Will there be March madness in Pennsylvania this year?
The NCAA National Basketball Tournament starts Tuesday and three teams from the state of Pennsylvania are among the field of 68 with aspirations of bringing home a national title.
Bucknell, Penn and Villanova will have a tough road to get to the championship game. Some have more favorable matchups, while others will have to battle one possession at a time against perennial powers to get to the top.
Out of the 51 players on the three team’s rosters, only 11 of them are from the state of Pennsylvania. Six of them hail from the 2016 NCAA National Champion Villanova Wildcats.
Here’s a closer look at the three teams:
Location: Lewisburg, Pa.
Coach: Nathan Davis
Team name: Bison
Tournament record: 2-7
Odds to win: 700 to 1
How they got there: Bucknell finished the regular season with a 25-9 overall record and 16-2 mark in Patriot League play. The Bison punched their ninth ticket to the Big Dance by defeating Colgate 83-54 in the Patriot League championship on Wednesday.
First-round matchup: Bucknell drew the No. 14 seed and will face No. 3 seed Michigan State Spartans in the Midwest region at 7:10 p.m. Thursday.
Players to watch: The Bison are led by seniors Stephen Brown, Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas. All three earned All-Patriot League honors. Thomas earned the Patriot League Player of the Year award after averaged 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game during the regular season.
Nana Foulland leads all centers in the NCAA in scoring with 15.4 points per game. He is also a defensive stalwart for the Bison, averaging 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
What they’re saying: “Playing in the NCAA Tournament is what everybody dreams of. We have a good team, so we’re looking forward to getting ready this week and see what happens.” — Davis.
Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
Coach: Steve Donahue
Team name: Quakers
Odds to win: 2000 to 1
How they got there: Penn finished the regular season with a 24-8 overall record and 12-2 mark in Ivy League play.
The Quakers claimed their first tournament berth since 2007 by defeating Harvard 68-65 in the Ivy League championship on Saturday.
First-round matchup: Penn No. 16 will take on Bill Self’s No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the Midwest region at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Players to watch: Dowington, Pa. native, sophomore Ryan Betley leads the Quakers with 14.5 points per game. AJ Brodeur, the 6-foot-8 sophomore, paces the Quakers with 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
As a team, Penn has outscored their opponents by 7.2 points per contest.
What they’re saying: “To me, objectively thinking, I don’t think like this is a 16-1 game. Now that doesn’t mean Kansas isn’t terrific and that we don’t have our work cut out for us, but I feel strongly we will perform well.” — Donahue.
Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
Coach: Jay Wright
Team name: Wildcats
Tournament record: 58-36
Odds to win: 5 to 1
How they got there: Villanova survived a pesky Providence Friars squad in the Big East championship on Saturday The Wildcats’ 76-66 overtime victory sent them to their sixth straight tournament appearance.
First-round matchup: Villanova is the No. 1 seed in the East region and will take on the winner of Tuesday’s No. 16 seed play-in game between LIU Brooklyn and Radford.
Players to watch: The Wildcats are led by two Player of the Year candidates: Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. Brunson, the junior guard, is averaging 19.4 points to go along with 4.7 assists per game, while Bridges is averaging 18 points a game.
Perhaps, their biggest contributor, Donte DiVincenzo, has come off the bench for Jay Wright and has been a much-needed offensive catalyst when the Wildcats get into a funk.
“I have coached a lot of guys, but, Jalen Brunson is probably the easiest guy I have ever had to coach. He’s as complete a player I have ever had. He’s the most mature player in the program being the heart and soul of this team.” — Wright.