The NCAA tournament selection committee wrapped up the field of 65 teams Sunday evening and many teams waited anxiously to find out what draw they selected and who they would be playing in the first round, or in some cases, whether they made the field at all. Among those team was the Niagara Purple Eagles, who finished their season with their longest win streak since the 1992-1993 season by winning their final 11 games to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, their 2nd bid in the last 3 years and only their third in school history.

Niagara players, coaches, and fans sat glued in front of their televisions Sunday evening, anxiously anticipating who they would get to play in the first round. Early projections had Niagara drawing a 15th seed and playing either the Georgetown Hoyas or the Memphis Tigers. Instead the NCAA selection committee choose Niagara to play in the play-in game against the Florida A&M Rattlers for the right to play the Kansas Jayhawks in Thursday’s opening round.

Niagara supporters were furious with the decision. A camera in the Gallagher Center during the live CBS broadcast of the NCAA Selection Show showed players’ & fans’ discontent with the selection, many boos being heard over any celebration.

Over a month before Niagara’s season began athletics director Ed McLaughlin announced the suspension of 6 players ranging from one to eight games as a result in their involvement in an off-campus incident that occurred on August 31st. Among the suspensions, Niagara’s junior forward Charron Fisher was suspended for 8 games as the Purple Eagles started the season 2-6 without him.

Buffalo News sports commentator, Jerry Sullivan, said it best, “So this is what you get for taking the high road. This is what Niagara gets for taking a firm stand and suspending six players for their roles in a fight, before the case was resolved in court. This is Joe Mihalich’s reward for getting his players to understand they’re being held to a higher standard: The play-in game.” Sullivan goes on to say, “Niagara got jobbed, pure and simple. The Purple Eagles have won 11 games in a row. Their power rating is higher than five other teams. They’re 20-5 since Charron Fisher came back from an eight-game suspension. They’re 15-3 with Fisher and Tyrone Lewis active, with two losses in overtime. This is a kick in the teeth of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which is hosting a subregional in Buffalo for the third time in eight years. The MAAC is down, but it’s rated above eight other leagues. Siena went to the play-in in 2002, but it was 16-18.” Read the original article.

The important thing is that they made it to the tournament. Hopefully they will prove the NCAA selection committee wrong by soundly beating Florida A&M and giving Kansas a good run for their money.