Steve Masiello and Manhattan watch NCAA Tournament selection show, which reveals Louisville as Jaspers' round of 64 opponent. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)
Almost half an hour passed before Manhattan finally learned its NCAA Tournament fate, with many exhales and laughs along the way. When Greg Gumbel announced the MAAC champion Jaspers, celebration ensued, as one would expect.
Then, the focus shifted to preparation.
Manhattan (25-7) was selected as the No. 13 seed in the Midwest regional, and will travel to Orlando for their matchup in the Round of 64, which comes Thursday against reigning national champion Louisville, who won the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship Saturday night. Game times for all matchups will be announced later tonight.
"I'm just ecstatic right now," said George Beamon upon seeing Manhattan's name displayed on national television. "It's a blessing. I never thought I would see that, but I'm glad I did."
Adding to the already stellar matchup of two solid programs is the showdown between the two coaches, as Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello spent six years as Rick Pitino's top assistant with the Cardinals before returning to Riverdale; where he had also served as an assistant in the past, to replace Barry Rohrssen in 2011.
"Just playing against Coach Pitino is an accomplishment," Beamon stated with regard to his coach facing his mentor. "I think that's the biggest part. Just playing against a Hall of Fame coach at any level is going to make you feel some type of way, just being in the presence of that guy."
When assessing the imminent meeting with Louisville, Masiello; much like Pitino has been, was brutally honest, admitting the difficulty present in the Jaspers' task.
"Just a tough matchup for us," Masiello bluntly admitted. "They're not a 4 seed, they're more like a 2 seed. We're going to have our hands full. It's one of those things you've got to be prepared for and be ready for, because he's very dangerous. I don't know if they're one of those teams our style can bother."