Lakers earn first ever NCAA Tournament bid

For the first time in program history the Oswego State men’s basketball team will be competing in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament, earning one of the 18 possible at-large bids the NCAA Tournament Committee handed out Tuesday.

The Lakers finished the season 23-4 overall and 17-1 in the SUNYAC after falling to SUNY Brockport on Friday in the SUNYAC Semifinals at Max Ziel Gymnasium. The Lakers will play host to Wells College on Friday night. Wells College finished its season 17-11 overall and 13-5 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC). Oswego State will host two first-round games and one second round game in this year’s tournament. The other first-round game being held at Max Ziel Gymnasium features Penn State-Behrend (23-4 overall) against Rhode Island College (19-7 overall).

Wells earned an automatic bid for winning the NEAC tournament, defeating top-seeded Penn State-Harrisburg, 75-72, in overtime. Both the Lakers and Express played three common opponents this season: Morrisville State College, SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Cobleskill. Wells split its season series with the Mustangs, each winning at home. The Red Dragons defeated Wells in the first round of the Washington and Lee Holiday Tournament on Jan. 2. The Express swept the season series from Cobleskill before eliminating them in the first round of the NEAC tournament. The Lakers finished 3-1 against common opponents, winning their non-conference matches against Morrisville State and Cobleskill. Oneonta handed the Lakers their only conference loss of the regular season on Jan. 11, defeating them 75-73 in double overtime. Oswego State salvaged the season split with a 69-53 win at home on Feb. 1.

Both teams match up favorably with one another. The Express hold the statistical advantage in points per game, 3-point field goal percentage and rebound margin. The Lakers hold the statistical advantage in free throw percentage, assists per game and steals per game. Wells comes into the game averaging 75.8 points per game, shooting 44.3 percent and 31.6 percent from 3-point range. Oswego State averages 71 points per game, also shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers hold a slight edge in assists per game (14.1 vs. 13.4) and steals per game (8.9 vs. 8.6)

Key players for the Lakers coming into their first-round game are junior forward Chad Burridge, sophomore guard Sean Michele and sophomore forward Hayden Ward. Burridge, the SUNYAC Player of the Year, finished the season with 18.4 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game. Michele finished the season with a 2.97 assist/TO ratio, which was 10th best in Division III. He also finished with 4.2 assists per game. Ward, named to the Third-Team All-SUNYAC, compiled a team-leading eight rebounds per game.

The key players for Wells include junior forward Terry Harrison, freshman forward Mabior Mayen and junior guard Robert Foltz. Harrison finished the season with 9.5 rebounds per game, which was 41st in Division III, and 19.1 points per game. Mayen finished 15th in Division III with 2.8 blocks per game. Foltz finished the season with a 1.28 assists/TO margin, and averaged 3.9 assists per game and 1.7 steals per game.

The winner will advance to the second round, which will be held on Saturday, March 5, at Max Ziel Gymnasium.