Men’s and women’s college basketball teams from around New England will take to the national stage this week with the start of the NCAA tournaments.
From perennial national contenders in the Connecticut women to surprise stories such as the resurgent Providence men, here are the teams going dancing this March, when and who they play, and how they got there.
Seed and region: No. 4, Midwest
Game: vs. No. 13 South Dakota State, 12:40 p.m. Thursday in Buffalo (truTV)
The Friars (25-5, 14-3 Big East) weren’t even picked to finish in the top half of the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll, but found themselves ranked in the top 10 nationally as they romped through conference play.
Providence entered the Big East Tournament as the No. 1 seed, but suffered an embarrassing blowout defeat to fourth-seeded Creighton in the semifinals. Big East coach of the year Ed Cooley will try to right the ship in the national tournament and prove the Friars are more than regular-season overachievers.
Seed and region: No. 14, East
Game: vs. No. 3 Purdue, 2 p.m. Friday in Milwaukee (TBS)
Behind a pair of starring performances from Brockton native Azar Swain, the Bulldogs topped Princeton on Sunday for the Ivy League Tournament title to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
Swain, a Rivers School alum, averaged 19 points per game to pick up a unanimous All-Ivy League first team nod, then scored 25 against Penn to take Yale (19-11, 11-3 Ivy) to the title game and added 23 more as the Bulldogs won their second consecutive conference tournament (the last edition took place in 2019).
Seed and region: No. 13, West
Game: vs. No. 4 Arkansas, 9:20 p.m. Thursday in Buffalo (TNT)
America East opponents had no answer for the Catamounts all year, as UVM suffered only one defeat in the league and won every game by at least 30 points in the conference tournament.
The Catamounts (28-5, 17-1 America East) cleaned up the conference awards, taking home coach of the year (John Becker), player of the year (Ryan Davis), and sixth man of the year (Aaron Deloney). The NCAA Tournament will bring far stiffer competition than America East can offer, as the Catamounts look to establish themselves at the next level.
Seed and region: No. 16 (play-in), South
Game: vs. No. 16 Wright State, 6:40 p.m. Wednesday in Dayton (truTV)
It’s a good year for mid-major automatic bids in New England. Jared Grasso picked up his own coach of the year nod, leading Bryant to its first Northeast Conference title and the program’s first trip to the Division 1 tournament.
Peter Kiss averaged 25.1 points per game this season to pick up an All-NEC selection. He is joined by Charles Pride on the first team.
Bryant (22-9, 15-2-1 NEC) will need its stars to deliver if it wants to make some noise in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since moving to Division 1 in 2008.
If Bryant wins, it will advance to face No. 1 seed Arizona on Friday in San Diego.
Seed and region: No. 5, West
Game: vs. No. 12 New Mexico State, 6:50 p.m. Thursday in Buffalo (TNT)
The Huskies fell to eventual Big East Tournament champion Villanova in the semifinals in Madison Square Garden, but Dan Hurley has them back in the Big Dance for the second consecutive year.
UConn (23-9, 13-6) is led by Adama Sanogo and R.J. Cole, the team’s top two scorers who were both named to the all-Big East team.
Seed and region: No. 2, Bridgeport
Game: vs. No. 15 Mercer, Saturday in Storrs, Conn.
The Huskies rolled through the Big East in typically dominant fashion despite missing star guard Paige Bueckers for much of the season.
UConn is 25-5 and went 16-1 in conference play, the lone defeat coming to Villanova in early February without the nation’s best player. The Huskies exacted revenge with a 30-point blowout of the Wildcats in the Big East title game on March 7 to earn an automatic bid.
With Bueckers back (but still playing limited minutes), UConn should be a threat to win it all again.
Seed and region: No. 12, Bridgeport
Game: vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, Saturday in Norman, Okla.
The Minutewomen are in the Big Dance for the first time since 1998 after winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament last weekend. Behind A-10 player of the year Sam Breen, UMass (26-6, 11-4 A-10) clinched its first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with an upset of top-seeded Dayton in the conference championship game.
Breen, plus fellow all-conference selections Destiney Philoxy and Sydney Taylor, will be at the center of the Minutewomen’s hopes to pull off some more postseason surprises.
Amin Touri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.