NYU men’s basketball earns first NCAA bid since 2016

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


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

Pablo Ocariz, Staff Writer

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

But the Violets always knew they could beat anyone, and they started doing it. 

NYU closed out the season with five straight in-conference wins, including wins over three teams that made the tournament. The Violet’s incredible end to the season secured the team an at-large bid in the big leagues.

“At the start of the season we had our goal: Make the tournament,” said sophomore combo guard Zay Freeney. “Not a lot of people believed in us — we were picked last in the UAA to finish. Even halfway through the season, we were towards the bottom of the standings. But we completely shocked everybody. We shocked everybody except ourselves.”

No one would call NYU’s path to the dance a simple one. 

The Violets had a strong start to the season, dominating their non-conference opponents for an 11-0 record. NYU was also shooting the ball incredibly well, only shooting below 40% from the three-point line in one game. Once conference play started, however, the Violets began to falter.

“We cruised through our non-conference games, but then we got hit right in the mouth when conference play started,” said Freeney. “It took us a while to get it together after that.”

Some would say that NYU’s poor start in the UAA was to be expected. The Violets are a small team, and they have a new coach and multiple new starters this season.

Despite the early losses, the Violets never gave up. After two defeats in an early February roadtrip against Carnegie Mellon University and Case Western Reserve University, the team switched gears. The Violets knew they were good enough — they just had to prove it. 

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

Just as the team had planned it, NYU won out 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 its rollercoaster regular season ended on a high note. 

Now that it has made the tournament, NYU Men’s Basketball has one simple, but ambitious, goal: win the championship. 

“From the jump, [coach Klatsky] said, ‘Let’s win it. Let’s win the whole thing,’” said Freeney. “We know there are some great teams out there, some teams ranked higher than us, but we don’t care.”

The Violets begin their road to a trophy against Lancaster Bible College in round one of the tournament, and the two teams could not have had more different roads to the tournament.

NYU struggled through a large part of the season in an elite conference which sent five teams to the tournament, going 7-7 in UAA contests. Lancaster Bible dominated a relatively weak United East conference, which only sent one team to the tournament, with a 15-1 record. The Chargers struggled outside of conference play, however, managing a 4-6 record, scoring more than 90 points just once.

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

“We know they like to play fast, and that’s what we love to do,” said Freeney. “I’m expecting a high-tempo, high-paced game. Everyone in the tournament is a great team, so this is going to be a dog fight. We’re going to bring everything we have and hopefully come out with the win.”

NYU is set to square off against Lancaster Bible this Friday in Alliance, Ohio at 5:10 p.m.

Contact Pablo Ocariz at [email protected].