Thursday, February 12, 2015

St. Francis Looks for First NCAA Bid

The New York Times visits the Brooklyn school with the fourth smallest gym in Division I:
The Pope Physical Education Center resides on the second floor of St. Francis College’s main building in Brooklyn, just above the student center, below the library, past the community fish tank, and near enough to the swimming pool that when the gym doors are ajar the smell of chlorine washes over the entire arena.
Close those doors, however, and suffer the stifling misery of a cinder-block oven, which forces players to pick their poison: stench or swelter.
In this cubby-size gymnasium with no concession stands or video boards, where the cheerleaders pound the padded wall behind them on the baseline for emphasis, the Terriers are quietly staking their case as New York’s darling college basketball team....
The Terriers are 16-9 over all and alone atop the Northeast Conference standings at 10-2.
Off to its best start in a decade, St. Francis is approaching uncharted territory. It is one of only five eligible programs to have never qualified to play in the N.C.A.A. tournament. The closest it came in recent years — reaching the conference championship game in 2001 and in 2003 — ended bitterly both times.
Then last season, the Terriers held a 19-point lead over Mount St. Mary’s with 10 minutes left in the first round of the conference tournament but ended up losing, 72-71, on a last-second shot. Although it went unnoticed at the time, Mount St. Mary’s had six players on the court when Rashad Whack’s buzzer-beater went through.
The unfortunate ending — which was investigated but not overturned — served only to reinforce St. Francis’ star-crossed image.
St. Francis might well be the oldest men’s basketball program in New York City (founded in 1896), but the Terriers amassed only four winning seasons between 1967 and 1998.
In 1969, they opened the bandbox gym (capacity 1,200) that would remain their home for the next 46 years. In an age when several Division I college teams play in N.B.A. arenas, with plush locker rooms, private cafeterias and other enticing amenities, the Pope is a throwback, renouncing almost every modern conveyance.
There are no timeout trivia games because there is no video board. There are two archaic scoreboards displaying little more than the game time, the score and the uniform numbers of the players on the court. The halftime show during a recent game against Long Island University-Brooklyn consisted of a five-minute performance by the dance team, an announcement about a 50-50 raffle and 10 vacant minutes.
Tickets cost $15.
Actually, a lot of programs haven't made the NCAA tournament, although most are newcomers to Division I.  The five teams mentioned above have played in Division I since it was created in the 1947-1948 season:
The first NCAA Tournament was contested in the 1938-39 season, but the NCAA didn't begin its Division 1 designation until the 1947-48 season. Entering this year, there are a total of 54 current Division 1 schools that have never appeared in the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament, many of whom have been in Division 1 for fewer than ten years. Only five schools who have been members since the 1947-48 season have never made the Big Dance. They are Army, The Citadel, Northwestern, St. Francis (NY) and William & Mary. Two of those schools are noteworthy.
I knew Northwestern was on the list, but had no idea who else was.

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