NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The SFA Lumberjacks were given the red carpet treatment by their hotel as they arrived in Dallas late Tuesday afternoon.
The team's journey to the NCAA Tournament started Tuesday afternoon when they held a send off at the University. The game is on the road but SFA fans have made sure that it will feel like a home away from home for the team.
The ticket office's phone has been ringing all day long since Monday morning. The school was originally given 100 tickets and those were gone in 10 minutes. The American Airlines Center was able to secure more and those didn't last long either. The school then called the other seven teams at the regional and looked at buying their unused tickets. The SFA tickets are so hard to come by even head coach Kyle Keller is in need of some.
"I don't need sleep," I need tickets. "If anybody has any ticket's I need them. I need all of them. I don't have enough. I am buying off the secondary market myself. That is where I grew up so I don't have enough tickets for the ticket request on that. Trust me."
The team will be considered an underdog by many casual fans but the numbers show a different stat to th those that believe in the 'Jacks. In the past 5 years, the team has won 25 plus games in five of those seasons. That puts them with 8 other teams that have done the same thing. Those teams include Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Villanova, Wichita State and Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU is the only team on the list to not be in this year's tournament field.
"We are the state's winningest program," Keller said. "The kids in Texas know it and if they don't they should."
The Lumberjacks missed the tournament last year. for the first time in four years. One of the players left from the last tournament run is Ty Charles. He believes this team sticks out.
"This is the most talented team I have been a part of," Charles said. "Those teams had talent with Thomas, Trey, Meech and all of them, but this is a good team."
Going into the season, many people looked at junior TJ Holyfield to lead the team. This year he joined the 1.,000 point and 500 rebound club. He also is the school's all-time leader in blocked shots. Holyfield is a dynamic player but many nights he quietly gets his stats while others shine.
"It did take pressure off of me," Holyfield said. "We talk about being servant men and we helped each other out through the conference."
All year, coach Keller has told the team to make their own legacy and not to rely on the three previous tournament teams. The players have bought in and know what those teams did was special but this is their time now.
"I feel like it is just natural that teams will respect us from the past," junior Leon Gilmore III said. "We have to show what we can do."
The game will be a homecoming for Charles. Charles is from the Dallas area as a product of Kennendale High School where he ranked as the 33rd best player in his senior class according to several scouting reports. Charles also made All-State twice. He knows how to play in big games and is bringing his experience to the younger guys.
"We are making sure they keep their heads straight," Charles said. "Just play you game and stay calm. There is going to be adversity so we just need to stay strong and stick to the game plan."
That game plan is a simple one.
"It is real important for us to keep playing defense like we have all year," Canete said. "We have to disrupt their offense. If we stick to that game plan we will be alright."
The Lumberjacks will face off against Texas Tech on Thursday night from the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Tip off will be 6:27 pm. SFA will be the 14 seed while Texas Tech will be the 3 seed. Since 2012, a 14 has knocked off a 3 every year except last year.