Fact: At least three New York City-metro area college basketball teams will be making appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Fact: New York City college basketball will once again be relevant at NCAA Tournament time.
Guaranteed to go Dancing
Manhattan (25-7): After knocking on the door last season, the Jaspers came through this year, edging Iona, 71-68, in Monday night’s MAAC title game. It was a fitting achievement for the Jaspers, who returned nearly every player from a squad that advanced to last season’s championship game. It was an especially proud moment for fifth-year senior George Beamon, who missed all but four games last year, including the MAAC title game, with an ankle injury.
"The feeling we had last year, we weren't trying to have that," Beamon told reporters. "I did everything in my power and the guys did everything in their power not to let up any 3s."
"This is just an amazing run," coach Steve Masiello said. "It doesn't happen. It's storybook-like. Normally you have like two or three things that are wrong. There's nothing wrong."
The latest bracket projections by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who is usually on point, have the Jaspers as a 13 seed in the Midwest region.
St. John’s (20-12): Under normal circumstances, a 20-12 (10-8 Big East) record would have gotten the Red Storm in the NCAA Tournament with ease. But this is a new Big East, minus Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville and UConn. Losing to Providence in Thursday’s quarterfinal was a killer and will likely leave the Red Storm on the outside of the NCAA Tournament. But they will get top billing for the NIT.
Stony Brook (22-9): The Seawolves are right where they hoped to be all season, hosting the America East title game. Although they haven’t had any luck in the game, there is optimism with this team. The inside-out play with big man Jameel Warney and guards Anthony Jackson, Dave Coley and Carson Puriefoy makes the Seawolves a very dangerous squad on offense. They play Albany on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. for all the marbles. Unfortunately for the Seawolves, it may be all or nothing since they didn’t win the regular season conference championship. Lunardi’s latest projection has Stony Brook as a 16 seed playing Florida in the South region.
Seton Hall (17-16): The Pirates' 64-63 stunner over Villanova in a Big East quarterfinal on Thursday doesn't guarantee them anything. It doesn't even get them into the NIT. That said, Friday's semifinal against Providence is winnable. And so would a potential final matchup against Xavier, Marquette, DePaul or Creighton.
Guaranteed to go Dancing
Fordham (25-7): You have to hand it to the Rams, who overcame a 1-2 start and bounced back for a 25-win season and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid after a 63-51 win over top-seeded Dayton in the Atlantic-10 title game. Fordham, trailing by one at the half, outscored the Flyers 34-21 in the second.
Marist (27-6): You can never count out Marist, which knocked off Quinnipiac in the MAAC final to secure its ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Red Foxes split with top-seed Iona during the regular season, but didn’t face them in the MAAC tournament. You can thank Quinnipiac for that.
St. John’s (22-10): The Red Storm came up short against DePaul, 65-57, in the Big East tournament title game, but they are a sure bet get an at-large bid. If there are any doubters, let’s see, a trip to the Big East tournament championship game combined with wins against Texas A&M, Villanova and DePaul should seal another trip (the fifth straight) to the big dance for the Red Storm.
Rutgers (22-9): Finishing fourth behind UConn, Louisville and South Florida in the AAC is nothing to sneeze at. Wins over Princeton and Georgia coupled with a 12-6 AAC record should be enough to get the Scarlet Knights and at-large NCAA bid.
Army (24-7): Army is riding a hot streak and will play Holy Cross for the Patriot League title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on March 15 at 6:00 p.m.
Hofstra (14-14): Finishing .500 (8-8) in the CAA probably won’t make anyone a believer, but the Pride played second-place Delaware very close twice. They also have won three straight. Krista Kilburn-Steveskey’s crew has a tough battle ahead, but there is an overflow of confidence residing in Hempstead. They play Drexel in a CAA quarterfinal on Friday at 2:30.
Stony Brook (24-8): The Seawolves achieved a lot this season, including setting a program record for most wins since becoming a Division I squad. By reaching the America East title game and losing to top seed Albany, the Seawolves secured a spot in the WNIT. It’s only the second appearance in the tournament since moving up to Division I.
Iona (26-5): The Gaels fell short of their goal of winning the MAAC tournament title, but they did secure a second straight trip to the WNIT thanks to a first-place finish in the conference regular season standings.
Princeton (20-8): The Tigers had a chance to qualify for its fifth straight NCAA Tournament, but fell short, 80-64, in what was essentially a league championship game against Penn in its regular season finale. By virtue of a tie-breaker, Princeton will head to the WNIT.