BY DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
The incredible NCAA Tournament ledger of the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters is among the elite in NCAA Division I basketball history, men or women.
But in a modern culture where many only consider “what have you done for me lately,” despite the Techsters’ 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, 13 Final Fours, four national runner-up finishes and three national championships (including the 1981 AIAW crown), it’s not Tech’s women who landed on a Big Dance bracket most recently among the men’s and women’s programs representing the four north Louisiana Division I institutions.
That would be the 2018 Grambling Lady Tigers, in their only trip this century.
Among the men’s programs in the 318 area code, the last NCAA participant was Mike McConathy’s 2013 Northwestern State Demons, who had three Shreveport-Bossier products – the Huntington duo of Shamir Davis and “Big Game” James Hulbin, and Bossier’s Jalan West – among their top five scorers. It was the first of three straight seasons NSU had a team in March Madness. In 2014 and 2015, the Lady Demons were surprise winners of the Southland Conference Tournament to earn their way into NCAA postseason play.
A look at the area’s college teams is painfully scarce of recent NCAA appearances. As the men and women prepare to finish the 2021-22 college hoops season, and they stage their respective Final Fours, here’s a review of the major college NCAA postseason resumes of Tech, NSU, Grambling and ULM.
The Lady Techsters’ last NCAA Tournament berth came in 2011. Among those 13 Final Four appearances (the last in 1999), the powerhouse Techster squads won it all in 1981, 1982 and 1988. The last of their four national runner-up finishes came in 1998.
Despite plenty of regular-season success, the Bulldogs haven’t landed in the NCAA field in 31 years. That 1991 appearance was the fifth in eight years, with Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone the cornerstone for three of them. In 1985, the Mailman led Tech to the Sweet 16, and only a last-second basket by Oklahoma’s Waymon Tisdale denied the ‘Dogs an Elite Eight berth. Three times, Tech made the Round of 32.
The other area team to make the Round of 32 was McConathy’s 2006 “Demons of Destiny,” whose 26 wins included the comeback upset of No. 15 Iowa in a first-round 14/3 matchup. The NSU men won the tournament’s first-ever Opening Round game in 2001 and last danced nine years ago.
The Lady Demons own four NCAA berths (1989 as an at-large entry, 2004, and 2014-15). Despite some name-brand wins over programs like Duke, Iowa, Louisville and Notre Dame, the NSU women are 0-4 in NCAA play, notably battling top-seeded Tennessee to the final five minutes in 2014.
A quarter-century ago, the Warhawks were Southland Conference stalwarts, making seven appearances in the NCAA men’s bracket from 1982-96. But there’s been no Big Dance since, and no NCAA wins ever to the credit of the ULM men.
The drought is even longer for the ULM women, whose four NCAA Tournament appearances came from 1983-87 when coach Linda Harper’s teams went toe-to-toe with the Lady Techsters, actually denying them a Final Four berth with a regional final upset in 1985. ULM made the Sweet 16 in 1984 as well, but the program quickly deteriorated due to NCAA rules violations.
There are no NCAA Tournament trips by the G-Men. They won the 2018 Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season crown but faltered in the conference tourney. The Tigers followed Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed to the 1961 NAIA national championship.
The Lady Tigers have danced six times, the last trip coming four years ago, but they’re also winless in NCAA play.
Photo by GARY HARDAMON, Northwestern State