From Tournament Droughts to Toilet Paper Technicals–10 Stories any College Hoops Diehard Would Love

College basketball is full of history, and if you put enough coaches or players together—chances are you’ll catch some phenomenal tales. Below are a few of these, written for the college basketball junkies who love a good story.

The 2011 Carrier Classic–UNC vs. Michigan St. : CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication
Basketball in a Peach Basket  

James Naismith first invented the game of basketball in 1891 in the YMCA training program by experimenting with a peach basket and a soccer ball. Naismith was a Physical Education instructor at the time, and in an effort to find something fun and competitive for his kids invented the game we know today. This led to 1896, when the University of Iowa invited student athletes from the new University of Chicago for an experimental game, the first college basketball game ever played. The final score of the game was Chicago 15, Iowa 12, vastly different from the scores we see today. A big reason for this was because at the time, Naismith had tooled the original peach basket–creating a netted hammock to replace the basket bottom, so every time a player would score, they would have to retrieve the ball. It wasn’t until ten years later that the open-ended nets were used.  

Photo Credit: Lorraine DiSabato
Louisiana Tech 42, North Texas 36: No, it wasn’t a Football Score  

To explain the 2022 C-USA Tournament semifinal game between Louisiana Tech and North Texas as a dogfight would be an absolute understatement. Both teams were stellar on defense all season leading up to this matchup, but they took it to another level on March 11th. It was as if the 1985 Chicago Bears were facing off with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. 11 minutes into the first half, the Mean Green held a 7-2 advantage. The tide would turn in Louisiana Tech’s favor by the end of the half as they held a 21-13 lead headed to the break. The Bulldogs would go on to make just 6 field goals in the second half, but were still able to hang on for the victory to advance to the C-USA Championship Game. For the game, Louisiana Tech shot 28.6% from the field, and North Texas finished at a 24.1% clip. The low scoring affair set many C-USA Tournament records, including the lowest point total (36) by one team in any tournament round ever, and the 78 combined points between the two teams set a record for the lowest combined total in the history of the tournament. It was also the lowest scoring game at any point during the 2021-22 season. 

Roy Williams’ recruitment of Tyler Hansbrough 
Photo Credit: Jerome Carpenter

Recruiting stories are always wildcards, but when Roy Williams went all out for 5-star Tyler Hansbrough, his efforts were nearly derailed by inclement weather and… the police? For the former, Williams took his wife Wanda on what was meant to be a casual, private jet trip to Missouri to meet with Hansbrough’s family. But due to ice and poor weather, Williams’ jet detoured to Arkansas nearly an hour away. After landing, Williams called Hansbrough’s father who begged them not to make what was a dangerous drive due to storms, so Williams and his wife boarded the jet again and headed home—his final statement on the day was, “The bottom line is, I took my bride on a private plane from North Carolina to Jonesboro, Arkansas, borrowed a car, went over to Sonic, got two cheeseburgers, two chicken sandwiches for the pilots, and got on the plane to come back… And I told her, congratulations, this is the best date you’ve ever been on.” In another attempt to reach Hansbrough, Williams was driving to Tyler’s home when he was pulled over by an officer for speeding. After explaining his situation and apologizing, Williams gave the officer his license and rental car agreement. Upon return, according to Williams, he was handed a ticket and the officer said, “You shouldn’t have beaten Missou as many times as you did.” To which Roy responded, “Well if we get this kid we will be beating them a lot more in the future.” Hansbrough never had to play the Tigers, but the four-time All-American probably would’ve fared just fine had they met UNC.  

Remaining On-Campus Conference Tournaments  

Of the 32 NCAA Division 1 Conferences, just 4 of them continue to be hosted by the top seed from their respective conference, rather than to be played at a neutral site location. Just the ASUN, America East, NEC, and Patriot League allow the higher seeds to host games as their tournaments advance from round to round. Having personally been to America East Tournament games hosted by Vermont, it is truly an amazing atmosphere and really gives an upper hand to the top seed. Those teams are deserving of the reward after proving to be the best in the conference for an entire season, especially when it’s a one bid league and the conference tournament is a do or die situation. But these tournaments also have their downfall, which was evident in last season’s NEC Championship game between Bryant and Wagner in the Chase Athletic Center on the Bulldogs’ campus. After the antics of Peter Kiss and the ugly brawl that developed in the stands between the Wagner fans who traveled by bus and the Bryant student section, some of these remaining conferences might just be second guessing their approach as we move into the 2022-23 season. 

The Hawk Will Never Die – St. Joseph’s Mascot 
Jonathan Schilling, CC BY-SA 4.0

St. Joseph and their mascot have one of the wildest traditions in college basketball. In 1954-55 an ex-marine/SJU cheerleader donned the Hawk Mascot for the first time in school history and proceeded to flap their wings for the entirety of the game. After their win over Rhode Island, the tradition became official, and since then, whoever wears the costume dedicates to flapping their wings for the duration of all basketball games, both home and away. During timeouts and half-time you can find the Hawk “flying” in figure eights around the court, and out of interest ESPN created the “Flap-O-Meter” in which it estimated the hawk flapped their wings 3,500 times in a single game. 59 students have taken on the position since the mascot’s inception, and all students who become the Hawk are given a full scholarship and serve as the basketball team manager.  

The Toilet Paper Technical 

Speaking of wild traditions, few are like the scene at Bill George Arena on the first home game of the John Brown Golden Eagle’s season. What you’ll find is a wild, paint clad, screaming student section madly armed with… toilet paper. In the spirit of tradition, the Golden Eagle fans confetti the floor with Charmen the moment the first bucket of the season is scored—unleashing a snowstorm of single-ply onto the court to garner college basketball’s first technical of the season. While administrators struggle to pinpoint the true origin of the tradition, it has lasted over thirty years.  At first, administration fought the students’ urge to TP their floor, as rolls were stolen from bathrooms and storage lockers across campus, but eventually it became a more than tolerable tradition that stands as one of the craziest in college hoops. 

Furman Paladins’ Week to Remember  

The Furman Paladins had quite the 2018-19 season, both from a team and individual perspective, and arguably the two biggest accomplishments came in just a 3 day span. It started on November 16th, 2018 when star guard Jordan Lyons tied an NCAA record by making 15 three-pointers in one game. Yes, you’re reading that right- 15 IN ONE GAME. His 3-point barrage came with 9 makes in the 1st half alone, and he finished the game with 54 points. He tied the record set by Keith Veney of Marshall, which stood for 22 years until Lyons’ performance. Just two days later on November 18th, the Paladins traveled to play the defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats and knocked off the #8 ranked team in the country in an OT battle. That win was the 2nd victory over a Final Four team from the previous season, as they beat Loyola Chicago just 8 days before. Furman would start that season 12-0 to catapult into the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history. There is still one thing head coach Bob Richey and the Paladins are striving for; a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980- maybe 2023 could be the year to end that drought.  

The Origin of One Shining Moment 

36 years ago, David Barrett sat in a bar in East Lansing, Michigan where he awaited a friend to watch a Celtics game. Barrett had been a singer/songwriter/composer that was down on his luck after none of these opportunities panned out. In the bar he recalls seeing a beautiful waitress whom he attempted to speak to about basketball, and after she left the bar and he returned his attention to Larry Bird and the Celtics, he had the idea to write a song about sports. He grabbed a napkin and wrote down a few lines, one of which read, “One Shining Moment…” After his friend was late to the bar, Barrett had the opportunity to finish the lyrics on cocktail napkins before returning home to complete the song in only 20 minutes.  

Iona’s NCAA Tournament Struggles  

The Iona Gaels have long dominated the MAAC, taking home 12 regular season titles and 13 conference tournament championships which are both the most in the conference’s history dating back to the early 1980’s. They’ve had no problem getting to the big dance year after year, the issue comes when they do get to that stage. They’ve gone home empty handed in 13 straight appearances dating back to 1980, when the legendary head coach Jim Valvano was pacing the Gaels sideline and led them to their last NCAA Tournament triumph. It’s not to say they haven’t had their fair opportunities of advancing since then, as they’ve been seeded anywhere from a 10 seed to a 16 seed in those 13 tournament appearances. They let the most opportune situation slip away back in 2012. After impressively receiving an at-large bid from a notorious one bid league, they went to the First Four in Dayton, OH and had a 25 point lead on BYU, but choked it away in what was the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history by the Cougars up until Baylor matched it in their fight back to force OT against UNC in this past year’s tournament. With the Saint Peter’s Peacocks from the MAAC winning 3 games in the 2022 NCAA Tournament alone (more than the Gaels have in their entire history), the pressure is certainly on for Rick Pitino and company to get the job done sooner rather than later.  

Texas Southern Shocks the Gators  

On December 6th, 2021 the Texas Southern Tigers pulled off one of the biggest regular season upsets of all time. They went down to Gainesville with an 0-7 record on the season, yet absolutely took it to the Florida Gators, who were ranked #20 in the country at the time. The Tigers became the first team from the SWAC to beat a ranked SEC opponent since the AP Poll began way back in 1936. Coming into the game, SWAC schools were 0-51 in those contests. Maybe even more improbable, Texas Southern was a 23.5 point underdog on many sportsbooks, and left town with a 15 point victory. This upset also may have single-handedly kept the Gators out of last year’s NCAA Tournament field. Florida finished .500 in one of the top conferences in the nation, and had wins over #2 Auburn and Ohio State on the resume, but there was no justifying that early December setback on their home floor when Selection Sunday rolled around.  

Authors

  • Trevor Heilman

    I'm Trevor Heilman--currently a high school teacher and coach, and an aspiring sports editor for Mental Dimes. I'm a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to NCAA Basketball, an embarrassingly awful Fantasy Football player, underdog loving sports bettor, Gonzaga alum, and huge fan of anything sports. Co-Host of the mental Dimes NCAAM Podcast

  • Shea Irish

    Shea is a life-long college basketball fanatic. He has always been passionate about following mid-majors hoops. He's 25 years old and currently resides in Upstate New York. Co-host of the Mental Dimes NCAAM Podcast.

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