MEDFORD, Mass. — For the first time in Jumbo basketball history, NCAA Tournament games will be played on the Tufts campus when head coach Carla Berube’s team plays host to the first and second rounds Friday and Saturday at Cousens Gym.
On Friday, Tufts will play Misericordia at 8 p.m. ET, preceded by the University of New England facing Johns Hopkins at 6. The winners will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Tufts Regional will be an historic event for the host institution. In 1995, two years after the New England Small College Athletic Conference lifted a ban on NCAA tournament play by its teams, the Tufts men’s basketball team earned its inaugural NCAA berth. The celebration was short-lived, however, because an NCAA mandate issued that same year required tournament games to be played on courts that were 94 feet long. Built to high school specifications in the 1930s, Cousens Gym fell short. The Jumbos had to play their big game at a neutral site.
To get back in the game, in 2009 the basketball court was rotated 90 degrees to lengthen it to NCAA standards. Several other enhancements brought the arena to modern standards, and those will be on display this weekend.
“We are thrilled to host an NCAA tournament game for the first time,” Berube said. “In past tournaments we have been on the road so we are looking forward to bringing March madness to Tufts. We’re excited to share this great experience with our Jumbo fans.”
The host Jumbos will be making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance. Berube guided the Jumbos to three consecutive NCAA berths from 2008-10 during which they posted a 5-3 record. The 2008 team advanced to the quarterfinals. This season, the Jumbos were the NESCAC runner-up and received an at-large berth based on a 21-6 overall record and 8-2 finish in the conference.
The Misericordia Cougars clinched their first tournament berth with a 64-54 win at King’s in the Freedom Conference championship game. They are 17-10 under interim head coach David Martin and were 10-4 in the league to earn the second seed in the postseason tournament.
The University of New England Nor’Easters (22-5) received an at-large bid into the NCAAs after they lost in the semifinals of the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament. The Big Blue, under head coach Anthony Ewing, will play in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons. They are 0-1 in NCAA play.
Top-seeded Johns Hopkins lost in the Centennial Conference championship game, but earned an at-large berth into the NCAAs. Head coach Nancy Funk’s Blue Jays are 23-4. They are the weekend’s most experienced NCAA program with nine previous appearances (12-9), including three in which they advanced to the third round.