After a 3-0 start to the season the South Dakota State men’s basketball team will head into one of the toughest environments in college basketball when they play the Kansas Jayhawks Nov. 17 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
“The atmosphere there is as good as any in college basketball,” said head coach T.J. Otzelberger.
The Jayhawks (2-0) are No. 4 in the AP Top 25 poll and have won 58 out of their last 59 home games. They are coming off of a 65-61 win against No.7 Kentucky on Tuesday while the Jacks defeated Alabama State 94-63 at Frost Arena Tuesday.
“We have a lot of respect for their program and we’re looking at being the best version of ourselves. Doesn’t matter if we play Mary, Irvine, Alabama State or Kansas. We’re trying to play at our best,” Otzelberger said.
Kansas is led by senior guard Devonte’ Graham, who averaged 13.4 points per game last season and scored 10 points in their opening game against Tennessee State Nov. 10.
“They’re a team that plays with a lot of confidence,” Otzelberger said. “I think they have great size, physicality and athleticism. So we’re going to have to find a way to neutralize that.”
The Jayhawks lost their top-two leading scorers last season in Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson to the NBA. They did, however, gain two great players with freshman forward Billy Preston and redshirt sophomore guard Malik Newman.
Preston was rated the No. 11 recruit in the country by Rivals.com and Newman is a transfer from Mississippi State who averaged 11.9 points per game as a freshman. With all of their talent on offense, Otzelberger said the Jacks will have to execute their plan efficiently.
“It comes down to great focus each possession,” Otzelberger said. “There’s no magic formula or secret sauce to stopping a really good team. You just have to play really hard and be deliberate with your plan.”
Mike Daum picked up right where he left off at the end of last year. The redshirt junior, who averaged 25.1 points per game last season, scored 22 points against the University of Mary Sunday.
This will be the second time in Daum’s career he will face a n AP top-five opponent. Daum led all scorers with 17 points last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga. Otzelberger said it doesn’t matter who Daum is up against because he’s a hard worker.
“Mike’s got a lot of advantages offensively. As good as Kansas is, we think there are some things that he can do to be effective and successful. So we’re going to do our best to put him in spots to exploit those,” he said.
Freshman David Jenkins Jr. has had a strong start to the season. He is averaging 14.5 points per game shooting 50 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from three.
Allen Fieldhouse is one of the loudest arenas in college basketball, so Otzelberger said he needs to prepare his team for that.
“We’ll probably need to do some hand signals with play calls and defensive adjustments. Overall, we want to challenge ourselves by playing in the toughest environments because that’s where we’re going to learn and grow and get better,” he said.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Nov. 17. The Jacks will travel to the Cayman Islands Nov. 20 to participate in the Cayman Islands Classic.