The Cowboys, 18-13, are the ninth seed in the West Regional, and will face No. 8 seed Oregon, 25-9, on Friday at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The winner of Friday’s game will likely face No. 1 seed and Big Ten champion Wisconsin, 31-3, on Sunday.
The Ducks defeated the Cowboys 68-55 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“It feels great. I’m finally there,” Hickey said a few minutes after watching the NCAA Selection Show with his teammates. “But it’s about taking care of business from now on. The waiting process was a little nerve-wracking but I’m just glad that our (team’s) name was called.
“We had a good resume. We played a lot of great teams. It paid off,” Hickey said.
For Hickey it’s the first time he’ll play for a team invited to play in the NCAA Tournament. But OSU teammates Le’Bryan Nash, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte will be playing in their third consecutive NCAA tourney, and the Cowboys are appearing in their fifth in the last seven years under head coach Travis Ford.
“I sat beside (Hickey),” OSU head coach Travis Ford said. “It’s kinda like my first year here with Byron Eaton, who all he talked about was he’d never made an NCAA Tournament and that was the expectation for him for four years and he felt like he let so many people down and so many things. So I sat beside him on that Selection Sunday.
“I did the same thing with Anthony Hickey because that is something we talked about when he got here (last summer). He had not been to an NCAA Tournament. He’d played on some pretty good teams (at LSU), but I told him he had an opportunity to lead a team that no one expects to get there. Everybody pretty much played us for dead. Nobody believed in this team whatsoever, until we started winning some games and then everybody act like they did believe in the team.
“We talked a lot about him having a chance to lead this team, and he’s got great players around him like Nash and Cobbins and Forte. I’m excited for him. I’m excited for Nash, for his senior year. I’m excited for Cobbins, his senior year, and (Christien) Sager and (Marek) Soucek and (Alex) Budke and these guys. It’s always exciting.
“You look at Nash and Cobbins, these guys have gone to three straight NCAA Tournaments. We’ve made three, now we need to try to stay a little bit longer than we have in the past.”
The Cowboys last NCAA Tournament win came six years ago – a 77-75 victory over Tennessee. Since then, Ford’s teams have lost their first games in the NCAA tourney to Georgia Tech (2010), Oregon (2013) and Gonzaga (2014).
OSU and Oregon are both entering the tournament after finishing the season on different routes.
The Cowboys are entering the NCAA Tournament after losing six of their final seven games, including last week’s 64-49 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament. They have won only one game – a victory over a TCU team that finished ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 – since Feb. 10.
The Ducks have gone 11-2 since Jan. 30, and advanced to the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament with wins over Colorado (93-85) and Utah (67-64) before losing to Arizona 80-52 late Saturday night.
The Ducks are led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young, a 6-2 senior guard who averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists during the regular season. He also led the Pac-12 at the free-throw line (91.8 percent).
Young played two seasons at Houston for current Cowboys assistant coach James Dickey before transferring to Oregon.