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Saint Leo ready for first tourney

11:52 PM, Mar 9, 2012   |    comments
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Dade City, Fla. -- Saint Leo is ready for the school's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

It took nearly 50 years, so the Lions will enjoy every moment in the South regional in Huntsville, Alabama.

"No one picked us to go anywhere in (the Sunshines State) conference," junior guard Marcus Ruh said. "We were picked ninth (in the pre-season poll). So to be moving on with an at-large bid is amazing."

Saint Leo missed out on their first conference championship after losing to Florida Southern in the SSC title game.  After hearing their name announced during the selection show, the Lions didn't care how they got there.

Saint Leo is the equivalent of Northwestern in Division II basketball.  Or make that was their equal.

Northwestern has never reached the tournament in Division I.  Saint Leo no longer shares that distinction.

"Just giving the school something to brag about," junior guard Trent Thomas said. "Being part of history at the school, it's a wonderful thing."

Head coach Lance Randall took over a program that won two conference games last year.  Randall added 13 new players in his first year.  He says this is the best team chemistry in any locker room he has coached.

"I'm sure it's turned quite a few heads, but we've quietly been confident," Randall said. "This has been a goal for us from day one."

The Lions' first-round opponent is familiar.  Florida Tech won the SCC regular season title.

Saint Leo split the two regular season meetings.

"You gotta add a few wrinkles (to face a familiar team) and we have," Randall said. "Get out there and compete on a bigger stage now."

Travis Bell, 10 News

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