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March Madness cinderella stories: Cleveland State pulls off historic run as first 14 seed in Sweet 16

The Vikings came one point away from reaching the Elite Eight.

In just the second year of the NCAA Tournament featuring a 64-team field, 14th-seeded Cleveland State proved low seeds belong and Cinderellas exist.

The State Vikings reeled off a pair of upset in the 1986 Tournament to become the first No. 14 seed to reach the Sweet 16 and came just seconds away from reaching the Elite Eight.

Cleveland State opened the Tournament with an 83-79 victory over third-seeded Indiana. The Vikings then defeated No. 6 Saint Joseph’s 75-69. In the Sweet 16, they fell to seventh-seeded Navy 71-70.

In the opening round, Cleveland State defeated hall-of-fame coach Bob Knight and Indiana, who went on to win the national title the following year. The Vikings shot 59% from the field.

Clinton Ransey netted a game-high 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Eric Mudd powered Cleveland State inside with 16 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Clinton Smith was also in double figures with 12 points.

“The guys were terrific,” coach Kevin Mackey said in an interview with Sports 4 in 2021. “Right from the start we jumped on them, and they really struggled to get the ball in bounds. They struggled to get the ball up the court. The run and stun took its toll, and we knew they couldn’t mimic that in their practices.”

Two days later, Cleveland State topped Saint Joseph’s in their second-round matchup. It was a tied game at halftime before the Vikings outscored the Hawks by six over the final 20 minutes.

Mouse McFadden poured in 23 points to lead all scorers. Ransey followed with 17 points, and Smith had a monster game with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Against Navy in the Sweet 16, the Vikings nearly pulled off the comeback to edge the Midshipmen. Navy led by nine at halftime and held on for the one-point victory thanks to a last-second shot by future hall-of-famer David Robinson. Robinson narrowly missed a triple-double with 22 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks.

McFadden and Smith tied for the Cleveland State high with 16 apiece. Eric Mudd tallied a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards.

Cleveland State won the Mid-Continent Conference regular season and tournament championships. The Vikings went 13-1 in during conference play and defeated Eastern Illinois in the conference title game.

The Vikings were led by their potent offense. They ranked second in the nation with 88.9 points per game, behind the U.S. International Gulls (90.8).

Four players averaged in double figures. Smith led the way with 16.2 points. Ransey finished second with 14.5 points, and McFadden scored 13.7. Mudd rounded out the group with 12.2 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds.

Mackey was in his third season at the helm with the Vikings. They had won the Mid-Continent regular season title the season before. He remained with CSU for another four years before heading to the professional ranks.

Smith was drafted in the fifth round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. He played parts of two seasons in the NBA with the Warriors and the Washington Bullets.

So where are they now?

Smith has battled legal issues and has faced fraud charges and is said to have pushed an officer down as flight of stairs.

Ransey returned to CSU to complete his degree and graduated in 2018. He has worked as a fleet manager for a trucking company and works with some youth teams.