“There’s a lot of people smiling tonight.”
This is what Jim Les had to say about his 13th-seeded Bradley Braves, who upset No. 4 Kansas in a first-round NCAA Tournament game on March 17, 2006.
Should Les, now the coach of UC Davis, be able to beat Bill Self and the Jayhawks again when they meet Friday, the 11th anniversary of that shocker, there will be many more smiles for the Aggies and their fans.
It won’t be easy, though. UC Davis is a 23 1/2-point underdog as it looks to become the first 16 seed in tournament history to beat a No. 1 – assuming North Carolina doesn’t fall in its Friday-morning game against Texas Southern. The Aggies don’t tip off until 3:50 p.m.
Villanova and Gonzaga cruised to victories Thursday to make 1 seeds 130-0 all time vs. 16s.
Here’s a look back at The Associated Press’ coverage of Bradley’s victory.
March 17, 2006: Les leads Bradley to upset of Kansas
Most of these Kansas kids didn’t have much to do with the “Bucknell Bummer.” Now they have one to call their own.
Marcellus Sommerville scored 21 points and made five 3-pointers, and 13th-seeded Bradley handed the fourth-seeded Jayhawks their second consecutive first-round NCAA tournament exit with a 77-73 victory on March 17, 2006, in Auburn Hills, Mich.
“The last three to four weeks of the season, he has put us on his back, and our team rallies around him,” Bradley coach Jim Les said of Sommerville.
The Braves made 11 3-pointers to pick up their first NCAA Tournament victory in 20 years.
Unlike a year ago, when Wayne Simien missed a 15-footer at the buzzer to give 14th-seeded Bucknell an improbable victory, Kansas looked unprepared and overwhelmed from the start in this one.
The Braves (21-10) led by 14 with 15:38 to go, but let the Jayhawks back in the game with three consecutive turnovers with around the five minutes left. By the time the inexperienced Jayhawks finally got acclimated to the NCAA Tournament pressure and intensity, however, it was too late.
“This is a situation that we’ve never been in before, starting freshmen and sophomores, and we’re going to learn from it,” said coach Bill Self, who fell to 3-3 in the NCAA Tournament at Kansas. “We’ll get better.”
Mario Chalmers made a 3-pointer after one of the takeaways, a three-point play after the second and a runner in the lane after the final one that cut Bradley’s lead to 65-62 with 3:45 to play.
But the Jayhawks (25-8) committed three of their 18 turnovers down the stretch, and Jeff Hawkins missed an open 3-pointer in the corner that would have tied it with a minute to play.
“I’m mad,” said Chalmers, one of three freshmen starting for Kansas. “We should’ve been better prepared for this game. We were nervous and took a while to adjust.”
Will Franklin, who scored 14 points, hit two free throws and broke free for a wide open layup, and the Braves sealed the stunner at the free throw line for their first NCAA victory since a win over UTEP in 1986.
“There’s a lot of people smiling tonight,” Bradley coach Jim Les said.
Chalmers scored eight of his 15 points in the final five minutes for Kansas, which has lost in the first round in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
As the horn sounded, the thousands of red-clad Bradley faithful who made the trip from Peoria, Ill., chanted “B-U! B-U!” and “M-V-C! M-V-C!” in homage to the maligned Missouri Valley Conference.
The tournament selection committee was criticized for giving the mid-major conference four bids, the same as the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-10. But with Wichita State’s convincing win over Seton Hall a day earlier, the little guys went 2-2 in the first round.
“People always say the Big 12 is better, but I think we showed that the MVC can hang with the big boys,” said Bradley’s 7-foot center Patrick O’Bryant, who had eight points and 10 rebounds.
The victory punctuated a remarkable turnaround for Bradley, which started the conference season 2-4, but rallied with seven victories in its last eight games to earn its first NCAA bid since 1996.
“The locker room was pretty subdued and business as usual,” Les said. “We want to be proud, but there’s still work to be done.”