HARTFORD, CT (WAVY) — Ahmad Caver’s face just lit up when he walked onto this practice floor.

B.J. Stith was smiling from ear to ear. Try as they might to keep things as normal as possible, there’s just something a little bit different.

The energy is a little higher when you’re a part of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s something that you dream about all your life watching college basketball,” Caver said. “It’s a dream come true and to know that you are finally here it takes a whole book bag off your back.”

ODU”s opponent in the NCAA Tournament, Purdue, won a share of the Big Ten title and is led by junior guard Carson Edwards who led the conference in scoring with 23 points per game.

“I used to watch his highlights from last year, and I thought it was just a lot of isolation ball,” Caver said. “I’m going to try to be there on every catch, and make him make tough shots.”

You know a Big Ten team will be a physical one, and in the paint, the Monarchs have to deal with Matt Harms, listed at 7-foot-3, 250 pounds.

“It’ll be a lot of fun facing somebody that’s taller, bigger,” said ODU’s 7-footer Elbert Robinson. “It’s different, but he’s a good player, and I”m just ready to go.”

As for ODU coach Jeff Jones, the Monarchs are the third different team he’s led to the NCAA Tournament, joining American and UVA.

“Old Dominion has had a great history from a basketball perspective and there are expectations in Norfolk and Old Dominion,” Jones said. “I think besides just being happy that we made it and we won the Conference USA tournament, I think there is an element of relief to finally be able to cross that threshold.”

ODU’s game against Purdue is Thursday night at 9:50 on TBS.