Koehler 'fired up' to watch Stony Brook in NCAA Tournament

Koehler 'fired up' to watch Stony Brook in NCAA Tournament

JUPITER, Fla. -- Anyone who thinks that Stony Brook will be a first-round casualty in the NCAA men's basketball tournament this week needs to speak with Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler.

Koehler is a 2008 graduate of Stony Brook, which on Saturday earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament with an 80-74 win over Vermont in the America East Conference championship game. It's the Long Island school's first trip to the Big Dance in the men's basketball program's history.

"Every year I watch them in the finals and I hope that that's the year, and to see them finally get there, it's huge," Koehler said. "I've talked to a bunch of guys who I haven't spoken to in years and everybody is so fired up about it."

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Koehler has a warning to all the naysayers who won't pick his alma mater in their office pool bracket in the first round.

"They're a dangerous team. They're one of those teams that I don't know if you want to see in the first round," Koehler said. "I'm excited. I'm going to watch tonight to see who they end up facing. If they get put in one of those 5-12 matchups, it's not a good thing for that [No.] 5 seed. I'm fired up about it. Hopefully they can go deep and make one of those Cinderella runs."

Stony Brook actually earned a No. 13 seed in the East Region and will play fourth-seeded Kentucky on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

Justin Bour, Koehler's teammate, knows all about Cinderella runs. He played his college baseball at George Mason, which made a surprising run to the Final Four in 2006.

"I actually was on a [recruiting] visit [to George Mason] and in the clubhouse and all the guys were watching the game and it was sort of around that time that I decided to go to school there," Bour said.

George Mason is not in the tournament this year, so Bour said he will pull for the Miami Hurricanes, who are coached by Jim Larranaga, the head coach at George Mason when it made its Cinderella run 10 years ago.

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.