Hamilton, Utica men’s hoops teams make Division III tourney
CLINTON — Two men’s college basketball teams from the Mohawk Valley had to wait a little longer to learn their respective fates in this year’s NCAA Division III tournament.
The pre-recorded selection show broadcast via the NCAA website was pushed back a total of an hour from its original 1 p.m. Monday start time “due to technical difficulties.”
The good news for both schools following the hold-up: They’re among the programs in the 64-team field.
Hamilton will play Montclair State University in a first-round game at 3:30 p.m. Friday at host school Johns Hopkins University’s Goldfarb Gymnasium in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins is the host school of Hamilton’s pod.
Meanwhile, Utica got one of the 20 at-large bids. The team is set to play Babson College in a first round game at 5 p.m. Friday in Glassboro, New Jersey. Rowan University is the host school of the Pioneers’ pod.
Should both teams win, they would also play Saturday.
There wasn’t any drama about the announcement for coach Adam Stockwell and the Hamilton College Continentals.
That’s because Hamilton (19-8 overall) didn’t miss its shot in claiming an automatic bid to the tournament by earning the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship for the first time since Hamilton joined the conference for basketball for the 2011-12 season. Hamilton players didn’t seem overly concerned Monday as they waited for the announcement. There was excitement from the players after the school’s name showed up on the screen.
“I think there was some nervous excitement just to know who you have to get ready for,” said Stockwell, who is in his 12th season at Hamilton. “Everyone is good at this point to be playing in the tournament.”
Hamilton won the title Sunday with a 71-59 win against Colby College after trailing by as much as 12 in the second half.
“It is awesome,” Stockwell said of earning the automatic bid. “We haven’t had many teams at all that have won many championships in the NESCAC. It is fantastic for the school and the student athletes. … I was really happy for the guys because of the way they played.”
It will be the 12th overall NCAA tournament appearance for Hamilton. The school appeared in the tournament in 2018 and 2019.
Stockwell said Montclair State (22-5 overall), a New Jersey Athletic Conference team coached by Justin Potts, will be a tough challenge. The team received one of the at-large bids after a loss in the semifinals of its conference tournament.
“They’re a very talented team,” said Stockwell, who noted Hamilton played against Potts when he was leading Moravian College but it will be a new team for a lot of his players. “They’re good. That’s a tough opponent.”
The Continentals have won nine of their last 10 games with the only loss during that span happening Feb. 11 at Colby.
“The team has really grown and been resilient throughout the year,” said Stockwell, who has four players averaging double figures.
Meanwhile, coach Sean Coffey and Utica (22-4 overall) are in the tournament after being on the bubble last season and missing the tournament. Coffey has been Utica’s coach since the 2016-17 season.
The Pioneers had to wait for an at-large bid announcement this season following a loss to St. John Fisher University in the Empire 8 Conference semifinals over the weekend.
Announcers during the bracket reveal said Utica’s inclusion could have “popped some bubbles” for other teams.
It is the first time since the 2005-06 season that the program is in the tournament.
The team set an Empire 8 men’s basketball record by winning 17 league games during the regular-season.
Four players are averaging in double figures for a deep Pioneers squad, including Whitesboro grad and senior standout Thomas Morreale and Rome Free Academy grad Damien Call.
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