A year ago, Joe Mooney, a senior guard at the University of California-Davis, sat in the stands and watched as an older brother, Matt, authored a Cinderella story. At his third college after receiving only one Division I scholarship offer, Matt helped Texas Tech to the brink of its first national championship, losing to Virginia in overtime in the title game. Now, Matt is on a two-way contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I saw what it did for Matt — March made him,” Joe said of his brother. “That’s what it does for a players, what it does for coaches. There’s no better opportunity to make a name for yourself.”
Mooney said despite a 14-18 record and a fifth-place finish in the Big West, he believed U.C. Davis had a chance to win its way into the N.C.A.A. tournament. It would not have been his biggest long shot of the season — that came when Mooney sank a half-court shot at the buzzer to beat Loyola Marymount.
Instead, the Aggies learned as they laced up their shoes for a morning shootaround on Thursday that the N.C.A.A. tournament was being canceled. Mooney said he broke down when talking to the team.
“I love my team, I love my coaches, I love my staff,” Mooney said. “I was really excited about going out the right way, but I didn’t get to go down fighting.”
The Swarthmore College basketball team had far better odds of reaching Atlanta, the city that was hosting not only the Final Four, but also the Division II and Division III championships. The Garnet, which reached the Division III championship game last season, were the top-seeded team in this year’s tournament and had reached the round of 16.
Zac O’Dell, a senior captain, said it was a strange sensation when his teammates gathered Thursday night to commiserate and realized there was no basketball to watch. O’Dell, who will pursue a doctorate in chemistry, told his teammates he will remember the fun they had far more than the points he scored or the games they won.