March Madness is about to begin. Whether you fill out your brackets based on ample research, speculative hunches, or favorite mascots, you should be aware of Lebanon County’s, more specifically Lebanon Valley College’s, historic connection to The Tournament.
To find it, you have to go way back to the 1952-53 NCAA Men’s Basketball season.
1953’s NCAA Tournament saw the field expand from 16 teams to 22. This expansion allowed an independent, non-major Lebanon Valley College squad with a 19-3 record to take part in the Big Dance.
Back then, LVC was coached by the legendary George “Rinso” Marquette. He lead his “Seven Dwarfs” (a nickname bestowed upon the team seeing as no player exceed 6′ 1”) into a tournament field of mostly larger schools, some of which, like Kansas, Indiana, and DePaul, are still home to top-level basketball programs to this day.
The Dutchmen were placed in the tournament’s East Region the first round of which took place at The Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Their first round opponents were the Fordham University Rams.
The game would be knotted at 32 after the first half, but the Dutchmen would put up 48 points in the second, thanks in large part to Louis Sorrentino’s 30-point performance.
For round two, the team would be forced to leave the friendly confines of the Keystone State and make their way south to North Carolina. LVC found themselves up against the LSU Tigers at Raleigh’s Reynolds Coliseum.
The Tigers would be too much to handle for the Dutchmen, who would lose 89-76. However, this would not be the end of LVC’s journey, as in those days, third-place games were played during the regional rounds.
The Dutchmen would take to the court one last time against Wake Forest.
Sadly, the Demon Deacons would defeat LVC by a score of 91-71, cementing the Dutchmen’s regional 4th place finish.
Indiana would eventually defeat Kansas to win the 1953 NCAA Championship.
Now, 66 years later, that team’s Cinderella run to the NCAA Tournament is looked back on fondly. Members of the team would reunite over the years for special events and ceremonies.
To this day, LVC is still the smallest school to have made it that far into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. With only 450 students at the time, it seems as though it’s a record that will not be broken any time soon.
For more information on the 1952-53 Lebanon Valley College Men’s Basketball team, check out the book “Cinderella And The Seven Dwarfs,” written by LVC professor of English emeritus Dr. Art Ford.