On Monday, March 6, the University of St. Thomas men’s basketball team played the No. 1 seed (18-0 conference record) Oral Roberts in the semifinals of the Summit League playoffs. They were leading at halftime and for the first time in a while, D-I Minnesota basketball felt like it should – exciting.
Many have taken notice of the Tommies’ meteoric rise on the national basketball scene, from D-III to seriously competing against NCAA Tournament-caliber teams, like Oral Roberts and Creighton. And the season-ending close loss to Oral Roberts only lifted the ceiling higher for St. Thomas.
Michael Rand at the Star Tribune provided a summary of what many in Tommie nation and across the state of Minnesota are thinking when it comes to this team, led by psychology professor and head coach, Johnny Tauer.
From the story:
But even in a 70-65 loss to top-seeded Oral Roberts that officially ended the Tommies’ second season in Division I, it was easy to see another step in a journey that is moving along at a pace faster than many of us would have expected.
St. Thomas, which still has three seasons to play before it will become eligible for NCAA Tournament play in 2025-26 – a stipulation of its historic decision to leap from Division III to Division I – is foreshadowing a future that might, indeed, feature a legitimate regular opportunity to get to the Big Dance.
By finishing 19-14 overall, including 9-9 in the Summit League, it feels like St. Thomas is a year or two ahead of schedule – something I talked about on Tuesday’s “Daily Delivery” podcast.
“I did feel like throughout the course of the year, this journey, they represented our university incredibly well,” St. Thomas coach John Tauer said after Monday’s loss. “They way they compete; we talk a lot about competitive joy and cherishing every moment out on the court together. I thought they did that phenomenally well.”
Competitive joy is an underrated aspect of a crowd-pleasing team.