SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — They did it.
After Donovan Kates split two free throws to give Manhattan a 71-68 lead, Iona’s David Laury missed a potential game tying three at the buzzer, and Manhattan became the 2013-2014 MAAC Champions, and punched their ticket to the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
“What was going through my mind was Iona, best three point shooting team we’ve faced all year, down three, I think I know what they’re going for,” said Rhamel Brown at the post-game press conference.
“This is more special than anything. I’ve been to two final fours and this is right there with that,” said head coach Steve Masiello about the victory.
Since Masiello took over in 2011, there has been one goal for Manhattan basketball: win a MAAC Championship.
Three years later, that goal is complete.
“This is a major thing for Manhattan College and men’s basketball for us to be able to get to where we are from where we started,” Masiello said.
“I can’t even put it into words. We’ve just been through so much,” said an emotional Masiello when asked what it meant to win a championship so soon in his Manhattan career.
There were some road bumps on the path to glory however.
George Beamon got hurt and missed most of last season. Ashton Pankey had to sit out a season when he transferred in from Maryland.
But 364 days after losing to the Gaels in the 2013 MAAC Championship, the Jaspers were able to get a second chance, and this time, they capitalized.
“The feeling we felt last year, I wasn’t trying to have that,” said George Beamon, who took home the MAAC Tournament MVP award.
Prior to Monday’s championship game, Masiello called Iona a Sweet 16 caliber team. If that is true, the Jaspers should not sell themselves short.
The problem is that the NCAA Selection Committee has a history of giving MAAC champions low seeds.
In 2012, when Loyola (Md.) won the MAAC, a 24-8 record landed them a No. 15 seed.
Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology had Iona as a 13 seed going against fourth seeded Cincinnati, who is ranked 15th in the nation.
However, a 13 seed may be generous for the Jaspers (25-7).
NCAA Tournament Seed
|2012:||Loyola Md. (24-8)||No. 15|
|2011:||St. Peters (20-14)||No. 14|
|2010:||Siena (27-6)||No. 13|
|2009:||Siena (26-7)||No. 9|
|2008:||Siena (22-10)||No. 13|
|2007:||Niagara (23-12)||No. 16|
|2006:||Iona (23-7)||No. 13|
If the Jaspers can land a 13 or 14 seed, do not be surprised if they give their opponents a run for their money.
The Jaspers depth and defense gives them a chance to play with anyone.
In 2004, the last time Manhattan made the NCAA Tournament, they upset No. 4 Florida in the first round.
Ten years later, will they have the same luck?