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The Miracle Season: The Turnaround of the Men’s Birmingham-Southern College Basketball Team

03/13/2016

“The experience was a tremendous one. One that I will definitely remember for a lifetime. Personally, it was completely gratifying, to work so hard every day in the off-season and to get to that point, it really showed how hard work pays off.,” asserted Ian Thom, a Guard for the Birmingham-Southern College Panthers that made the 2015-2016 Southern Athletic Association Men’s Basketball All-Conference Second Team, when asked what it was like to play in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament.

This season was a tremendous turnaround for the BSC Men’s Basketball team. Not much was expected out of the team this season after they had lost a key player from last year’s team. The player that I’m referencing is Larry Thomas. Larry Thomas was a Division III All-American last season and it was thought that his absence would be too much for the team to overcome in order to have any type of success this season. However, the Panthers did not let his absence stop them from having one of the most successful seasons ever in Birmingham-Southern College history.

BSC accomplished many things this season. They won the Southern Athletic Association Regular Season Championship. This was a big deal because it meant that the Panthers would host the conference tournament at Bill Battle Coliseum. They were able to win the tournament in front of their fans, family, and friends and secure the SAA’s Automatic Berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. Their game in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament matched them up against LaGrange College out of Lagrange, GA. They won that game 93-88. In the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, they lost to Emory in heartbreaking fashion by the score of 84-78. This was a big deal because it was the first time since the Men’s Basketball Team had transitioned from Division I to Division III, that they had won an NCAA Tournament game.

This was not the first time that BSC had played Emory this season. The first time that these two teams played, each other this season the Panthers got waxed 34 points. When asked to describe how playing Emory in the NCAA Tournament was different compared to when they played them the first game of the season, Patrick Kilcoyne stated:

“We actually didn’t stay in a hotel when we went there the first time. I remember vividly coming back after we got our tails torn up and coach stating ‘we’re getting rid of this fancy stuff (dinner) and getting gritty with our program’. We had gone to Logan’s roadhouse to eat and I think that moment defined our team. We became one of the grittiest, meanest, toughest teams around and it showed in simple drills to during the game.”

He is a freshman at Birmingham-Southern College Men’s Basketball team from Acton, California. Patrick provides an excellent summation that explains how they came back from getting their butts whipped the first game of the season to nearly winning the second meeting and having a chance to earn a berth into the Sweet Sixteen.

While the Panthers achieved much success this season, their next challenge will be trying to repeat the same success from this year next year. Ian elaborates on what will push him to want to do more next season by stating, “That taste of losing in the Round of 32 will push me even harder. It was one of the worst losses I’ve experienced and to know we can get that far and that we could’ve gone farther will help me strive to new boundaries in the offseason.” While it is important to make sure that you are motivated to reach your goals, it also helps if you have a specific plan outlined to help accomplish these goals. Ian goes on to assert that his personal plan to get better this offseason so that he can help the Panthers have just as much success next year as they had this year is, “Lift, shoot, run. We must stay conditioned and get stronger. Those two aspects will help our team. We will always be able to shoot the three but our defense is how we got to the point we were this year, so we just have to keep on our goals and visions and work towards them,” As a rising Senior, Ian is now in a leadership position. This answer sounds as thou he has thought about the team that they have right now returning and what they could potentially do next year if all of the pieces come together.

While nothing is guaranteed as far as what BSC will accomplish next season in basketball, it is comforting to know that they are striving for greatness. Patrick explains what I mean when he says, “I think we all grew up a lot this year. All the returners understand what needs to be done for another appearance. I think knowing that level that we set will allow us to grow and push to break new barriers, in return causing a better outcome.” The challenge that I see for this team next year is how they will react from being the hunter to the hunted. What I mean by this is that since they won both the regular season and the conference tournament this year, it will be interesting to see how they react to having targets on their backs next season.

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