in 2011.
The 6-foot forward, who helped lead the Rams to the Western Maine Class A final last season, made her decision after visiting Burlington over the weekend.
Burchill, the niece of former Lawrence High School girls coach Bruce Cooper, averaged 16.2 points and 8.1 rebounds last season on her way to a second straight selection to the BDN All-Maine first team.
UMaine had previously recruited Burchill, but reportedly did not offer her a scholarship.
UM women's hoop golf outing Sept. 20
Monday is the date of the 16th Friends of Maine Women's Basketball Golf Classic.
The four-person scramble will be played at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono with a noon shotgun start. Fans are invited to go out and meet Blodgett, her staff and the Black Bear team while enjoying a day of golf.
The cost of the tournament is $125 per golfer, which includes golf, cart and dinner. The day will be capped by an auction and raffle. All proceeds will benefit UMaine women's basketball.
For more information, call 581-1107.