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Preview: Merrimack Opens NCAA Tournament Play Saturday at Noon

For the second consecutive season and 10th time in program history, the Merrimack College men’s basketball program will play in the NCAA Tournament as the Warriors begin play in the East Regional on Saturday afternoon when the sixth-seeded Warriors will take on the third-seeded and No. 13/18 Bridgeport Purple Knights. Tip-off from Le Moyne College’s Ted Grant Court in Syracuse, N.Y. is set for 12 p.m.

East Regional Schedule:
March 10 – Quarterfinal games
12 p.m.            Game No. 1. – Merrimack vs. Bridgeport
2:30 p.m.         Game No. 2 – Bloomfield vs. St. Thomas Aquinas
5 p.m.              Game No. 3 – Jefferson vs. Le Moyne
7:30 p.m.         Game No. 4 – Saint Rose vs. Saint Anselm

March 11 – Regional Semifinals
5 p.m.              Game No. 5. (Winner Game No. 1 vs. Winner Game No. 2)
7:30 p.m.         Game No. 6. (Winner Game No. 3 vs. Winner Game No. 4)

March 13 – Regional Championship Game
7 p.m.              Game No. 7. (Winner Game No. 5 vs. Winner Game No. 6)

Last Time Out:

  • Merrimack last game was also at Ted Grant Court, which saw the Navy and Gold face top-seeded Le Moyne College in the Northeast-10 Conference Semifinals. It marked the Warriors’ first trip to the league semifinals in eight years
  • The Dolphins surged past the Warriors, 83-55, to advance to the conference final. Le Moyne won the NE10 Championship, 69-63, to cement its top overall seed in the region

‘Mack Facts:

  • This weekend will mark the 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, dating back to the Warriors’ first trip to the national tourney in the 1976-77 season. It is the fifth back-to-back appearance in school history as well. Merrimack owns a 7-9 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play.
  • The Warriors boast 19 wins to match last season’s total. The Navy and Gold have not reached 20 in a season since 2009-10
  • The Warriors and the Purple Knights are two of the top programs nationwide at forcing turnovers. Merrimack led the NE10 with nearly 16 (15.90) turnovers forced, while both programs are among the top-10 nationwide in turnover margin (Bridgeport – 6.4; Merriamck – 4.4)
  • Both sophomore Juvaris Hayes and junior Ryan Boulter are nearing 1,000-point milestones. The former has scored a career-high 542 points for an 18.1 per game average, and he enters the NCAA Tournament with 973 career points. The latter  is averaging 14.0 points per game to bring his career total to 975 points. The duo will becoming the 44th and 45th players in program history to reach 1,000 career points.
  • Hayes broke the NE10 single-season assist record (115) at Le Moyne. Earlier this season, the point guard earned his first NE10 All-Conference First Team selection and landed the Bevo Francis Award (top small college basketball player) Top 50 Watchlist. He has ranked either first or second in total assists (240), assists per game (8.0), total steals (115) and steals per game (3.8).

The Purple Knights:

  • The Purple Knights enter the NCAA Tournament on the heels of a 25-win season that featured a program-record 16-game winning streak as well as a East Coast Conference Regular Season Championship
  • Head Coach Mike Ruane recorded his 350th victory at the helm of Bridgeport, and led the Purple Knights back to the Big Dance for the 10th time in 18 seasons at the helm of UB
  • The Purple Knights led the ECC with nearly 89 points per game, which ranks as the eighth-best scoring offense nationwide
  • Bridgeport leads the country in turnovers forced, causing their opponents to give the ball up 22.7 times per contest.
  • Ruane was named ECC Coach of the Year while three student-athletes earned all-conference recognition: senior Sam Joseph, senior Sharif Cobb and junior D’Vonne Trumbo

The Series:

  • In 23 all-time meetings against Bridgeport, the Warriors hold a 13-10 advantage over the Purple Knights
  • Bridgeport bested Merrimack in the regular season, 98-79, which snapped Merrimack’s four-game winning streak over Bridgeport that had stood since the 2006-07 campaign
  • Saturday will mark the second-ever matchup between the two programs in the NCAA Tournament, with Merrimack best Bridgeport in the regional semifinals, 107-83, in the 1976-77 season

Mike McMahon is in his 12th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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