March Madness begins this Friday for two local college basketball programs.
The University of Southern Maine and the University of New England are part of the 64-team field of the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball tournament.
Southern Maine (27-1) will host first- and second-round games Friday and Saturday for the first time since 2007. The Little East Conference champion Huskies, ranked ninth in one national poll and 12th in another, will play Smith College (22-4), which received one of 20 at-large berths.
The winner advances to Saturday’s second-round game against either Ithaca (25-2) or Colby-Sawyer (23-5), who also play Friday in Gorham.
UNE (22-4) won the Commonwealth Coast Conference and will travel to Amherst, Mass., to face Bridgewater State (23-3) Friday. The winner advances to play either host Amherst (26-1) or Farmingdale State (12-12) Saturday.
The national semifinals and finals are scheduled for March 15-16 at Hope College in Holland, Mich.
Also, the Husson University men’s team earned a berth in the NCAA Division III men’s tournament. The North Atlantic Conference champion Eagles (20-8) take on Plattsburgh State (19-8) in New York on Saturday.