When the men’s basketball team was eliminated from the SUNYAC championship tournament on Feb. 28 in a semifinal loss to SUNY Plattsburgh, it looked like the end of its season. Instead, Geneseo is headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999, its eighth appearance total and head coach Steve Minton’s first trip to the NCAA tournament in his 14 seasons guiding the Knights.
“I think that it helps them to get over losing on Friday a little bit more quickly knowing that they still have another opportunity to play,” Minton said.
“This will allow us at least some more time together and when we do eventually end the season, it’s hard to have that closure, too, but at least it wasn’t last Friday,” he added.
With an at-large bid, Geneseo joins the 62-team field and faces Dickinson College on Friday March 7 at The College of Wooster (Ohio). The tournament runs from Thursday March 6 to March 22.
Receiving an at-large bid can be difficult, since there are a greater number of conferences – where champions receive automatic qualification – and schools overall in Division III compared to Division I, Minton said.
“It’s a testament to our product of work over the course of the year,” he said.
Minton also said how it is a testament to the SUNYAC, as two additional teams from the conference made the national tournament. SUNY Plattsburgh also earned an at-large bid, while SUNY Brockport was automatically qualified given its recent SUNYAC championship. The Knights have also faced – and defeated – two additional teams headed to the NCAA tournament: Morrisville State College and Hobart College.
The NCAA tournament provides Geneseo with a second opportunity to create the type of legacy that Minton recognized earlier in the season. In addition to the four seniors and junior Gordon Lyons who make up the starting lineup, this year’s players have the chance to “leave their mark,” according to Minton, so that people would recall their success years from now.
“Is it that we got to the NCAA tournament? Is it that we won a game in the NCAA tournament? Is it that we advance to the Elite Eight or Sweet 16? And so this is just the first chapter in writing the rest of that legacy and there will be a couple more if we move forward,” he said.
For now, as Minton said, “the rest of it still remains to be written.”