Men's Club Update - The Best Game You Didn't See
As the confetti streams down at the NCAA March Madness national championship game, many people assume college basketball has finished for the year.
Yet one league still plays, holding their championship in late April.
Club teams from around the country join the National Club Basketball Association (NCBBA) to compete in its national championship. The NCBBA provides college students the opportunity to play organized basketball against other collegiate teams.
Unless you knew someone on one of the eight teams, you likely did not watch the NCBBA national tournament. Truthfully, before College Basketball Times assigned me to watch these teams play, I had no idea what to expect.
Yet, within two minutes of watching the first-round game, I anxiously sat at the edge of my seat and yelled “okay!” and “what?!” and “no way!” at my computer screen (I’m a very animated watcher).
Anyone watching #4-ranked Towson and #5-ranked Bryant universities’ game related. As the Bryant Bulldogs and the Towson Tigers battled through three overtimes, I quickly became aware of the intensity and passion this club basketball tournament prepared to display.
Down by three points with 14.2 seconds left in regulation, Bryant had the ball.
“Oh baby, buckle up,” the announcer said through the livestream. His words became a prophecy for the roller coaster of a game that ensued.
After a timeout, Bryant’s John Shannon, a 6’3 sophomore, got the ball, curled around a tight screen, and shot a contested three-point shot from beyond the NBA line.
The 50 people in the gym jumped to their feet and cheered, hands raised in the air and mouths agape. The players on Bryant’s bench looked at each other in awe, their faces reading, did that happen?
“Oh my god,” I said to myself. I leaned forward in my seat, giddily awaiting five more minutes of this game. Let the first overtime begin.
Tied 85-85, Towson had the ball.
With 6 seconds left, Jalen Meares pulled up for a contested mid-range jumper at the free-throw line, missing it short. Towson’s Garrett Kach jumped over his defender and tipped the ball back up at the rim.
In slow motion, the ball rolled in and out.
Bryant players jumped up and down, feeling lucky that Kach missed the shot. Towson players walked around the court with their hands on their heads in disbelief.
Let the second overtime begin.
Bryant trailed by seven points with a minute and a half seconds left in the game. But, the Bulldogs, notably John Landry and Harry Papadopoulous, kept fighting.
On the other end, Malik Shipley and Jalen Meares continued to battle for Towson to maintain their lead.
32.2 seconds to go, 101-98, Towson lead.
Time winding down, Bryant placed the ball back in John Shannon’s hand. Shannon took one dribble to his left, made a low crossover, and shot a step-back three.
Nothing but net.
"I cannot believe what we are seeing,” the announcer yelled over the crowd's excitement.
“Happy game one,” someone said in the background.
“This club basketball tournament is LEGIT,” I texted my friend.
On to triple overtime.
After a back and forth battle, Bryant led as the clock wound down. Fittingly, John Shannon sank the two game-sealing free throws and blocked the last shot.
Bryant won 113-108.
The Towson and Bryant game set the stage for the high level of competition displayed in the NCBBA tournament.
Although Bryant lost to top-ranked Purdue, who went on to win the championship, I will fondly remember this game as my introduction to club basketball.
So next year, when March Madness ends, don’t fret. Club basketball will still be playing, and I highly suggest you watch.
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