Monday, March 16, 2009

Mean to your Queenie

Sacramento Kings to play ASU in NCAA tournament

By J.E. Skeets

SACRAMENTO — After four months of uninspired ball, an additional 30 minutes weren't so tough to stomach. It's not like they were in a rush to go lose to the Wizards.

The Sacramento Kings men's basketball team, two wins behind the Clippers — the Steve Novak Clippers! — in the NBA cellar, gathered Sunday to watch the NCAA tournament selection show and learn its March fate.

The Kings watched as 63 teams flashed across two flat-screen televisions inside the Wizards' visiting locker room. Finally, it became official.

Sacramento, an 11th seed in the South Region, will meet 6th seeded Arizona State at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Friday's game is expected to start around 1:45 p.m. Eastern. The winner between third-seeded Syracuse and 14th-seed Stephen F. Austin awaits on Sunday if the Kings advance.

Star Kevin Martin jumped to his feet, slowly. Rookie Spencer Hawes raised his hands. Bobby Jackson leaned over and punched Donte Greene in the face.

"It just took forever," Hawes said. "I was kind of like 'What is taking so long? I know we're going, (but) if Sacramento does not pop up on one of the brackets, something bad is going to happen to somebody. Popcorn will be popped!'"

No need.

Not this time.

A year after getting snubbed by the selection committee, the Kings (14-52) had reason to celebrate.

"It's really important for us to frame it in the moment and to take this in for what it is now, and do it with a grateful heart," Kings' coach Kenny Natt said. "I don't feel personally any great need to try to place it in some historical slot. I'd rather much enjoy the moment and celebrate with these guys what they've been able to do this season. We're an NBA team in The Big Dance, not many other teams can say that. It's pretty special."

"Our guys have played in big games, our guys have played against outstanding competition — professional NBA squads," Natt continued. "But at the end of the day, it's just 'Hoosiers,' baby. The basket's 10 feet and it's the same size court. That, and we have Beno Udrih. I like our chances."

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