PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The UNC Asheville Bulldogs arrived in Pittsburgh this afternoon as they prepare for their NCAA Tournament game against top-seeded Syracuse Thursday afternoon at the Consol Energy Center at 3:10 p.m. Thursday's game will be televised nationally by TruTV and broadcast locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM).
Asheville (24-9) practiced at Kimmel Arena for 90 minutes before boarding a bus and heading to the airport. The Bulldogs took a charter plane into Pittsburgh with the flight lasting just an hour.
The site is a homecoming for Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach. He is a Pittsburgh native and was a three-sport athlete at Edgewood HS. Biedenbach still has plenty of friends in the area and his high school coach, Art Best, will be at the game on Thursday.
"It's exciting to be back home again, and I'm proud to bring our team back to Pittsburgh," commented Biedenbach. "I haven't seen the Consol Energy Arena yet (the arena is just two years old) but I'm looking forward to seeing it on Wednesday."
Asheville will hold practice at the Consol Energy Arena Wednesday from 12:45-1:25 p.m. The Bulldogs have worked hard this week in preparation for the game against Syracuse (31-2).
"Syracuse is a great team," stated Biedenbach. "We're going to have to shoot the ball well and play exceptional defense to have any chance at winning. However, we're coming here to win a basketball game, not just make it a good game."
Syracuse center Fab Melo, a 7-0, 285-pound sophomore and the key to the Orange's 2-3 zone defense, will not play against the Bulldogs Thursday. He is out due to an eligibility issue.
"That's a huge loss for them," said Biedenbach. "But they have enough size and depth to overcome it. Syracuse is a very deep team that goes 10 or 11 deep. They'll miss him but trust me they've got plenty of talent."
NCAA Tournament Bulldog Notes
This is the second straight year Asheville has faced the Big East regular-season champion in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Bulldogs faced Pittsburgh in Washington, D.C., and fell 71-47.
Reserve forward Jon Nwannanu made ESPN.com Page 2's "Coolest Name competition. He is seeded fourth in the Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje bracket. "That's pretty cool," said Nwannanu when told he had made the competition.
Matt Reynolds, who has served the Bulldog coaching staff as an intern this season, is celebrating a homecoming as well with Thursday's game. He was a manager for the Syracuse basketball program for four years before graduating in 2010.
This is Asheville's second appearance in Pittsburgh. The Bulldogs played at Duquesne during the 2006-07 season and lost 77-76.