The Maryville College Scots learned the opponent and destination for their 19th trip to the NCAA Tournament on Monday afternoon, as MC will travel to St. Louis, Mo. and face Nebraska Wesleyan University in the opening round.
The Scots claimed the USA South Tournament title in Head Coach Randy Lambert's 701st career victory, tallying an automatic qualifier to The Dance. Maryville beat Covenant College, 96-77 in the championship tilt.
"I am very excited for this team," Lambert said. "It's their first trip. I know the boys will be like wide-eyed children going to Disney World."
The Scots will make that magical trip this weekend, as they will tipoff against the Prairie Wolves at 5:30 p.m. on Friday night. Host Washington University-St. Louis – ranked No. 2 in the nation – plays Aurora University at 7:30 p.m.
The winners of each matchup will meet on Saturday for the second round with a 7 p.m. tip.
"It's really exciting," junior guard Calvin Songster said. "This is my third season at Maryville, and it's something that we've all been preaching to get to this moment. To just be here and see the name of your school pop up on the board, it's an awesome feeling. It's very rewarding for all the hard work, but now, I'm just ready to get down there. Hopefully, we can win a few games and try to get to the Sweet 16."
To do that, however, Maryville (22-6) will first have to pass Nebraska Wesleyan – a team receiving votes for the Top 25.
The Prairie Wolves (24-3) also earned an automatic qualifier in winning the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday.
"I know nothing about their team, other than that they average 96 points a game," Lambert said following the selection show. "That's a pretty potent offense. I couldn't tell you what conference they play in or who's on their schedule. We'll have to do our research and find out quickly. We'll spend a lot of time over the next couple of nights watching tape, trying to break them down, and come up with a game plan."
NWU won the IIAC Tournament after fighting off a 13-point deficit to Central College with just 7:30 left. The Prairie Wolves held Central without a field goal for 7:12, as the Dutch could only muster a jumper with just 16 seconds remaining.
A full-court pressure defense by NWU held Central to just eight points, as they used a 25-8 run over the final 7:30 of the game for their first conference title, 82-78.
The Prairie Wolves also defeated Wartburg in the tournament, 94-77.
Lambert said he wants his players to enjoy the trip, while he added that they will be business as usual.
"They're going to be excited," the head coach said. "We're going to try to make it fun, but we will definitely prepare like we do for every game that we play. We're going up there with the intent of winning two, and we'll be ready for Nebraska Wesleyan on Friday."
NWU has averaged 96.2 points per contest this year, as they shoot at a 51.1 percent clip – the third-highest in Division III. The Prairie Wolves average nearly 12 treys per ballgame, shooting at a 40.3 percent rate.
Maryville comes into Friday's matchup tallying 82.9 points per contest, as they've won eight of their last nine. The Scots shoot at a 46.6 percent rate, while ranking 16th nationally in steals.
MC has shot 38.6 percent from beyond the arc to lead the USA South, as they also led the conference in turnover margin.
However, for the players, it's more than just the numbers. It's the opportunity to play on the big stage.
The tournament has been a goal for the Scots since their last trip in 2012.
"This is something this group of juniors has been dreaming about and working towards," Songster said. "Last year, to win 20 games and come so close and it not happen, it's been really, really rewarding to all of us [this year]. We came together, and we said we weren't going to miss out on this opportunity this year. We gave it our all this weekend, and it paid off. It's just an amazing feeling."