For the first time since back-to-back appearances in 1996 and 1997, the Le Moyne College menâ??s basketball team has made the NCAA Division II tournament. Selected on Sunday as a sixth seed, the Dolphins will face third-seed Saint Anselm in the East Regional quarterfinals at Southern Connecticut Stateâ??s Moore Field House.
Itâ??s the programâ??s 11th appearance in the NCAA Menâ??s Basketball Championships and the first under head coach Steve Evans.
â??Itâ??s amazing when you finally accomplish a goal,â?? said Evans. â?? one of the first things I did when I got the job here [in 2000] was leave a space next to all the other banners and thought, 'that will be our next banner'. Each year Iâ??ve looked at that empty space. Sometimes itâ??s darkest before dawn. Last year we had a pretty good team but we had some injuries. Sometimes the years just start to go by and you wonder if itâ??s ever going to happen. I take a lot of satisfaction from [making the tournament] but I know it wasnâ??t done by myself. Thereâ??s been assistant coaches, players, all of those people have helped build the program to where it is right now.â??
The Dolphins enter tournament play with a 17-11 record, which includes a tight 76-74 home win over Saint Anselm on January 22.
â??They donâ??t have a lot of size and thatâ??s something weâ??ve got to take advantage of. They shoot fast and they play hard,â?? said 6-foot-11 center Jim Jansen.
With the biggest player in the league on their end, the Dolphins will have a definite size advantage on Saturday.
The Dolphinsâ?? attack includes four players who average in double-digit scoring. Senior guard Nate Champion averages a team-high 16.3 points per game. Jansen, a graduate student in his last year of eligibility, averages 14.3 points. Jansen leads the Dolphins in rebounds per game (6.9), field goal percentage (67.8-percent) and blocks (2.8). Junior guard NatÃ Gause averages 14.6 points from the bench and sophomore guard Qwadere Lovell averages 10.4.
Le Moyne will tip off against the Hawks at noon on Saturday. A win would be the first tournament W since the 1987-88 season and would pit Le Moyne against the winner of New Haven-Bloomfield in the semifinals at 5 p.m. on Sunday. The regional championship tips off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.