March 11, 2012
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By Tony Phifer
Colorado State University
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Kaipo Sabas and his CSU men's basketball teammates literally jumped for joy when they learned that they were one of 68 teams invited to the NCAA tournament.
The long-awaited announcement came late Sunday afternoon during the nationally televised tournament selection show. When the Rams, gathered with coaches and family members at Moby Arena, saw “Colorado State” pop onto the screen it ended 48 hours of angst and started a wild celebration.
“A lot of people counted us out this year – except the guys in that locker room,” said Sabas, a senior guard for the Rams. “We’ve all been going through so many emotions. I just jumped out of my chair when I saw our name. After that, I can’t tell you what I did.”
The 11th-seeded Rams, who have not played in the Big Dance since 2003, will play No. 6 seed Murray State on Thursday in a second-round game at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. CSU (20-11) and 10th-ranked Murray State (30-1) have never before played.
“This is a great day for our program, and I’m thrilled for our players,” fifth-year Rams coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a long time coming. We spilled a lot of blood between 2007 on to where we are now. It’s just a great feeling.”
The Rams, despite playing a very difficult schedule and knocking off three Top 25 teams from the Mountain West, came to Sunday’s selection show hopeful but nervous. They had watched other teams in the past get their NCAA hopes up, only to be disappointed when their name was not called.
“We were confident in our body of work this season, but there’s still an empty feeling in your stomach waiting for your name to come up on the screen,” junior forward Pierce Hornung
said. “Everyone is just ecstatic that we made it.”
The Rams know very little about Murray State even though the Racers have been national darlings this season as the last team to suffer a loss. The Racers played in the 2010 NCAA tournament, winning their first game before losing to Butler.
Murray State not only will have an edge in tournament experience, the Racers also will be playing four hours from their home in Murray, Ky.
“We don’t care about that,” junior guard Dorian Green said. “We’ll play anyone, anywhere. We’re just excited to have the opportunity.”