Jim Fennell's NH College Notebook: Franklin Pierce basketball team's next test is Metro State
David Chadbourne said he hasn't talked to his players about the rich history of Metro State in the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament. The Franklin Pierce University coach said he's only focused on the here and now, and what the Ravens have to do to beat the Roadrunners when they meet Thursday in Louisville, Ky.
That, Chadbourne, is enough for his players to deal with.
The Ravens advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history when they beat Bridgeport in the East Regional final on Tuesday. That earned them a spot in the quarterfinals against the third-ranked Roadrunners of Denver, a team that went 30-2 and advanced to the Elite Eight for the second straight year after Tuesday's 78-70 win over St. Mary's (Texas) in the South Central Regional final.
"After watching film of them, it sobers you up pretty quick," Chadbourne said.
The unranked Ravens (24-8) had never made it out of the second round before this year and had reached one of the low points in program history two years ago when they finished 6-21. It was their seventh straight losing season.
Point guard Eric Jean-Guillaume, a sophomore back then, said he dreamed of the day when the Ravens were in the NCAAs.
Dreams, apparently, do come true.
Jean-Guillaume has emerged as one of the best players in the region, a two-time NE-10 player of the year who can make things happen at both ends of the court. And, Chadbourne has surrounded him with a talented and deep cast that includes junior forward Ellis Cooper and sophomore forward Ryen Vilmot.
Chadbourne said after Tuesday's win over Bridgeport that he was "overwhelmed in a good way," to think of where the Ravens are and where they came from. This was their second straight season in the tournament after an absence of 16 years.
"They're absolutely relishing it and enjoying it," Chadbourne said of his players. "And I do think we have a group that appreciates it. We're going to go out there and give it our best shot."
While the experience of going this far into the postseason is new for FPU, it's old hat for Metro State.
The Roadrunners are in the NCAAs for the 15th time in 16 years, a run that includes two nationals championships (2000, 2002) and seven trips to the Elite Eight.
The Ravens head for Louisville on Tuesday. They play Thursday at noon, the first of four games at famed Freedom Hall. Chadbourne said he plans to tell his players to change nothing about their routine and focus, if that is possible.
"We can't get caught up with looking around," he said.
Chadbourne said he plans to draw on his own experience when he was an NAIA All-America at St. Joseph's of Maine and helped the Monks beat highly-touted Biola in the round of 32 at the NAIA nationals in Kansas City.
"It's the first time I will share that story," Chadbourne said. "I never had to before."
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NEW LOOK: For the first time, the NCAA is moving the site of its Division II and Division III championship games to the same location as the Final Four of the Division I tournament.
While the Final Four will play out in Atlanta's cavernous Georgia Dome (capacity: 53,000) on Saturday, April 6 and Monday, April 8, the Division II and Division III will be played Sunday, April 7 at Philips Arena (capacity: 18,000).
The quarterfinals and semifinals of the Division II tournament will be played Thursday and Saturday in Louisville.
Of the teams advancing to the Elite Eight, seven (including FPU and Metro State) were the top seed in their regional, while the other was second-seeded Winona State. Winona State and FPU were the only teams not ranked in the NCAA's final Top 25 poll.
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MISSING THE BIG DANCE: Kurt Svoboda, who played baseball at Colby-Sawyer College and cuts his teeth in the world of sports information at Franklin Pierce and St. Anselm, recently stepped down as the sports information director at Harvard to take a similar position at Stanford. The move was good professionally, but the timing could have been better. Svoboda missed Harvard's upset of New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Stanford was relegated to the NIT.
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THE BEYOND THE BORDERS SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON: Keelin Dougherty of Northfield (Bishop Brady). The junior at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Mass., had an impressive two-way performance to earn softball player of the week honors in the New England Collegiate Conference. Dougherty went 12-for-23 (.522) with a home run and five RBIs at the plate and posted a 2.24 earned run average with 23 strikeouts in 25 innings as she went 3-1 during the team's trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.