Western Kentucky's inclusion to this year's NCAA Tournament brought many smiles to the faces of Hilltopper faithful, even if it was no surprise when and where the Hilltoppers would play their first game.
WKU (15-18) is part of the First Four, and will play March 13 in Dayton, Ohio at 5:30 p.m. CST against Mississippi Valley State (21-12), winners of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament and regular season. WKU was the only Sun Belt team selected to the NCAA Tournament.
With a win there, WKU would play top-seeded Kentucky on March 15 in Louisville. WKU is in the South Region.
"It's what we expected, having a losing record," WKU coach Ray Harper said. "It's another game ... I mean, really," Harper said. "I'm glad these kids are playing at this time of year because of lot of people counted them out."
The allure here is a potential second-round matchup with Kentucky, the SEC champions and the NCAA's top overall seed. Bowling Green and Lexington are only 154 miles apart and several players from both schools know each other.
But that matchup won't come unless WKU can hold off the team that dominated the SWAC. MVSU went 17-1 in conference play and had a 17-game win streak during the regular season. Center Paul Crosby is a load down low, scoring 13.3 points per game with 7.4 rebounds per game. Guard Terrance Joyner is scoring 13.2 points per game and guard Cor-J Cox is scoring 11.2 points per game.
"Our guys have a lot of information on Mississippi Valley," Harper said. "We anticipated playing these guys. Our approach is one game at a time, and the only game that matters is Mississippi Valley."
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