Colgate Basketball in the Big Dance

With March Madness winding down on both the men’s and women’s sides, it’s a good time to examine Colgate’s historical record in the Big Dance. Colgate is never going to win the whole thing, but it’s fun to dream about a Cinderella run happening for our teams. This begs the question: How have our basketball teams fared in the national tournaments?

In short, the answer is: not well. The men’s team reached the tournament in both 1995 and 1996, both times as a 16-seed, and was instantly knocked out by powerhouses Kansas and Connecticut, respectively. The women’s team shined in 2004, but was defeated after it ran into Tennessee and legendary coach Pat Summitt in the first round, and the results were what you would expect.

Neither team has ever won a game on college basketball’s biggest stage.

The men’s team had their chances when they were led by Adonal Foyle, a huge man from a tiny island. The 6’10” center was born in the Caribbean island country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and was so dominant that he was drafted No. 8 overall in the NBA Draft, going on to play 14 seasons in the league. Unfortunately, in 1995, the Raiders drew No. 1 Kansas in the first round. Kansas is a perennial contender for the national championship, with an overall record of 99-46 in the NCAA tournament and a rich history of success. In ’96, things were no easier, as Colgate was knocked out by a UConn team led by Ray Allen, who would go on to hold the NBA record for most three-pointers.

Colgate’s women’s team has made only one appearance in the tournament. In 2004, they had a school record of 21-9 en route to a Patriot League Championship and a tournament berth. Then-coach Beth Combs said at the time, in an interview with the daily Illinois newspaper The News-Gazette, “The players grew up, and I grew up, watching Pat Summitt and wanting to play for her and emulating what she does… It’s a fantastic ending to a perfect season for us.” That year, Colgate fell 77-54 to the Lady Volunteers.

Just because Colgate hasn’t had a huge amount of success getting to and playing in the NCAA tournament doesn’t mean things can’t change. Just this year, the men’s team came just one game away from a berth, losing to perennial power Bucknell in the Patriot League championship game. Coach Matt Langel said via email that a tournament berth would be “a monumental achievement… no better way to showcase a basketball program and a university,” and by the way the program is going, I think a tournament berth is on the horizon.

The women’s team had a rocky season, ending with a 3-15 record, but head coach Bill Cleary has high hopes for the future. In an interview with The Colgate Maroon-News, he talked about how the team’s record (3-15) didn’t tell the whole story of their season. They showed grit and toughness despite losing many close games, and he’s excited by the incoming class for next season.

Coach Cleary made a great point that will resonate with both athletes and the entire student body. Colgate athletics has a culture of winning. Our teams rack up more trophies than a modern-day Little Leaguer. It’s only a matter of time before this rubs off on our basketball teams and we see some March Madness of our own in Hamilton.  

Contact Teddy Campbell at [email protected].