On the Ball: Panther Men to Host NCAA Regional This Weekend

<b>PANTHER MEN TO HOST NCAA REGIONAL</b>The seeds are out, and the news is pretty good for Coach Jeff Brown’s Middlebury College men’s basketball team: The 24-3 Panthers will host an NCAA Division III Regional this Friday and Saturday. On Friday at 8 p.m., the Panthers will play Gordon, which compiled a 24-4 record in a weaker league, and Rhode Island College (20-7) and Rutgers-Newark (20-7) will square off in the first game at 6 p.m. Word at Pepin Gym on Monday was that Rhode Island is pretty good. The winners will meet on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Pepin. Tickets will be available on Wednesday at http://boxoffice.middlebury.edu/index.php. If form prevails, things will get tougher: The Panthers will almost certainly head to a Sectional the following weekend at NESCAC champion Williams, unless the Ephs are upset by Bridgewater State. Don’t bet on that — at 19-7 Bridgewater is not the same team now that stunned the Panthers last winter in the tournament’s first round. Other teams favored to reach that Sectional are Plattsburgh (21-7) and St. John Fisher (22-5), which was ranked No. 22 in last week’s d3hoops.com poll. That poll had Williams at No. 2 and Middlebury at No. 6. For the record, two of the Panthers’ three losses have come to the Ephs, one while the Panthers were shorthanded at home, and one in Sunday’s NESCAC playoff final. In that game Williams took a quick 19-point lead, but Middlebury cut it to 60-56 in the final two minutes before the Ephs scored the final four points from the line.Regardless of what happens down the road, starting with Francois rocking the anthem and going right through the “Locke Ness Monster” chants, Pepin will be jumping this weekend.Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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