NATCHITOCHES -- The Southland Conference Tournament champion Northwestern State Demons basketball team will play its opening NCAA Tournament game in Austin, Texas, on Friday against the Southeastern Conference regular-season champion Florida Gators.
Game time is 6:27 CST for the second-round tournament contest. The winner will advance to a Sunday third-round game. The Demons (23-8) drew a 14th seed in the South Region, a familiar bracket slot for the program, and will play the No. 3 Gators (26-7), who won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title and lost in the SEC Tournament finals Sunday to Ole Miss.
The game will be televised on TruTV, which is DirecTV channel 246 and Dish Network channel 204. Cable subscribers should consult their providers for their local listings. In Natchitoches, TruTV is available on Suddenlink channel 63 but is not available to CP-Tel cable viewers.
The network TV announcing crew is Shreveport resident Tim Brando of CBS Sports, former Duke star Mike Gminski, and bench reporter Otis Livingston.
Ticket information for NSU fans will be released as quickly as possible. The NSU Ticket Office will have a block of tickets for seating in the NSU section at the 16,292-seat Erwin Center in downtown Austin.
"It's great to have the opportunity to go play again in the NCAA Tournament, in the 50th year of the Southland Conference, the 75th season of the NCAA Tournament and the 100th year of Northwestern State University basketball," said Demons' 14th-year coach Mike McConathy. "So this year, it's a very special privilege."
It's the third NCAA Tournament trip for McConathy and NSU. The Demons won an opening round game over Winthrop in 2001 in Dayton, Ohio, before falling to Illinois. In 2006, 14th-seeded NSU stunned No. 3-seed Iowa, the nation's No. 15-ranked team, 64-63 in Auburn Hills, Mich., before falling in the round of 32 to West Virginia.
"You've got to enjoy the moment, be excited about it, but you have to keep the mindset that you are going to give yourself the opportunity to be successful," McConathy said. "You're going to the tournament, not just to attend it, but to stay around in it."
The chance to stay in the area, traveling to Texas for the third time in four weekends to play, was well received by the Demons. Thirteen of 17 players were raised in Louisiana, so many family and friends will be able to attend the NCAA regional in Austin along with NSU's excited fan base, dozens who packed Mama's Oyster House in historic downtown Natchitoches Sunday afternoon to join the team for the selection show on CBS.
"We're really excited about our people being able to travel to Austin and see the game. It's a reasonable drive and we do have a lot of alumni in Texas, so it's great not to be on a plane flying across the country. It's who we are. We're not a team that flies from game to game. We get on a bus and that's where we're comfortable," said McConathy.
The Demons will begin practice at 7 a.m. Monday, their regular daily practice time. They will travel to Austin in midweek and practice at the Erwin Center on Thursday.