Anger. Sadness. Frustration.
Pick an emotion and run with it for the Valparaiso men's basketball team. The Crusaders watched Sunday evening as multiple teams they beat popped up on the brackets while Valparaiso was ultimately left out of the NCAA tournament.
The players and coaching staff gathered for an intimate team gathering complete with Nike shirts that read "Valpo vs. All" and a Qdoba buffet. Once a complete leaked bracket hit the internet, the players didn't even stick around to watch Charles Barkley make his picks, instead choosing to take in some NBA 2K until the NIT Selection Show.
"As the week went on you could see our name climbing down the list," Valparaiso junior Alec Peters said. "Wanted to remain optimistic."
The difficulty for Peters was seeing Oregon State come up as a No. 7 seed and seeing Oregon as a No. 1 seed. Valparaiso knocked off the Beavers on the road while falling to the Ducks two nights earlier in a six-point defeat.
"It's tough (to see teams we've played in the bracket), Peters said. "Put us in the Pac-12 and see where we would've finished."
Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew also struggled with seeing some of the at-large programs that made the Big Dance. The Crusaders were one of four mid-major programs that were on the bubble along with Wichita State, St. Mary's and Monmouth. The Shockers were the only team out of the group to make the field and they'll be playing Vanderbilt on Tuesday night in Dayton. That Vanderbilt, at 19-13 and coming off a first round SEC tournament loss to Tennessee, made the field was one of the shockers of the night.
"It's a sad day for mid-majors," Drew said. "Since the conferences expanded the bids aren't going to mid-majors. It's sad for us."
Drew could only shake his head as he saw team after team scroll across the screen that wouldn't return Valpo's calls for a game last summer. When teams such as Oregon and Oregon State came up, it was equally as painful.
"We just can't get games against Top 50 teams," Drew said. "(Oregon State) is a team we beat on the road. Oregon we were within one possession late. I'm proud of our guys. It's not equal opportunity."
"If you look at our numbers compared to other teams, especially those that got in, if you didn't know the names, you might look at the numbers differently," Drew added.
While the players came to grips with not getting back to the NCAA tournament it was Vashil Fernandez that offered perhaps the best outlook on the situation.
"We're excited for whoever and wherever we get to play," Fernandez said. "Some people don't have the opportunity to play in the postseason. We're looking for the first postseason win in my time here."
The NIT Selection Show begins at 7:30 on ESPNU. The Crusaders are expected to be a top seed in the tournament and should host a game at the Athletics-Recreation Center this week.