Not even the lack of sleep in what has been a whirlwind 48 hours could put a damper on the excitement for Grand Canyon's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history.
"Just hearing our name call that was something that I will never forget," said GCU junior Grace Haskins. "Definitely an experience to remember for the rest of my life."
Not only going to the dance for the first time, but doing it in a year when neither ASU or UA are a part of the tournament, GCU has the spotlight all to themselves. Being on this stage was part of the vision that Jerry Colangelo had years ago for this program, and now the 'Lopes have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the masses during March Madness.
"To be a part of that magic and be a part of that enthusiasm, and for the university to be represented, not just the coaches and the players, but our student body, is a big thing for the university," said GCU President Brian Mueller.
"We wanted to make the tournament, we were pretty open about that," said Havocs' president Joshua Gillespie. "That was a big deal for the school, and to finally get there and to do it by beating our rivals New Mexico State just made it even sweeter."
It was a cathartic moment for a program that’s fallen one game shy the past two seasons. But to celebrate in Las Vegas with 250 Havocs' that were bussed up for the championship game was an unforgettable moment.
"We were so excited for the team and just watching their celebration and just like the true joy and happiness that they had, that they were just so excited to have made it here," said Haskins.
The team spent Monday quarantining in their hotel rooms and resting up. The 250 Havocs' who made the trip to Vegas and back, are now gearing up to make the journey to Indianapolis to cheer on their squad.
“I've been around basketball my whole life. I'm from Indiana, so basketball is tops here. I've been all around, been at Kansas, I played at Duke," said GCU first-year head coach Bryce Drew. "I would think we're like the best-kept secret in the country, are the Havocs'."
"We know we have the best student section in the country and those that have been here know about it. Donovan Mitchell said that he played against Duke and North Carolina, and he said that this is the best place to play," said Gillespie. "This is the best student section and we just want to introduce more people to that and show them just how crazy the Havocs' are."
GCU could use all the homecourt advantage they can get, facing an Iowa Hawkeyes team that carries the 2-seed and is the 7th-ranked team in the country with potential national player of the year Luka Garza.
"They're really good, they're really experienced, they're very well-coached," said President Mueller, a former college basketball coach himself. "But this is what March Madness is all about, right? It's one time, it's 40 minutes, and right now our team is on an uptick. I didn't want to play New Mexico State in the finals, but now I'm glad that we did because we dominated them and that gave our players a lot of confidence. They are playing as well as they played all year.
GCU has one of the later tip-off times on the 2nd day of the opening round. They’ll meet Iowa at 3:25 Arizona time Saturday afternoon.