Division III postseason college basketball takes center stage this week with third-seeded Farmingdale State hosting sixth-seeded St. Joseph's (L.I.) Tuesday in the first round of the Skyline Tournament. The teams split two regular-season games, with St. Joseph's (9-16, 8-10) winning last week to qualify for the final berth. The winning team receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This will be the first postseason game at Farmingdale (17-8, 13-5) for new coach Brendan Twomey, but he has great familiarity with the conference from his days as the all-time leading scorer at Mount St. Mary. He said St. Joseph's coach John Mateyko "coached against me, so I know Coach for awhile. He does a good job over there. He gets the most out of his kids. I'm kind of happy that we are playing them because anytime that you lose to a team and if you have the opportunity to play them again you want to get another crack at them."
Farmingdale is without graduated 7-1 AJ Matthews, but 6-7 Donald Lawes has been dominating in his own right. "It's a little challenging without AJ," Twomey said, "but my center is leading the country in blocks ."
Lawes also averages 8.6 rebounds.
"They are so much more talented than we are," Mateyko said of Farmingdale. "We're just trying to stay around them and then try to get them at the end if we can."
St. Joseph's has been hot down the stretch, winning its last four games and going in 5-3 in February.
The Golden Eagles are led by Darryl Charles (18.9 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and freshman Andy Laurent (15.8 ppg). The winner plays second-seeded Mount St. Mary (20-5) Thursday.
"I think our confidence probably arises more that we beat Purchase [last Saturday], they were the 16th team in the country," Mateyko said. "We won our last four games and we really haven't had a great season but it seems like we are coming together at the time when we really need it."
In other first-round Skyline tournament games, fifth-seeded Old Westbury (14-11, 10-8) plays at fourth-seeded Sage (15-11, 11-7), with the winner facing No. 1 Purchase (23-2, 17-1) Thursday. The title game is Saturday.
Landmark comeback for USMMA
Also in Division III, USMMA (12-13, 6-8) qualified as the fourth seed and will play top-seeded Scranton (22-3, 12-2) Wednesday in the Landmark Conference tournament.
"The body of work that we had the last few weeks got us to this point, we're happy to be in," said coach David Muchnick, who took over in January for Danny Nee when the academy placed him on administrative leave for an unspecified incident with a student. That investigation continues.
"The guys have a lot of confidence because we have beaten [Scranton] there this year," Muchnick said. "The last two times we've gone there we beat them, even at our place we had a double-digit lead in the first half. If it wasn't for some untimely free throw shooting in the second half we may have been able to sweep them this season. Our players deserve a lot of credit for the entire season, you can pick whatever point you want to pick. Ultimately, our overall record isn't great, our conference record isn't great, but right now none of that matters. Everybody is zero-zero."
USMMA will have to neutralize Scranton star Ross Danzig (20.2).
"They have the best player in our conference," Muchnick said. "He's a very talented wing player who could legitimately play in an Ivy League or Patriot League school right now. He's the focus, but they have very good shooters around him. They are a complete team, they've earned the top seed, but our guys are going in with confidence and we think we've got a shot to beat them."
Susquehanna (16-9. 8-6) hosts Catholic (14-11, 8-6) in the other semifinal. The winners meet Saturday for the NCAA bid.
Farmingdale women earn top seed
On the women's side, Farmingdale (16-8, 13-1) is the top seed in the Skyline and will host fourth-seeded Mount St. Vincent (17-8, 9-5) Thursday. Second-seeded Purchase (16-9, 10-4) hosts third seed Sage (15-9, 10-4). The winners meet Saturday.
"I've been telling my team the whole year you just want to place yourself the best you can," Farmingdale coach Chris Mooney said. "Get the best seeding possible and then it's like almost starting over. You have to be the best that week."
Mooney has coached the team to three NCAAA appearances. He does not anticipate an at-large berth. "No, I think we have to win the league to get in," he said. "If we don't win the league we're not getting in."
Farmingdale's top players are Camille Romero (19.7 ppg) and Nicky Young (16.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
In junior college action, the No. 2 Suffolk women (15-8) will host No. 7 Dutchess (9-14) Tuesday. Queensborough CC (15-8) hosts No. 5 Nassau (10-11). Nassau's men (24-5) play Manhattan CC (9-17) Friday and tournament host Suffolk (18-6) meets Rockland (17-11).