Wave not on UNO basketball schedule

For the second season in a row, New Orleans’ two Division I men’s basketball programs will not be playing each other.

UNO released its schedule Tuesday, and it does not include a game against Tulane.

“We’d love to play our neighbors in the city,” Privateers coach Mark Slessinger said. “It would be great for basketball in New Orleans. We talked early, but our schedules did not match up. It’s certainly a priority that we will actively pursue next year.”

The Privateers and Green Wave have played 51 times, most recently in 2011 with Tulane winning, 72-53, in what was then called Fogelman Arena.

Tulane coach Ed Conroy said he “doesn’t see why it (playing UNO) wouldn’t work out in the future,” adding, “Sometimes you have conflicts over exempt tournaments, existing contracts and other problems matching up dates.

“We just couldn’t get together this year.”

UNO’s schedule features 12 home games in Lakefront Arena, nine of them against Southland Conference foes. The Privateers are competing in the league for the first time, and although they are ineligible for the league tournament because of APR sanctions, they can compete for the regular-season title.

UNO was a Division I independent last year, moving from transitional status when the school was considering competing in Division II.

“Last year, it didn’t seem like we were competing for anything,” senior forward Cory Dixon said. “This year it’s going to be a completely different mindset and out goal is to win the conference.

“We know that we can’t go to postseason, but we can make up it by winning during the regular season whether we’re going to the NCAAs or not.”

The Southland schedule is unusual because fellow incoming members Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing only partial league schedules, helping to create a four-game and five-game homestand sandwiched around five games away from home in late January and early February with a pair of two-game road trips to begin and end conference play.

“That’s OK,” Dixon said. “Last year, we played seven straight games away from home, so we’re used to it.”

UNO plays only one nonconference home game against a Division I opponent, Boise State, an NCAA Tournament at-large qualifier, Nov. 23. The Privateers other nonconference home games are against NAIA schools Millsaps and Champion Baptist.

Slessinger indicated little effort was made to schedule local NAIA schools Xavier, Dillard, Loyola and/or SUNO, saying, “You can’t play everyone.”

Nonconference road games include a Nov. 19 date at LSU plus trips to Hawaii, Minnesota, UTEP and Michigan State.

Slessinger said the imbalance in home to road games was necessarily to help the athletic department financially, but he also said his players enjoyed and benefitted from travelling as well as the program in general.

“We want to maximize our exposure,” he said. “It’s a huge step in us getting back to where we want to be.

“And then kids love being challenged. Maybe it changes in a year or two, but for now this is what’s best for us.”