By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The accomplishment is one in which Bridgewater State University men's basketball coach Joe Farroba takes pride.
Starting with the 2005-06 season, Farroba had coached 12 consecutive teams with at least one player who had participated in the NCAA Division 3 tournament at some point in their career with the Bears.
That streak was in danger of coming to an end this winter, however, since Bridgewater State has not been to the NCAAs since 2014.
But when the Bears won the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tourney last Saturday to earn an automatic bid, the streak was extended to 13 consecutive teams.
BSU (18-9) will make its eighth appearance in the NCAAs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. when it plays at Williams College (22-5, ranked fifth in the nation in this week's poll).
"It's great because you've always got guys in the program that know what it is to win a championship and you can always talk about this,″ said Farroba. "There's a tradition from the guys that came before you.″
The Bears, who are in the NCAAs for the sixth time in 13 years, have three seniors who were nearly shut out of experiencing the national tourney, only to keep the tradition going.
"It means everything,″ said DeAndrade the most valuable player of the MASCAC tourney. "This is what you play for, to make the NCAAs and make a run. We have an opportunity.
"It definitely would have been disappointing not going considering all the work we've put in to get to where we are. We've had our ups and downs, but we've come together as a team when it's most important. To make it to the NCAAs is a testament to the way this team came together.″
The Bears, who leave for western Massachusetts on Thursday, will have their hands full with the Ephs, who made the Final Four last March.
Williams is one of the top defensive teams in the country and plays in a highly competitive league, the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
"They space the floor very well and they've very efficient,″ said Farroba. "They don't beat themselves. That's the big thing. They've got good size.
"One of the statistics that jumps off the board was out of 718 baskets, they had 438 assists, so there is a consciousness of sharing the ball and getting the best shot.
"Obviously the league they play in is probably one of the premier basketball leagues in the country in Division 3. It's a real tough matchup for us.″
It will be a brand new experience for the members of this season's BSU squad, which includes three sophomore starters to go with DeAndrade and fellow senior Joseph Carty.
Williams has been there before while the Bears are loaded with first-time participants up and down the roster.
"As coach likes to say, we're playing with house money,″ said DeAndrade. "We know we have nothing to lose. We're going to go out there, work hard, stick to the game plan and see what happens.
"The atmosphere's going to be great. We're all excited and ready for it.″