Every year there is one team in the NCAA mens basketball tournament given the moniker Cinderella. The name is given to a lower seeded team that wins a couple of upsets and manages to outperform the expectations of the so-called experts. This years team, Im very proud to say, is my own alma mater, the Bradley Braves.
The Braves finished their regular season with 20 wins and 10 losses. They were runners-up to Southern Illinois University in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament. SIU got the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. That left Bradley on the outside looking in. The best they could hope for was one of the remaining at-large bids. At best, they were widely considered to be a bubble team. Fortunately for them and their fans, the team did get an invitation.
The selection committee slated the Braves as the 13th seed in the Oakland Region. This meant they would have to play the fourth-seeded powerhouse Kansas (25-7) in the opening round. Most people expected Bradley to be one and done.
Not so fast! The Braves upset the Jayhawks last Friday night (March 17) 77-73. That would have been enough of a thrill to satisfy most Braves fans, but the team couldnt stop there. That win earned them the right to move on and play the No. 5 seed, Pittsburgh (25-7). Once again, few expected Bradley to get by the Panthers.
The Braves only trailed once during the game Sunday, March 19, and went on to win by 6, 72-66. The win moved the boys from Peoria from Rodney Dangerfield status to one of only 16 teams in the country still playing. Among the other 15 teams still alive are the four teams that were seeded No. 1 in each of their regionsDuke, Villanova, U Conn and Memphis, arguably the four best teams in the country.
Speaking of Memphis, that just so happens to be the team the Braves will meet next. The Tigers come in to the game with a 31-3 record. They are the No. 1 seed in the Oakland Region. They are expected to win. They beat Oral Roberts and Bucknell easily (both games by 16-point margins) to advance to the Sweet 16. Can a 13 seed beat a No. 1 seed? Will Bradleys Cinderella run continue, or does the clock strike 12?
Heres hoping the glass slipper continues to fit, or if that doesnt work, how about a David and Goliath replay?
Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the March 22-28, 2006, issue