Only once in your coaching career do you walk into your team’s locker room after your school has just qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Arcadia men’s basketball coach Justin Scott still had the foresight to take his suit jacket off, guessing what awaited him inside.
“I still get chills thinking about it,’’ Scott said over the phone a few days later, thinking about the celebration, which did include bottles of water being poured all over him.
“It was something I know they’ll never forget and I’ll never forget.’’
March Madness has arrived, and this area will be well represented as the party gets started in Division III, with games beginning Friday.
“It’s been a whirlwind, trying to focus on basketball,’’ said Rosemont men’s coach Bobby Hughes, another first-timer. Of that locker-room scene: “Pure jubiliation.”
“Our locker room was insane,’’ said Rosemont women’s coach Rayne Reber, whose team qualified in dominant fashion, which meant Rosemont’s men’s and women’s team were in the NCAAs each for the first time.
That alone is worth focusing on, since the school had been left behind when a lot of its league rivals — such as Cabrini, Gwynedd Mercy, and Neumann — left to form a new league. Rosemont apparently was deemed not to have the facilities in line with the new league, the Atlantic East.
A tough pill, except the old Colonial States Athletic Conference still had an automatic NCAA bid. Rosemont snatched them both up.
“I think a lot of people, myself included, would like to be competing with Neumann and Cabrini and Gwynedd Mercy,’’ Hughes said. “The silver lining, this was presented as an opportunity.”
While Hughes’ team experienced ups and downs all season, Reber’s women’s team was a juggernaut, and now gets to show it can take on all comers.
As it happens, Friday’s first-round game will be against Haverford College, which means this area will have a team in the second round. Haverford is going for the second straight year.
“It’s very comical that we’re playing a school 2.1 miles from our campus,’’ Reber said, since the game is in Somerville, Mass., at Tufts.
There’s a reason for this: The top seed among four schools in the grouping gets to host, and that’s Tufts.
“We wanted these girls to get that NCAA environment,’’ Reber said. “I’m glad that we’re traveling.”
If you want to see some NCAA DIII hoops locally, head for either Rowan or Swarthmore College. The Garnet, reaching powerhouse status, again earned hosting rights, and will face Mitchell College at 7:30 p.m Friday., with a 7 p.m. Saturday game to follow if Swarthmore, ranked sixth nationally, moves into the second round. (The other game features MIT and Skidmore, and Skidmore has all sorts of locals, starting with the coach, Joe Burke, a Bishop Eustace and Ursinus graduate.)
Rowan also returns to the NCAA Tournament, hosting Emerson at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with a 7 p.m. Saturday game to follow if the Profs advance to the second round.
The new Atlantic East produced Gwynedd Mercy as its men’s champion, and that squad will face Plattsburgh State on Friday in Williamstown, Mass.
Arcadia is in Ohio, facing New Jersey City at Marietta College.
“They try to keep you within 500 miles,’’ Scott said, since that’s the bus range, with anything over that turning into a flight. “We’re 430 miles; Jersey City is 490 [from Marietta]."
Happy to be there? Yeah, no kidding. But each of these schools naturally shifts into something-to-prove mode.
“We want to win, but there is no pressure,’’ Hughes said of Rosemont’s men facing DIII power Amherst in the first round Friday at the University of Rochester. “We’re not going down in this game because we were scared.”
And if you’re into story lines, the Rosemont women are as good as any, starting with their coach.
“Is it OK if I call you once I get my kiddos to lunch and get back settled in my room,’’ Reber texted about setting up a phone interview.
Her hoops team had an early practice? Nah, she also teaches kindergarten at a charter school in Chester.
“It definitely is very, very crazy, especially to organize my kindergarten classroom and get my team ready for the NCAA Tournament,’’ Reber said.