Stephen F. Austin’s Nathan Bain let go of the layup that defeated No. 1 Duke with 0.2 seconds remaining in Tuesday night’s game.
As the ball settled into the net, Fox Sports announcer Eric Collins shouted, “The Lumberjacks have done it!” Then he waited just a second or two longer before declaring, “This is going to be the biggest win in program history!”
If this were another low-major program that had gone into Cameron Indoor Stadium and won, that statement would have been indisputable. But SFA has reached the NCAA Tournament five times in the past 10 years, and each of those appearances required a Southland Conference tournament final victory to assure the Lumberjacks of a bid.
And they advanced in two of those years: They beat No. 5 seed VCU in overtime, 77-75, in 2014. Two years later, they throttled No. 3 seed West Virginia, 70-56, and advanced to a second-round game against Notre Dame they should have won to reach the Sweet 16.
So, was beating top-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium — becoming the first non-conference opponent to win in that building since St. John’s did it in February 2000 — bigger than all of that?
A Twitter poll I posted this morning indicated the public believes Collins was correct, that defeating Duke at Cameron was the biggest moment for SFA basketball. The margin was decisive, too: 65 percent for Duke, 35 percent for the West Virginia win in the 2016 NCAAs.
Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports tweeted in favor of Tuesday night’s result: “Nobody like SFA has gone into Cameron and won in decades.”
He has an excellent point there. St. John’s finished third in the Big East that year and ranked No. 9 in the AP poll. The Red Storm earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. To find a result similar to this for the Blue Devils, a home loss to a team from well outside the major conferences, one must travel all the way back to 1982-83, when they fell at Cameron to Wagner, 84-77. That Duke team was not ranked No. 1. That Duke team finished 11-17 — the last losing team Mike Krzyzewski coached from start to finish.
Lots have beat Duke in March. Nobody like SFA has gone into Cameron and won in decades
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) November 27, 2019
Adam Gold, who does the “Adam & Joe” afternoon drive program in the Raleigh/Durham region with co-host Joe Ovies, also voted for the SFA win at Cameron because “NCAA upsets happen all the time.”
Last night because of the setting. NCAA upsets happen all the time. 14 over 3 uncommon, but not earth shattering. Winning AT CAMERON, and being as good as they were in the second half? Awesome.
— Adam Gold (@AGoldFan) November 27, 2019
“In almost every other circumstance, I would vote for the NCAA Tournament,” tweeted Derek Schultz of Indianapolis sports radio program “Query and Schultz.” But he opted for Tuesday night’s win because the Devils were No. 1 and owners of such a long home winning streak against non-league opponents. “Man, that’s about as historic as it gets for a regular season win.”
In almost any other circumstance, I would vote for the NCAA Tournament victory.
However, beating Duke who a) is #1; b) at Cameron; and c) to end a 150-game non-conference home win streak? Man… that’s about as historic as it gets for a regular season win.
— Derek Schultz (@Schultz975) November 27, 2019
We wrote two weeks ago, after Evansville’s historic upset win over No. 1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena, that the number of early entrants departing college basketball and the relatively meager national freshman class would have led to fewer truly elite teams in college hoops this season.
Fewer meaning, well, none.
But even those factors didn’t portend the kinds of results we are seeing for the top teams in the polls.
The reaction to the Duke and Kentucky defeats could be considered an excellent development for college basketball in 2019-20, and not just for the legions of Devils and Cats haters. That so many would consider a November result to be monumental gives lie to the common refrain that NCAA basketball is a one-month sport.
March is huge for the game, no doubt, but if this many people are paying attention before Thanksgiving, that cannot be a bad thing.