Boston: Crowd will be a factor
BOSTON — The dream for Boston University, which won the Patriot League by two games with a 15-3 record, was to play in the NCAA tournament. The Terriers (24-10) got close, but a 55-36 loss to American University in the conference tournament championship game crushed that hope. To make matters worse, American’s students rushed the court at Agganis Arena — the Terriers’ home floor — to celebrate with their team.
“Any time you’re the regular season champs and you lose in the conference championship game it’s tough,” coach Joe Jones said.
As a consolation prize, Boston University gets to continue its season in the NIT, hosting Illinois on Wednesday (6 p.m., ESPN2) at Agganis Arena.
“I think our guys are excited,” Jones said. “To have a chance to play a program like Illinois, a team from the Big Ten and having them come to our place, you’ve got to be excited.”
Boston University is 5-12 all time against programs currently making up the Big Ten, and the Terriers knocked off future Big Ten member Maryland earlier this season. Wednesday’s tilt with second-seeded Illinois (19-14, 7-11 Big Ten) will be the second time the Terriers have hosted a Big Ten school at Agganis. Michigan visited in 2005. The Terriers drew 2,633 for the Patriot League title game against American at the 7,200-seat Agganis Arena and averaged 962 in 16 homes games this season.
The Illini are expected to attract a larger gathering.
The players, coaching staff and administration at BU are excited for the opportunity that comes with Wednesday’s game.
“I think it’s great, Jones said. “I think we should have a pretty good crowd. We had a pretty good crowd for our championship game and the people here are really excited to have a chance to host an NIT game.”
The 48-year-old Jones is familiar with John Groce and considers the Illinois coach a friend. The two spent a lot of time together on the recruiting trail through the years and Groce invited Jones to Ohio State to share some ideas during his time as an assistant with the Buckeyes.
“I came up when I was the head coach at Columbia and spent quite a bit of time with John there,” Jones said. “It was awesome just learning more about Ohio State and how they do things. We talked offense, defense. It was great.”
The old friends, though, haven’t spoken since the pairings were announced Sunday night.
“I don’t ever do that,” Jones said. “I coached against my brother (Yale head coach James Jones)and we had a pact we would never talk the week of the game. I wouldn’t do that with people we play against.”