The nearly unthinkable Holy Cross postseason run is still alive.
The Crusaders won their first NCAA tournament game since 1953 with a 59-55 victory over Southern on Wednesday at the First Four in Dayton in a matchup of 16 seeds.
A total afterthought in the Patriot League just two weeks ago after a 5-13 league season, the only thing Holy Cross has done since is win. The Crusaders, which finished one spot above last in the league, won four-straight games on the road to win the conference tournament, despite not having won a single conference road game the entire regular season.
Now, they’ve stopped an eight-game NCAA tournament losing streak, and coach Bill Carmody has a Big Dance win on his resume after famously failing to get Northwestern into the contest for 13 years as the Wildcats’ head coach.
Robert Champion led the way for the Crusaders with 19 points while Anthony Thompson had 12. Southern’s Adrian Rodgers had 14 points.
Despite it providing a continuation of a nice story for Holy Cross, the story of this game was once again exposing the flaws of the First Four and the way it’s constructed. For most of the night, the level of play was low and the watchability of it even lower. And that should be no surprise, considering the committee had these two teams pegged as the field’s worst. What’s the point of pitting them against each other? It’s certainly not an alchemy that will often produce entertaining basketball.
Which is to say nothing of how it is a disservice to the low- and mid-majors that have often populated Dayton during the First Four’s five years. This is not a true tournament experience for them. There’s no build up to enjoy the accomplishment. They’re immediately sent to purgatory in western Ohio not to play the sport’s bluebloods or any particular year’s top teams, but to face a school with little name recognition and not likely any better than the competition they’ve faced all year in their own conference. Not to mention you’re televised on a channel few watch in a timeslot no one wants.
Congratulations to Holy Cross, but they, Southern and the college basketball public deserve better.