KENT, Ohio -- The Kent State men’s basketball team is going back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, and after earning the No. 14 seed in the South Bracket, they have a member of college basketball waiting for them.

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

“We’re just happy to be a part of the event, so whatever seed they gave us, you know it’s going to be a tough team who you play,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said at the Selection Show watch party at the Water Street Tavern Sunday. “Getting a chance to play UCLA with a storied tradition, great program with great players, we’re excited.”

Sophomore guard Jaylin Walker added, “It’s just a blessing, man. It’s a blessing for everything. I’m excited. I’m excited to play UCLA. I just can’t wait to play. I just can’t wait to play. UCLA, they’re going to be a very good test, and hopefully, we come out with the win.”

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 a six-day span.

But the Golden Flashes did not pay any attention to the outside noise, 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.

“I’m just proud of being a part of this group, proud of being the coach of this group,” Senderoff said. “It’s been a great story, and what we’re trying to do is add another chapter to that story. The season’s been incredible. It’s been a great ride, and this last week certainly has been special for Kent State University and for our players.”

In five previous trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Golden Flashes have posted a 4-5 record, including three wins and a run to the Elite Eight during the 2002 season.

And Senderoff is happy that this year’s class of seniors, Deon Edwin, Jimmy Hall and Jon Fleming, have the opportunity to build on the successes of previous teams throughout the program’s history.

“Our three seniors, they’ve put a lot of work into this now, and they deserve to go out this way,” Senderoff said. “We get a chance to play one of the best, one of the most storied programs in the history of basketball, and it’s a great opportunity for us, for sure.”