IUPUI to its first-ever berth in the NCAA basketball tournament, 27-year-old Navy veteran Matt Crenshaw. With one second left in the Mid-Continent conference title game against Valparaiso on March 11, Crenshaw, a junior point guard, hit a 12-foot jumper to give the Jaguars a 66-64 upset win and a first-round date with Kentucky on Friday.
Four years ago the Big Dance seemed an unlikely destination for either the low-profile commuter school (a venture of Indiana University and Purdue University in Indianapolis) or Crenshaw, the oldest player on a Division I hoops team. IUPUI had gone 11-16 in its first Division I season, and Crenshaw was coming off a six-year hitch in the Navy, where he rose to the rank of boatswain's mate. His coaches on a Navy basketball team (he twice made the All-Armed Forces' team) called several schools on his behalf, and IUPUI was the first to offer a scholarship. Crenshaw—who had joined the Navy directly out of Virginia's Western Albemarle High after receiving scant attention from college coaches-seized the opportunity. " IUPUI took a chance on me when others weren't willing," says Crenshaw, who's on pace to graduate with a degree in criminal justice.
The gamble on the old guy paid off. With a combination of hustle and composure he attributes to his military training, Crenshaw had a team-high 138 assists this year. He also gives teammates a perspective on the situation in the Middle East. "Matt's our Colin Powell," says junior guard Odell Bradley." This ain't no Power Rangers,' he'll say. He lets us know how serious it all is."
The Jaguars, a 16th seed in the Midwest region, face a top seed in the Wildcats, but Crenshaw has downplayed that daunting task. Speaking of a Marine buddy stationed in the Persian Gulf, he says, "My friend in Kuwait, he's nervous. We're just playing basketball."