DENTON -- For a 15 seed, North Texas sure does have a lot of swagger.
Athletic director Rick Villarreal grabbed a microphone immediately after the Mean Green's first-round date with Kansas State was announced. He told the crowd at a Denton sports bar that they didn't need to worry about the rest of the pairings, because UNT wouldn't see those teams until the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.
Coach Johnny Jones, whose nature is to exercise extreme caution with what comes out of his mouth, made it clear that the Mean Green doesn't expect to be one-and-done.
"We're just excited to have a chance to play for the national championship," said Jones, whose team suffered a 73-58 loss to second-seeded Memphis a few years ago in the Mean Green's previous Big Dance appearance. "We've got six games to go, and we're on an 11-game win streak."
North Texas has never advanced in the NCAA tournament. It lost in the first round to North Carolina (1988) and Memphis (2007) in its other two tourney trips.
"This year we have a whole different mindset," shooting guard Tristan Thompson said. "We're going up there to win. We're confident we can do it."
UNT, which set a school record with 24 wins this season, believes it's ready to earn regional and national respect. The Mean Green understands that the only way to do that is to knock off a K-State squad with an RPI of six.
"We feel like we're good enough to play with anybody in the country," power forward George Odufuwa said. "We just have to play hard and compete. Everything else will take care of itself."
Added big man Eric Tramiel: "There's a great deal of pride that comes with this. It's time for a challenge. This university deserves it and this town deserves it. We all deserve it."
Jones cited the Mean Green's two games against Big 12 schools this season as evidence that UNT could compete against high-caliber competition. The Mean Green lost by 14 to Oklahoma State and 10 to Texas A&M in early-season road games.
All due respect to K-State, but the Mean Green doesn't believe it's a stretch to envision themselves emerging as a Cinderella.
"We've got a great group of guys," Jones said. "They've had the right mindset all year long. I don't think that'll be any different because of the NCAA tournament. They'll be up for the challenge."