Sweet 16 Run
The 1998 NCAA Tournament marked Valpo’s third straight year in the Big Dance, and the 13th-seeded Crusaders were matched up against fourth-seeded Ole Miss in the first round. The game in Oklahoma City was a back-and-forth affair, with Valpo not backing down from the favored Rebels. But in the waning seconds, it looked like the Crusaders would come up just short, as Ole Miss went to the line to shoot two free throws while already up two points.
But the Rebels missed both free throws, giving the Crusaders one more shot with 2.5 seconds left, and Valpo answered by executing the play that would simply become known as “The Shot.” Jamie Sykes threw a long inbounds pass to Bill Jenkins, who leaped, caught and flipped the ball to Bryce Drew in one motion. Drew let fly a 3-pointer from the right wing that dropped through the basket as the buzzer sounded, giving Valpo a dramatic 70-69 upset victory over the Rebels.
But that wasn’t the culmination of the Crusaders’ tournament, as another tight game ensued against Florida State two days later in the second round. Five minutes of overtime were required after regulation ended at 75-75, but the Crusaders outscored the Seminoles 8-2 in the extra session to earn an 83-77 victory, advancing to the Sweet 16 and continuing their run as the darlings of the dance. While Valpo’s Cinderella run ended with a hard-fought loss to Rhode Island in the Sweet 16 in St. Louis, the Crusaders’ magical journey is to this day remembered as one of the great stories in NCAA Tournament history.