Ian Billings/Mustang News

Senior guard Jamal Johnson (left) celebrates with teammate and senior forward Chris Eversley as the Cal Poly men’s basketball team learned its opponent in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Stephan Teodosescu

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The NCAA selection committee confirmed what many surrounding Cal Poly basketball already speculated — the Mustangs are headed to Dayton, Ohio to take on Texas Southern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday.

Less than 24 hours after winning the Big West Conference Tournament on Saturday, players, coaching staff and fans gathered for a viewing party at Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo to find out where Cal Poly would be slated.

The place erupted in cheers once the school’s name flashed across the screens showing the Mustangs will be playing a First Four game in the Midwest Region. The winner of that matchup will be awarded the No. 16 seed to take on No. 1  Wichita State (34-0) in St Louis, Mo. on Friday.

“We had a pretty good guess going into the selection show,” senior guard and tournament MVP Chris Eversley said of who his team thought it would be playing. “Realizing that Wichita State is an undefeated team and the opportunity to play them is exciting.”

But before a potential matchup with the Shockers and an opportunity to do what no No. 16 team has ever done before – knock off a No. 1 — Cal Poly will have to first get through the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champions.

Texas Southern (19-14) returns to the big dance for the first time since 2003 and for the fifth time overall. The Tigers are coming off a year in which they were unable to make the NCAA Tournament because of sanctions.

They’re led by former Indiana head coach Mike Davis, who helped lead the Hoosiers to the national title game 12 years ago, and SWAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year center Aaric Murray .

“I just know its hard-nosed ball down there at Texas Southern,” Texas native and true freshman guard Ridge Shipley said. “I know they like to get up and I played that kind of basketball growing up. It’s run-and-gun and they’re in your face. It’s going to be a tough game, similar to (Cal State) Northridge.

Shipley’s heroics in the Big West tournament final are a large reason why the Mustangs are in NCAA Tournament in the first place. He nailed a straight-away, game-winning 3-pointer with 14 seconds left in the championship game against Cal State Northridge Saturday. He finished the game with 14 points, one off his career-high set in the quarterfinals against UC Santa Barbara.

“Ridge has been knocking down shots like that in practice all season,” Eversley said.

At 13-19, the Mustangs are the worst team in the tournament based on record. Cal Poly lost nine of its final 11 games in the regular season before rattling off three straight wins, including victories against the second-seeded Gauchos and No. 1-seed UC Irvine, this past weekend to earn its first-ever NCAA tourney berth. It was the first time in conference history a No. 7 seed won the league title.

“Why not?” Eversley said when asked if he embraces the underdog role. “It’s brought us this far and as a seven seed, no one expected us to be this far.”

Until Wednesday night, Cal Poly will have some time to let history soak in. According to head coach Joe Callero, the magnitude of what some have called the the biggest moment in Cal Poly athletics history hasn’t hit him yet.

“I think it’ll be another 24 hours before I go, ‘Wow, we’re in the dance,’” Callero said.

Tip-off vs. Texas Southern is set for 3:40 p.m. PST at the University of Dayton Arena.

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