Not since Paul Revere’s midnight ride in the late 18th century have so many eyes been fixed on Boston with survival on the line.
Back then, Revere’s famous “One if by land, two if by sea” system helped the patriots stave off the British during the Revolutionary War. Today, with the Boston University men’s basketball team preparing to carry the torch for the city into this week’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s a spot in the Round of 32 that hangs in the balance.
Though not quite as historic as Revere’s contribution, Boston U. (21-13) will attempt to dabble with history in its own right, as the 16th-seeded Terriers will face No. 1 Kansas University in the second round of this year’s tournament. No 16 seed ever has beaten a No. 1 seed, but becoming the first was the farthest thing from BU coach Patrick Chambers’ mind Sunday night after the pairings were released.
“I haven’t had this feeling in a long time, since I was at Villanova the one year we were the last team in,” said Chambers, now in his second year at BU, who previously served as an assistant at Villanova for five years. “You’re sitting there with butterflies and the suspense .... And then you see Kansas, you’re like, ‘Wow, we get to go to Oklahoma to play Kansas.’ What a great thrill for these guys, this program, this university.”
The Terriers reached this point by winning the America East Conference tournament championship in a thrilling, 56-54, victory against Stony Brook last Saturday in Boston. In that one, America East player of the year John Holland helped lead a furious second-half comeback, in which BU trailed by as many as 15 points and won after Holland sank two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining. Holland, a senior who averages 19 points and six rebounds per contest, scored 23 of his game-high 27 points in the second half to lead BU to victory.
It marks the seventh time BU has advanced to the NCAA Tournament and, perhaps more importantly, makes the Terriers the only team from the city to qualify for this year’s dance, as nearby programs Harvard and Boston College were left out of the bracket.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the berth, Chambers plans to have his team focused on one thing when it begins preparations for the Jayhawks.
“Just gotta get better,” he said. “I just want to compete. I think we have a young group that hasn’t reached their potential yet. We haven’t shot the ball well in a couple of weeks, so I don’t think we’ve really played up to our capabilities. I’m just hoping to come to practice, get better, get better, and who knows? Just compete, play hard and see what happens.”
BU is no stranger to facing highly ranked teams. Early in the season, the Terriers were beaten by then-No. 6 Villanova, 82-66, and, in late November, lost, 91-57, at then-No. 10 Kentucky.
BU and KU will meet Friday in Tulsa, with the winner moving on to take on the winner of the 8-9 match-up between UNLV and Illinois on Sunday.
• Boston University journalism student Rene Reyes contributed to this report.