Baton Rouge, LA — Cheers erupted when Southern saw its logo on the screen Sunday, no matter whose logo was paired next to it.
#16 Southern will face #1 Gonzaga on Thursday in Salt Lake City, UT, in the opening round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
"It's a great feeling," said senior guard Jameel Grace. "Especially with the guys that I'm with right now. We've been through so much, it was just like a sigh of relief. But at the same time, there's a lot of work to do."
Southern has already put in a lot of work, climbing from last place in the SWAC just two seasons ago to compile a 23-9 record.
They face long odds against the 31-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, who held the #1 ranking in the national polls over the last couple weeks. But the Jaguars contend they are not a finished product, even after winning the SWAC tournament title on Saturday.
"I think this team can continue to grow," said head coach Roman Banks. "I think, it's their first time being here together, and I think, as many opportunities as they have to play, the better they can get."
Neither Banks nor Grace said he knew much about the Bulldogs. This will be the first matchup between the two schools in their respective histories.
Southern is a part of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. Gonzaga has made the field every year since 1999.