The National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament tips off today with two games, including one featuring the nation’s highest-scoring team in Iona College of New York.
Iona meets Brigham Young University in Dayton, Ohio, for a chance at a No. 14 seed in the West Regional and a second-round matchup against Marquette University. Western Kentucky plays Mississippi Valley State in tonight’s first game in Dayton for a No. 16 seed in the South Regional.
The Gaels, who scored 83.3 points a game this season, were among the last teams named to the tournament’s field of 68 schools. A year after Virginia Commonwealth won an opening game in Dayton and then pulled off four more upsets to reach the Final Four, senior guard Scott Machado said New Rochelle, New York-based Iona relishes the chance to prove it, too, belongs.
“Now we get to show the whole country what Iona basketball is about,” said Machado, who averaged 13.6 points and 9.9 assists for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular- season champions. “We just want to prove everybody right that chose us in the committee. We want to show everybody that we can play and that we can compete with the best.”
Iona (25-7) has a 1-8 record in the NCAA tournament, while Brigham Young (25-8) is 14-29.
The tournament, which last year expanded to 68 teams from 65, features two more games in Dayton tomorrow.
Lamar University faces the University of Vermont for a spot against Midwest Regional No. 1 seed North Carolina, while the University of California-Berkeley plays South Florida for the 12th seed in the Midwest and a second-round matchup against Temple University.
Full NCAA tournament play begins March 15. The Final Four is scheduled for March 31 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, with the title game two days later.
The University of Kentucky is among the No. 1 seeds in the four regionals and the Wildcats are favored by Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the championship. North Carolina, Michigan State and Syracuse University are the other top seeds.
Kentucky, the No. 1 seed in the South Regional, will open tournament play March 15 in Louisville, Kentucky, against the winner of tonight’s game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky. Mississippi Valley State, which is winless in four previous NCAA tournament appearances, went 21-12 this season while Western Kentucky is the lone team in the field with a losing record, at 15-18.
“I think more about we’re 6-0 in our last six games,” Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper said at a news conference yesterday in Dayton. “We know how to close out games now. We’re not going to live in the rear view mirror. We know who we are now, and that’s what I’m most excited about.”
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