CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For an expended stretch on Friday afternoon, No. 15-seed Belmont looked like it was going to play the role of Cinderella in upsetting No. 2-seed Virginia. The upset bid had all the traditional characteristics — an underdog that refused to go away and was knocking down improbable shots, and one player getting hot in the second half.
In this case, that player was Belmont junior guard Craig Bradshaw. He was already the Bruins’ best player, but he poured in 15 of his 25 points in the second half and hit all three of his team’s second-half 3-pointers. With 5:17 to go, Bradshaw got open for an outside shot from right side that banked softly off the glass and in, cutting Virginia’s lead to just three points (it had been as many as 14).
"I called it!" he yelled twice to Grant Hill and the rest of the CBS crew sitting courtside as he ran back down court, pointing to himself with a grin on his face.
Bradshaw would hit yet another 3-pointer with 4:37 to go, this one cutting Virginia’s lead to just two points. But there was no backboard involved.
However, Belmont fell just short, ultimately losing 79-67 in a game that was a bit closer than that final would indicate (the Bruins were within six with 2:35 to go).
So the real controversy becomes, of course, did Bradshaw actually call bank? His head coach Rick Byrd thinks so, and said so unsolicited after the game: "That bank shot, honestly, he does it all the time. I’m not going to make him say for sure, but I’m about 90 percent sure he meant to bank that — truthfully."
Bradshaw confirmed: "I did call bank. I do it a lot in practice, kind of joking around. But tonight, that felt like that was the better choice than just swishing it."
And yet, no footage exists of Bradshaw calling bank, only insisting to Hill and company that he called it. Either way, Bradshaw was having fun talking to anyone who would listen throughout the game — himself, Hill and the CBS crew, even Virginia players.
"When the crowd gets going, I get going. So it kind of helps me to stay engaged like that," Bradshaw said. "I was kind of back and forth with Grant Hill of a little bit, just kind of messing around. I don’t know. Just basketball players being basketball players."