Cinderella stories are a rarity in sports. However, Kennesaw State’s men’s basketball team has become the latest underdog to do the impossible, and Cinderella is headed to the big dance. In a historic first for the program, the Owls have punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Three years after a miserable one-win season, the Owls are now headed to March Madness.
Kennesaw State Wins ASUN Crown
The Owls’ momentous victory came against Liberty in the Atlantic Sun tournament on Sunday afternoon. After Terrell Burdin hit a free throw, he intentionally missed the second with less than a second left on the clock. This forced Liberty to scramble to get the ball and put up a shot, which they failed to do before time expired. The Owls claimed a thrilling 67-66 victory and the right to dance in the tournament. This marked the first Division I conference championship for Kennesaw State. The call on the Kennesaw State radio station tells the story:
As called by @NolanRAlexander on Kennesaw State radio: pic.twitter.com/NHdCg0TqfN
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 5, 2023
From Worst To First
For Kennesaw State, this accomplishment is nothing short of amazing. Looking back to where the program was just a few years ago, the fact that they’ve managed to turn things around so dramatically makes this victory all the more impressive.
A lot of the credit goes to Owls coach Abdur-Rahim. When head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim took over in 2019-20, the Owls struggled. The team had gone 6-26 the year before under former Boston College coach Al Skinner, and Abdur-Rahim had a challenging debut season, going 1-28. Nevertheless, he remained determined to get the program moving in the right direction. And it did not take long to get the players to believe.
A Battle Through The ASUN Tournament
The Owls narrowly beat Queens by a point in the quarterfinals and then had to use a late 6-0 run to beat Lipscomb in the semifinals. Nevertheless, Burdin led the Owls with 19 points in the win against Liberty. He shot 7-of-10 from the field. Chris Youngblood added 16 points and five rebounds, while Brandon Stroud finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The KSU Convocation Center was packed with a record crowd of 3,805 fans, and the game was broadcast on national television, marking a significant moment for the school and for the rising basketball program.
It remains to be seen where the Owls will land in the NCAA tournament, but at this point, it hardly matters. After setting a school record with 26 wins and winning 16 of their last 18 games of the season, the Owls are ecstatic to be heading to the dance.