BALTIMORE, Md. — The madness of March begins Saturday for four local men's college basketball teams.
Let’s start with Navy (15-2, 12-1). It has been an historic season for the Midshipmen. A 12-1 conference record earned them the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 1997. Their postseason run begins Saturday, in the quarterfinals, against in-state rival Loyola (4-10,1-5).
"We’re moving in the right direction, in terms of, we haven’t played our best game yet this year, which is exciting," said Navy guard John Carter Jr.
The Mids swept all three games against the Greyhounds this year, including two last weekend.
"The Patriot League is such a deep league this year," said Navy Head Coach Ed DeChellis. "I think anybody can beat anybody. Even though we are confident, we know we got to play really, really well."
The availability of Navy's leading scorer Cam Davis and starting forward Richard Njoku is up in the air. They missed last weekend’s games due to COVID contact tracing.
Loyola is the No. 9 seed. The Greyhounds scored a date in the quarterfinals after their first-round game against Holy Cross was canceled due to COVID issues with the Crusaders.
"When you feel like someone has had your number, which Navy has had, you want a chance to fix that," said Loyola Head Coach Tavaras Hardy. "This is a new day and it’s a new opportunity."
"It’s tournament time, so anything can happen," said Loyola forward Santi Aldama. "We just have to forget what has happened during the season and just go all in. I think we’re ready for that."
Aldama is leading the Patriot League averaging 21.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Tip-off in Annapolis is set for noon.
Meanwhile at UMBC the Retrievers are looking to recapture that March magic. They are the No. 1 seed in the America East Conference. They earned a share of the regular season title for the first time in 13 years.
UMBC (14-5, 10-4) earned a bye into Saturday's semifinal against No. 6 UMass Lowell (10-11, 7-8), a team they didn’t play at all during the regular season.
"We don’t want [the season] to end. We’re committed to trying to get the job done," said UMBC Head Coach Ryan Odom. "We feel like we’re in a good position but at the same time UMass Lowell is a very good team."
"We know it’s a win or go home situation," said UMBC forward/guard Brandon Horvath. "I think we’re going in with that kind of mindset. It’s kind of like picking up where we left off."
Tip time for Saturday at UMBC is set for 2:00 p.m.
Towson plays Elon on Saturday in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.