Introducing Cinderella: Colgate makes NCAA tournament for first time in 23 years

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Colgate is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 23 years after defeating Bucknell for a 94-80 home win. The program’s first NCAA trip since back-to-back appearances in 1995 and 1996, the Raiders will enter the NCAA tournament riding an impressive 11-game winning streak.

On Wednesday night, sophomore Jordan Burns was the hero for Colgate as he finished with a career-high 35 points on a blistering 6-for-9 performance from three-point range. With Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas (14 points, eight rebounds) battling foul trouble, Burns and junior forward Will Rayman (18 points, seven rebounds) stepped up to put the game away after Bucknell made an early second-half run.

CONFERENCE: Patriot League

COACH: Matt Langel

RECORD: 24-10, 13-5 in the Patriot League

RATINGS:

  • KENPOM: 133
  • NET: 135

PROJECTED SEED: Colgate projects as a No. 15 seed in our latest NBC Sports bracket. Although the Raiders are riding a recent winning streak, they don’t have great metrics nor any notable wins.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas (16.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is a double-double threat who can also extend the floor with 43 percent three-point shooting. The former Northwestern transfer has been a revelation at Colgate as the junior is finally healthy after two years of shoulder issues. Sophomore Jordan Burns (15.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.2 rpg) is another notable threat at lead guard while junior forward Will Rayman (13.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg) is the team’s third double-figure scorer.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: Going 0-4 against Q1 and Q2 teams this season, Colgate’s two best wins of the season are home wins over Bucknell. The Raiders lost to Syracuse, Penn State, USF and Pitt — all by double-digits. With three Q4 losses to Boston (228), Loyola-Maryland (280) and Navy (281) the Raiders are also susceptible to some duds against bad teams.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: One of the hotter teams entering the 2019 NCAA tournament, Colgate has won 11 straight games. Three-point shooting will be the key for the Raiders to stay with a top seed as they’re a very good 38.6 percent as a team on the season (19th in the nation). Defensively, Colgate is No. 203 in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency, so the Raiders will almost assuredly need a hot-shooting night to win in the tournament.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: Colgate doesn’t have a lot of men’s basketball notoriety but the program did produce NBA veteran big man Adonal Foyle — as he helped the Raiders to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 1995 and ’96. U.S. Congressman Antonio Delgado (New York’s 19th congressional district) is also a men’s basketball alum of Colgate who played from 1995 through 1999.

FINAL THOUGHT: This is what Championship Week and March Madness is all about. Even though Colgate is likely to get bounced in the opening round, seeing the Raiders make their first NCAA tournament appearance in 23 years is a really fun storyline. And with Ivanauskas, Burns and Rayman all retaining eligibility after this season, this could be a nice building-block for Colgate heading into what could be another great year next season.