LEWISBURG — John Hardt, Bucknell’s director of athletics, tucked into a seat quietly Monday afternoon, simply soaking in the atmosphere as his basketball programs made history.
The Bison women, who clinched their first NCAA tournament bid in nearly a decade with an overtime win Sunday, learned their first-round opponent Monday — Big Ten champion Maryland.
Bucknell and coach Aaron Roussell will head to College Park, Md. for a Friday tip against the 30-4 Terrapins. The Bison enter the game 27-5 overall and winners of 22 of their last 24 games.
Bucknell’s players and coaches sat quietly as the bracket was announced Monday, although a whisper emerged when UCLA, seeded fourth, drew 13th-seeded Boise State. Moments later, Bucknell’s name popped up opposite a Maryland team that has won three consecutive Big Ten tournament titles.
“We’re still celebrating the fact that we’re in the NCAA tournament,” Roussell said. “To be able to play in an arena like that against a big-time opponent in an environment like that is something we’re really excited about.”
Hardt said Sunday’s victory cemented a remarkable run for the programs over the past two weeks. It marks the first time Bucknell’s men and women have qualified for the NCAA tournament in the same season. “It’s unprecedented for us and really a special accomplishment for our athletic programs,” said Hardt. “It’s been humbling and a really special time for us.”
Bucknell was one of just six schools nationally to have its men’s and women’s basketball teams win their conference tournaments, joining Florida Gulf Coast, Princeton, Gonzaga, Texas Southern and New Mexico State. Bucknell is one of 25 schools that have representatives in the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“It’s a testament to the leadership provided by coaches Aaron Roussell and Nathan Davis,” Hardt said. “Along with their student-athletes, they are a great reflection of the university.”
Hardt and the athletic staff have a busy few days, but the NCAA did Valley fans and Bucknell alumni some favors keeping both programs relatively close to Lewisburg. The men play in Buffalo on Thursday and the women the following day in Maryland.
“Sure we’d have loved to go somewhere warm, but this is really a plus for our fans and alumni,” Hardt said. “It gives them the opportunity to perhaps see both games.”
Additionally, he said basketball will remain fresh in his and his staff’s minds following a rugged two-week grind hosting both the Patriot League men’s and women’s finals.
“I’ve been more consumed with basketball over the past 10 days than ever before, but it’s been terrific,” he said. “We hosted six Bucknell games and our event staff did an incredible job. We’re happy we get to continue.”