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ODU to Play Former Foe Butler in NCAA Tournament Thursday

Four years later, it's payback time.

Old Dominion University will play the Butler Bulldogs Thursday in its first 2011 NCAA tournament game. A capacity crowd filled the North Cafeteria in Webb Center Sunday night to watch the tournament selection show on CBS.

For the second year in a row, ODU was one of the last teams announced. Unlike last year's 11 seed, however, the Monarchs received a nine seed in this year's tournament. The reward: a game in Washington, D.C., against last year's finalist, Butler, the same team that defeated the Monarchs in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament in Buffalo, N.Y.

The crowd roared its approval when the announcement was made. Coach Blaine Taylor grabbed the microphone at the end of the show and summed up the feelings of Monarch Nation.

"This is just the start of the road," Taylor said, eliciting a big cheer. "The only thing I wanted was location. We got location.

"They say of your regular season, 'The schedule is what you make of it.' It's the same in the tournament. We're going to make something out of this."

Thousands of Monarch fans are expected to make the trip to the Verizon Center for Thursday's game, which is scheduled to tip off at 12:40 p.m. "During our championship game in the CAA tournament, I turned to one of our assistants and said, 'They've got more fans than we do, but ours are louder,'" Taylor said.

ODU President John R. Broderick marveled at the crowd that showed up at Webb Center on the nicest Sunday afternoon of the winter. Broderick has been at ODU since 1993. "I've never seen this level of enthusiasm with the basketball team. This is pretty unprecedented," he said.

The crowd started filtering into Webb Center well before the official 5 p.m. start of the party. As the players showed up, many of them early arrivers themselves, they were mobbed by autograph- and picture-seeking fans, plus Monarch supporters who simply wanted to say thanks and congratulations.

Trian Iliadis said he hadn't given a thought to whom ODU might play in the tournament. "It's great that we took care of business last week (winning a tournament berth in the CAA tournament) so we didn't have to worry about it."

The players sat in a row across the front of the room, as fans filled every seat behind them, many wearing the glow-in-the-dark ODU buttons distributed during the CAA tournament. Cal Bowdler, former Monarch great and current team radio color analyst, was a sophomore on the 1997 team that won the CAA tournament.

"For us, we didn't have the luxury that this team had, knowing we probably would have made the tournament without winning the CAA tournament. But once we did win the auto bid, it was exciting to sit back and wait for Selection Sunday," Bowdler said.

There was excitement surrounding this year's Selection Sunday because of the likelihood the CAA could receive two or even three bids. Conference rival George Mason was one of the first teams announced, being sent to Cleveland as an eight seed, where the Patriots will take on Villanova Friday.

Then a big cheer filled the room when Virginia Commonwealth, perhaps surprisingly, was selected to play in one of two first-round games in Dayton, as one of the final four nonconference-winning teams. The Rams will take on the University of Southern California on Tuesday.

ODU fans can call 3-4444 for ticket information. Ticket applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. Monday, March 14.

This article was posted on: March 10, 2011

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