MEDFORD - The Tufts University men's basketball team earned its fifth NCAA Division III Championship berth on Monday and plays Salem State University in the opening round at St. John Fisher College on Friday.
The Jumbos (20-6) received an at-large berth into the 2017 tournament field and will travel to Rochester, New York for the Regional. Salem State, the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference (MASCAC) champs, are 17-10.
Tufts and Salem State will play in the first round on Friday at 5:30 p.m. Regional host St. John Fisher (20-5) will face St. Lawrence (20-6) in Friday's other first-round match-up at 7:30 p.m. The winners will play on Saturday at 7 p.m. for a berth into the "Sweet 16." Tickets are set at $10 general admission (children under 2 are free) and $5 for students with ID.
Head coach Bob Sheldon's Tufts team earned the #1 seed in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) with an 8-2 mark this season. The Jumbos were upset by Williams College, 81-65, in the semi-final round of the conference championship on Saturday at Cousens.
"We're happy to be in the NCAA Tournament," Tufts head coach Bob Sheldon said. "We don't take it for granted. We had a solid 20-win season, but it didn't go how we wanted it to go in the conference tournament. We hope to show more of what we're capable of this weekend."
|All-NESCSAC point guard Tarik Smith leads the Jumbos into their secord-straight NCAA appearance|
Tufts and Salem State will renew their NCAA Tournament history. Tufts played its first-ever NCAA game against Salem in 1995 with the Vikings taking an 86-80 win at Bentley College. The game is particulary famous in Tufts history because the Jumbos earned a home berth into the tournament, but could not host at Cousens Gym because the court was too short at the 1932-built facility. Salem State's athletic director at the time- John Galaris - was the chair of the NCAA committee which enforced the rule.
Two years later in 1997, Salem State hosted the Jumbos and again knocked them out of the tournament with an 83-63 second-round final.
"The short court at Cousens is a cute part of our history, and some of our alums would probably like to see us exact some revenge on Salem State, but most of the guys on this team weren't even born yet," Sheldon said. "Salem is one of the most NCAA-tested programs in our region and we have our work cut out for us."
Salem State claimed their 17th MASCAC tournament championship since 1990 and first since 2012 with a 100-82 victory over Worcester State University last Saturday. The Vikings earned their 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance. They have a 21-24 record in all-time tournament games, which includes a "final four" appearance in 2000.
After their 0-2 NCAA start courtesy of Salem State, the Jumbos have enjoyed success in their previous two appearances. The 2005-06 squad advanced to the program's first "Sweet 16." Cousens Gym was renovated in 2009, rotating the court 90 degrees in order to make it regulation length. Last year, Tufts hosted Regional and Sectional rounds at Cousens and played into the "Elite Eight." The Jumbos are 6-4 overall in NCAA Tournament games.
Tufts was one the five NESCAC teams that received NCAA bids on Monday. Conference champion Middlebury, Amherst College, Wesleyan University and Williams College are also in the NCAA field.
The St. John Fisher Cardinals, who won their eighth straight Empire 8 championship since 2000, moved to 22-5 with their 80-69 win over Stevens in the conference final. The St. Lawrence Saints (20-6) received an at-large berth after losing in the Liberty League semi-finals to Union College.