KENT, Ohio -- Family is of the utmost importance to Kent State senior men’s basketball player Jimmy Hall.

To the players who proudly wear “Kent State” across the front of their jerseys when they take the court, there is a family-like bond, and that is a culture fostered by the upperclassmen, particularly Hall.

“We’re real tight,” Hall said. “We’re a band of brothers, and we really believe in ourselves and our team and what we’re capable of. When we go out on the court, we just try our best to show it.”

The bond among the players and coaches has led to plenty of positive results, as Kent State is going back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, and the Golden Flashes earned the No. 14 seed in the South Bracket.

Champions of the Mid-American Conference after last Saturday’s 70-65 win over the Akron Zips in the MAC Tournament Championship Game at Quicken Loans Arena, the Golden Flashes (22-13) will take on the third-seeded UCLA Bruins in second-round action in Sacramento, California, Friday night.

“It means everything,” Hall said of delivering on his promise to bring a championship to Kent State. “I’m just blessed to be in this position. It just means the world, but you know, we’re not done here. We’ve got a lot more things to accomplish, so we’re just trying to beat UCLA now.

“It’s just a great opportunity for our team. We know we’re going to have to come with it. They’re a good team. Lonzo Ball, he’s a great player, but it’s just a great opportunity for us to show (for) Kent State.”

The Golden Flashes were dismissed by many critics heading into the MAC Tournament after dropping the regular-season finale against the Zips and falling to the No. 6 seed, where it required an additional game over the six-day span.

But the Golden Flashes did not pay any attention to the outside, and instead focused on the task at hand, which pushed them through an overtime game against Central Michigan last Monday, and then, to wins over the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, capped off by the win over Akron in the MAC Championship Game.

And just like in the MAC Tournament, Kent State is not getting much consideration for its chances to advance beyond UCLA, but the Golden Flashes relish the underdog role and embrace the moment of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“It puts a chip on our shoulder, but that’s how we play,” Hall said. “That’s Kent State for you. It’s nothing that we haven’t handled before, so we can just try to take care of business.

“I definitely feel like we’re riding this wave. It’s been a great journey, really fun. Our coaches have been telling us to keep writing our story, and we’re the authors, so we’ve just got to continue to do that.”