Huddled around a table in a Blake Arena conference room on Monday afternoon, the Springfield College men’s basketball team eagerly watched the Division III NCAA selection show. As the selection process drew closer to an end, the Pride heard everything they had been hoping for.
“And we start off our last bracket in the town where basketball started…” the announcer said.
Immediately, the room erupted with overwhelming cheers of joy and congratulatory hugs.
The men’s basketball team learned they not only will receive one of the 19 at-large bids in the Division III Tournament, but also will host Ithaca College at Blake Arena for their first contest this upcoming Saturday.
The Pride are coming off an impressive win over MIT and second-place finish in the NEWMAC Championships this weekend. It is unclear exactly why Springfield received the first round home game; the players and staff are more than excited for the opportunity.
“It’s awesome,” coach Charlie Brock said with a smile. “A lot of the things that happen in Division III are because of geography. In this case, that might have been a factor. It could have been the fact that we [beat] MIT.”
While it may be on familiar ground, the Pride will embark on a team they know little about. The Bombers of Ithaca play in the Empire 8 Athletic Conference and are out of Western New York.
Despite having identical regular season records (19-8), the Bombers pose a hefty challenge to the Pride, who should have their hands full on Saturday night.
“They’re very, very balanced,” Brock said. “They’re a senior-[driven] team, so they’re very experienced. They play in a very good league. They have some versatility in their players that can play both inside and outside.”
While the Pride have only film to prepare them for their first round match-up, they know the crowd will be a huge factor and maybe their biggest advantage.
“I can’t even begin to describe how the crowd will be,” junior guard Sean Martin said. “They’ve been great. The crowd is going to be pumping.”
“I don’t know that we have an advantage other than being at home,” Brock said. “We had a great, great crowd at WPI, both Saturday and Sunday. With the weather, I was a little surprised, but we’ll have to play well. Their field goal percentage is one of the best in the country. We have to keep that under control.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night at Blake Arena. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. Prices range from $6 for adults, $3 for seniors and kids, and $2 for Springfield College students.