3 things South Dakota State said ahead of NCAA tournament 2nd-round matchup with Syracuse

first_imgNo. 3 Syracuse (25-8, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) meets No. 6 South Dakota State (27-6, 15-1 Summit) in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday. The Jackrabbits most-recently beat Quinnipiac in the first round and look to prevent the higher-seeded Orange from advancing to the Portland Regional.Here are three things South Dakota State said before Monday’s Round of 32 matchup with SU.The Big MomentSouth Dakota State head coach Aaron Johnston wishes he knew why the Jackrabbits play so well in big games. “It would make my job a lot easier, I guess,” he joked. On Sunday, Johnston and SDSU players fielded questions on “hostile crowds” and playing what effectively is a home game for Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, but Johnston noted the Jackrabbits have always delivered.They won the Summit League Championship in four of the past five years. The one year they didn’t win the championship, they were without their best player, Macy Miller, who missed the game recovering from a torn ACL in her right knee. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“At times, we probably need to celebrate our successes more, because we’ve had a lot,” Johnston. “We don’t want to live in a world where we’re just constantly feeling like we’ve got to put it out there for everybody to see, look at us. And when things don’t go well, I don’t think we just close the doors and lock up shop and try to hide from the world either. I just think our team has been really consistent.”Three seasons ago, the Jackrabbits lost by one point to No. 4-seed Standford when Miller’s last-second layup was blocked at the rim. A matchup with the Orange gives South Dakota State gives it another chance to take down a top-four seed. “An avalanche of feelings come back,” Johnston said. “They are tough and heartbreaking. I know our players still think about that, but we don’t live in the moment.”End of the benchSyracuse generally uses a nine-player rotation. Against Quinnipiac a day earlier, South Dakota State opted for a tighter rotation, Johnston said, and the Jackrabbits “wore down” towards the end of the game. Though he wouldn’t say SDSU would go deeper into its bench against the Orange, he said the “pressure” of the game will dictate who the Jackrabbits will sub in and out as the game goes along.“In hindsight, I think that’s something we’ll have to look at as we go forward,” Johnston said of the tighter rotation. “You want to have the right group of people on the floor at the right time.”Name devaluationAs the lower seeded team, South Dakota State isn’t worried about the pressure of playing in a game against the No. 3 Orange. Syracuse has name value. So does its point guard, Tiana Mangakahia, who is widely regarded as one of the best point guards in the country. But Johnston and others on SDSU don’t think the Jackrabbits lack the personnel for an upset.“I would not say there are no nerves at all, because I think every game we play in, there will be some nerves,” senior guard Madison Guebert said. “I think this team has a lot of experience and many players that have played in big environments and big games before so that experience will help us.”South Dakota State matched up with Oregon, Marquette and Baylor this year, taking “chances” with its scheduling, Johnston said. Two years ago, it went down to the wire with Stanford, now a No. 2 seed in the 2019 tournament. The Jackrabbits aren’t void of experience in big games.“I think for us, trying to play against a team with those type of elite players happens not just playing here in the last 24 hours, but happens over several years of playing against those types of teams,” Johnston said. “Over the years, you hope that all those chances that you take in scheduling get you ready for these kinds of moments to rise to the challenge.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 24, 2019 at 9:16 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcClearylast_img read more