The Beauty of the Mid-Major By: Peter Snyder

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Meet Lipscomb University. A small, private christian college in Nashville, Tennessee that has a mere 4000 students enrolled. Their basketball team, the Lipscomb Bison have played division one basketball for nearly 30 years, but have never made it to the NCAA tournament. For students, faculty and the players of the team, they knew the NCAA tournament was the goal at the end of each season, but was an unrealistic one. It was kind of like wanting to be an astronaut growing up as a kid, you think it and believe it but it never actually happens. Everything would than change in May of 2013 when Lipscomb hired Casey Alexander to be their new basketball coach. Alexander changed the culture of the entire program. He stressed the belief that reaching the big dance, the holy grail of college basketball that seemed impossible for schools like Lipscomb to go to, was very well possible. He knew his ticket and focused on one goal. Winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Now for big schools winning a conference tournament is just a trophy to put in their trophy case but for mid majors like Lipscomb, it is their ticket in. Alexander started to build a foundation, one that in a few years was going to make history. In 2018, they entered the Atlantic Sun Tournament as the number 2 seed. Who was the one seed you ask? None other than one of the most famous cinderella stories in March Madness history, Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU knows what it is like to make the dance and than go on and win a few games once they get there. Both teams cruised to the final and the much anticipated matchup was at long last coming into fruition. The experienced FGCU team were playing on their home floor, had the Atlantic Sun player of the year on their side, and were heavy favorites to go dancing once again. Alexander however was not scared of the moment and was going to have his team ready to fight. The Bison came out like they had been here, under the bright lights, hundreds of times before. They were the more aggressive team, were hitting almost everything under the sun and had quickly found themselves up 29 at halftime by the score of 60-31. Although FGCU put upon one of the greatest fights in the history of college basketball, nobody was going to ruin Lipscomb’s moment. They held on to win the game, 108-96 and for the first time in school HISTORY, the Lipscomb Bison were headed to the NCAA Tournament. Alexander had taken his team to the almighty promise land which at times had seemed impossible.

This is what is so special about March Madness. You give these small schools a chance to do something special. After the buzzer sounded on Sunday and the Bison players stormed on the court you could see the genuine joy on their faces. They are going to play in a tournament that they have watched growing up as a kid and have dreamed of playing in. The students who so faithfully packed the small Nashville gym, get to fill their annual March Madness brackets like they do every year, but this year, they can fill out THERE school in hopes that they will break millions of brackets across the country. Now is Lipscomb going to make noise in the NCAA Tournament? Absolutely not. They are going to most likely get a 16 seed and get beat by 50 to a team in the likes of Villanova. But it is not about that, it is about so much more. It is about a chance, a chance that these small schools are given and the “Cinderella Stories” that we see every year, are what make this the best event of the year. Who knows maybe a few weeks from now, the whole world will know about the small school from Nashville who had a simple dream.

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