BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Florida Atlantic Owls are headed to Houston.
FAU held a campus send-off for the men’s basketball team Wednesday morning before they left to play in their first Final Four in school history.
A large crowd of fans and fellow student-athletes gathered outside the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena as the Owls boarded a bus en route to Palm Beach International Airport.
Faith Herrman, an FAU student, told Local 10 News that she wanted to show her support for the team.
“Being around this energy, it’s just something that I’m not used to. It’s really exciting,” she said.
“We never, like, thought that we could get here, and now we are making history in the whole season,” said FAU student Jillian Young.
No. 9 FAU (35-3) will face No. 5 San Diego State (31-6) on Saturday night with the winner advancing to the national championship game.
The Owls’ first Final Four appearance comes after defeating Memphis, Fairleigh Dickinson, Tennessee and Kansas State in the NCAA tournament.
Freshman guard Nicholas Boyd told Local 10 News that he feels his team is ready for the challenge.
“Just staying together and preparing for their physicality is the key,” he said. “They are a great team and it’s going to be a great challenge.”
The fans gave the team a huge ovation, but the loudest chants went to FAU head coach Dusty May.
“We’re ecstatic to still be playing basketball,” May said before boarding the team’s bus. “They seem ready. They are excited to go play.”
For a basketball program that started in the late 1980′s, reaching the Final Four is the team’s biggest accomplishment.
Students who have been here throughout May’s coaching era know what this team went through to get to this point.
“I’ve really grown to see this team flourish from start to finish and seeing where we are now is absolutely amazing,” said Herrman.
The last time the Owls were in the Final Four of any postseason was 2002, and that was the ASun Conference Tournament.
The Owls are now looking for more than Cinderella’s slipper — they want the March Madness crown.
Before the buses took off, May gave his final message: “Hey, we will see you guys Tuesday with a natty (national championship).”
Tip-off is set for 6:09 p.m.