There’s madness in March for CSUB

Buzzer beater lands CSUB a spot in NCAA Tournament

Carl E. Littleberry Jr., Reporter

Cal State-Bakersfield will be learning new dance steps on March 18, as the men’s basketball team heads to the NCAA tournament for the first time in its nine-year history of being a Division 1 program.

Prior to winning the tournament, CSUB had never been to the NCAA tournament competing in Division 1. CSUB had won four previous Division II championships, with its most recent being in 2004. CSUB, a 15-seed in the west, will face Buddy Hield’s Oklahoma Sooners, the west region’s two-seed in the NCAA tournament, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

CSUB punched its first ticket to the big dance by winning 24 games in the regular season, gaining the No. 2 seed in the Western Athletic Conference, and beating nemesis New Mexico State on a last-second shot in the WAC title game.

The Roadrunners began their quest for a tournament appearance by beating Portland University in the WAC semis with a score of 79-57, then beating Stony Brook University just as easily the next day 72-47. On the final day of the tournament, the Roadrunners knew they needed a win for a berth.

“It’s been our goal all year,” said head coach Rod Barnes, “We had our Sweet Sixteen rings made months ago, so of course making the tournament has always been a goal of this team.”

CSUB never trailed in the game as they smothered the NMSU offense, forcing 14 turnovers and holding the Aggies to under 40 percent shooting from the field.

Tournament MVPand new Bakersfield folk-hero Dedrik Basile led the CSUB in scoring with 18 points on the day. None, however, were more important than his final three to clinch the WAC title away from the Roadrunners. Basile’s confidence never wavered as he pulled up with three seconds left in the game.

“I lived my whole life for a shot like that,” he said. “I knew it was good once I shot it, the Aggies had our number, but we just played our game today. Our goal the whole season was to win this game.”

Barnes would later invite fans to a Selection Sunday viewing party hosted by CSUB at LengthWise Bar and Grill in Roadrunner territory. Many local fans were on hand to watch their team be chosen as one of the 68 teams to participate in the 2016 NCAA tournament, sporting Roadrunner blue and yellow in full support of the team.

Bakersfield natives were given the chance to come take pictures with the newly acquired WAC basketball championship trophy, and meet with the team after the selection process ended. Eileen Madson, 59, a longtime Roadrunner fan, claimed to have attended as many as 70 home games. Madson, however, is not the fanatic of her family. Her husband, Randy Madson, 66, bleeds blue and yellow. “My husband is a real diehard. He would go to every game if he could, but sadly he misses things because of work. Like today even, it’s huge for these boys and I know he wanted to be here to celebrate with them, I promise you,” says Madson.

Fans of all ages showed up to support their local team. One fan in particular was even turned from a UCLA fan to a CSUB fan after attending the game. Jaime Marsh, 9, had been a UCLA fan, just like his mother, for years. However, after going to the WAC title game with his father Diego Marsh, he was swayed by Basile’s late game heroics. Marsh recalls, “Watching the shot go up with my daddy and him yelling something in Spanish I couldn’t understand. But after the shot I was like, daddy did we win? He said ‘yeah.’” The shot made young Marsh a lifetime fan, and goes to remind college basketball fans the effect an NCAA tournament appearance has on a community.

“It’s funny when you consider schools like LSU with players like Ben Simmons didn’t get in, but our Bakersfield squad with players like Basile sure can,” said CSUB student Ray Beebee, 27. Another fan Darren Wilkes, 43, was happy for the win, however, he still had his doubts for his hometown team. Citing a particular Naismith player of the year candidate, Wilkes said, “We just became a basketball town with that shot. But gosh, Hield in the first round… that’s tough.”

In Hield, Wilkes was referring to Buddy Hield of Oklahoma, who is second in the nation in scoring at 25 points per game. Knowing his team faces a monumental mountain to climb in the second-seeded Sooners, Barnes still wants the fans to know his team still believes they can win. Barnes is asking all Bakersfield fans to come attend the game located in Oklahoma to combat the pseudo home-court advantage the Sooners will receive. “I’m asking you to come show our team your support. And if you can’t make it to the game, fill up the bars back here in Bakersfield, fill up wherever you can,” says Barnes.