Coogs to face Aztecs Thursday in NCAA Tournament

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WHOSE HOUSE? The Coogs are celebrating after winning their bid to return to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for the first time in eight years. (KTRK)

The Houston Cougars are headed back to the big dance for the first time since 2010.

University of Houston is going to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament despite a heartbreaking loss in their conference title game.

The team will face the San Diego State Aztecs in their first game on Thursday in Wichita, Kansas.

Fans and UH alumni erupted in cheers during a watch party at the Fertitta Center as the Coogs won an at-large bid during Sunday's announcement.

Many expressed their excitement after following the team for years, even decades.

The announcement brought smiles only a short time after a heartbreaking loss in Orlando, Florida.

It was a disappointing one point loss to Cincinnati in the AAC Tourney title game.

"I got chills standing here watching that last minute, I thought they were going to pull it out," said UH alum Kevin Dacey.

But the Cougars' record earned their way into the NCAA Tournament, something this former cheerleader has never given up on.

"We've been waiting for this a long time and my husband and I are in our 70's and we said it doesn't matter, where it's going to be, we're going. If it's on the moon, we're going," said Josie Smith.

A new generation is watching UH basketball climb back into the brackets.

"I cheered during Phi Slamma Jamma in the 80's and my daughter is currently a cheerleader right now," said former cheerleader Martha Hollowell. "She's in Orlando after the tournament, so we're very excited."

Alum Brian Kotlar added, "This is very, very exciting, not only for the current but the future as well."

Some Cougar backers say they are making plans to go to Wichita and have hopes they could follow winning paw prints beyond that.

"I think they can go Sweet 16, if it breaks right, they could probably make the 8. That would be awesome," Dacey said.

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