South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy's team was 25-9 this season and won the Summit League. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
South Dakota State Scott Nagy knew his team would be in the NCAA Tournament.
The only question was where the Jackrabbits would play and their opponent.
SDSU (25-9) earned a No. 14 seed and will play fourth-seeded Michigan in its opener at 7:15 Thursday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Jackrabbits won the Summit League and are making their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. After seeing the announcement, the players were excited — but then knew they'd have their work cut out for them in trying to upset Michigan, which earlier this season was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Nagy knew they'd get seeded in the 13 to 14 range — and the difficulty that entails.
"It means you get one of the 12 to 16 top teams in the country," Nagy said Monday on WDFN 1130. "Secondly, I remember not too long ago, Michigan was ranked No. 1 in the country — and for good reason."
SDSU has a good win this season at New Mexico, which is a No. 3 seed.
That atmosphere helped prepare the Jackrabbits for what's likely to be a raucous, pro-Michigan crowd at The Palace.
"It's just like going to New Mexico. I've not been on a home court where there's more of a home-court advantage than New Mexico. It's an incredible atmosphere," Nagy said. "I don't think it will have a negative impact on us. It could have a very positive impact on Michigan in terms of giving them energy. In other words, we won't be intimidated by that.
"The other thing for us is I'm guessing every MSU fan will be pulling for us."
Although the Wolverines were upset last season by No. 13 seed Ohio in the opening game, Nagy said that means nothing this year.
"There won't be any discussion of that and it's a different team. If anything, that probably helps Michigan in terms of getting prepared and not overlooking," Nagy said. "They didn't overlook Ohio — it's good basketball and these players all see each other in AAU. They play against each other, and all this intimidation factor that used to be there for the high majors is not there anymore."
Michigan coach John Beilein, who is working through his quick game prep, said the Jackrabbits will be formidable.
"If you look at their stats, it's similar to ours. They're a team that does shoot a good number of 3's," Beilein said on WTKA 1050. "They play the same pace as us, the shots are about the same and the number of possessions are similar.
"I wouldn't call them a power team but they can play with post-up offense. Defensively, they're really solid from what I've seen but I've only watched maybe an hour of video so far."