Penn State Behrend makes its third NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament in four seasons, and have to go on the road again in facing Hope College (Mich.), a program steeped with tradition.
The Lions won their second straight AMCC title and are 23-4 for the season, and the automatic bid earned them a spot in the Great Lakes Regional. The Flying Dutchmen, who have won 37 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles, are 20-7 after losing to arch-rival Calvin 78-53 in the tournament finals.
Hope, ranked second to North Coast Athletic Conference champion Wooster, a foe of Allegheny, play in the 3,400-seat Richard and Helen DeVos Center that opened in 2005-06. In the loss to Calvin, which Hope beat twice in the regular season, over 3,100 fans were in the attendance.
There’s a reason. The Hope-Calvin rivalry was rated No. 1 in Division III, and No. 4 in all divisions, just behind the likes of Duke and North Carolina.
The Flying Dutchmen, who do not own a national championship, are coached by Matt Neil, the 2011-12 MIAA coach of the year whose teams went 52-7 his first two seasons.
Behrend is making its seventh NCAA appearance under 20th-year coach Dave Niland, who has never endured a losing season. The Lions are 4-6 in 10 games played, and in 1999-2000, the first big dance, won 3 straight to advance to the Elite 8. Behrend has lost its past 3 tournament games, including 62-44 to Wooster in 2012-13. The last win was 83-62 over Farmingdale State in 2007-08. They lost to Potsdam State 60-58 in 2004, the last tournament game at the Junker Center.
– Bob Jarzomski