BY LAUREN CARR AND SEAN SONNEMANN
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR, WEB EDITOR
After their best season in 10 years, the men’s basketball team drew national media attention to quiet Riverdale this past week.
Exposure on CBS Sports, ESPN and the New York Times is routine for large sports powerhouses like Syracuse and Duke. For Manhattan College and its few thousand undergraduates, the attention is unfamiliar.
After beating Iona College in the MAAC Championship game, the Jaspers were selected to play Louisville in the first round of the N.C.A.A. championship tournament.
Manhattan had not been to the tournament in a decade while Louisville was the returning champion. This underdog storyline, paired with the matchup of men’s head coach Steve Masiello against his mentor and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, attracted media attention quickly.
“The tournament is the one thing that everyone is talking about this time of year,” sophomore Nick Scanga said. “It’s covered on all forms of media, however, it has never felt so close to home before this year. No one ever considers Manhattan as a part of the tournament.”
NBC and CBS Sports were just two of the many outlets that declared the game one of the must-watch matchups of the tournament. While Louisville was often portrayed as the favorite to win, bracket analysts described the Jaspers as a “dangerous” and “sneaky” upset pick.
Manhattan College became a household name overnight as the country once again was swept up in March Madness. The relative anonymity of the school prompted a Wall Street Journal profile on what a Jasper even is.
Furthermore, The New York Times ran a feature story profiling the team’s heavy reliance on local talent from the five boroughs and Long Island, often keeping high school teammates together on the court. Sports talking heads described the Jaspers as a physical team with New York City grit and toughness.
“We were definitely labeled the underdog,” sophomore Paige Bolus said. “Then once the game got closer, more and more people started to say that Manhattan was going to give Louisville a run for their money.”
The game between Louisville proved to be a thriller, with Manhattan shocking the country by competing against the heavy favorites and a double-digit point spread. The near-upset by the Jaspers once again grabbed headlines around the country, with many writers calling Louisville lucky to escape a loss.
“They way they performed against Louisville, one of the favorites in the entire tournament, proved to our team, the school and the nation that they [Manhattan] are capable of being competitors,” Scanga said. “This game put Manhattan on the map.”