The Jim Calhoun-led men’s basketball team from the University of Saint Joseph has made it to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time. The program is only 2 years old.
Players from the team sat together Monday at McGovern Hall on campus wearing their conference championship hats and shirts. Their eyes were fixed on a projector screen as they waited to learn whom they’d face in their first tournament game.
The Blue Jays clapped as they found out Hobart College was the opponent. The two teams will meet Friday, 30 miles up the road in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“Being from around this area -- having family and friends be able to travel to Springfield -- I think that’s big for us,” said sophomore guard Jaecee Martin.
Martin actually went to school elsewhere last year -- Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. But now he’s back in the Hartford area in time for his new team’s first national tournament experience.
“We’re mostly a family. Most of us grew up with each other together from around the Hartford area, so I think that’s what makes us special,” Martin said.
For Calhoun, it’ll be the former UConn coach’s 24th trip to an NCAA Tournament, though it won’t be at the Division I level. Instead, Calhoun and Saint Joseph will compete in the NCAA’s third-tier tournament in the team’s second year on the court.
“It’s a great opportunity for them -- this is what you play for, and I think when we first started out 15, 16 months ago, to be here is just fabulous,” Calhoun said.
It’s only the eighth time that any athletic program at the 80-year-old university will play in an NCAA Division III tournament.
The Blue Jays aren’t the only Connecticut team in the bracket; Western Connecticut State University and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy also made it.
WCSU plays on Friday against Tufts University; the Coast Guard will tip off Friday against the College at Brockport.