Yet Another NCAA Tournament Without New England Teams

Harvard is the only only New England team to make the Big Dance. Good for them, bad for everyone else.

It’s a rough time for New England’s college basketball teams. Harvard is the only New England team in this year’s NCAA tournament. On Thursday, the 14th-seeded Crimson will face third-seeded New Mexico in Salt Lake City. (On Twitter, the match-up has already been deemed “MATH VS. METH.”) While I’m happy that coach Tommy Amaker’s squad is March Madness-bound for the second straight year, I’m sad that the rest of the region’s top programs are barely relevant.

Boston College last made the tourney in 2009, Providence in 2004, Rhode Island in 1999, and Massachusetts in 1998. Perennial powerhouse Connecticut won a national title in 2011, but the team didn’t make this year’s tournament. The absence of coach Jim Calhoun, who retired last year, has temporarily erased the Huskies’ mystique.

Maybe I’m too nostalgic, but I miss the time when there were multiple college hoop teams with local ties playing every spring. The mere act of following Boston’s pro teams is exhausting. Meaningful college basketball games were a nice alternative.

In the 1990s, BC (’94), Providence (’97), URI (’98), all made the Elite Eight. The Eagles’ run in ’94 was both unlikely and dramatic. After upsetting defending national champion North Carolina—a team that had Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace—in the second round, they even ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Duxbury’s Bill Curley, BC’s star forward, was front and center.

But really, the ’90s belonged to UMass. The Minutemen made to the Elite Eight in ’95 and the Final Four in ’96. And despite the fact that the NCAA vacated the latter achievement due to star Marcus Camby’s transgressions, nothing could’ve spoiled that run for me.

OK, so UMass isn’t likely to replicate that kind of success. But it’d be nice to have a local presence in the NCAA tournament again. Unfortunately, Harvard alone just doesn’t cut it.