WALTHAM, Mass. - The Brandeis University men's basketball team has earned its third-straight berth in the NCAA Division III tournament as an at-large selection. The Judges will travel to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where they will take on the University of Scranton at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 6.
Brandeis posted a 17-8 record, going 10-4 in the University Athletic Association (UAA) and finishing in second place in the conference for the second-straight year, earning a Pool 'C' at-large berth to the tournament. After losing their first three games, the Judges won 17 of their last 22, ending the season on a five-game winning streak. Brandeis owns a 4-4 record against other teams in the tournament. Two other UAA teams made the Big Dance, and the Judges swept the season series with Carnegie Mellon, but lost both games to defending national champions Washington University. In non-conference action, Brandeis defeated Amherst and Rhode Island College but fell to WPI and UMass-Dartmouth. This is their seventh overall appearance in the NCAA tournament and marks the first time that the Judges have earned a berth in three straight seasons. With the Judge women having also earned an at-large berth to the Big Dance, Brandeis is one of 15 schools with both teams still alive.
Under sixth-year head coach Brian Meehan, who won his 250th career game earlier this season, Brandeis is led on the court by graduate student Steve DeLuca of Merrimack, N.H., and senior Kevin Olson of Rockport, Mass. DeLuca, a d3hoops.com preseason All-American at forward, leads the Judges in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, sixth and second in the UAA, respectively. Olson, a sharpshooting guard, averages 12.4 points per game and leads all NCAA Divisions in 3-point shooting, connecting on 59.7 percent from beyond the arc (80-134). That figure would be the sixth-highest figure in Division III history, 11th overall, and the highest figure by any NCAA player since 1995 - one season after the 3-point line was moved back a foot. Olson also ranks third in the UAA in overall field-goal percentage at 54.8% (103-188). Behind Olson's prowess, the Judges lead all of NCAA Division III in 3-point shooting at 45.4% (191-421). They also topped the UAA in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game.
The University of Scranton Royals went 21-6 this season, 11-3 in the Landmark Conference. They defeated Susquehanna University in overtime, 80-75, in the conference championship game and earned a Pool 'B' at-large berth to the tournament. It is their second berth in a row, 22nd overall and fourth under seventh-year head coach Carl Danzig. In their only game against the field of 60, Scranton lost to Richard Stockton (N.J.) University in January.
Four different Scranton players average in double figures, paced by sophomore Zach Ashworth of Doylestown, Pa., and senior Paul Biagioli of Waverly, Pa., who pour in 13.9 and 13.2 points per game, respectively. The Royals led the Landmark in scoring offense (74.0 ppg) and defense (65.1 ppg), while ranking fourth in Division III in blocked shots (5.9 bpg) and seventh in 3-point percentage (41.2%). This will be the first-ever meeting between Brandeis and Scranton.
In Friday's other game, host Franklin and Marshall College (22-5), an at-large selection from the Centennial Conference will take on Wesley (Del.) College (18-9), champions of the Capital Athletic Conference at 8 p.m. The winner of the two first-round contests will meet on Saturday, March 7 at 7 p.m.
For more information on Brandeis men's basketball, please visit our web site at http://www.brandeisjudges.com/sports/winter/mhoops.
For the full NCAA Division III tournament bracket, please visit http://www.ncaa.com/brackets/2009/ncaa_bracket_DIII_basketball_men.html.