There won’t be many surprises. When Boston University faces Hartford in a quarterfinal matchup in the America East tournament on Saturday (8:15 p.m.), it will have been only seven days since the teams last played.
But will the proximity and familiarity hurt or help the teams?
For Joe Jones, it’s simple.
“I try not to think about that too much,” the BU coach said by phone this week. “I think some people think it’s hard to beat someone three times. If you told me I have to play someone three times, I think I’d rather win the second game, too.”
Jones laughed as he spoke. His Terriers will face the Hawks for a third time this season on Saturday, after beating them twice in the regular season, including in the season finale.
That game proved a test for the Terriers (16-15, 12-4 AE), as Hartford (8-21, 7-9 AE) fought back from an 11-point second-half deficit to get within two points late. The BU defense responded after the run, however, and held Hartford to one field goal in the final 5:39 to win 64-55.
“I think it was good that it was kind of a close game, to be honest with you,” Jones said, “because I think it will help us to be mentally ready.”
The Terriers won the America East tournament last season, claiming the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid. They lost to Kansas in the second round, hanging with the Jayhawks for a half (they were within four points at the break) before fading and falling 72-53.
“I know probably after winning [the AE tournament] last year, I think they have high expectations of themselves,” said Jones, who is in his first year as BU head coach after replacing Patrick Chambers. “I think the experience that they had, they’ve kinda been waiting to get back to that moment again and I think we’ll be ready.”
BU finished 12-4 in conference play for the second straight season, and will be attempting to make it to the conference title game for the third straight season. It hasn’t done that since a run from 1996 to 1998.
Jones gave his team Sunday and Monday off this week to ensure they were rested both physically and mentally.
He said the Terriers need to be sound defensively, rotating well and helping when necessary against the Hawks’ motion offense, and efficient offensively to win on Saturday.
“I think our guys are mature enough to understand what’s at stake,” Jones said. “To understand that each game is different. We’ve gotta be ready to go.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.