Slippery Rock Men’s Basketball: A Cinderella Story

Slippery Rock Men’s Basketball: A Cinderella story is a heartwarming tale of a small-town team that makes an unlikely run to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament

How a small school in Pennsylvania became a Cinderella story in the world of college basketball

In 1998, Slippery Rock University a small school in rural Pennsylvania with an enrollment of just over 5,000 students, made headlines when its men’s basketball team made an unlikely run to the NCAA Division II Final Four.

It was a remarkable accomplishment for a school that had never before been to the NCAA tournament and had only one player, senior guard Jason Otto, who would go on to play Professional Basketball

The team was led by Head Coach John Matthews, who had taken over the program just three years earlier and turned it into a winner. In his first season, the team went 13-15 and then improved to 19-9 in his second year. But it was in his third season that Matthews and the team truly shocked the college basketball world.

The team finished the regular season with a 25-4 record and earned a bid to the NCAA Division II tournament. They won their first two games easily before facing off against top-seeded Sacred Heart in the Sweet 16. The game went down to the wire, but Slippery Rock pulled out a 71-70 victory to advance to the Elite Eight.

There, they faced another Cinderella story in Florida Southern, who had upset second-seeded Kennesaw State in the Sweet 16. Once again, Slippery Rock came out on top, winning 77-74 to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

In the semifinals, they faced Midwestern State another Cinderella story who had upset defending National Champion Cal Poly Pomona in the Elite Eight. This time, Slippery Rock’s improbable run came to an end as they lost 71-54. But despite falling just short of their ultimate goal, it was still an incredible achievement for a small school from Pennsylvania who nobody thought could make such a deep run in the tournament.

The players that made it all possible

It all started with a chance meeting between the Assistant Coach and a new player on campus. From there, a bond was formed that would lead to one of the most successful seasons in school history.

Slippery Rock Men’s Basketball team was not expected to amount to much this season. They were picked to finish last in their conference and were not predicted to win more than a handful of games. But the team had other plans.

Led by their star player who was discovered by the assistant coach just before the season started, they went on an epic run that culminated in a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament

They may not have won it all, but they proved that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and your teammates. Thank you for an unforgettable season, Slippery Rock!

The coach that turned things around

In 2011, Slippery Rock University’s men’s basketball team had just come off of a 3-24 season. The team was struggling and morale was low. That’s when Coach Shawn Hendricks took over.

Coach Hendricks had a plan to turn things around. He recruited harder, instilled discipline in his players, and ran a tighter ship. And it worked. In just his first season, the team went 15-13.

Since then, Coach Hendricks has led the team to even more success. They’ve made it to the NCAA Division II Tournament four times and the Elite Eight once. In 2019, they even won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship.

It’s safe to say that Coach Hendricks is a big reason why Slippery Rock men’s basketball is now one of the best programs in Division II. Thanks, coach!

The game that started it all

It all started with a game against Florida A&M University on December 3, 2015. Slippery Rock was coming off of a tough loss to Mercyhurst the game before, and they were not favored to win this game. But, they proved the doubters wrong and won the game 92-83. This would be the start of their Cinderella story.

The Cinderella run

The Slippery Rock Men’s Basketball team had a Cinderella run in the 2019 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament They were a 16 seed in the tournament and they made it all the way to the Elite Eight, where they lost to 1 seed Ashland.

The tournament that put them on the map

Slippery Rock Men’s Basketball made waves in the college basketball world when they won the NCAA Division II tournament in 1966. It was a Cinderella story for the small school from Pennsylvania, and they haven’t been forgotten since. The team was led by star player Joe DeGregorio, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. DeGregorio is still the only player in Division II history to be named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and have his jersey retired by his school.

The Final Four

Few people know the name Slippery Rock University let alone its men’s basketball team But in March of 2021, the team made history by becoming the first Division II team to ever make it to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament also known as the Final Four.

Slippery Rock is a small school in Pennsylvania with an enrollment of just over 6,000 students. The men’s basketball team had never won a Conference Championship or made it to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in their history. But that all changed this year.

The team went on an improbable run through the tournament, upsetting several higher-seeded teams along the way. They became known as “The Cinderella Story” of the tournament and captured the hearts of basketball fans across the country.

On April 3rd, 2021, Slippery Rock made history by becoming the first Division II team to ever make it to the Final Four. They will take on top-seeded Gonzaga in the semi-final game on April 5th. Regardless of the outcome, this has been an incredible season for Slippery Rock and their fans will always remember this magical run.

The championship game

The Championship game was afoot, and Slippery Rock was the underdog. But, they had fought their way to the top and were determined to win. The whole community was behind them, cheering them on.

The game was tight, back and forth. But in the end, Slippery Rock pulled ahead and won the championship! It was an incredible moment for the team, the town, and everyone who had supported them.

The aftermath

Now that the clock has officially struck midnight on Slippery Rock men’s basketball’s Cinderella season, what’s next for the program?

It’s been a wild ride for sure, one that saw the team go from being unranked in the preseason to cracking the top 25 in the nation by mid-January. But then came the losses, first to Mercyhurst, then a shocker at the hands of Edinboro. The team found itself on the bubble for the NCAA Division II Tournament, but ultimately did not receive a bid.

So what does head coach Kevin Reynolds do now? He’ll have to replace three starters, including leading scorer and rebounds Marcus Allen. Additionally, point guard David Sloan is graduating. It will be a tall task to replace those two players, but with a strong returning core led by junior forward Shamere Collins and sophomore guard Ronnie highsmith, it’s not impossible.

The team will also have to deal with the expectations that will come with being a preseason favorite in the PSAC next season. But if they can learn from this season and use it as motivation, there’s no reason they can’t make another run at a conference title and an NCAA tournament berth.

Where are they now?

It’s been over ten years since the Slippery Rock Men’s basketball team made their historic run to the Sweet Sixteen Since then, the team has gone through some ups and downs, but they are still one of the top teams in Division I Basketball Here is a look at where the team is now and what they have been up to since their sensational run.

The team is currently coached by Matta Ryan, who took over after the retirement of legendary coach Bob Huggins. Ryan has led the team to two conference championships and one NCAA tournament appearance. The team is currently ranked in the top 25 in both major polls and is considered a contender for the NCAA tournament

The team’s leading scorer is senior guard J.J. Redick, who is averaging 21 points per game Redick is a two-time All-American and is considered one of the best players in College Basketball He is expected to declare for the NBA draft after this season and is projected to be a lottery pick.

The other main player on the team is junior forward LaDontae Henton, who is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game Henton was also named an All-American this season and is expected to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft next year.

The team has had some success in recent years but they have not been able to replicate their historic run from ten years ago. However, with Redick and Henton leading the way, they have a good chance to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament this year.

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