March Madness Invades UNC

UNC basketball players and fans celebrate following the men’s team’s come-from-behind victory over the University of Montana to win the Big Sky Championshp and earn the program’s first invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Barry LaPoint

The success of the UNC men’s basketball team, which includes a Big Sky Conference Championship and the program’s first trip to the NCAA post-season tournament, has propelled the school into the national spotlight and students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members are all enjoying basking in its warmth.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our students, coaches, and entire university,” said Chuck Leonhardt, UNC’s vice president of University Relations. “Not only has the team lit up the scoreboard, they’ve helped light up the entire university and community with pride.”

Leonhardt said the media exposure will have many benefits for the university.

“It will positively impact our image, approve awareness significantly and provide greater opportunity for us to communicate who we are,” he said. “Ultimately, we hope that more prospective students will seek out this incredible university and all it offers.”

Leonhardt also said the team’s success is providing an impetus for alumni and other supporters to engage the university with their time, talent and giving, and has provided a strong bonding point for the community and the university.

Media attention has focused on many compelling story angles on the team, individual student-athletes, coaching staff and the university as a whole.

There’s the “from worst to first” angle. Five years ago the team’s overall record was 4-24 in their first season in the NCAA’s Division I ranks and finished their initial Big Sky Conference season at 2-14 and in last place. This season they’re 21-10 overall, finishing atop the conference’s regular-season standings with a 13-3 record, and enabling them to host and win the Big Sky post-season championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

There’s also the story of head coach B.J. Hill, who moved up from his assistant coach position to take the Bears to new heights in his first season at the helm.

The story of the team’s four seniors will certainly strike a chord. They’ve stuck together through the bad and the good times, supporting each other and the rest of team, and stepping up individually when needed to provide a spark to pull off the big wins.

And there’s Devon Beitzel, this year’s Big Sky regular-season and championship MVP, first-team Academic All-American and finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, who didn’t let a less-than-stellar home life during his teens keep him from becoming a star on and off the basketball court.

They’re all “Cinderalla stories” that bode well for UNC’s future as millions of people around the world hear and see what makes the team – and UNC – special.

- Gary Dutmers


More Information
- UNC Basketball Tournament Website: http://www.unco.edu/basketball
- UNC Athletics Website: UNC Athletics Website: http://uncbears.com/