KATY, Texas — Anthony Vereen and his Texas-Arlington teammates knew the school had never been to the NCAA Tournament.
On Sunday, they changed that.
Vereen had 25 points and nine rebounds to lead the Mavericks to an 82-79 victory over Northwestern State in the Southland Conference title game, earning an automatic berth in the NCAA.
"This feels like a weight off our shoulders," Vereen said.
"You come to some places and they have all these championships and NCAA Tournament appearances," he said. "Then you come here and look in the record books and it says under championships, 'None, none, none.' So it feels pretty good to win this one."
Vereen's two free throws with 11 seconds left sealed the win for No. 7 seed Mavericks (21-11), who set a school record for victories. Ro'ger Guignard added 17 points and Larry Posey had 11 for the Mavericks, who were rewarded with a 16th seed in the South Region in the NCAA and a date with Memphis on Friday in Little Rock, Ark.
MAYO THE PROGNOSTICATOR: O.J. Mayo called it: Southern California against Kansas State in a first-round game of the Midwest Regional at Omaha.
Mayo made the prediction during a telephone conversation with Kansas State's Bill Walker moments before the first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament was announced.
"I told him, 'I think we're going to draw you guys,' " Mayo said at the Galen Center, where the Trojans watched as the pairings were announced.
"Omaha seemed like a good place to play. At the same time, it's all about the money."
Mayo was referring to the fact that he and Kansas State's Michael Beasley are two of the most talented freshmen in the country, making for an attractive matchup. Beasley is the third-leading scorer in the country, averaging 26.5 points. Mayo isn't far behind at 20.8. Both figure to be early first-round picks whenever they decide to declare for the NBA draft.
PHILLY FLAVOR: Villanova was a surprise NCAA pick, joining Temple and Saint Joseph's to give Philadelphia three tourney teams for the first time since 1999. "It makes Philadelphia better. It makes the Big 5 better," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.