BROOKINGS – South Dakota State earned a No. 12 seed and plays No. 5 Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Thursday at 3 p.m. CT at Taco Bell Arena on the campus of Boise State (Idaho) University.
The West Region game will air on TNT. No. 4 Gonzaga (30-4) takes on No. 13 UNC Greensboro (27-7) in the first game at 12:30.
SDSU coach T.J. Otzelberger said he was expecting a No. 12 seed entering Selection Sunday based on the information he had, adding there were 6-8 teams the Jackrabbits could potentially face.
“You know, when you get ready on a short turnaround like we have right now, there are certain styles of play, maybe, that lend themselves to not being ideal – teams that press a lot or teams that play a lot of zones can be tougher, because you haven’t seen that stuff as much all year,” the second-year coach said following a selection show gathering at Cubby’s Sports Bar & Grill. “We know Ohio State is a really good team, very well-coached team, they were at the top of the Big Ten a majority of the year.
“We know we’re going to have to be at our best to go out and compete with them on Thursday.”
The Jackrabbits (28-6, 13-1) claimed the Summit League regular-season and postseason titles, breaking a school record for victories in the process.
They are making their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth in seven years (they became eligible at the Division I-level in 2009). SDSU has not missed the postseason during that stretch, qualifying for the College Basketball Invitational in 2014 before winning a game in the NIT the following year.
The Buckeyes (24-8, 15-3) tied for second in the Big Ten regular-season standings and then lost their opener in the postseason tourney in the quarterfinals after receiving a double bye as the No. 2 seed. They’re in the NCAA tourney for the 28th time in program history.
“I have seen them. They’re a very good, physical defensive team; really good rebounding team; (Keita) Bates-Diop – 6-foot-7 forward – is a tremendous talent, Big Ten Player of the Year; they play pressure defense,” said Otzelberger. “They’re just a really good team and we have a lot of respect for them and what they’ve been able to accomplish throughout the course of the year, but at the same time we know we’re playing our best basketball right now as well.”
Two-time Summit League player of the Year and three-time conference tourney MVP Mike Daum is averaging a double-double of 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds.
“I’m really excited, you know, seeing our names at the 12 seed is a good feeling for us,” said the junior, who added he hasn’t seen OSU play this season.
Freshman David Jenkins Jr. adds 16.1 points, Reed Tellinghuisen 12 and Tevin King 9.3 to go with 5.5 boards and three assists.
“I think it’s a good matchup for us,” said Tellinghuisen, a senior. “I mean, obviously, when our team is playing with confidence I think we can play with anybody in the country.
“And I think our team is playing our best basketball right now – moving the basketball, cutting; we’re just doing a really good job right now.”
SDSU in the Big Dance
The Jackrabbits are 1-6 in the postseason at the Division I level, including an 0-4 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
South Region, Albuquerque, N.M.
March 15 – No. 3 Baylor def. No. 14 SDSU 68-60.
The Bears’ run ended in the regional finals.
South Region, Auburn Hills, Mich.
March 21 – No. 4 Michigan def. No. 13 SDSU 71-56.
The Wolverines advanced to the title game, falling 82-76 to Louisville. The Cardinals’ championship was recently vacated.
South Region, Spokane, Wash.
March 18 – No. 5 Maryland def. SDSU 79-74.
The Terrapins reached the regional semifinals.
West Region, Salt Lake City, Utah
March 16 – No. 1 Gonzaga def. No. 16 SDSU 66-46.
The Bulldogs made their first Final Four appearance and dropped a 71-65 game to North Carolina in the final.
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There have been a few close calls.
What does it take to get over the hump?
“I think it’s just looking at it as another game for us,” said Daum. “It seems like in the past, when you make it to the tournament, you’re kind of just in this shock and awe type state, where (this year) we’re going in more realistic knowing that we can win a couple games.”
Added Tellinghuisen: “The personnel of this team has a really good shot. We have so many scorers; our defense continues to get better every day. And I think, just the weapons we have on this team, it really has kind of an upset feel to it.”
The 12-5 game has been a unique one the past decade.
Since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985, No. 12 seeds are 38-74. However, they are 18-22 since 2008. At least one 12 seed has posted a victory in the tournament 29 times in the past 33 years.
In other words, 12 seeds are trending upwards.
“Obviously, the better seed you can get, the better opportunity you probably have to come out with a win,” said Otzelberger. “Last year going in as a 16 – and a 16 has never beat a 1 – you know you’re fighting an uphill battle. When you’re in that 12-5 game, most years that’s a 50-50 game, so you feel like there are probably going to be two 12 seeds that win this year – why not us.”
FIRST ROUND (since 1985)
No. 1 vs. No. 16 – No. 1 112-0
No. 2 vs. No. 15 – No. 2 107-5
No. 3 vs. No. 14 – No. 3 95-17
No. 4 vs. No. 13 – No. 4 89-23
No. 5 vs. No. 12 – No. 5 74-38
No. 6 vs. No. 11 – No. 6 73-79
No. 7 vs. No. 10 – No. 7 67-45
No. 8 vs. No. 9 – No. 9 60-52
The furthest a 12 seed has advanced came in 2002, when Mizzou got to the Region final before dropping a heart-breaker to Oklahoma, 81-75
The Jackrabbits have only lost once in their last 20 games and currently have an 11-game winning streak.
That leads to a team building confidence.
“We definitely are. We’re a team that’s just really down for each other, playing well together and I think we’re going to do a good job playing Ohio State,” noted Daum.
Otzelberger noted defensive progress as a big factor in the current streak.
“Our guys are getting our defense set and then limiting our opponents to one shot,” he added. “Anytime you do that, you have a chance to be successful. I think we’ve been really good in that area.
“And then sharing the basketball, I think, is something we’ve done a good job of. We’re second, I think, in the country in turnover percentage – we just don’t turn it over because guys make the extra pass and value the ball. So those are some telling stats I think; we’re really rising to the challenge in those areas.”
Summit League Championship, Sioux Falls
Quarterfinals, March 3 – SDSU def. No. 8 Western Illinois 66-60.
Semifinals, March 5 – SDSU def. No. 5 North Dakota State 78-57.
Championship, March 6 – SDSU def. No. 2 South Dakota 97-87. [Attendance: 11,114.]
Big Ten Tournament, Madison Square Garden, New York City
Quarterfinals, March 2 – No. 7 Penn State def. Ohio State 69-68.
Note: The Big Ten Tournament was moved up a week so it could be contested at MSG.
Bates-Diop puts up 19.4 points and 8.8 boards per contest.
Three others average double-figure points – Jae’Sean Tate (12.5), C.J. Jackson (12.2) and Kaleb Wesson (10.8).
Photo from www.gojacks.com.