By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Bridgewater State University men’s basketball will open the NCAA Division 3 tournament with a difficult assignment.
The Bears (18-9) have drawn eighth-ranked Williams College (22-5) on Friday in Williamstown at 7:30 p.m.
The Ephs reached the Final Four last season, the eighth time the program has advanced that far since 1997 and became the first New England team to win the national Division 3 title in 2003.
The BSU-Williams winner plays a second-round game on Saturday night against either Ramapo (21-6) or Moravian (20-7) in Williamstown.
The Bears will be making their eighth appearance in the NCAA tourney and own a 3-7 record.
Williams is in the NCAAs for the 16th time and has a 46-14 record.
Williams owns a 5-0 lead in the all-time series with BSU with the last meeting taking place in January 1999.
BSU earned one of 43 automatic bids by winning the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, defeating Fitchburg State in the final on Saturday afternoon.
The Bears are in the tourney for the first time since 2014 when they lost at Cabrini, 100-69. Their last NCAA win was 2009 against Middlebury, 78-76, which sent BSU into the Sweet 16.
Williams won the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament, downing Wesleyan, 69-58.
Four of the Ephs’ five losses this season were by six points or less. The only double-digit setback was to Amherst by 15 points.
A year ago, Williams made a surprising run to the Final Four before losing to Augustana, 90-70, in the national semifinal round.
The Bears will be going against one of the leading defenses in the country as the Ephs allow 63.4 points per game, ranked ninth in Division 3.
Williams has had success this season despite the fact that a leading player, Kyle Scadlock, was limited to seven games in which he averaged 18 points and 8.6 rebounds.
The Ephs’ top scorer is James Heskett, who averages 19.5 points on 51 percent shooting, including 41 percent from 3-point range.
Bridgewater State averages 78.1 points a game with four players in double figures – Rocky DeAndrade (16.4), Rayshon Ward of Plymouth (15.6), Joseph Carty (15.2) and Ryan Carney of Easton (12.5).
DeAndrade was named the MASCAC player of the week on Monday after averaging 18.5 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in two conference tourney wins.