SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Down in Winston-Salem they're able to showcase a North Carolina. Indiana's a headliner in Indianapolis and Duke, despite its No. 3 seed, is the team grabbing all the attention in Chicago.
That's not the case at the Carrier Dome, where folks still are trying to dig out of last weekend's 43-inch snowfall. Even though none of the marquee teams are here, there is potential for some interesting second-round games in the East Regional if the higher seeds make it out of today.
No. 5 seed Massachusetts (23-6) faces No. 14 Pennsylvania (22-4) and No. 6 Virginia (19-9) will play No. 11 Manhattan (23-6) in the two afternoon games. Tonight, it's No. 7 New Mexico State (25-7) against No. 10 Nebraska (20-10) and No. 2 Cincinnati (24-4) vs. No. 15 Coppin State (22-7).
Massachusetts, the Atlantic 10 champion, is making its second straight NCAA tournament appearance. With Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Harper Williams (16.1 points, 8.2 rebounds) leading the way, the 20th-ranked Minutemen have won 17 of their past 19 games.
Penn, champion of the Ivy League, enters the tournament with a 13-game winning streak. The Quakers also have a conference player of the year in sophomore guard Jerome Allen (13.2 points, 4.9 assists).
Manhattan, champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, is in the NCAAs for the first time since 1958, when the Jaspers upset top-ranked West Virginia and guard Jerry West in the first round.
The Jaspers, led by MAAC Player of the Year Keith Bullock (18.4 points, 11.1 rebounds) have the second-highest win total in school history (23) and have lost just one game since Jan. 14.
Last year they went 25-9 but were upset in the MAAC tournament, losing out on the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
"All I ever talked about since I got here was the NCAAs," said
first-year coach Fran Fraschilla. "To go is the culmination. The kids had some scars from last year, but I never dwelled on that because I wasn't a part of it."