By Kyle Dierking, NewsOn6.com
TULSA, OK -- It was a pep rally full of promise and prediction. Sporting shades, Tulsa basketball coach Tubby Smith coolly claimed this:
"We are going to Oklahoma City to represent the University of Tulsa the best way we can by bringing home a win."
The proclamation wasn't proportional to TU's NCAA Tournament success. Tulsa's bus pulled away to the 1994 tourney with plenty of pride and no pedigree. Zero previous tournament wins and a team that had been on the big dance bubble.
"We weren't sure at all," said former TU basketball player Shea Seals, who was a freshman on the 1993-94 team. "We were one of the last teams to get in with an at-large bid. Once we got there, we had to prove ourselves."
Waiting in Oklahoma City was a program who had hung bunches of championship banners. Fifth-seeded UCLA - confident and cocksure - provided the team with a bunch of bulletin board material.
"They said they didn't know where Tulsa was, they didn't know anything about the school or the area," Seals said. "So we kind of used that to fuel the fire."
That's when the Golden Hurricane stepped up and got groomed for the glass slipper.
"It's on a nation-wide stage," Seals said. "Everyone across the country sees you."
And everyone that March day saw the Bruin beating. The Hurricane led by as many as 29 points in the first half and ended up winning by 10. The geography lesson Tulsa gave UCLA put the program on the map.
"I think that was the beginning of it," Seals said. "It was kind of like a stepping stone to make us feel like, ‘hey we can play with anybody.' That was our mentality from then on."
The Hurricane defeated Oklahoma State before losing to eventual National Champion Arkansas in the Sweet 16. Little did then-freshman Shea Seals know that he would be a part of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including another Sweet 16 in 1995.
"A lot of people said I made the mistake of going to Tulsa and not Seton Hall," said Seals, who is now the head basketball coach at Booker T. Washington High School. "It was the solidification of me feeling real good about my decision to stay home."
And to think it all began with a tall task that resulted in NCAA Tournament triumph.
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