Let the (March) Madness begin!
The Bradley Braves learned Sunday they earned the No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament East Region and will open NCAA play Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa against No. 2 seed Michigan State.
The team was joined by hundreds of fans in Renaissance Coliseum on the Bradley campus to watch the NCAA Selection Show and learned its match up early in the 60 minute program.
Bradley, winner of the Missouri Valley Conference tounament, and Michigan will meet for the fifth time in the schools’ history. Michigan State has claimed all four previous meetings. The last time the teams met was during the 2008-09 season with the Spartans winning at home 75-59.
Tip-off is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Thursday. Braves Plus will begin at 12:36 p.m. on 1470 and 100.3 WMBD. The game will be televised on CBS.
The winner of Thursday’s game will play Saturday against either No. 7 seed Louisville or No. 10 seed Minnesota.
“It’s going to be a physical game,” Bradley Head Coach Brian Wardle told 1470 and 100.3 WMBD after Bradley’s first round opponent was announced. “I know coach (Tom) Izzo, I’ve got a lot a respect for him, tremendous coach, great program. We wouldn’t want it any other way. As a program, we want to just keep playing. And to have the opportunity to coach this team longer and in a game against a Big Ten championship team like Michigan State, let’s lace ’em up and go.”
“It was a great experience to be here and have our name called,” said Bradley senior Luuk Van Bree. “I’m very excited it’s in Des Moines. I’m sure a lot of people will be able to make the trip.”
Van Bree said even though the team had punched its ticket to the tournament it was still exciting to see “Bradley” show up on national TV as the brackets were announced.
“I’ve been watching this for the last few years and every time you think, how cool it would be if we could be up there. To be up there now is an unreal feeling,” Van Bree said.
“Every day is a good day now,” Van Bree said. “We always believed we could get this far, but for us to actually be there now is very enjoyable.”
“I don’t think it hit until now,” said Braves junior Nate Kennell of Metamora. “The last three tournament appearances there’s a Metamora guy on the team.”
Danny Adams of Metamora was on Bradley’s 2006 Sweet 16 tourney team, while Aaron Zobrist was on Bradley’s 1988 NCAA tournament team.
As for Thursday’s game against Michigan State, “They’re going to get our best shot,” Kennell said. “Whoever draws us is going to get a tough team to play.”
“It’s survive and advance,” Wardle said. “All you have to be is better for two hours and it’s survive and advance.”