The Richard Stockton College men's basketball team plays its first NCAA Division III tournament game since 2010 when the Ospreys meet Bowdoin College at 5:30 p.m. today in Radnor, Pa.
Stockton (23-4) earned an automatic berth to the 62-team tournament by beating William Paterson University 65-44 on Saturday 65-44 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship game. The Ospreys, ranked 25th in the D3hoops national poll, are making their 14th NCAA appearance.
"They're really excited, but what's important is that I hope they refocus," Stockton coach Gerry Matthews said Thursday of his players. "I've been in enough of these, and there were one or two teams that didn't refocus after winning the conference. We've taken steps to see that doesn't happen. I think they're pretty much ready."
Cabrini College is hosting the NCAA regional tournament. On Saturday, the Stockton-Bowdoin winner will meet the winner between Cabrini (25-1) and Bridgewater State University (Mass.) for the regional crown. Bridgewater is 16-11.
Bowdoin (19-5), of Brunswick, Maine, received one of 20 at-large bids to the tournament. The Polar Bears haven't played since losing to Trinity College (Conn.) 71-67 in three overtimes on Feb. 22 in a New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinal.
Bowdoin has lost four of its past six games, but the total margin of defeat in its five losses is 19 points. The Polar Bears rely on defense. They are ranked second in Division III in field goal percentage defense (36.6 percent) and third in points allowed (56.7 points).
Bowdoin is led by 7-foot John Swords, who averages 14.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Guard Andrew Madlinger averages 12.1 points. Keegan Pieri, who is 6-6, averages 11.0 points and 6.0 rebounds.
"They (Bowdoin) come from a very smart conference, and they have a patient offense," Matthews said. "We'll have to push them a little bit to try to get them out of that, and we'll have to deal with the big kid."
Stockton is led by forwards Josh Blamon and Nnamdi Usuwa, and guards Rameel Johnson, Kevin Johnson (no relation to Rameel) and Rich Suhr. The Ospreys don't have a player taller than 6-4.
"One of our key phrases all year has been that the team that plays the hardest usually wins," Matthews said. "A team that plays hard can make up for a lack of height or another skill. Hopefully, we'll do that."
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