The SDSU mens basketball team will play their third ever Division I NCAA Tournament game on Friday in Spokane, WA. The Jackrabbits were a 14 seed in 2012 and a 13 seed in 2013. This time they’ll be a 12 seed and will take on the Maryland Terrapins who are the No. 5 seed.
12 seeds had won 44 games against five seeds coming into the 2016 Tournament, then Yale beat Baylor and Arkansas-Little Rock beat Purdue on Thursday to make it 46. The Jacks will try to become the 47th on Friday and know that there’s no pressure on them heading into the game.
“Most of the year we have been carrying the the pressure in terms of what’s expected of us in our league,” SDSU Head Coach Scott Nagy said. “It’s going to be nice to not be expected to win the basketball game, I think our kids will play loose.”
The SDSU players aren’t to worried about the number that is in front of them and Maryland.
“We don’t care about what seed we have,” SDSU guard Deondre Parks said. “We are looking forward to playing a really good team and it’s not just another game, but a great opportunity for our program.”
If the Jacks are going to beat Maryland they’re going to need another big game from their star redshirt freshman center Mike Daum. Who has continued to improve as the games get bigger.
“The court stays the same size, the venues just get bigger,” Daum said. “It’s not really a change for me, and I know I have great leadership with the seniors who keep me calm-headed through the whole thing.”
Daum, who comes into the game averaging 15.2 points a game and 6.1 rebounds a game, will have to face another star freshman center in Maryland’s Diamond Stone. Stone is averaging 12.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Scott Nagy knows how tough it’ll be to stop the 6’11, 255lb big man.
“He’s obviously way bigger than our posts,” Nagy said. “We’re going to have to limit his catches and try to keep him away from the basket if we can.”
Another key match up for the Jacks will be trying to contain sophomore point guard Melo Trimble, and his partner in the backcourt senior Rasheed Sulaimon. Trimble leads the Terrapins averaging 14.4 a game, while Sulaimon averages 11.1 a game. Seniors George Marshall and Deondre Parks will be tasked with trying to do so and they know how tough it will be.
“They can shoot it from the outside, they can also drive, get in the paint and make plays for themselves and other teammates,” Marshall said. “So, we’re just looking to control those guys and hope that it spirals down to the rest of the team.”
Another thing Marshall will have to do if the Jacks want to upset the Terps’ is shoot the ball better than he has been. In the three games in the Summit League Tournament Marshall shot just 15% going 4-26 from the field and 2-15 from three.
“We’re going to have to shoot the ball better and I think our guys know that,” Nagy said. “It’s not just our guards, even our bigs are going to have to shoot well from the perimeter because it’s going to be very difficult to score at the basket.”
One things for sure no one on the team is taking this opportunity for granted. The coaches and players know that this is the time to showcase what SDSU basketball is about. They will be able to do this in front of thousands of people in Spokane and millions watching at 1:30 p.m. on TBS.