The Bradley Braves men's basketball team represents Bradley University, located in Peoria, Illinois, in NCAA Division I basketball competition. They compete as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Braves are currently coached by Brian Wardle and play their home games at Carver Arena.
Bradley has appeared in nine NCAA Tournaments, including two Final Fours, finishing as the national runner-up in 1950 and 1954. They last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2019, and last reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2006. The Braves have also appeared in the National Invitation Tournament 21 times with an all-time NIT record of 26–18 and have won four NIT championships (1957, 1960, 1964, and 1982), second only to St. John's in appearances (30) and titles (5). Until the introduction of the Vegas 16 Tournament in 2016, the program held the distinction of being invited to the initial offering of every national postseason tournament.
|Head coach||Brian Wardle (4th season)|
|Arena||Carver Arena |
|Colors||Red and White|
|NCAA Tournament Runner-up|
|NCAA Tournament Final Four|
|NCAA Tournament Elite Eight|
|1950, 1954, 1955|
|NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen|
|1950, 1954, 1955, 2006|
|NCAA Tournament Round of 32|
|1950, 1954, 1955, 1986, 2006|
|NCAA Tournament Appearances|
|1950, 1954, 1955, 1980, 1986, 1988, 1996, 2006, 2019|
|Conference Tournament Champions|
|1980, 1988, 2019|
|Conference Regular Season Champions|
|1950, 1962, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1996|
The Braves began playing basketball in 1902, starting out as independent.
Alfred J. Robertson was named coach of the Braves football and basketball teams in 1920. Robertson coached both teams until 1948. He is Bradley's all-time winningest coach with 316 wins over 26 seasons. Robertson died in 1948.
In 1950, the Braves went 32–5 and won the MVC, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Braves advanced to the National Championship game against CCNY, which accomplished perhaps the greatest feat in basketball history, winning the National Invitation and the NCAA tournaments in the same season.
However, in 1951, a point-shaving scandal rocked CCNY specifically, New York, and college basketball as a whole. The scandal affected Bradley as Bradley players Gene Melchiorre, Bill Mann, Bud Grover, Aaron Preece, and Jim Kelly admitted to taking bribes from gamblers to hold down scores against St. Joseph's in Philadelphia in 1951 and against Oregon State in Chicago. Melchiorre, Mann, and George Chianakos pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, but avoided jail time. The others were not charged.
In 1952, the Braves went 32–6 and lost in the final of the National Campus Basketball Tournament, which was held in response to the point-shaving scandals centered around New York. After the season, the Braves left the Missouri Valley Conference and became independent again.
Anderson was hired away from Peoria to coach Michigan State after the season.
Bob Vanatta coached the Braves for two seasons after Anderson departed. They returned to the MVC in 1955.
Chuck Orsborn, a Bradley alum and basketball player in the 1930s, took over in 1956 after being an assistant from 1947 to 1956. In 1957, his first year as head coach, the Braves won the NIT championship over Memphis State, the school's first NIT title. The school returned to the NIT in 1958 and to the NIT championship game in 1959, losing to St. John's. In 1960, the Braves won their second NIT championship, defeating Providence in the title game.
The Braves won a share of their first MVC crown in 1962, but lost in the NIT's first round. A return to the NIT in 1964 resulted in the Braves' third NIT championship in eight years. After another trip to the NIT in 1965, Orsborn took the position of Bradley's director of athletics and served in that function until 1978.
From 1956 to 1965, he compiled a record of 194–56 (.774). During this nine-year span as head coach, the Braves also earned six Associated Press top 20 finishes, Orsborn was named MVC coach of the year in 1960 and 1962. Orsborn also has the distinction of recording his first 100 victories in 120 games, which is sixth on the all-time list for college coaches.
The Braves again turned to a Bradley alum as Joe Stowell, who was an assistant coach under Orsborn, became Bradley's ninth head coach in 1965. In his 13 years as head coach, the Braves made only two postseason appearances: the 1968 NIT and the 1974 National Commissioners Invitational Tournament. He was fired as head coach in 1978. Stowell finished with 197 wins, the second most in Brave history.
Bradley turned to another alum, Jim Les, to take over for Molinari. Les was a senior on the 1986 Braves squad that went 32–3 before losing in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. However, the Braves failed to finish above .500 in Les's first three years as head coach.
In 2006, the Braves, led by sophomore center Patrick O'Bryant, won their final five games of the season to finish in a tie for fifth place in MVC play. The Braves surprised in the MVC Tournament, reaching the championship game before losing to Southern Illinois. The Braves received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 13 seed, their first trip to the Tournament since 1996. In the Tournament, the Braves upset No. 4-ranked Kansas in the First Round and upset No. 5-ranked Pittsburgh to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1955. In the Sweet Sixteen, the Braves' Cinderella run came to an end as No. 1-seeded Memphis blew out the Braves. O'Bryant left Bradley after the season for the NBA Draft.
Each of Les's next three Brave teams appeared in postseason play, losing in the second round of the 2007 NIT, and finishing as runners-up in the 2008 College Basketball Invitational and 2009 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
After a disappointing 2010 and a 20-loss 2011, the Braves fired Les.
Kent State head coach Geno Ford was hired to replace Les. Ford's teams struggled under his leadership, failing to win more than seven games in conference play and finishing in last place in his first and final years at Bradley. The Braves did receive an invite to the College Basketball Invitational in 2013, where they advanced to the quarterfinals. In his final year, the Braves finished 9–24, 3–15 in MVC play. After the season, Ford was fired. He finished with a four-year record of 46–86 at Bradley.
Ford's tenure at Bradley was most notable for a lawsuit filed by Kent State, his former employer, seeking payment on a buyout clause in his contract. Ford was found liable for $1.2 million. Kent State continued actions against Bradley for "tortious interference with Kent State’s contractual relationship" with Ford, but Kent State dropped the case in 2013.
Following Geno Ford's firing, the school hired Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle. In Wardle's first year, the Braves continued their struggles, finishing the season 5–24 and in last place in the MVC. Wardle would have over 10 freshmen and only Donte Thomas was an active player who stayed from the Geno Ford era. In 2017, with Junior Donte Thomas as their best player, the 2017 Braves team improved to a 13–20 record and finished in a tie for sixth place in MVC play. In 2018 the Braves finished 20-13 while going 9-9 in the conference. They defeated Drake in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Bradley then played #1 seeded Loyola-Chicago, the eventual standout final 4 team. Bradley failed to score down the stretch and lost a close game. In 2019 Wardle led the Braves to a in-season tournament win over Penn State. After this the Braves slumped and went 0-5 in conference play. The Braves regrouped and finished 5th in MVC play at 9-9. They beat Missouri State and upset Loyola-Chicago. Bradley looked to capture their first MVC title since 1988. They played UNI, the 6 seed, and were down by 18 points in the second half. With Darrel Brown Jr., Luqman Lundy, Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and Elijah Childs on the floor Bradley rallied and cut the deficit to 6 with a 12-0 point run. The Braves went on to win the game and had 2 All-Tournament players and the tournament MVP in Elijah Childs. They entered March Madness for the first time since 2006 but lost to Michigan State 76-65 in the opening round. It was Coach Wardle's first NCAA tournament appearance with the Braves.
|No coach (Independent) (1902–1909)|
|Fred Brown (Independent) (1909–1918)|
|Fred Brown:||91–65 (.583)||–|
|Harold Olsen (Independent) (1918–1919)|
|Harold Olsen:||6–9 (.400)||–|
|Bill Allen (Independent) (1919–1920)|
|Bill Allen:||5–10 (.333)||–|
|Alfred J. Robertson (Independent) (1920–1948)|
|1920–21||Alfred J. Robertson||7–9|
|1921–22||Alfred J. Robertson||12–6|
|1922–23||Alfred J. Robertson||14–5|
|1923–24||Alfred J. Robertson||11–10|
|1924–25||Alfred J. Robertson||11–10|
|1925–26||Alfred J. Robertson||15–4|
|1926–27||Alfred J. Robertson||7–8|
|1927–28||Alfred J. Robertson||14–5|
|1928–29||Alfred J. Robertson||8–8|
|1929–30||Alfred J. Robertson||13–4|
|1930–31||Alfred J. Robertson||10–9|
|1931–32||Alfred J. Robertson||7–10|
|1932–33||Alfred J. Robertson||8–5|
|1933–34||Alfred J. Robertson||3–14|
|1934–35||Alfred J. Robertson||1–13|
|1935–36||Alfred J. Robertson||6–10|
|1936–37||Alfred J. Robertson||15–4|
|1937–38||Alfred J. Robertson||18–2||NIT Quarterfinals|
|1938–39||Alfred J. Robertson||19–3||NIT Semifinals|
|1939–40||Alfred J. Robertson||14–6|
|1940–41||Alfred J. Robertson||16–6|
|1941–42||Alfred J. Robertson||15–5|
|1942–43||Alfred J. Robertson||8–11|
|1943–44||*** No Basketball||due to World||War II ***|
|1944–45||*** No Basketball||due to World||War II ***|
|1946–47||Alfred J. Robertson||25–7||NIT Quarterfinals|
|1947–48||Alfred J. Robertson||28–3|
|Alfred J. Robertson:||316–187 (.628)||–|
|Forrest "Forddy" Anderson (Missouri Valley Conference) (1948–1951)|
|1948–49||Forddy Anderson||27–8||6–4||3rd||NIT Semifinals|
|1949–50||Forddy Anderson||32–5||11–1||1st||NCAA Runner-up NIT Runner-up|
|1950–51||Forddy Anderson||32–6||11–3||T–2nd||National Campus Tournament Runner-up|
|Forddy Anderson (Independent) (1951–1954)|
|1953–54||Forddy Anderson||19–13||NCAA Runner-up|
|Forddy Anderson:||142–56 (.717)||25–8|
|Bob Vanatta (Independent) (1954–1956)|
|1954–55||Bob Vanatta||9–20||NCAA Elite Eight|
|Bob Vanatta:||22–33 (.400)||3–9|
|Chuck Orsborn (Missouri Valley Conference) (1956–1965)|
|1956–57||Chuck Orsborn||22–7||9–5||2nd||NIT Champions|
|1957–58||Chuck Orsborn||20–7||12–2||2nd||NIT First round|
|1958–59||Chuck Orsborn||25–4||12–2||2nd||NIT Runner-up|
|1959–60||Chuck Orsborn||27–2||12–2||2nd||NIT Champions|
|1961–62||Chuck Orsborn||21–7||10–2||T–1st||NIT First round|
|1963–64||Chuck Orsborn||23–6||7–5||3rd||NIT Champions|
|1964–65||Chuck Orsborn||18–9||9–5||T–2nd||NIT First round|
|Chuck Orsborn:||194–56 (.776)||86–32|
|Joe Stowell (Missouri Valley Conference) (1965–1978)|
|1967–68||Joe Stowell||19–9||12–4||2nd||NIT First round|
|1973–74||Joe Stowell||20–8||9–3||2nd||NCIT Second round|
|Joe Stowell:||197–147 (.573)||91–93|
|Dick Versace (Missouri Valley Conference) (1978–1986)|
|1979–80||Dick Versace||23–10||13–3||1st||NCAA First Round|
|1981–82||Dick Versace||26–10||13–3||1st||NIT Champions|
|1985–86||Dick Versace||32–3||16–0||1st||NCAA Second Round|
|Dick Versace:||156–88 (.639)||81–49|
|Stan Albeck (Missouri Valley Conference) (1986–1991)|
|1987–88||Stan Albeck||26–5||12–2||1st||NCAA First Round|
|Stan Albeck:||75–71 (.514)||41–31|
|Jim Molinari (Missouri Valley Conference) (1991–2002)|
|1993–94||Jim Molinari||23–8||14–4||T–2nd||NIT Quarterfinals|
|1994–95||Jim Molinari||20–10||12–6||4th||NIT Second round|
|1995–96||Jim Molinari||22–8||15–3||1st||NCAA First Round|
|1996–97||Jim Molinari||17–13||12–6||T–2nd||NIT Second round|
|1998–99||Jim Molinari||17–12||11–7||T–2nd||NIT First round|
|2000–01||Jim Molinari||19–12||12–6||T–2nd||NIT First round|
|Jim Molinari:||174–152 (.534)||110–88|
|Jim Les (Missouri Valley Conference) (2002–2010)|
|2005–06||Jim Les||22–11||11–7||T–5th||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|2006–07||Jim Les||22–13||10–8||4th||NIT Second round|
|2007–08||Jim Les||21–7||9–9||T–5th||CBI Runner-up|
|2008–09||Jim Les||21–15||10–8||4th||CIT Runner-up|
|Jim Les:||154–140 (.524)||74–88|
|Geno Ford (Missouri Valley Conference) (2011–2015)|
|2012–13||Geno Ford||18–17||7–11||T–7th||CIT Quarterfinals|
|Geno Ford:||46–86 (.348)||74–88 (.457)|
|Brian Wardle (Missouri Valley Conference) (2015–present)|
|2018–19||Brian Wardle||20-14||9-9||5th||NCAA Tournament|
|Brian Wardle:||58-74 (.439)||28-44 (.389)|
Postseason invitational champion
The Braves have appeared in eight NCAA Tournaments and have advanced to two final fours and two national championship games. Their combined record is 11–8.
National Championship Game
National Championship Game
|1980||#11||First Round||#6 Texas A&M||L 53–55|
|1988||#9||First Round||#8 Auburn||L 86–90|
|1996||#8||First Round||#9 Stanford||L 58–66|
|2019||#15||First Round||#2 Michigan State||L 65–76|
The Braves have appeared in 21 National Invitation Tournaments and are four-time champions (1957, 1960, 1964, and 1982). Their combined record is 25–18.
|1939||Semifinals||Long Island||L 32–36|
|1947||Quarterfinals||West Virginia||L 60–69|
Third Place Game
|1965||First Round||NYU||L 70–71|
|1968||Sweet Sixteen||Long Island||L 77–80|
|1985||First Round||Marquette||L 68–77|
|1999||First Round||Butler||L 50–51|
|2001||First Round||Detroit-Mercy||L 49–68|
The Braves have participated in one College Basketball Invitational in 2008 where they advanced to the 3–game series final. Their combined record is 4–2.
Finals Game 1
Finals Game 2
Finals Game 3
The Braves have participated in two CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournaments (CIT). In 2009 where they advanced to the championship game. Their combined record is 5–2.
Bradley participated in the 1974 National Commissioners Invitational Tournament where they advanced to the semifinals. Their record is 1–1.
The Braves appeared in, and hosted, the only National Campus Basketball Tournament. Their record is 2–1.
|Bradley Braves retired numbers|
|11||J. J. Anderson||SF||1978–1982||1999|
|15||Paul Unruh||F / C||1946–1950||1991|
|31||Chet Walker||SF / PF||1959–1962||1976|
|45||Roger Phegley||SG / SF||1974–1978||1990|
The Bradley athletic department celebrated 100 years of Braves basketball in the 2003–04 season. Fans were given the opportunity to select the greatest players from each of seven specific timelines, resulting in a total of 60 players. Throughout the 2002-03 season, those 60 players were honored at selected games. Fans were given the opportunity to help select the 15 greatest players in the program's history, creating the team of the century. The team was honored during a ceremony at the Peoria Civic Center on November 21, 2003. In addition to the “Team of the Century,” Braves fans also selected a “Game of the Century” by voting games through a 16-entry, tournament format. Ultimately, Bradley's January 16, 1960 win over #1 Cincinnati at Robertson Fieldhouse was selected.
|No.||Player||Pos.||Career||Height||Hometown||National Player of the Year||All-American||MVC Player of the Year||MVC All Conference||Retired Jersey|
|31||Joe Allen||C||1965-68||6-6||Chicago, IL|
|11||Mitchell Anderson||F||1979-82||6-8||Chicago, IL|
|33||Bob Carney||G||1951-54||6-1||Aurora, IL|
|33||Hersey Hawkins||G||1984-88||6-3||Chicago, IL|
|15||Jim Les||G||1983-86||5-11||Niles, IL|
|12||Anthony Manuel||G||1985-89||5-11||Chicago, IL|
|21||Bobby Joe Mason||G/F||1956-60||6-2||Centralia, IL|
|23||Gene Melchiorre||F||1947-51||5-8||Highland Park, IL|
|23||Anthony Parker||G||1993-97||6-5||Naperville, IL|
|45||Roger Phegley||G||1975-78||6-7||East Peoria, IL|
|12, 31||Levern Tart||G/F||1961-64||6-2||West Palm Beach, FL|
|35||David Thirdkill||F||1979-82||6-7||St. Louis, MO|
|15||Paul Unruh||C||1946-50||6-4||Toulon, IL|
|31||Chet Walker||F/C||1959-62||6-6||Benton Harbor, MI|
The 1949–50 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University in college basketball during the 1949–50 season. The team finished the season with a 32–5 record and were national runners-up to the City College of New York (CCNY) in both the 1950 NCAA Tournament and 1950 National Invitation Tournament. Early on in the NCAA Tournament's days, which began in 1939, teams were allowed to participate in both it and the NIT. The 1949–50 college basketball season is noteworthy in that it is the only year in which a team won both tournaments (CCNY), and the losing team of both championships happened to be Bradley.1953–54 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 1953–54 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University in college basketball during the 1953–54 season. The team finished the season with a 19–13 record and were national runners-up to La Salle University in the 1954 NCAA Tournament. It was the second time in five seasons that Bradley was the national runner-up; in 1949–50, they lost to CCNY in both the NCAA and NIT championships.1985–86 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 1985–86 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 1985–86 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves were members of the Missouri Valley Conference and played their home games at Carver Arena.2005–06 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2005–06 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference during the 2005–06 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. Led by head coach Jim Les, the Braves finished the season with a 22-11 record (11-7 MVC). They earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as #13 seed in the Oakland Regional. The team defeated Kansas and Pittsburgh to reach the Sweet Sixteen, before falling to Memphis in the regional semifinal.2012–13 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2012–13 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 2012–13 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves, led by second year head coach Geno Ford, played their home games at Carver Arena, with four home games at Renaissance Coliseum, and were members of the Missouri Valley Conference. They finished the season 18–17, 7–11 in Missouri Valley play to finish in a three way tie for seventh place. They lost in the first round of the Missouri Valley Tournament to Drake. They were invited to the 2013 CIT where they defeated Green Bay and Tulane to advance to the quarterfinals where they lost to fellow Missouri Valley member Northern Iowa.2013–14 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2013–14 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 2013–14 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves, led by third year head coach Geno Ford, played their home games at Carver Arena and Renaissance Coliseumain Peoria, Illinoisnd were members of the Missouri Valley Conference. They finished the season 12–20, 7–11 in MVC play to finish in seventh place. They lost in the first round of the Missouri Valley Tournament to Loyola–Chicago.2014–15 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2014–15 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 2014–15 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves were led by fourth year head coach Geno Ford, and played their home games at Carver Arena, with one home game at Renaissance Coliseum in Peoria, Illinois. They were members of the Missouri Valley Conference. They finished the season 9–24, 3–15 in MVC play to finish in last place. They advanced to the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Tournament where they lost to Northern Iowa.
On March 22, head coach Geno Ford was fired. He finished with a four-year record of 46–86.2015–16 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2015–16 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 2015–16 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves were led by first year head coach Brian Wardle, who was hired in the offseason to replace Geno Ford. The Braves were members of the Missouri Valley Conference and played their home games at Carver Arena in Peoria, Illinois. They finished the season 5–27, 3–15 in Missouri Valley play to finish in ninth place. They lost in the first round of the Missouri Valley Tournament to Loyola–Chicago.2016–17 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2016–17 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 2016–17 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves, led by second-year head coach Brian Wardle, played their home games at Carver Arena in Peoria, Illinois as members of the Missouri Valley Conference. They finished the season 13–20, 7–11 in MVC play to finish in a tie for sixth place. As the No. 7 seed in the MVC Tournament, they defeated Drake in the first round before losing to Wichita State in the quarterfinals.2017–18 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2017–18 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represented Bradley University during the 2017–18 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves, led by third-year head coach Brian Wardle, played their home games at Carver Arena in Peoria, Illinois as members of the Missouri Valley Conference. They finished the season 20–13, 9–9 in MVC play to finish in fifth place. They defeated Drake in the first round of the MVC Tournament before losing to Loyola–Chicago in the quarterfinals.2018–19 Bradley Braves men's basketball team
The 2018–19 Bradley Braves men's basketball team represents Bradley University during the 2018–19 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Braves, led by fourth-year head coach Brian Wardle, play their home games at Carver Arena in Peoria, Illinois as members of the Missouri Valley Conference.Anthony Manuel
Anthony Manuel is an American former basketball player.
Manuel grew up in Chicago and played basketball at Crane High School. He then played for Bradley University from 1985 to 1989 and holds school records for most assists in a season (373 in 1987–88) and most assists in a career (855). He was the Missouri Valley Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year in 1989.Chuck Orsborn
Charles K. Orsborn (November 17, 1917 – May 7, 2017), known as "Chuck" or "Ozzy," was an American college basketball player, head coach, and the athletic director of Bradley University.Dick Versace
Richard Patrick Versace (born April 16, 1940) is a former basketball coach and executive. He is also the first American of Puerto Rican descent to have coached a National Basketball Association (NBA) team.Jim Les
James Allen Les (born August 18, 1963) is an American basketball coach and former player who is the current head coach of the UC Davis Aggies men's basketball team. A former point guard, he was picked in the third round (70th pick overall) of the 1986 NBA Draft out of Bradley University.
In 2011, he was hired as the head coach of the UC Davis Aggies men's basketball team.Joe Stowell
Joe Stowell (born December 24, 1926) is an American former college basketball coach and broadcaster. After attending Bradley University and playing on the basketball team from 1947–50, he returned as an assistant coach in 1956 and became Bradley's ninth head coach in 1965. During his thirteen seasons as Bradley's head coach he won 197 games. He was fired as head coach in 1978. His basketball resume also features two seasons coaching high school boys and two years coaching the Bradley University women. In 1985 Stowell joined Dave Snell as a WMBD (AM) broadcaster for Bradley basketball games, and worked in that position until 2010.Marcus Pollard
Marcus LaJuan Pollard (born February 8, 1972) is a former American football tight end and current Director of Player Development and Youth Football for the Jacksonville Jaguars.Roger Phegley
Roger Dale Phegley (born October 16, 1956) is an American retired professional basketball player. A 6'6" (198 cm) 205 lb (93 kg) shooting guard, he played college basketball at Bradley University and had a career in the NBA from 1978 to 1984. He ended his career playing in France.Stan Albeck
Charles Stanley Albeck (born May 17, 1931) is a former professional basketball coach. Albeck has coached for several teams in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA), including the Denver Rockets, the San Diego Conquistadors, (often subbing for an absent Wilt Chamberlain), the Cleveland Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs, the New Jersey Nets, and the Chicago Bulls.
Bradley Braves men's basketball
|Culture & lore|
NCAA Final Four appearances in italics
Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball
|Tournament & awards|