American U hopes to show fewer nerves at 2nd NCAAs Print
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Monday, 16 March 2009 13:20
NCAAB Headline News


 WASHINGTON (AP) -American University coach Jeff Jones waited several months to watch video of his team's NCAA tournament debut, a loss to Tennessee in last year's first round.
When he finally did get around to it, Jones switched the game off in the second half, disappointed to see on tape in August what he had seen in person back in March: Players making mistakes because they were in awe of the setting.
As the second NCAA game in AU history approaches, against No. 3-seeded Villanova at Philadelphia in the East Regional on Thursday, Jones is quite confident his 14th-seeded Patriot League champions won't get a case of the jitters this time around.
``If we go out there, and we're not hesitant - we're not reacting to Villanova and allowing them to be the aggressor - then at least we'll have a chance,'' Jones said Monday before practice. ``We'll have a fighter's chance.''
Jones is not about to ignore what happened in 2008.
Indeed, he wants his team to learn from it.
any way be nervous or feel like or wonder, I guess, if we belong,'' Jones said. ``We belong.''
By Sunday night, after the brackets were announced, he already made sure to mention that 15-point loss to Tennessee and what his players say he referred to as their ``deer in the headlights'' look that day.
``The second time around is different. We've been there before. We know what to expect this year,'' said Garrison Carr, AU's leading scorer and one of five senior starters. ``The mind-set is different. We're not necessarily just happy that we made it, like last year. Now we want to go out and perform to the best of our ability.''
A year ago, in Birmingham, Ala., as a No. 15 seed, American finally got to see what it felt like to be invited to March Madness.
``They call it 'the Big Dance' for a reason,'' Carr said, smiling as he thought about all of the perks.
The police escorts to practices.
The nice hotel.
The good meals.
``The whole trip was awesome. We really weren't used to that. So we were like, 'Wow, this is how it really is in the NCAAs,''' said Patriot League player of the year Derrick Mercer, who will be asked to try to slow down Villanova star guard Scottie Reynolds.
we're going to get ourselves ready so we can get that next feeling, and that next feeling, and that next feeling, and that next feeling.''
The Patriot League isn't exactly known as a national power, yet its teams have managed to hold their own against more tradition-laden schools in recent NCAA action: Bucknell knocked off Kansas and Arkansas, while Holy Cross stayed close with Kentucky and Marquette.
And AU was within two points with less than 6 minutes left against Tennessee. Alas, the Eagles managed only one field goal the rest of the way.
``We didn't play our best game up there,'' said Brian Gilmore, averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 5.4 rebounds this season. ``We were out of control, too sped-up. Maybe that's to be expected the first time you go into the tournament.''
Now he and his teammates even have some NCAA-related superstitions.
Gilmore, for example, doesn't want to see the full tournament bracket.
``Last year was the first year I didn't fill out a bracket since I was a little kid,'' he said. ``All my focus right now is 14 vs. 3, Villanova-American.''
 

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