Getting to know: UC Davis basketball

It took a few extra days, but the Kansas basketball team finally learned of its first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament: UC Davis.

The Big West champions advanced to the 64-team bracket with a 67-63 victory over N.C Central in their First Four matchup Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

“I think our guys are great about, as we prepare for a team, respecting all of our opponents,” UC Davis coach Jim Les said. “And we'll do that. But we also like our competitiveness, and feel like in a one-game situation, we're going to come, we're going to play hard, we're going to compete and let the chips fall where they may. So we're excited for this opportunity. And we'll concede nothing. But we'll be ready.”

Les coached Bradley, his alma mater, to an upset victory in 2006, propelling the Braves to a Sweet 16 run.
“When that ball goes up on Friday, I'm not going to be thinking about what seeds — we're going to be playing basketball, competing at basketball,” Les said. “And, like I said, the chips will fall where they may. But we're glad to be here, but we're not satisfied by any means.”

Interesting note: The Aggies feature two Kansas natives on their roster: senior Georgi Funtarov and sophomore Siler Schneider. Funtarov, from Bulgaria, played at Lawrence Free State and Lawrence-Bishop Seabury in high school. Schneider starred for Lansing.

Series history: It’s the first meeting between the two schools. In the NCAA Tournament, No. 1 seeds own an 128-0 record against No. 16 seeds.

UC Davis head coach Jim Les fires up his players as he prepares to cut the net after his team's 50-47 win against UC Irvine in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Big West tournament Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

NCAA Tournament 2017: UC Davis edges NC Central and earns first tourney victory

Day 1 of the First Four contests delivered two games that were decided by a total of eight points. And the first game of Tuesday evening’s doubleheader in Dayton between N.C. Central and UC Davis continued that trend of closely contested games.

Unfortunately, it was anything but exciting.

N.C. Central hit only 5 of its 26 3-point attempts, and UC Davis turned the ball over a total of 18 times. It was sloppy basketball with careless mistakes and costly turnovers. But someone had to win it. And UC Davis pulled it out 67-63 by making clutch free throws.

1. It was a game of firsts for UC Davis.
UC Davis had never been to the Big Dance before punching its ticket out of the Big West earlier this week. And in the program’s inaugural appearance on the big stage, the Aggies delivered with a tourney victory. First Four game or not, they now have a 1.000 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament. How about that.

2. N.C. Central was actually the favorite.
Being that UC Davis had never been to the NCAA Tournament before, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. But N.C. Central was a 3-point favorite in most places, with more believers than doubters in what it could do to a newbie on the big stage.

But N.C. Central struggled to hit shots from the floor all night, and its inability to finish around the rim might have been the difference maker. The Eagles missed six point-blank shots and somehow still outscored UC Davis in the paint. The missed opportunities were too costly to overcome.
So if you were in the minority who took UC Davis and the three points, you’ve got some spending money. Spend it wisely.

3. No. 1 seed Kansas awaits
This was the play-in game to see which lucky team gets a crack at No. 1 seed Kansas on Friday, where UC Davis will advance as a guaranteed double-digit underdog.

Looking back on UC Davis’ season, there’s absolutely zero way of projecting how it might perform against the Jayhawks.

The Aggies played only one top-100 opponent all season -- Cal, a team that didn’t make the tournament -- and lost by 25. But they have already won four consecutive games that no one gave them a chance of competing in, and they’ve lost only once since mid-February. If they turn it over 18 times against Kansas, it might be PG-13 television.

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