The atmosphere was electric in the Gasthaus, where fans and alumni, decked out in their black and gold gear, gathered alongside the team to see whom the Panthers’ next opponent will be in the Big Dance later this week. There was thunderous applause as the Selection Sunday Show kicked off, then the wait began. Region by region, more of the bracket was revealed until it was time for the East, the Villanova Wildcats were announced as second seed. As soon as that hit the screen a roar went up throughout the Gasthaus as Milwaukee was expected to be a fifteen seed, and sure enough the Panthers were scheduled to play against them in Buffalo, New York this Thursday.
The initial excitement ran through the players, none felt it more than senior guard Jordan Aaron.
“I had jitters waiting, but this feels great. It’s a great feeling, I get to go back home, ” said Aaron. As the first wave of excitement passed by, Aaron talked about the team’s mindset going into the Tournament and their game against Villanova, “We’re definitely going into the Tournament with a chip on our shoulder. We just have to be the best team on the court for 40 minutes.”
“We have to make sure to contain them. It’s business time now for us,” said teammate Matt Tiby when asked about the matchup with Villanova ,
Milwaukee is one of two Wisconsin teams to represent the state in the Big Dance, the Wisconsin Badgers being the other team whose first game will be played in the Bradley Center here in Milwaukee.
“With us (Milwaukee) and Wisconsin it’s the big brother-little brother feeling,” Coach Rob Jeter said when asked about the Badgers game in town.
“Going back to New York will be special rallying around Jordan Aaron,” Jeter said. “It’s great when you have fans like we do.” Looking around the Gasthaus filled with the Panther faithful, Jeter added, “We’re packed here as it is and many will be making the trip to Buffalo to support us and that really means a lot.”
When asked if he was happy with the pairing or was hoping for another team Jeter said, “It didn’t really matter to us. The biggest thing for our guys is for them to feel comfortable when they’re taking the court against the opponent.”
For Jeter and the Panthers it’s business first leading up to game time on Thursday, but Jeter still wants his players to enjoy the moment.
“It’s March Madness…we still have to have some fun,” he said with a smile on his face.
During the team’s Media Day on Wednesday, when asked about a potential team that he was hoping to be paired with, Jeter said, “It really doesn’t matter to us…we’ve been overlooked all year long.” This upset-hungry team showed that when they fought their way through the Horizon League Championship to get to where they are today, in a date with the Villanova Wildcats of the Big East Conference where they hope to keep their Cinderella Story going strong.
And in case you didn’t see enough reasons to like the team, check out their music video to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”