BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Bowdoin College men's basketball team will return to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time since 2008 when they battle Richard Stockton on Friday evening at 5:30 in a regional hosted by Cabrini. A complete preview of the game is below.
About the Polar Bears
The Bowdoin College Polar Bears enter the 2014 NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection out of the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
Bowdoin posted a 19-5 record in the regular season, with all five of its losses coming in the closing moments of games. Their total margin of defeat in those losses was 19 points (3.8/loss) and the Polar Bears had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final minute of each game.
The Polar Bears boast one of the top defenses in Division III this year, ranking second in the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.6%) and third in scoring defense (57.6 points allowed/game). They are also one of the least penalized teams in the nation, ranking fourth in Division III by committing just 14.0 fouls/game this year.
One of the biggest reasons for Bowdoin's defensive success - both literally and figuratively - is the play of seven-footer John Swords, who was named the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year. Swords is averaging 2.5 blocked shots per game and is posting 14.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He ranks second nationally with a 68.7% field goal percentage and was also tabbed as a First Team All-NESCAC choice in league awards. Senior guard Andrew Madlinger, who is second on the team at 12.1 points per game, was named as a Second Team All-NESCAC selection.
This will be Bowdoin's fourth NCAA Tournament appearance overall. The Polar Bears have made all of their bids under the direction of current head coach Tim Gilbride, who surpassed the 400-win plateau earlier this season. He is in his 29th season at Bowdoin and currently owns a 414-295 record overall.
The Polar Bears last qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and also earned berths in 1999 and 1996. They have advanced out of the first round on each of their previous occasions, but have yet to make a "Sweet Sixteen" appearance, falling in the second round in each trip. They own a 3-3 mark overall in NCAA Tournament play. Bowdoin will be looking to reach the 20-win plateau for just the second time in school history.
Scouting Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is making their 14th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2010. The Ospreys are 22-15 (.595 winning percentage) all-time in NCAA Tournament games. Stockton reached the NCAA championship game in 2009 and advanced to the Final Four in 1987.
Stockton earned an automatic NCAA Tournament berth as the New Jersey Athletic Conference champion. The Ospreys won the NJAC title for the seventh time overall and first since 2009. They also finished in first place in the NJAC during the regular season with a 15-3 league record.
The Ospreys have won eight consecutive games, a streak that began on February 6. Stockton also won both of its games against NCAA Tournament teams this year, with both coming in the Stockton Tip-Off Tournament on February 15-17 (84-76 over Bridgewater State, 78-74 over Plattsburgh State).
Stockton head coach Gerry Matthews holds the New Jersey state record (all divisions) for men's college basketball victories. Matthews' record is 557-229 (.709 winning percentage) in 28 years at Stockton.
Matthews was named NJAC Coach of the Year this season, his ninth time winning the award. Rameel Johnson was voted NJAC Defensive Player of the Year. Stockton's three all-conference selections were Josh Blamon (NJAC First Team), Nnamdi Usuwa (NJAC Second Team) and Rameel Johnson (NJAC Honorable Mention).
Stockton is 16th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (15.26 orpg) and is ranked 22nd in the D3hoops.com national poll (through games of March 2).