AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — The University of Akron Men’s Basketball Team is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. And ironically they are a 13 seed. Sunday the Zips learned they will play 4th seeded UCLA on Thursday in Portland.
“It’s amazing,” said Zips player Enrique Freeman. “I’m speechless, no words to describe this.”
“It’s a great opportunity to do this for our fans, the students, the city, my teammates,” said Zips player Xavier Castaneda. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Sunday, the James A. Rhodes Arena was packed with athletes, fans, cheerleaders and the band to watch as the brackets were unveiled. Plenty of students were on hand to support the players.
“I’m so proud of you guys,” said Megan Szabo, a University of Akron student. “You deserve it beyond words.”
“Thank you for such an amazing season,” said Mike Demoss. “I’m so proud of you all.”
Alumni were there to support too.
“I’m so proud of them,” said Diane Mcmaster-perry, Class of 1978. “They’re class-act with class-act effort.”
“Good luck in the games to come” said Robert Kiggans, Class of 1992 and 2008. “I predict Sweet 16 or Elite 8. These guys are awesome.”
And of course, their family members were on hand too.
“I’m in shock,” said Tinia Torres, Enrique Freeman’s mother. “Everything feels so unreal and we’ll be there. We’ll be there to support.”
While many fans aren’t able to make the trip.. they do say they’ll be there in spirit.
“I wish I was able to go but we’ll be on spring break and we’ll all be watching on TV,” said Szabo.
“I wish I could go follow all the way but I’ll be watching wherever I am,” said Demoss.
Leading the team is Coach John Groce. He says they are blessed to have this opportunity to be in March Madness. He says he’s also grateful for the fans.
“Our fans were awesome last night,” said Groce. “Hopefully they can come out and support this team. This team is a special group of guys. The strength of our team, we’re a team, we’ve played that way for a few weeks.”