Drake’s Turnaround To Today’s NCAA Tournament Game Is Truly Remarkable
Three years ago this month, the Drake Bulldogs hired a new coach but a return to the NCAA Tournament seemed like a pipe dream for the foreseeable future. The program was just hoping to have enough players to put five scholarship players on the court. Incredibly, 36 months later, Drake plays in the NCAA Tournament today for the first time in 13 years.
Between December of 2016 and March of 2018, Drake had four head basketball coaches. There had been an in-season resignation, a coach leaving for another school... That third month of 2018, the carousel ended with the hiring of Darian DeVries as head coach. A rocket-like, upward trajectory of success would follow.
When DeVries took over the program, the Des Moines Register reports he had three remaining scholarship players. There was just one returning starter. Needless to say, there was much to be done. DeVries got players to come to Des Moines, Iowa that huge-name programs like Ohio State, Maryland, and Oregon wanted as the amazingly-fast rebuild took shape.
In 2018-19, the first season under DeVries, Drake went 24-10 and DeVries was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year. Two years later, his Drake record stands at 69-28 and the Bulldogs are back in the NCAA Tournament. Wednesday night, the Des Moines Register reported Drake has signed DeVries to an 8-year extension.
March 21, 2008, was the last time Drake played in an NCAA Tournament game. It was a shootout between the Bulldogs and Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, with Drake falling short 101-99 in overtime. They ended the season at 28-5, the most wins in program history.
Today, the Bulldogs enter the tourney at 25-4, the third-most wins ever. Drake, seeded 11th, tips off against fellow #11 seed Wichita State (16-5) at 5:30 this afternoon on TBS. Win that one, and the 6th-seed University of Southern California-Los Angeles (USC) awaits the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Today marks Drake's 5th trip to the NCAA Tournament. They're 5-4 in tourney history with wins over Texas A&M, Colorado State, North Carolina, Houston, and Notre Dame. All five of those wins came between 1969-1971, with the 1969 team winning 26 games, and making the Final Four. Yes, it's been 50 years since their last NCAA Tournament win. Today could be a very special day in Bulldogs' history.