Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Foes excited to kick things off

DAYTON, Ohio — In the past few days, the NCAA's opening acts enjoyed a key to a city, roomy charter flights, more national attention than ever and a deluge of calls and text messages that kept them awake.

Complaints? Absolutely none.

North Carolina-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock arrived Monday a little sleep-starved and taken aback by their chance to become a footnote to NCAA Tournament history. They open the expanded 68-team tournament tonight, the first of four games over two days at the University of Dayton Arena.

To them, it felt more like a privilege than a play-in.

"If anybody's critical of this, they're probably spoiled," UNC-Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said.

A lot has changed since the Bulldogs opened the 2003 tournament in Dayton and became the first Big South team to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Over the years, players and coaches groused about getting consigned to what was officially known as the opening round but commonly called the play-in for a 65-team field. With the expanded field and eight teams in Dayton this time, it felt more like a first round — its new, official title.

And the Bulldogs (19-13) and Trojans (19-16) felt privileged to get it started.

"We talked amongst ourselves, and it's exciting to be the first one to be in the tournament and to play the first game," UNC-Asheville guard J.P. Primm said. "Our guys are pretty stoked about it."

Half the fun was getting there.

UNC-Asheville ran off six consecutive wins to get to Dayton. Leading up to the tournament draw, the Bulldogs reveled in their first NCAA appearance since that 2003 win. Biedenbach and his players attended a City Council meeting in Asheville on March 8 and received gifts — blue caps embossed with the city's name and a gold, 6-inch key to the city.

"I tried it in every door I wanted to get in, and it didn't work in any of them," Biedenbach said. "I thought they were giving it to the team, which I think they did, and I just happened to be the representative there. But that's never happened to me before."

The NCAA made sure teams could charter flights to the first round in Dayton, another first for many of the players.

"It was definitely something new for us: a big charter flight," Arkansas-Little Rock guard Solomon Bozeman said. "It was great."

Same for the Bulldogs.

"We felt presidential," Primm said.

The Trojans didn't get a key to their city, but they've gotten attention in other ways. Bozeman, a transfer from USF and the Sun Belt's player of the year, hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to win the conference tournament, a moment that has been replayed countless times on television.

His shot put the Trojans in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years.

"I've probably seen it about 50 times now," Bozeman said. "I watch SportsCenter a lot. I went to my mom's house the next day after the game, and she rewound it and showed it like 25 times. I had to leave her house and get away for a minute because I got tired of seeing it. But it was a great moment."

.Fast facts

First round

All games on truTV

Today

• No. 16 seed Southeast: UNC-Asheville (19-13) vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (19-16), 6:40 p.m.

• No. 12 seed East: UAB (22-9) vs. Clemson (21-11), 9:10 p.m.

Wednesday

• No. 16 seed East: Texas-San Antonio (19-13) vs. Alabama State (17-17), 6:40 p.m.

• No. 11 seed Southwest: Virginia Commonwealth (23-11) vs. Southern Cal (19-14), 9:10 p.m.

A

A

C

N

2

0

1

1

Foes excited to kick things off 03/14/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. USF baseball heads to Gainesville for regional play

    Sports

    TAMPA — Had USF's players and coaches been less confident in their NCAA Tournament resume, Monday's selection show might have induced fidgeting, perhaps even frustration.

    South Florida coach Mark Kingston looks on during 2017 American Athletic Conference game Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Clearwater during the American Athletic Conference. The Bulls won 7-6.
  2. Rays call up Jose De Leon to add depth to bullpen tonight

    Blogs

    The Rays decided that after playing 15 innings Sunday they could use some depth and length in their bullpen after all and have decided to call up RHP Jose De Leon from Triple-A.

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is still slated to start tonight, even after throwing 12 pitches to get the final three outs - and the save - in …

    The Rays have recalled Jose De Leon from Triple-A Durham.
  3. Tiger Woods arrested in Florida on DUI charge, released

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested early Monday on a DUI charge in Jupiter, Florida, and spent nearly four hours in a county jail before he was released.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  4. After state, academics will trump athletics for King ace Brian Lee

    Baseballpreps

    TAMPA — Brian Lee can still see himself on the pitcher's mound at Venice High School. Four years ago he was a freshman left-handed reliever just trying to keep King's state championship dreams alive.

    Pitcher Brian Lee participates in a practice at King High in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, May 26, 2017.
  5. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside

    Outdoors

    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)