NYU men’s basketball received its first NCAA bid since 2016

After a season full of ups and downs, the Violets advanced to a field of 64.

Despite the big changes this season, NYU men’s basketball is doing March Madness. (Courtesy of NYU Athletics)

After its third straight loss on Feb. 5, NYU men’s basketball looked completely out of contention for the postseason. They are took the last place in the Collegiate Athletic Association standings with a paltry 2-7 conference record. With head coach Dave Klatsky in his first season and many roster changes, it made sense that this could be a rebuilding year for the program.

But the violets always knew they could beat anyone, and they began to do so.

NYU finished the season with five straight conference wins, including wins over three teams that made the tournament. An incredible finish to the season for the Violets secured the team promotion to the top league.

“We had a goal at the beginning of the season: to make the tournament,” sophomore combo guard Zay Freeney said. “Few people believed in us – we were chosen last in UAA before the finish line. Even halfway through the season, we were at the bottom of the standings. But we completely shocked everyone. We shocked everyone but ourselves.”

No one would call NYU’s path to dance easy.

The Violets started the season strong, dominating non-conference opponents with an 11-0 record. NYU also shot the ball incredibly well, only shooting under 40% from the 3-point line in one game. However, once conference play began, the Violets began to falter.

“We were cruising through our non-conference games, but then we got punched right in the mouth when conference play started,” Freeney said. “After that, it took us a while to put everything together.”

Some would say that NYU’s rocky start at UAA was to be expected. The Violets are a small team and have a new coach and some new players this season.

Despite the first losses, the violets did not give up. After two losses in early February against Carnegie Mellon University and Western Reserve University, the team switched gears. The Violets knew they were good enough—they just needed to prove it.

“Going into WashU and Chicago, we knew if we won we would have a chance to make the tournament,” Freeney said. “It was a big turning point for us. We knew what we were capable of. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy; it’s been a long road, but I’m happy it turned out the way it did.”

Just as the team had planned, NYU went on a winning streak the rest of the season with five wins against some of the top teams in the country. The Violets got hot at just the right time and ended their roller coaster regular season on a high note.

Now that it has made it to the tournament, the NYU men’s basketball club has one simple but ambitious goal: win a championship.

“From the jump, [coach Klatsky] said, “Let’s win.” Let’s win it all,” Freeney said. “We know there are some great teams, some teams above us, but we don’t care.”

The Violets begin their journey to the trophy against Lancaster Bible College in the first round of the tournament, and the two teams could not have had more different paths to the tournament.

NYU struggled for most of the season in an elite conference that sent five teams to the tournament, going 7-7 in UAA competition. Lancaster Bible dominated the relatively weak United East Conference, which sent just one team to the tournament with a 15-1 record. The Chargers struggled outside of conference play, however, posting a 4-6 record, scoring over 90 points just once.

Violets are not in the business of underestimating other teams – they know firsthand that a team should never make such a mistake.

“We know they like to play fast, and that’s what we like to do,” Freeney said. “I expect a high-tempo game. Everyone in the tournament is a great team, so it’s going to be a dogfight. We’re going to bring everything we’ve got and hopefully come out with a win.”

NYU is set to take on Lancaster Bible this Friday in Alliance, Ohio at 5:10 p.m.

Contact Pablo Acaris at [email protected]

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