by RENALDO DORSETT
For the second consecutive year, four Bahamian players and their respective universities received bids into the 68-team field for the NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament, commonly referred to as “March Madness.”
The quartet learned of their regional seeding and destination for the first round during the “Selection Sunday” show last night, broadcast live on CBS.
Only one team – Tristian Curtis’ Coastal Carolina Chanticleers – received an automatic bids as conference tournament champions, while Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners, Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr and the Michigan State Spartans and Dwight Coleby and the Ole Miss Rebels received at large bids.
The Sooners were named the No.3 seed in the East region, hosted in Columbus, Ohio.
They will face the No.14 seed in the region, the Albany Great Danes, Friday March 20 at the Nationwide Arena.
The Sooners, and Hield in particular, look to avenge last year’s opening round loss where he struggled through a shooting slump.
In the 2014 West region, Hield and the No. 5 Sooners suffered an upset loss in an overtime thriller to No. 12 North Dakota State.
The Sooners lost 80-75 in what has become an annual tradition of 12-seed upsets over number 5s.
The Sooners’ leading scorer, was limited to just nine points on 4-14 shooting, including 1-9 from three point range, in his NCAA tournament debut.
Albany won the American East tournament to earn an automatic bid to the field.
Also placed in the East region, are Nairn and the Spartans, who finished the regular season as Big 10 runners-up.
They come in as the No.7 seed and will host the Georgia Bulldogs, ranked. 10, in Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday, March 20 at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Nairn will be making his NCAA tournament debut, but the programme will make its 18th straight appearance at the NCAA tournament, tied for the fourth-longest streak in the history of the event.
The Spartans beat Virginia in last year’s Sweet 16, 61-59, before losing to Connecticut, the eventual champion, in the Elite Eight.
Coleby and the Rebels were firmly on the bubble following an early exit in the SEC tournament, but the committee granted them a postseason reprieve.
They were named the No.11 seed in the West region, and will be one of eight teams to take part in the opening playoff round as the field dwindles from 68 to the traditional 64.
The Rebels will face Brigham Young University, Tuesday March 17 at the University of Dayton Area in Dayton, Ohio at 9:10pm.
The game will be broadcast live on truTV.
Despite the SEC tournament loss Ole Miss was viewed favourably because of their level of competition all season.
Ole Miss’ strength of schedule ranked 28th in the nation according to ESPN.com. The Rebels have played 14 games against teams in ESPN.com’s top 50 basketball power index, posting a 6-8 mark.
Curtis became the first Bahamian to earn a berth to the 2015 NCAA Division I men’s Basketball Tournament.
His Coastal Carolina Chanticleers received an automatic bid to the tournament when they defeated the Winthrop Eagles, 81-70, in the Big South Conference championship game last weekend.
For the second consecutive year, they enter the tournament as a No.16 seed and attempt to pull off the elusive “16 vs 1” upset.
In the West region, they will face the No.1 seed and Big 10 champion, the Wisconsin Badgers, Friday March 20 at the Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 2014, the Chanticleers entered the East Region as a no. 16 seed and seemed poised to pull off a historic upset before the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers pulled away.
The Cavaliers faced a 10-point deficit in the first half and trailed 35-30 at the half before they pulled ahead for good with about nine minutes left to play.
As expected, the undefeated juggernaut and 34-0 Kentucky Wildcats are the No.1 overall seed in this year’s field.