Holy Cross Crusaders men's basketball

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Holy Cross Crusaders
2016–17 Holy Cross Crusaders men's basketball team
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University College of the Holy Cross
Conference Patriot League
Location Worcester, MA
Head coach Bill Carmody[1] (2nd year)
Arena Hart Center
(Capacity: 3,600)
Nickname Crusaders
Colors Royal Purple[2]
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Home jersey
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Team colours
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Away jersey
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Team colours
NCAA Tournament champions
NCAA Tournament Final Four
1947, 1948
NCAA Tournament Elite Eight
1947, 1948, 1950, 1953
NCAA Tournament appearances
1947, 1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1977, 1980, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2016
Conference tournament champions
ECC: 1977, 1980
Patriot League: 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2016
Conference regular season champions
1994, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007

The Holy Cross Crusaders men's basketball team represents the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, in NCAA Division I competition. The team competes in the Patriot League and plays their home games in the Hart Center.[3] The program boasts such notable alumni as Boston Celtics legends Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn, and longtime Providence College basketball coach Joe Mullaney.


Beginnings and national prominence[edit]

Basketball first appeared at Holy Cross in 1900 but was discontinued several times until its reinstatement in 1939. In 1947, the Crusaders, behind coach and Bucknell University graduate Doggie Julian, NCAA tournament MVP George Kaftan, star Joe Mullaney and freshman point guard Bob Cousy, beat Oklahoma at Madison Square Garden to win the NCAA championship.[4] The team entered the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament as the last seed in the 8-team tournament. Along with UConn, Holy Cross is one of the two New England colleges to ever win the NCAA tournament.

In the first match, Holy Cross defeated the Navy 55 to 47, in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden. Mullaney led the team in scoring with 18 points, mostly in part to Navy coach Ben Carnevale's decision to have his players back off from Mullaney, who was reputed as being more of a playmaker than a shooter.[5]

In the semi-final match, Holy Cross faced the City College of New York, coached by Nat Holman. The Crusaders, led by Kaftan's 30-point game, defeated the Beavers 60 to 45.[6]

In the championship game, Holy Cross faced a Bruce Drake coached University of Oklahoma team in another sold-out game at Madison Square Garden. Kaftan followed up his semi-final game performance with 18 points in the title game, leading the Crusaders to a 58–47 victory against the Sooners.[6] Holy Cross finished the 1947 championship season with 23 straight wins and became the first college from the New England area to win a national college basketball title. 35,000 people watched a parade in the team's honor on Holy Cross Day in Worcester. Future NBA legend Cousy was named AP and UP player of the year. In 1989, the NCAA voted teammate George Kaftan to the all-decade team of the 1940s.

The Crusaders followed up their championship by advancing to the 1948 NCAA Tournament's Final Four. After advancing to the Elite Eight in 1953, the Crusaders would wait 63 years before claiming another win in the NCAA Tournament.

In 1954, Holy Cross won the NIT Tournament behind another future NBA Hall-of-famer and Celtics legend Tom Heinsohn. This is widely recognized as the College's second national title in basketball due to the prestige of the NIT at the time.

In 1977, Holy Cross defeated a good Providence team twice on last-second shots by forward Chris Potter and led top-ranked Michigan at the half in the first round of the NCAA tournament before being defeated.[7]

The following year, 1978, Sports Illustrated ranked Holy Cross and freshman of the year Ronnie Perry ninth in its pre-season poll.

Following the team's championship years of the 40s and 50s, the Crusaders have been ranked only occasionally by the Associated Press. After appearing in 65 of 116 total weekly polls (56%) in the 1950s, the Crusaders appeared in only 5 of 126 weekly polls (4%) in the 1960s and 9 of 148 (6%) in the 1970s.[8] The Crusaders have not been nationally ranked since January 1978.[9]

Patriot League[edit]

Holy Cross could have joined the newly founded Big East Conference in 1980, but college President Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., vetoed the move for academic reasons. Holy Cross stayed independent until joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) to start the 1983–84 season. It moved to the Patriot League in 1991.

In recent decades, the men's basketball team has been the leading varsity program of the Holy Cross' athletic department. The men's basketball team has won six Patriot League titles (1993, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2016) since the league's formation in 1991.

In 2016, the Crusaders, led by stars Malachi Alexander, Anthony Thompson, and Robert Champion, made a miraculous run in the postseason. The team entered the Patriot League Tournament as a #9 seed and knocked off #8 Loyola Maryland, #1 Bucknell, #4 Army, and finally, #2 Lehigh in the championship game to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. The Crusaders then defeated Southern University marking the first NCAA win for the program since 1953.

Ralph Willard Era[edit]

During Ralph Willard's tenure as coach, the Holy Cross men's team came close to 3 major upsets in the NCAA tournament. In 2001 as a 15 seed, the Crusaders lost 72–68 to a 2nd seeded Kentucky team who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In 2002, the 16th seeded Crusaders nearly became the first 16 seed to defeat a 1 seed, losing 70–59 to a top-seeded Kansas squad who advanced to the Final Four. The Crusaders led 37–35 at halftime, 44–39 with 11 minutes remaining and trailed by three points with fewer than two minutes remaining. In 2003 as a 14th seed, the Crusaders lost 72–68 to 3rd seeded, Dwyane Wade-led Marquette. Marquette advanced to the Final Four.


NCAA tournament results[edit]

The Crusaders have appeared in the NCAA Tournament 13 times. Their combined record is 8–13. They were National Champions in 1947.

Year Seed Round Opponent Results
1947 Elite Eight
Final Four
National Championship Game
W 55–47
W 60–45
W 58–47
1948 Elite Eight
Final Four
National 3rd Place Game
Kansas State
W 63–45
L 52–60
W 60–54
1950 Elite Eight
Regional 3rd Place Game
NC State
Ohio State
L 74–87
L 52–72
1953 Round of 22
Sweet Sixteen
Elite Eight
Wake Forest
W 87–74
W 79–71
L 73–81
1956 Round of 25 Temple L 72–74
1977 Round of 32 Michigan L 81–86
1980 #11 Round of 48 #6 Iona L 78–84
1993 #13 Round of 64 #4 Arkansas L 64–94
2001 #15 Round of 64 #2 Kentucky L 68–72
2002 #16 Round of 64 #1 Kansas L 59–70
2003 #14 Round of 64 #3 Marquette L 68–72
2007 #13 Round of 64 #4 Southern Illinois L 51–61
2016 #16 First Four
Round of 64
#16 Southern
#1 Oregon
W 59-55
L 52–91

Men's NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player[edit]

NIT results[edit]

The Crusaders have appeared in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) 12 times. Their combined record is 11–11. They were NIT Champions in 1954.

Year Round Opponent Result
1952 First Round
W 77–72
L 68–78
1954 Quarterfinals
Championship Game
St. Francis (NY)
W 93–69
W 75–69
W 71–62
1955 Quarterfinals Saint Francis (PA) L 64–68
1960 First Round St. Bonaventure L 81–94
1961 First Round
3rd Place Game
Detroit Mercy
Memphis State
W 86–82
W 81–69
L 83–90
W 85–67
1962 First Round
Colorado State
St. John's
W 72–71
L 74–80
1975 First Round Princeton L 63–84
1976 First Round
Saint Peter's
NC State
W 84–78
L 68–78
1979 First Round Dayton L 81–105
1981 First Round
Southern Miss
W 56–54
L 57–77
1990 First Round Rutgers L 78–87
2005 First Round
Notre Dame
Saint Joseph's
W 78–73
L 60–68

CIT results[edit]

The Crusaders have appeared in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) one time. Their record is 1–1.

Year Round Opponent Result
2014 First Round
Second Round
W 68–65
L 66–71

Notable Crusaders[edit]

Former players and coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame[edit]

Crusaders in the NBA[edit]

Former Players
Former Coaches



See also[edit]


External links[edit]