Former MT College Coaches to Face Off in Elite 8 Tonight
Here's a bad news, good news sports story for you.
Bad news is that no Montana college teams made the NCAA March Madness Tournament this year, but the good news is Montana sports fans have plenty to root for - especially tonight.
Former Griz men's basketball head coach Wayne Tinkle, who left the Griz for Oregon State following the 2013-14 season, defeated #8 Loyola Chicago on Saturday 65-58 to advance to the Elite Eight against Houston and former Montana Tech coach Kelvin Sampson for a chance to make the vaunted Final Four matchup. The Houston Cougars beat Syracuse 62-46 to move onto the Elite Eight.
The Oregon State Beavers were underdogs in that matchup and were a surprise entry into the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, given their dead-last ranking in the PAC-12 Conference.
Legendary Montana Tech Kelvin Sampson, who revived the Orediggers' program in the early-mid 1980s after a disappointing run, will lead his #2 Houston Cougars against Tinkle and the Beavers tonight in a primetime matchup on CBS.
You can watch live on TV or the NCAA March Madness website/app at 5:15 Mountain Standard Time tonight.
As our friend at sister station 95.5 Newstalk KBUL-AM in Billings pointed out this morning, the only other remaining hopes for Montana sports fans to cheer for someone in the tournament with local roots were dashed when Billings SkyView's RayQuan Evans' Florida State Seminoles lost to Michigan 76-58.
Fun facts about each coach:
Tinkle actually played center for the Grizzlies from 1984-1989 and had a 12-year professional career before returning to coach his former team in 2001 as an assistant, finally landing the top job in June 2006.
Sampson, who is a North Carolina native, was inducted into the Montana Tech Hall of Fame in 1996 and Kelvin Sampson Court in Butte's HPER Complex is named in his honor.
While it's a shame they won't face one another in the Final Four or the title game, it'll be fun to see these legendary Montana college coaches compete tonight. At least one is guaranteed to advance.