March 17, 2009

The 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship made its ninth consecutive start at the University of Dayton Arena Tuesday evening, and this year’s “Big Dance” tipped off in front of a record crowd.  The Opening Round matchup between Alabama St. and Morehead St. was played before 11,346 college basketball fans in Dayton, Ohio.

Morehead St., which defeated Alabama St. 58-43, will take on tournament  No. 1 seed Louisville at UD Arena Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. First-round games get under way in Greensboro, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Portland on Thursday afternoon, while Dayton joins Boise, Miami and Minneapolis as hosts for first-round games on Friday. Second-round games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, with each city having a day off between rounds.

Louisville is joined by fellow Big East Conference members Pittsburgh and Connecticut as No. 1 seeds for the 2009 championship. It marks the first time in tournament history that three No. 1 seeds have come from the same league. Perennial power North Carolina is the other top seed. Kansas, a No. 3 seed this year, is the defending national champion.Tickets are still available at select sites. Fans can visit www.ncaa.com for more details.  UD Arena, which will also host first- and second-round games in the Midwest Region Friday and Sunday, has steadily earned the reputation as a historic NCAA venue since being built in 1970.  The previous attendance record for an NCAA Opening Round game was established at UD Arena in 2002, when Siena defeated Alcorn State 81-77 in front of a crowd of 8,681. The city of Dayton has been recognized nationally for its fervent devotion to its hometown Flyers.

“It was a great environment," Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said. "(I was) so impressed with the crowd.  This is what college basketball is all about."

Despite seeing his team's season come to and end, Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson saw the positives.  

“It was just a tremendous atmosphere," Jackson said.  "Coming in we had heard about the fans, how they turn out for the games.  This was a great for us, the opportunity to be playing nationally, live and have an audience like this. I thought it was just outstanding.  And this opportunity for our guys was great as well.  We’re losing four guys, but we have a number of guys coming back.  This was a great experience for them and they’ll now know how to perform and handle this when we have the opportunity to make this run again.”