NCAA TOURNEY: Iowa State looms as next hurdle for NCCU
N.C. Central had to wait until the NCAA Tournament’s nationally televised selection show basically was over before getting to know its partner in the Big Dance.
That figures, NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said.
“It’s only conventional,” Moton said. “We waited this long. We might as well wait three more commercial breaks.”
NCCU will debut in the Big Dance against Iowa State in San Antonio’s AT&T Center on Friday (9:50 p.m., TNT).
Moton and his team learned the news along with NCCU fans who gathered for a viewing party at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium on Sunday.
The selection committee gave NCCU a No. 14 seed in the East Region. That’s the best position a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has ever gotten.
Moton said he knew NCCU would land a decent spot in the tournament bracket when it was announced that a 21-13 N.C. State squad had landed a spot in the field of 68 teams.
NCCU (28-5) beat N.C. State 82-72 in overtime at PNC Arena on Nov. 20.
Iowa State won the Big 12 Conference Tournament championship and will take its No. 3 seed into the NCAA Tournament along with a dynamite scorer in DeAndre Kane.
It’s not just Kane, though. The Cyclones are one of the best offensive teams in the country, Moton said.
“They’re certified tough,” Moton said.
But it’s a good matchup for the Eagles, NCCU senior point guard Emanuel Chapman said.
In fact, any matchup would have been a good matchup for NCCU, because “we’re hungry, we’re humble.”
Chapman said he didn’t mind waiting to hear NCCU’s name called during the selection show.
“The longer we wait, the longer the party,” Chapman said.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for NCCU’s six seniors. No need to rush it, Chapman said. He said he absolutely was digging the line of folks waiting for him and his basketball brothers to autograph team posters, and there was something cool about having to be whisked away from that because reporters with their microphones and TV cameras were waiting on him.
“It’s surreal,” Chapman said.
“Everybody’s dream is to go to the Big Dance,” said NCCU senior Jeremy Ingram, the MEAC’s player of the year.
NCCU began playing Division I basketball during the 2007-08 season. The Eagles became eligible for the NCAA Tournament during the 2011-12 season.
“It’s real now,” Moton said. “Our dream is now a reality.”
NCCU was guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament because it took care of business Saturday by winning the MEAC Tournament, beating Morgan State at Norfolk Scope Arena in Norfolk, Va.
But there still was suspense during the selection show, and it wasn’t just about who NCCU was playing but also where.
That Buffalo, N.Y., bracket would not have been cool, Moton said.
“Too cold for me,” Moton said. “I didn’t want to go to Raleigh.”
Neither did Chapman, who, like Moton, is from Raleigh, where they both were guards at Enloe High School.
Raleigh wouldn’t have been so bad if it meant playing Duke at PNC Arena, Ingram said.
“I would have liked to have played Duke just because they said we had history back in the day,” Ingram said.
Uh, dodging juggernauts actually is a good thing, Moton said.
Besides, San Antonio offers an opportunity for the Eagles to venture out a little bit, sort of a getaway to a faraway destination, Chapman said.
The Eagles sure won’t be on vacation, Moton said.
“We’re playing a really good team that will probably make it to the Final Four,” Moton said.
That’s if Iowa State (26-7) first beats NCCU.
“It’s going to be a battle of wills, whoever can impose their wills,” Moton said. “(My players) get one more day to embrace this (celebration).”
Then it’s back to work.
Cylones are in the forecast.