GREELEY -- Northern Colorado will try to become just the fifth No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament history Thursday when it takes on seventh-ranked San Diego State at McKale Center in Tucson.
The Bears (21-10) learned their spot in the field's West Region on Sunday afternoon in front of about 500 fans at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion and celebrated with a roar when "Northern Colorado" popped onto the three 15-by-15 foot screens sitting near midcourt.
The Bears, in just their fourth year of NCAA Division I postseason eligibility, will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance around 2:40 p.m.
They won this year's Big Sky regular-season and postseason championships, so they were assured a spot in Sunday's bracket release. But they didn't know where or whom they would play in their first "Big Dance."
They found their answer Sunday, and the result was pretty familiar.
Northern Colorado has played San Diego State six times (1-5) and earned a 62-56 road win against the Aztecs on January 9, 2008. The Bears are also no stranger to McKale Center, having played their to open this season against Arizona.
San Diego State split the 2011 Moutain West Conference regular-season title with BYU but defeated the Cougars yesterday in Las Vegas to earn the MWC's automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The Aztecs head into this year's tournament tied with Ohio State and Kansas for the best record in the country at 32-2.
The winner of Thursday's San Diego State-Northern Colorado game will take on the winner of No. 7 seed Temple and No. 10 seed Penn State on Saturday, March 19.
Other Tucson matchups include (5) Kansas State taking on (12) Utah State and (4) Wisconsin playing (13) Belmont.
Northern Colorado will receive 350 lower-level tickets to Thursday's early session, which will also include Temple and Penn State. Northern Colorado will have the opportunity to purchase an additional 200 session tickets based on fan demand.
The price of the single-session ticket will be set by the arena, and participating institutions are not entitled to complimentary tickets.
If Northern Colorado's fan demand exceeds the Bears' ticket allotment, priority will be given to athletic donors (based on giving level), men's basketball season-ticket holders, and athletic corporate sponsors.
The Bears' team hotel will be the Viscount Suite Hotel Tucson (4855 East Broadway, Tucson, AZ 85711).
For more information and to purchase tickets to see the Bears in this year's NCAA Tournament, please contact Kristi Watson at 970-351-2116.
A pregame party and pep rally will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Sam Hughes' Place -- Championship Dining. The event will feature the Northern Colorado men's basketball pep band and spirit squad.
A cash bar will be available as well as outstanding food to order. NCAA Tournament games from around the country will be shown on big screens.
Once the Bears advance past San Diego State, a similar tip-off rally will be held Saturday at Sam Hughes' Place, three hours prior to the start of the session that includes the Northern Colorado game.