Kevin Little of the University of Maine shoots under pressure from Brown's Obi Okolie during Saturday's basketball game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor in this 2016 file photo. Credit: John Diamond | UMaine athletics

The University of Maine men’s basketball team will open its 2019-20 regular season at home for the first time in eight years, then continue a 14-game nonconference schedule that includes trips to the West Coast and Hawaii as well as a test against the defending national champions.

The pre-America East schedule includes five “guarantee games” in which UMaine will receive payments totaling $402,000 for playing road contests. Those opponents are Washington ($90,000), Connecticut ($85,000), Virginia ($82,000), University of Portland (Oregon) ($80,000) and Massachusetts ($65,000).

In addition, the University of Hawaii will cover the Black Bears’ airfare and hotel expenses for the Black Bears’ trip to the 50th state in late December, said Tyson McHatten, UMaine senior associate director of athletics/external operations.

UMaine’s Nov. 27 trek to Charlotttesville, Virginia, matches the Black Bears against the current NCAA Division I title holder. Virginia finished its 2018-19 season with a 35-3 record after outlasting Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime to win the first national title in program history.

That will be followed on Nov. 30 by a trip to Storrs, Connecticut, to face UConn. The former Yankee Conference rivals will meet for the 101st time in its history but for the first time since its 2015-16 season opener.

UConn, long a power in the Big East Conference, has played in the American Athletic Conference in recent years but in June agreed to rejoin the Big East in most sports beginning with the 2020-21 season.

Coach Richard Barron’s UMaine squad will play Hawaii for the first time Dec. 29 in Manoa, Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are coming off an 18-13 season in winter that included a 9-7 finish in the Big West Conference.

This won’t mark the first time UMaine has played in the Aloha State, as the Black Bears won two of the three games they played at the Pearl Harbor Invitational tournament in Laie, Hawaii, during the 1999-2000 campaign.

Another major conference team on UMaine’s nonconference road schedule is the Washington, which the Black Bears will face during its second West Coast trip in as many years.

The Black Bears will open that trip at visit University of Portland on Nov. 16, with the Pilots’ roster set to include former UMaine guard Isaiah White, who will join Portland as a graduate transfer for the coming season.

White played two years for the Black Bears and in winter averaged 13.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while playing in 31 contests, 25 of them starts. He will attend the University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business to pursue his master’s degree in business administration while he completes his final year of basketball eligibility.

The Black Bears then will move up the coast Nov. 19 to face Washington, a Pac-12 Conference team that went 27-9 last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Another 2019 NCAA tourney team on UMaine’s schedule is Northeastern, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion and another longtime former conference rival of the Black Bears.

UMaine and Northeastern will meet in Boston on Dec. 4 in the 112th meeting of a series that began during the 1920-21 season when the Huskies defeated the Black Bears 29-13.

“We have a challenging but fun nonconference schedule for the upcoming season,” Barron said. “Our players enjoy the challenges of playing such good teams. We’re excited to learn and grow together, and know that we will be prepared for the America East season.”

UMaine’s pre-conference schedule follows preseason exhibition contests at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor against Husson University of Bangor on Oct. 27 and McGill University of Montreal, Quebec, on Nov. 3.

UMaine will host five nonconference home games, beginning with the regular-season opener Nov. 6 against Merrimack.

Merrimack will be playing its first game as an NCAA Division I program after moving up from the Division II ranks. The Warriors are coming off a 22-10 season and the Northeast-10 Conference championship last winter.

UMaine’s next “home” game is scheduled for Nov. 24 at the Portland Exposition Building against Division III Maine Maritime Academy of Castine.

That will be the second game of a UMaine doubleheader, with the Black Bears’ women’s team facing Navy at 1 p.m. followed by the UM-MMA men’s contest at 3 p.m.

The matchup with Maine Maritime marks the first time the Black Bear men have played at the Expo since a Feb. 6, 2016, America East encounter against Maryland Baltimore County.

The Black Bears will have back-to-back home games in Bangor against Dartmouth on Dec. 12 and Quinnipiac on Dec. 15, with its final nonconference home game against Columbia on Jan. 2.

Other nonconference road games are at Harvard (Nov. 10), Central Connecticut State (Dec. 7) and Massachusetts (Dec. 20).

UMass finished 11-21 overall last year, 4-14 in the Atlantic 10.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...