Boston, New England schools expected to make NCAA tournament
March is here and the Madness awaits. In just five days we’ll know the full field of 68 and it is expected that New England will be well-represented. A look at where your school could be seeded:
Big Dance Ceiling: 14-seed. Upset of a big-name program like Syracuse, Michigan, Kansas or Duke in tourney’s first weekend.
The Terriers (24-9) won seven of their last eight conference games in the Patriot League and can make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011. BU still has some work to do as they will host American (19-12) in the league championship Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CBS). The two teams split their season-series with American pounding the Terriers in D.C., 86-56, on Jan. 22 and BU edging the Eagles, 71-62, on Feb. 19. Guards D.J. Irving (12.5) and Maurice Watson Jr. (13.5 ppg) provide head coach Joe Jones with a dynamic backcourt while Dom Morris (11.2 ppg) has been tough up front.
Ceiling: 11-seed. A run to the Sweet 16 would be difficult but it has never been more doable for Harvard.
The Crimson (26-4) have established themselves as a dangerous opening weekend opponent for high seeds the past few years, climaxing with last year’s 68-62 upset of No. 3 New Mexico in Salt Lake City. Harvard is even more talented this season and the Crimson have already punched their ticket to the big dance, courtesy of their 70-58 win at Yale last week. Junior swingman Wesley Saunders leads Harvard offensively, popping in 14.0 ppg. This is the third straight year that Tommy Amaker’s squad has made the NCAAs.
Ceiling: 4-seed. They’ll likely wind up in the six or seven range but would rise with a strong A-10 tournament this week.
The Mullins Center has been rocking this season as UMass (23-7) raced out to a 16-1 record, but the Minutemen have stumbled lately, with losses to Dayton and Saint Louis to open March. That has gotten them a six-seed in the A-10 tourney, which they will begin play in Thursday (9 p.m., NBCSN or CSNNE).
A look at the roundball state of several other New England schools:
• UConn is the only New England school with annual National Championship aspirations. The Huskies likely won’t win it all this year but head coach Kevin Ollie should be able to get his team a seed in the four-to-seven range. Of local note, UConn is led by senior point guard Shabazz Napier, a Roxbury native who is averaging 17.8 ppg.
• The best news for Boston College is that they will avoid 25 losses in one season as they are currently 8-23 and can only lose once in this week’s ACC tourney.
• Vermont fell in the America East semifinals to Albany on Sunday and are all but assured to miss the tourney.
• Providence is firmly on the bubble at 20-11. The Friars will likely need at least a pair of Big East tourney wins.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS