The story of the 2012-2013 Saint Mary Spires Men's Basketball Team isn't just about wins and losses.
It's about accomplishing big things. About building excitement. About coming together as a team and developing into something greater than just the sum of its parts.
To be sure, this was a team that won. Twenty-two victories. A Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conferece (KCAC) regular season title. Conference coach and player of the year honors.
But what's more, this is a squad that made school history, becoming the first Saint Mary hoops team to advance to back-to-back NAIA Division II National Championship Tournaments.
The Men's Basketball Team before practice on the day of their NAIA Tournament game.
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The Spires' road to the NAIA DII Tournament started with a lot of great expectations last fall, with USM earning a pre-season ranking of No. 12 nationally. The team was also a unanimous pick to win the KCAC.
At the root of USM's high hopes: a strong close to the 2011-2012 campaign that saw the Spires finish second in the conference and earn the team's first berth in the NAIA tourney in a decade. What's more, Head Coach Jon Bishop said, the roster featured a number of key returning players, including five seniors who had played important roles on the previous squad.
"Looking back, we said this in the locker room after getting beaten in the national tournament last year," Coach Bishop said. "We had so many returners coming back -- we returned eight of our top 10… So for the first time in the five years that I've been here, our expectations were, with everyone we had coming back, that we finally had the program to meet those high expectations. And our goals were one of two things: To win a conference championship and to get back to the national tournament..."
As it turned out, USM's 2012-2013 Men's Basketball Team would hit both targets, and make history to boot.