A big for the 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament could go through Kennesaw, Ga.
The ASUN men’s tournament begins for the Kennesaw State Owls on Tuesday Night.
Thanks to securing the No. 1 seed in the ASUN Tournament, the Owls will host all of its games in the league tournament and will also host a First-Round game vs. No. 9 Queens in the KSU Convocation Center. A tournament bid would be coming with three wins.
Tickets are available to purchase online at KSUOwls.com, while KSU students will receive free admission to all home games involving Kennesaw State with a valid student ID, while student tickets remain.
“Thanks to all the fans,” said Kennesaw Head Coach Amir Abdur-Rahim in Monday media availability.
Abdur-Rahim was in a thankful mood, thanking the media for coverage and fans while talking about what lies ahead.
Quite a season for Kennesaw State men’s basketball, and the Owls were rewarded for their championship performance as Abdur-Rahim became the first in school history to be named ASUN Conference Coach of the Year. Three players were honored as well from the ASUN regular season champions. Brandon Stroud is the first-ever Owl to be named ASUN Defensive Player of the Year. Chris Youngblood became the first First-Team All-ASUN selection from KSU since 2016-17, while Terrell Burden was the top vote-receiver on the All-ASUN Second Team.
Abdur-Rahim received the league’s top coach accolades after taking an Owl team picked eighth in the preseason coach’s poll to the top of the league with a 15-3 record in the ASUN, which earned KSU the No. 1 seed in this week’s ASUN Tournament. The previous best finish for the Owls in the ASUN was a tie for fourth in the 2016-17 season. Even more impressive, the Owls completely shattered almost every season win and achievement mark in the Division I era (since 2005-06), as KSU finished the regular season with a 23-8 overall record. It is nine wins over the previous school record for wins and was the team’s first-ever winning season. KSU’s 15 league wins were five more than the previous record of 10-10, while the Owls are tied for fourth in the nation with 10 road wins (10-6), four more than the 2016-17 team’s road mark of 6-13.
Stroud, a junior forward from Atlanta, Ga., was one of the best overall players in the ASUN and was the only player in the ASUN to rank in the top 10 in both rebounding (7th – 6.5 rpg) and steals (6th – 1.5 spg). In conference play, he raised his steal average to 1.72 per game, which ranked him third among league players. Stroud led the Owls in rebounding in a team-high 13 games and reached double-figures in rebounds in six games, including three times against conference opponents. He was a key factor in helping the Owls finish the regular season ranked first in the conference for steals per game in both overall and league only games. The Owls’ 257 steals are currently the fourth-most in a season in school history. Stroud is also one of the top scorers on the team, ranking fourth with nine points per game, and twice earned ASUN Player of the Week honors during the season.
Youngblood, a junior guard from Tuscaloosa, Ala., is one of the most explosive scorers in the ASUN. He reached double-figures in 25 games this season and in all 18 ASUN conference games. He currently ranks 11th in the league in scoring at 15.0 ppg and posted six 20+ point performances including four in ASUN games. Youngblood turned in one of the best games of his career when he scored 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in KSU’s home win over Liberty on Feb. 16, while he also came up with a huge steal and dunk in the final minute to help the Owls rally past Stetson 82-81 in overtime for a big road victory Jan. 19. One of the top shooters in the conference, he ranks sixth in both free throw percentage and three-point percentage.
Burden, a guard from Smyrna, Ga., was the heart and soul of this year’s KSU team and led numerous second-half comebacks with a resume of game-winning shots. In back-to-back games in which KSU trailed by double-digits in the second half, Burden scored 16 of his eventual 19 points in the second half. That included five straight points in the final two minutes that gave KSU the lead for good in the home win over Liberty. In the Owls’ 2-0 road trip to Florida, he scored back-to-back winning points, first with the winning basket with under 10 seconds left, and then followed with a block on Stetson’s last shot in the overtime victory. He followed that two days later with the winning free throws to break a tie game with 30 seconds left in a 65-63 win at FGCU. Burden finished the regular season ranked fourth in the league with 4.16 apg, while his 129 assists for the season are the fourth-highest in school history. He also ranks 17th in the ASUN in scoring average 13.2, and second in steals with 1.71 per game, and his 53 steals for the season ties him for fourth-most ever in a season at KSU.
The Owls finished in a tie at the top of the standings with Liberty but hold the tiebreaker due to KSU’s win over the Flames on Feb. 16. That also clinches the first-ever national postseason tournament appearance for the Owls, as if they do not win the ASUN tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament, they will receive an auto-bid to the NIT.
The Owls will host every game in this year’s tournament they play in, including the championship game if they advance that far. This is the second straight year, and second-time ever KSU has hosted a postseason game as a Division I program.