The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds gathered together Sunday afternoon to watch the NCAA tournament selection show at a Quiznos in the middle of campus -- the same location where they watched the selection show a year ago.
LIU was one of the lucky ones -- one of the 31 teams with automatic bids to this year's Big Dance. The Blackbirds knew they would hear their school's name called eventually, unlike all those bubble teams around the country.
Yet when "LIU Brooklyn" popped up on the television screens above them on Sunday, the players' reactions were lukewarm at best.
A couple guys smiled. A few clapped. Others just kept staring at the TVs.
"Yeah, I was expecting a 15 [seed] at least," said junior forward Jamal Olasewere. "It’s kind of upsetting. But to be in a tournament like this, it's still a blessing."
LIU ended up receiving a No. 16 seed in the West region, matched up with No. 1 seed Michigan State. The teams will face each other on Friday in Columbus, Ohio, at approximately 9:20 p.m. ET.
Last year the Blackbirds were a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament, losing 102-87 to No. 2 seed North Carolina. This year, after defending their Northeast Conference regular season and tournament championships, they were hoping for at least the same.
"It is what it is," said LIU coach Jim Ferry. "I thought maybe we should have been [higher], but so much goes on in that [selection committee] room, you really don't know.
"I thought we were gonna be a 14 last year, and we were a 15. So 15, 16 this year -- you gotta remember, we started out 0-3. We had to win one of those games to start the year, and we didn't."
The Blackbirds did begin the season by losing to Hofstra, Old Dominion and Penn State -- all on the road. But they rebounded nicely to finish 25-8, 16-2 in the NEC, and swept through their conference tourney.
Now they'll have the pleasure of facing the Spartans (27-7, 13-5 Big Ten), who just beat Ohio State on Sunday to win the Big Ten tournament -- a game that was on the televisions at the LIU viewing party, just prior to the selection show.
"One good thing is I was watching the game today," said Ferry. "When this is over tonight, I'm gonna go to the office and probably watch about two hours of tape. So we'll get into practice tomorrow and we'll start game-planning right away."
"That's a power basketball team, that's a physical basketball team," Ferry added about Michigan State. "Everything they do is about toughness and strength, and they try to bang you inside, they beat you on the glass, and we're gonna have to get the game going up and down the court, which they don't really do."
LIU may not be thrilled with the seed, but the Blackbirds will enter this tournament red-hot, winners of 20 of their past 22 games. And it's largely the same team as the one that went dancing a year ago, so they know what they're getting into.
"We lost some games during the season that we definitely shouldn't have lost, so it definitely hurt us in the seeding," said junior forward Julian Boyd, the NEC Player of the Year. "But with the team we have, I feel like we can go out and beat any team, no matter who we're matched up against. It'll definitely be a good game."
A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament -- a fact that was not lost on the LIU players.
"That's probably one of the only positive things about being a 16 seed," said Boyd. "We have the chance to make history."