Senior Happy to Be Back In The NCAA Tournament

Auburn, Ala.--In recent weeks seniors Marquis Daniels and Derrick Bird have been pushing their teammates to make a strong enough stretch run to push the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament.

Auburn finished the regular season in second place in the SEC West and reached the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament where it lost to the hottest team in the country, the Kentucky Wildcats, on Saturday in New Orleans. Almost exactly 24 hours later after walking off the court in the Louisiana Superdome, the Tigers learned that they would be facing St. Joseph's of Philadelphia, Pa., in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

It is doubtful there are two happier people on the Auburn campus than Bird and Daniels. "There was a lot of joy in the room," Daniels said in describing the scene when the Tigers saw their name called for an NCAA bid on Sunday. "We were happy because we knew we were on the bubble. We felt like we had a good season this year and were fortunate enough to get in. It was a great feeling for us."

For Daniels, the fact that the Tigers will be playing a short drive from his hometown of Orlando makes the news even sweeter. His phone started ringing soon after the announcement was made and he is expecting a good turnout of friends and family at the St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa, the arena where the Tigers will play St. Joe's on Friday. "Coming in as a freshman, I was in the NCAA Tournament and going out as a senior I will be in there," he says. "To play close by to home in Tampa is even better."

Marquis Daniels is averaging 17.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

Daniels says he isn't certain if Auburn's victory over Tennessee in New Orleans on Friday night was the one that put the Tigers into the tournament, but he is certain that it was important to game. "We felt a sense of urgency," he says. "We knew we needed to get that win in order to have a chance to make this tournament. I think we did a good job of coming out and being prepared for it."

Watching the NCAA selection show with his teammates on Sunday was a memorable experience for the senior. "I was scared," he admits. "It was nerve-wracking. It was like taking a test that you know you need to pass and you are there waiting for the teacher to put out the grades. We passed."

After playing even for 20 minutes with a powerful Kentucky team on Saturday at the Superdome, Daniels says the Tigers will respect St. Joe's, a team with 23 wins out of the Atlantic 10 Conference, but will not fear the Hawks. "Right now every team is good," Daniels says. "We have to go out and play hard and stay focused on what we need to do."

While the trip to New Orleans was mostly about basketball for the Tigers, Daniels and his teammates did get a chance to check out some of the sights. While walking through a shopping area, the Auburn senior noticed a wooden necklace that he liked. "I just saw it in a store and I just asked what it meant," Daniels says. "He said, ‘It means Fear No Man, But Fear God.'"

Daniels liked the concept so much he bought the souvenir and wore it during the selection show. "You can't fear a man if you want to play this game," he notes. "While he may not fear any man in the basketball, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is a different matter. "That's more than one man," the senior forward adds, flashing a big smile then laughing at his own joke, something that is easy to do when you have just been invited to the NCAA Tournament.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Walk-on forward Donny Calton is another senior for the Tigers. The Texan may have had his finest moments as an Auburn player last week with excellent relief work off the bench defending All-SEC forward Ron Slay of Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. "He's a great guy and plays hard," Daniels notes. "He comes to play everyday." Coach Cliff Ellis says, "Donny Calton is what college basketball is all about."

Editor's Note: Inside the Auburn Tigers will have complete coverage on AUTigers.com of Auburn's trip to Tampa for the NCAA Tournament.



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