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Stony Brook Secures First NCAA Bid, Will Face Kentucky



Stony Brook, N.Y. — For the first time in school history, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team won the America East Conference tournament, punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament!

It wasn’t easy, but the Seawolves – who had lost in the finals four out of the last five seasons – overcame a 15 point deficit with 15 minutes remaining in the game to stave off Vermont and claim their first title.

Following their historic victory on Saturday, the Stony Brook team and staff gathered with fans inside the basketball arena on Sunday to watch the NCAA selection show which would reveal where they would be seeded. A festive crowd filled the Island Federal Credit Union Arena and got their first look at an advertising board with the words “Stony Brook Seawolves 2016 Champions” and spied the scoreboard which was unchanged from the day before when it hit the double zeroes that meant Stony Brook became champions.

There were large television screens positioned on opposite ends of the court to show the selection program — and for the fans in attendance to see when they would be on TV. A little before 5:30 pm the America East champion Seawolves, wearing their champions hats on with pieces of the winning net in them, were welcomed onto the court with a standing ovation. Many of those cheering on Sunday had sent them off the court with another ovation just the day before.

Before the selection process began, Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell took the microphone and thanked the band, the dance team, the fans, and the players. He introduced each player and had them stand up and wave to the crowd.

And then the waiting began. The NCAA’s first region came and went and Stony Brook hadn’t been selected. But there weren’t a lot of nerves on display as the dance team came out and did a routine and the band played a song. Then another segment of the show aired while the team and the crowd waited.

When Duke showed up as a four seed in the second region there was anticipation that Stony Brook would get a shot again them, but it was not to be. Again everyone waited with heightened anticipation through another bracket without being selected.

Finally on the third bracket (the East Region), someone notified the team that they were coming up soon. The dance team ran up behind the players to get ready for the TV cameras and the crowd grew eager.  Kentucky was picked as the four seed in the east and then their opponents were announced — the Seawolves of Stony Brook! The TV cameras rolled and the arena went crazy with huge displays of enthusiasm, wild excitement, and, OK, maybe some nerves as Stony Brook was paired with one of college basketball’s blue bloods, the Kentucky Wildcats.

I spoke to Coach Pikiell after the game and asked him how he and his team would handle the pressure of the situation. He said, “You know what, we’ve had pressure on us all year long. We had an 18-game win streak, we played Vanderbilt, we played Notre Dame, we played teams that are in the tournament. This team has played a lot of high major programs before. There was pressure on us to win our own tournament here, so they’re going to enjoy this tournament and they’re going to have to play well to keep advancing.”

The Sea Wolves will certainly have to play very well to knock off a Kentucky team that had a terrific 26-8 season, winning the SEC Tournament. It is certainly baptism by fire for the Seawolves, but based on Sunday’s display, they are thrilled to be playing on into March’s madness.

Stony Brook’s first ever NCAA tournament game tips off at 9:40 on Thursday night vs. Kentucky on CBS.

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