The University of Maine men's basketball team will get some prime-time exposure in February when it participates in the ninth annual ESPN BracketBusters tournament.
Coach Ted Woodward's Black Bears will play on the road, from Feb. 18-20, at an opponent to be announced Jan. 31, 2011.
"It's cool," Woodward said of the development. "It is obviously a well-respected opportunity in February to play against a quality opponent outside of conference. We're very happy that we had a chance to be selected as one of the possible teams." UMaine is among five America East men's teams to be included in the pool of 114 teams that will be featured in 11 nationally-televised games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. Those not selected for the marquee TV games will compete against each other during the same three-day time frame.
The Black Bears also receive another reward for their participation as a road team in BracketBusters. The team they play must make a return visit to Orono during either November or December in the 2011-12 or 2012-13 season.
"That's one of the reasons you do it," said Woodward, whose program is often challenged trying to schedule nonleague home games in Orono. "It's important to have a chance to get another team at home."
UMaine is going through its preseason conditioning and workouts in preparation for its first official, full-team practice on Oct. 15. The Bears return 11 players, including four starters, off a 19-11 team that finished third in America East last season before losing in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The BracketBusters is a long way off for all concerned.
"It's a fun thing that I know a lot of people follow and watch," Woodward said. "I know our guys are excited about it."
UMaine also is scheduled to play a nationally televised game earlier during the 2010-11 season.
The Bears will play on ESPNU on Feb. 12, 2011, at 11 a.m. when they face America East opponent Stony Brook on Long Island.
"It is a wonderful opportunity for our program to be represented on ESPNU and be televised nationally," Woodward said.
Maine competed in the BracketBusters tournament in 2007 when it lost to Northeastern in Boston.
UMaine baseball to play USM
The UMaine baseball team is taking its fall show on the road this weekend.
The Bears are scheduled to take on perennial Little East Conference and regional Division III power University of Southern Maine for 18 innings of action on Saturday.
The scrimmage will be played at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, the former home of the Triple A Maine Guides.
The trip will pit Huskies head coach Ed Flaherty against his alma mater while providing both squads some offseason competition.
"Coach Flaherty and I go back many years, to when I was a player," said UMaine head coach Steve Trimper. "Southern Maine is a great ballclub year in and year out; I don't care what division.
"Hopefully, we'll throw our best pitchers at them," he added. "This is about two teams trying to get the best work."
Saturday also is a "scout day" for UMaine's draft-eligible players. Trimper said 19 major league scouts are expected to be in attendance.
Black Bears who might have professional potential include outfielder Taylor Lewis and pitchers Keith Bilodeau, Jon Balentina, A.J. Bazdanes, Joe Miller and Kevin Scanlan.
Next summer, The Ballpark will become the summer home to a new New England Collegiate Baseball League franchise. The former Lowell All-Americans are moving to Maine, pending approval next week by the OOB town council.
Trimper said UMaine players Tyler Patzalek, Michael Fransoso, Fran Whitten and Pat Thibodeau are expected to play in Old Orchard Beach next summer.
The Bears played 18 innings last Saturday against the Academy of Baseball Canada at Mahaney Diamond in Orono.
UMaine outscored the Canadian ballclub 22-3.
"We pitched well, but the one thing I was disappointed in was we had a little more walks than we would have liked," Trimper said.
Freshmen third baseman Alex Calbick and classmate Mike Connolly, a second baseman and pitcher, were among the bright spots.