By Tyler Bradfield | @Bradfield323
Voice of Ball State Women’s Basketball for the Ball State Radio Network
Member of Ball State Sports Link
Thanksgiving Break. A time for college students to disconnect from campus and classes and spend time reconnecting with their family.
While watching other students sprint for their cars carrying baskets of laundry, I too packed my bags for the week. But I didn’t have baskets of dirty clothes nor a trip home planned. Crammed into my bags were radio charts, ties, and a headset along with a boarding pass in my hand.
My name is Tyler Bradfield. I am a senior Digital Sports Production major and a member of Ball State Sports Link. I’m also the voice of Ball State women’s basketball for the Ball State Radio Network. My Thanksgiving was going to be spent over a thousand miles from my family and where I call home.
Welcome to Boulder, Colorado. The home of the Univeristy of Colorado located on the outskirts of Denver and at the base of the Rocky Mountains. It is here, where Brady Sallee and his Ball State Cardinals were set to participate in the Omni Hotels Classic, a four team Thanksgiving tournament.
Wednesday morning we boarded our Southwest plane from Indianapolis destined for Denver.
Parading through the Denver airport all dressed in matching red Ball State Basketball, Nike pullovers from the terminal to baggage claim, we were met by a familiar face. Standing at the end of the terminal holding up a hand-made poster reading “Welcome to CO, Ball State” was Rachel Galligan. The anticipated surprise was followed by several hugs and smiles from everyone.
Rachel had just relocated from Muncie as a Ball State Assistant to Colorado to pursue other career options. She was joining the team for the week to work alongside me on the radio network and commentate the games
Wednesday night we checked into our hotel.Thursday morning came eventually from the two-hour time change. Thursday consisted of a practice at the University of Colorado’s Coors Event Center, a Thanksgiving meal, and a team trip to the movies to watch Creed. Hands down the best theater I had ever been to. We were all assigned our own red La-Z-Boy recliner. We filled two whole rows with everyone kicked back. I’m not sure how many saw the movie from start to finish because naps were easy to come by, and I admittedly wasn’t awake myself to count.
Friday and Saturday were full of basketball. Morning shoot around and evening games sandwiched around meals and dinners.
Friday, we saw glimpses of how good this team can be. Ball State matched with Florida out of the SEC, a conference currently responsible for six of the top fifteen ranked teams in the AP Top 25. Florida had already beaten No. 6 Florida State a few weeks prior as Florida is currently receiving votes in the Coaches Poll.
A physical, back-and-forth game led to eight lead changes and ten ties. Ball State received scoring off the bench from some unsuspecting candidates. Shelby Merder (11 points), Lucia Fernandez (11 points), and Franny Frazier (6 points) all scored season-highs off the bench.
With 3:22 left in the game, Ball State claimed their biggest lead of the night, 77-70. A Florida timeout stopped the bleeding. The statement win was within reach.
Two turnovers crippled Ball State out of the timeout leading to a 9-0 Florida run to take the lead and Ball State could never retaliate. Turnovers had hurt Ball State the entire game committing 22 as a team leading to 32 Florida points.
Ball State fell 85-79 as a disappointed team watched UMass and Colorado after to find out which team they would play in the consolation game in less than 24 hours.
I’m frequently asked what is it like traveling with a team as a broadcaster. I’ve yet to find a good answer despite having three years worth of stories and experience on the road. But this weekend was a great image.
You see them at their absolute high, up by seven on Florida with three minutes to go. Then in turn you see them at their lowest points too and sometimes just moments later after a few turnovers, and that can be challenging.
I have learned as much as I want Ball State to win, if I allow myself to be overly invested then the results of the games effect the quality of my work, and that should never be the case. I should prepare for a 0-22 team with as much effort as a 22-0 team. But that still doesn’t remove the investment.
It’s hard to explain that feeling of riding on a team bus to a game. There is a dead silence, but in the distance you can make out different songs being played loudly through headphones. There is almost a quiet energy that sweeps through the bus that is motivating yet eerie.
When you walk into an opposing arena it is hard to not root for the team you’re traveling with to games, sharing meals and laughs with at the dinner table. You develop connections, friendships, and you want to see them do well. But at the end of the day you’re just a broadcaster, and you’re there to simply just tell the story.
However, in an honest moment, I’m quick to say you’re not going to find a bigger Ball State women’s basketball fan than Tyler Bradfield. I’ll never be able to repay this program for the opportunities they have given me as a college student. As an aspiring broadcaster in college they have given me three years of play-by-play experience, the real world experience of traveling with a team, and not to mention my first actual job. So yeah, I’m invested. I want them to do well as much as I try to mask that because of all they have done for me.
After the loss to Florida, I crossed paths with a Florida assistant in the hotel lobby. He saw my Ball State jacket and sparked a conversation.
“You guys have a really good team especially for a mid major. That was a war out there.” I nodded as he continued, “I used to coach at the mid-major level and very few mid-majors have that type of talent.”
He went on, “We scouted the Fontaine, Morrison, and Monaco kid really hard. Most mid-majors have one, maybe two their caliber. You have three, let alone a center with BCS size, and a great freshmen ball handler. When you guys get into the conference tournament late in the year it is going to be nearly impossible to scout you guys. Had the games been reversed and we had a 24 hour window to prepare I’m not sure we would have been able to win.”
In small talk fashion we went back and forth together as we walked to the elevators and rode up to our respective floors. That was a neat conversation though. I thought a lot about that conversation over the weekend.
Ball State regrouped to defeat UMass in the consolation game to finish third in the tournament. Nathalie Fontaine and Jill Morrison led the team with 20 points apiece. Moriah Monaco also got back on track scoring in double figures again. Fontaine would be named to the All-Tournament Team and Morrison would go on to be named the MAC West Player of the Week.
Florida would beat Colorado in the Championship game, 81-63. Which stings.
So what did we learn from the weekend about Ball State?
Well, out of a four-team tournament with schools from the SEC, PAC-12, A10, and the MAC, Ball State may have just been the best team there. They may have walked away with the title had they not given up the seven point lead with three minutes to go on Florida. But in sports it isn’t about what if’s, however it is encouraging. There isn’t going to be an opponent on their schedule, they aren’t capable of beating. Their strongest opponent will be Ball State.
Ball State wanted to improve its depth over the offseason and through the first couple of games the bench had struggled to score. That was not the case this weekend. The bench scored 32 points against Florida and 17 verse UMass. Three bench players scored season highs. The work in progress started to see some tangible results.
Also, it further proved how important rebounding is for this team. Ball State is currently 3-2. The common thread in their wins is they have won the rebounding margin in all three. In their two losses they have either tied or lost the battle on the boards. Last season they were out rebounded 21 times. When they won the rebounding margin they were 8-2. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Win the rebounding margin. Win the game.
This week Ball State continues non-conference with Ohio Valley and Butler. The Butler game will also be a barometer of progress. Last year Ball State went to Butler and struggled internally. It is also an in-state team that with their new coaching staff battles with Ball State for recruits. I expect a good crowd on Sunday. Two good local teams with local talent, a Sunday afternoon game, both teams off to a fairly good start, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be well attended.
Before flying home Sunday we stopped at the Red Rock Amphitheater for some sightseeing in the Rocky Mountains. I had never seen that part of the country before. Gorgeous.
Ultimately it was a good Thanksgiving Break. Sure I missed out on a family trip to Iowa to see my extended family, but welcome to the sports media industry.
So as I sat around a Thanksgiving meal with the team, it seemed appropriate to consider the things I have, to be thankful for. Well, first and foremost I’m thankful for the many people that have made trips and experiences like these possible through Ball State Athletics and Ball State Sports Link. I’m thankful for the people on this trip who trust me, and also for the many laughs and memories they have supplied over the years. I’m also thankful to have this position while still in college.
One of my biggest influences and mentors is 2013 Sports Link alum, Pat Boylan, who now is the Indiana Pacers sideline reporter. He sent me a text that helped place things into perspective. It said, “You’re living a college seniors play-by-play dream and you’re seeing some awesome places.” That alone is reasons to be thankful.
My goal when I graduated was to get a play-by-play job doing women’s basketball at a small school to start out. I’m able to that job while still in school because of Ball State Sports Link and Ball State Athletics.
So although I didn’t get the chance to spend time with my family over break like the students I watched sprint home on Tuesday holding laundry baskets I’m still tremendously thankful. I’m thankful to be a student of Ball State Sports Link and the radio broadcaster for the women’s basketball team because of opportunities like these.