For a sense of the challenge facing the University of Maine men’s basketball team in its season opener against fourth-ranked Virginia, just listen to the music.

“They’re still the defending champs but that was way in the past;

Played them last year so we had a chance, second chances are beautiful;

Meet Virginia …”

The singer-lyricist-guitarist at work is UMaine head coach Richard Barron, whose team is set to play 2019 NCAA champion Virginia at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

The game is part of the 11-day “Bubbleville” season-kickoff extravaganza that features 40 men’s and women’s teams — including both UMaine teams — playing 45 games.

Barron’s personalized version of “Meet Virginia,” a song originally released by the rock band Train in October 1999, recently was posted on social media. It focuses on the David vs. Goliath battle between a youthful UMaine squad and Virginia, the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I was just playing around, trying to have a little fun,” Barron said of his video. “It’s a cover, so I just wrote different lyrics for a song that was already out there so there’s not a lot of originality to the music. I was just trying to lighten the mood and help people have a good time.”

The third-year UMaine men’s basketball coach has enjoyed music since his youth, whether playing the trumpet, tuba and piano or singing.

“That all went by the wayside at some point, but getting back into it has been fun,” he said.

Barron’s return to music involved learning to play guitar not long after he underwent surgery in July 2017 to repair a pin-sized hole just below his brain.

UMaine is set to face Virginia on Thanksgiving Eve for the second straight year. The Cavaliers defeated the Black Bears 46-26 last Nov. 27 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Their team colors are Orange and Blue, they put their socks on just like you; They tested COVID like we did, too, negative tests are beautiful;

Meet Virginia …”

Virginia won it all in 2019 before the 2020 version of March Madness was wiped out by COVID-19.

Coach Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers were the nation’s top defensive team last winter, yielding only 52.4 points per game en route to a 23-7 record. They earned the No. 2 seed for the ACC tournament.

Virginia is led by 6-foot-8 redshirt senior forward Sam Hauser, a preseason watch-list choice for the Naismith Trophy awarded annually to the nation’s top player. Hauser sat out last year after transferring from Marquette, where he earned second-team All-Big East Conference honors as a junior.

All-ACC third-team point guard Kihei Clark, a junior, also returns.

“The defense is suffocating, need really good officiating; To beat the odds we are calculating, ain’t that beautiful;

Meet Virginia …”

UMaine is coming off a 9-22 campaign and a quarterfinal loss to top-ranked Vermont in the America East quarterfinals.

All-America East third-team selections Sergio El Darwich and Andrew Fleming, the Black Bears’ top scorers last year, have graduated. The team also is without senior captain Nedejlko Prijovic, the team’s third-leading scorer last winter who opted in late October to leave the program to return to his native Serbia because of COVID issues and to pursue a pro basketball career to support his family.

Seventeen players comprise the UMaine roster, led by captains Stephane Ingo, a 6-9 redshirt sophomore, and Solomon Iluyomade, a 6-7 redshirt junior. Vilgot Larsson, a 6-8 senior, also is back after starting 52 games over the last two seasons.

UMaine has seven first-year players and that group includes three freshmen forwards from Maine in Matthew Fleming of Bangor, Leyton Bickford of Sanford and Wol Maiwen of Auburn. Other newcomers are point guard candidates Lechaun Duhart of Aurora, Colorado, and Adefolalrin “Fofo” Adetogun of Regina, Saskatchewan.

“They’re working hard to learn, they’re competitive, they’re eager, they’re coachable and they’re fun to be around so we just come to work each day and try to get a little better,” Barron said

While the Black Bears are heavy underdogs for their opener, perhaps they will draw inspiration from a fellow America East program. Maryland Baltimore County stunned the college basketball world in 2018 as the first No. 16 team to knock off a No. 1 seed — Virginia — in the NCAA Tournament.

Or perhaps inspiration will come from their coach’s music.

“We’ll come together like magic, for Virginia it may be tragic;

The Stein Song will plan on and on; Meet Virginia. I can’t wait to beat Virginia …”

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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...