As winners of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournament, the Manhattan College Jaspers are going to the big dance — the NCAA tournament — for the first time in a decade.
The atmosphere was festive inside Thomas Hall as Coach Steve Masiello sat down in front of a large flat-screen television to watch CBS’s Tournament Selection Show and learn where and against whom his team will play in the first round.
Moments before the show began, the network played “One Shining Moment,” a song set to a montage of tournament highlights generally reserved for the minutes after the championship game. In it, teams of a bygone era were shown basking in their moment playing in college basketball’s most popular event.
Masiello mouthed the words as the song played, dreaming about how his team’s shining moment might unfold. Had he known what the selection committee had in store for the Jaspers, his sense of wonderment may have been curtailed.
Manhattan got the 13th seed in the Midwest Region and will play fourth-seeded Louisville — the defending national champions — at 9:50 p.m. on Thursday at the Amway Center in Orlando. The game will be aired on TNT.
Masiello and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino have had a close relationship since Masiello was a ballboy for the Knicks in 1989, when Pitino was head coach. He was a walk-on at Kentucky when Pitino was there, and he was also an assistant at Louisville from 2005 to 2011 under Pitino.
“Not fun for me,” the 36-year-old coach said about the matchup, which will be Manhattan’s first NCAA tournament game in 10 years. “All I’m worried about is Manhattan. I’m not looking for a story.”
Manhattan (25-7) is one of the hotter teams in the country, having won 11 of its last 12 games. But Louisville (29-5) is arguably the hottest, as the Cardinals have won 12 of 13, including an average margin of victory of more than 33 points en route to the American Athletic Conference tournament championship last weekend.
How the fifth-ranked team in the country only got a No. 4 seed is beyond Masiello.