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Thursday, April 17, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Seasiders trying to pull off ultimate Cinderella story

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



To put what Brigham Young University-Hawaii is attempting to do today in the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament into perspective...

Well, really, there is no precedent for what the Seasiders dare to attempt in this morning's nationally televised championship game against Bellarmine (Ky.).

No seventh-seeded team has ever won the NCAA Division II men's tournament.

Fittingly, the Seasiders have come to Springfield, Mass., the celebrated "birthplace of basketball," to break tournament ground.

Their's has been a journey as unlikely as it has been long. The Seasiders have covered about 7,700 miles in this NCAA postseason, the last eight days of which have been spent in the self-proclaimed "Hoop City."

It is a 22-8 season now in which they have yet to be ranked and a postseason in which they have not been favored. If they have been shocked or awed by what they have accomplished, the Seasiders no longer show it.

Indeed, today's assignment is the Knights (32-2), who are the third nationally ranked team the Seasiders are facing in the NCAA postseason, having already dispatched No. 15 Cal State Dominguez Hills and, in Thursday's semifinals, No. 1-ranked and previously unbeaten West Liberty (W.Va.), 33-1.

The current five-game winning streak is their second-longest of a season that held little portent of greatness until these playoffs began. All this by a team that had to sweat out whether it would even be an at-large pick for the West Regional. A team that had none of its members named to the first- , second- or third-team All-America squads this week. But if there was ever a just-glad-to-be-here phase, the Seasiders have roared past that just like they did West Liberty in a 110-101 racehorse victory.

If you're looking for a point of reference, look back at Villanova's remarkable 1985 run through the Division I tournament. The Wildcats were a No. 8 seed that year, so far the lowest to win an NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Otherwise you have to go back to 1988 when Kansas and Danny Manning took the Jayhawks, a No. 6 seed, to the national championship.

Of course, the Seasiders have been pondering a lot of history this past week. Monday night's Elite Eight banquet was held at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. It is a venue that got a lot of the Seasiders thinking.

"It was an incredible experience, just unbelieveable," head coach Ken Wagner said. "You look up and see all those Hall of Fame players and coaches." Wagner said he and some of the players came to the realization that they could carve a place there, too. Who knows? If they win the national championship today there could be something of theirs on exhibit in the hall, as was the case when Hawaii Pacific University won the 1993 NAIA national title.

That triumph remains Hawaii's only national championship in basketball.

"We've talked about it and how appropriate it would be to win here," Wagner said. "We talked about how neat it would be to be part of history."

With a victory this morning, a place would await them.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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