Dancing Bulldogs!

The 15th-seeded UNC Asheville Bulldogs will play the second-seeded Villanova Wildcats at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., at 12:40 p.m. on Friday, March 18. The game will be nationally broadcast on truTV. UNC Asheville will host a free viewing party for fans in the Grotto in Highsmith Union. The Alumni Association will host a variety of watch parties in Asheville and beyond, with more information at alumni.unca.edu/events. For more information, visit uncabulldogs.com.

The UNC Asheville Bulldogs won the Big South Men’s Basketball Championship and punched their ticket to March Madness and the NCAA Tournament with a stirring come-from-behind victory over a talented Winthrop team.

The Big South final proved a much tougher contest for the Bulldogs, who had won handily in the opening two games of the tournament. At halftime, they trailed by 9 points with their offense out of sync. But they didn’t lose their confidence.  “They never hit the panic button,” said Head Coach Nick McDevitt. “Our players actually said it before we [coaches] did. They said ‘hey, we’ve been in this situation, even worse than this situation.’” Earlier this year, the Bulldogs came back from 23 points down to beat Winthrop at Kimmel Arena.

With big buckets to start the second half from senior Sam Hughes, and a 28-point, 18-rebound performance by first-year player Dwayne Sutton, the Bulldogs stormed back again for the victory. Sutton was named tournament MVP and sophomore Ahmad Thomas joined Sutton on the all-tournament team. Dylan Smith, also a first-year player, hit a trio of 3-pointers in the second half, and sophomore Kevin Vannatta made big plays at key moments in a balanced, team victory.

This is a very young team that grew together quickly and became the surprise story of the Big South, after being tabbed for a seventh-place finish in the preseason poll of conference coaches.

“What a special moment for coach McDevitt and this team,” said UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant who joined Bulldog players and fans in a joyous celebration on the court after the game. “This is our town, our team and I couldn’t be more proud.”

graphic of ticket to the big danceFor the first time ever, the Bulldogs will go into the "Big Dance" as a No. 15 seed when they play against No. 2 seed Villanova in Brooklyn, NY, on Friday, March 18. But the Bulldog players and coaches began their own dance on national television right after their victory, in a moment you can see here on the ESPNU facebook page.

Already, the Bulldogs also have been dubbed a Big Dance Cinderella team by NBC Sports.

Asheville Citizen-Times Sports Writer Bob Berghaus was on the scene and you can read his coverage here. And you can see WLOS-TV 13 Sports coverage here.

Analysis of the game also is available from Fox Sports with links to the post-game news conferences.

And for more information about UNC Asheville Athletics and tickets to all Bulldog sporting events, visit uncabulldogs.com.