KSU finds itself as the feel-good story leading up to Selection Sunday

Mar. 9—KENNESAW — There is nothing like being the Cinderella story leading up to the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket.

This year, Kennesaw State has put on the slipper.

The Owls, who went 1-28 just three seasons ago, earned their first trip to the NCAA Tournament as a Division I program last weekend with a 67-66 victory over Liberty in the ASUN championship game.

It has left coach Amir Abdur-Rahim and Mark Wasik, Kennesaw State's associate director of athletics communications, a little sleep-deprived.

"I haven't slept more than five hours a night since before the regular-season championship (was won at Central Arkansas last month)," Wasik said. "Then, as the No. 1 seed, we served as tournament host for four games, and I'm sure there was more media coverage of this year than any ASUN title game prior because Liberty has a big media following, and we were the Cinderella story."

Abdur-Rahim was already beginning to make the rounds on the national media following Sunday's win over Liberty. Just two or three hours after the game, he told ESPN Radio he had already received "329 text messages." By Wednesday afternoon, that number had become too many to count, yet Abdur-Rahim said he feels it is necessary to reach out and thank all the well-wishers.

"It's been somewhat overwhelming," Abdur-Rahim said. "It's a new feeling for me because I am good at prioritizing, but you sit here for a week before anything else happens and you are obligated to return every text, email and call. That, in itself, is just too much."

Over the first few days since it achieved the biggest victory in its Division I history, Kennesaw State has become a media darling. The Owls have gotten social media shoutouts from Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Rep Barry Loudermilk, Atlanta's major sports teams and iconic college basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale.

Kennesaw State's victory has also been the talk of the town on all the local television stations, it was highlighted by the "CBS Mornings" newscast, ESPN's "SportsCenter" and was a main subject on the CBS Sports' "Eye on College Basketball" podcast.

ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello wrote the first of what is likely the first of many accounts over the next week on how the Kennesaw State program rose from the ashes, and it seems like everyone wants to talk to Abdur-Rahim about how he engineered the turnaround.

In addition to guesting on all the local radio shows and doing the local news hits, he has already been on ESPN Radio multiple times, the CBS Sports Network, SiriusXM College Sports Radio and many others.

"I told my guys, I've got three jobs in one," Abdur-Rahim said. "First, I have to look out for their personal well-being. Second, I have to be their coach, and third, I have an obligation to promote our university. Success comes with a price."

Success also opens the door to other new experiences.

At 12:15 p.m. Sunday, prior to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game on CBS, Abdur-Rahim and guard Chris Youngblood be interviewed live on the network's pregame show. Then, shortly after CBS' NCAA Tournament selection show begins at 6 p.m., there will be a live spot from the viewing party at the KSU Convocation Center.

At that point, the Owls will find out who and where they are playing their first-round game.

"I've watched (the selection show) a million times," Abdur-Rahim said. "(To be on it), that's pretty cool. Bucket list."