KENNESAW, Ga. — Kennesaw State made history this past weekend by clinching a berth in their first-ever NCAA Tournament. And on Sunday, they will wait in anticipation as the brackets get unveiled and the Owls discover their first-round opponent.
As the Cinderella-stamped Owls look to become the next tournament darling, they hit the hardwood Wednesday and spoke to the media in anticipation of their March run.
The players are already feeling the excitement of the entire community just days before Selection Sunday.
"Just the atmosphere right here, I mean I go to flying biscuit and people are like 'oh, oh good luck, good luck at the March Madness,'" junior guard Brandon Stroud said. "Usually when I go there nobody talks to me, so it's just been great, you know, everyone noticing, it's just been really good."
Despite the popular attention off the floor, the Owls returned to the court for practice to continue their preparation. The one thing that hasn't changed -- their underdog mentality.
"I love being the underdog, I've been the underdog my whole life," said guard Terrell Burden, who hit the game-winning free throw to send KSU to the tournament. "I enjoy every bit of it. People overlooking us and I feel like that makes the story 10 times better when you're the underdog."
Owls head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim led an all-time turnaround. In his first season in 2019-20, the Owls sputtered to a 1-28 record. This season, a 26-8 mark -- including 15 conference wins -- has led to the state's college basketball radar bypassing the likes of struggling Georgia and Georgia Tech.
"When you have a vision, alright, and you know that there's more in the tank and that the way we built this thing we're capable of going into that tournament and winning, you have to keep it as normal as possible," Abdur-Rahim said.
The Owls have been battle-tested this season, including losses against some top-tier power five schools.
"Although we lost our non-conference games this year, I'm glad we lost them because you learn from it," senior forward Demond Robinson said. "We went to Florida, Indiana, San Diego State like we're ready for anybody we play next week. We're very confident going into this tournament."
Only time will tell just how far the Owls' confidence takes them. But make no mistake, playing with the level of confidence they have is a dangerous thing for any opponent when the calendar flips to March.