In his sixth year at UC Davis, Jim Les has done it. He has led the Aggies to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. UC Davis (22-12), which won the Big West Championship, plays North Carolina Central (25-8) in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday at 6:40 p.m. ET.
Les is elated that his five seniors – Brynton Lemar, Lawrence White, Darius Graham, Georgi Funtarov and J.T. Adenrele – will have this experience.
“I think that’s huge,” Les said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It’s every college player’s goal – to have the opportunity, No. 1. And No. 2, it’s special because when all those guys came to UC Davis, we didn’t have a Division I tradition and history surrounding our basketball program. So they had to buy into a vision. They had to buy into being a first. You guys got to pave your own path and try and create something that really had never been done before. I really respect them for taking a chance on our vision and placing their hopes and dreams in our hands. I’m just glad we were able to produce for them.”
UC Davis played in the Big West Tournament last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, watched Selection Sunday on Sunday and are now in Dayton. If victorious Wednesday, UC Davis will play No. 1 Kansas (28-4) in Midwest regional action in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday.
“It’s been crazy,” Les said. “It has been a whirlwind. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think sleep is overrated in March, especially if you’re a coach. I want my players to get more. So we’re riding a little bit on adrenaline. As much as they’re enjoying the tournament experience and everything that surrounds being in the tournament and all the attention, they’re really staying focused and centered on this is a business trip and we’ve got a big game and we’re going to be ready to play to try and win that game and advance.”
Les did not feel slighted in any way that UC Davis was assigned to the First Four.
“I’m glad to be in the tournament and have this opportunity,” Les said. “We didn’t take it as anything other than, ‘Hey, this is where they sent us. We’re going to go and put in some work.’ I haven’t really thought too much about it. I will say this: the city of Dayton and (the University of Dayton) have been unbelievable hosts. The hospitality, the arena has been first-class. We’re enjoying this experience, and we hope to be able to parlay that into a win and advance.”