The Kennesaw State men’s basketball team received a No. 14 seed and will play No. 3-seed Xavier at 12:40 p.m. Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It is the Owls’ first appearance in the tournament. They were placed in the Midwest Region.
Kennesaw State’s seeding and opponent set off cheers among the hundreds who watched history at the Convocation Center.
“If you can make it to Greensboro, come on,” Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim told the crowd.
Kennesaw State (26-8) secured a berth by winning the ASUN Tournament. Kennesaw State went 15-3 in the conference. It defeated Liberty for the tournament title.
Xavier (25-9) qualified as an at-large team from the Big East. The Musketeers, coached by Sean Miller, were beaten by Marquette in the finals of the Big East Tournament. This will be Xavier’s 29th appearance in the NCAAs. Xavier has one player from Georgia, Elijah Tucker of Canton.
“We will have to be at our best,” Abdur-Rahim said.
The winner of the game between the Owls and Musketeers will face the winner of Friday’s game between Iowa State vs. either Mississippi State or Pitt.
Making the NCAA Tournament is an outstanding achievement because three seasons ago Kennesaw State went 1-28 in Abdur-Rahim’s first season. The Owls are the first team to have one win or less and three years later earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, according to their sports information department.
The Owls are the only team from Georgia competing in the tournament.
Kennesaw State played two teams from the power conferences this season. It lost 88-78 to Florida in Gainesville, Florida. It was beaten 69-55 by Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana.
Statistically, Kennesaw State averaged 75.3 points per game, while allowing 68.9. Xavier averaged 81.4, 10th most in Division I as of March 8, while allowing 74.1. The Musketeers are led in scoring by Souley Boum, a 6-foot-3 guard who averages 16.5 points per game. Five Musketeers average at least 10.5 points per game.
“His teams are physical, they are going to rebound,” Abdur-Rahim said of Miller’s team. He said playing Florida, Indiana and San Diego State was good preparation for the NCAA Tournament. “We don’t run from the challenge.”
Playing on Friday will be an advantage because it won’t force the team to change its routines and schedules, Abdur-Rahim said.
Kennesaw State’s players didn’t know much about Xavier, other than it has great guard play. But Chris Youngblood said competing in the game will be more about what Kennesaw State can do.
“It’s been about us all season,” he said.
The Final Four is scheduled to be played April 1 in Houston. The championship game is scheduled April 3.
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