Ben McCollum v Emporia March 3, 2021

Northwest men's basketball coach Ben McCollum, front, directs his players in the second half of the Bearcats' 100-61 win over Emporia State March 3 in the first round of the MIAA Tournament. Pictured in the background is Emporia State coach Craig Doty, who took issue throughout the night with the game's officiating. 

Seven hours and 22 minutes before his team was blown out by Northwest men’s basketball and promptly booted from the MIAA Tournament, Emporia State coach Craig Doty made what should now, with the benefit of hindsight, go down as a mistake. 

Doty, the enthusiastic third-year coach of one of the conference’s most average teams, tweeted an apparent hype video, in which an unseen narrator described the Bearcats as “the best in the nation,” before switching course.

“In all honesty,” the narrator said, “I’ve got my money on the Hornets from Emporia State.” 

The video, which had garnered more than 1,400 views at the time of this writing, noted the meaninglessness of Northwest’s accolades — which include a near-sweep of the MIAA Of The Year awards for coach Ben McCollum and junior guards Trevor Hudgins, the player of the year, and Diego Bernard, the defensive player of the year. It described the Hornets as “starving,” “hungry” and “here to eat.” It proclaimed Emporia’s humble origins — a team that has “come from nothing."

“And that’s fine,” the narrator said. “Because the most dangerous man is the one who has nothing to lose.” 

In that sense, the narrator was spot on. The Bearcats could have lost to Emporia and still made a trip to the NCAA’s Central Region Tournament later this month. The game, for Northwest, was largely inconsequential. 

In reality, the Hornets were the only team on the court with something to lose. Their bid to upset Northwest. Their chance at an MIAA Tournament Championship. Their long, hard-fought season. Nearly eight hours after Doty posted the video to his Twitter account, the Hornets had lost it all. 

“It was a really well made video,” McCollum said after the game, insisting it had no impact on the outcome. The head coach had watched it, though. And his starting point guard, who captured his second consecutive MIAA Player of the Year Award this week, had watched it too. And, hours later, Hudgins and company efficiently and forcefully ushered the Hornets out of Bearcat Arena and out of the MIAA Tournament with an embarrassing 39-point loss to show for it. 

In their three-hour bus ride back to Emporia, the Hornets will carry that loss. And with it, they ought to carry a lesson, too — one a seasoned coach like Doty should have learned by now: do not poke the Bearcats.

“We had motivation regardless,” McCollum said in the aftermath of one of his team’s most dominating performances of the season. “For me, if you need something like that to get you going, then you are probably in the wrong sport and profession.” 

The Bearcats very likely would have won the game if Doty, who has never coached the Hornets to a win over Northwest, hadn’t tweeted the video. And that’s what makes the video itself so nonsensical.  There is no reason for a heavy underdog — the runt of the MIAA’s Conference Tournament litter — to rattle the cage of the biggest dog in the fight. 

And while the Bearcats won’t openly admit it — Hudgins, when asked more than once about the tweet, repeated the phrase, “It was a really good video” — the short film served more as a taunting of the No. 1 team in the country than it did as an inspiration for the No. 8 seed in the conference. It undoubtedly motivated the wrong team. 

“Generally, in a postseason game, it’s a fight,” McCollum said, before he was ever asked about the video. “And I thought that we wanted the fight. And we initiated it, and we swung first, as they say.” 

Doty’s Twitter feed suggested the Hornets were ready for a fight. But for two halves of basketball in Bearcat Arena, they never swung back. 

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