Written by Mikayla Catoe
Despite the morning snowfall, students, faculty and Rock Hill community members gathered at Winthrop University Coliseum for food, face painting and most importantly for the viewing of CBS’ NCAA Tournament Selection Show.
The No. 13 seed Winthrop Eagles discovered Sunday that they will face the No. 4 seed Butler Bulldogs Thursday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 2017 Big South Champions will head into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.
Winthrop President Dan Mahoney said, “Because they won the championship, the publicity we have gotten the past week was great. And since Pat was on ESPN and because we play the tournament so early, our name has been out there all week long.”
Director of Athletics Ken Halpin said he agrees that being in the spotlight is huge for the university.
“We were just on national television and for the university to purchase national attention like that it would be incredibly expensive, so that’s why we see this as an invaluable experience,” Halpin said.
“Hopefully the national attention adds to the excitement and pride that future students have for the university,” Halpin said. “If we win a game or two, it could add to more people wanting to come and become a part of Winthrop whether it’s from a donor or student perspective.”
The attention has also brought Winthrop alumni back to town. Dustin Petty, Winthrop alumnus of 2016, was born in Rock Hill and said he has been a fan ever since he was a child.
“I have followed Winthrop basketball ever since I was a kid, so I am really dedicated to my school and basketball so when you put those two together it’s really exciting and a fun time,” Petty said. “I am currently living in Columbus, Ohio, but I had to come back for this.”
Senior member of the Winthrop men’s basketball team Josh Davenport said he is looking forward to the upcoming game.
“As a senior, going out like this is huge. We get to play a really good team so I am excited, the team is excited and the coaches are excited. I am hoping we are going to go to Milwaukee and take care of business,” Davenport said.
For fellow Winthrop athletes like Diego Quiroz of the men’s tennis team, the recent Big South win has inspired others to
work toward the same goal.
“The big win is nice because I know it has made the tennis team work extra hard to get more championship rings,” Quiroz said. “It is really awesome and we would like to be a part of something similar.”
Frank Pullano, associate professor of mathematics, said he is excited to see what the future holds for the Eagles.
“This is a very exciting moment for the university,” Pullano said. “It is finally time for the boys to get back to the dance.”
Fans can purchase tickets available through the Winthrop Athletic Ticket Office while they last by contacting Renae Myles (803) 323-2345. Tickets for the two-game session on Thursday are $100.