The Montana State men’s basketball team received a No. 14 seed in the East Region of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
The Bobcats (25-9) will play No. 3 seed Kansas State on Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7:40 p.m. Mountain Time.
The Bobcats are heading to their second straight NCAA Tournament after winning their second straight Big Sky Conference tournament title. They topped Northern Arizona 85-78 in the Big Sky title game Wednesday in Boise, Idaho.
MSU’s players and coaches watched the tournament selection show with fans at the Ponderosa Social Club on Sunday.
“Everybody’s celebrating. It’s an exciting time,” MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle said Sunday. “It’s one of the best sporting events in the country.”
MSU also received a No. 14 seed at last season’s NCAA Tournament seed and lost to Texas Tech 97-62 in San Diego. Those Cats had nine players who are also on this year’s roster: Carter Ash, RaeQuan Battle, Jubrile Belo, Nick Gazelas, Alex Germer, Sam Lecholat, Patrick McMahon, Great Osobor and Tyler Patterson.
“Last year, I got subbed in when we were down I don’t know how much,” Battle said Sunday. “I wasn’t worried about it. Just leaving it all out on the floor (is a lesson from that game).”
MSU players this season who weren’t on last year’s team: Darius Brown II, Luca Colceag, Robert Ford III, Caleb Fuller and Jed Miller. Brown, MSU’s starting point guard and the Big Sky defensive player of the year, said he didn’t care which region the Cats were sent to (Denver and Sacramento, California, were two of the first-round sites the Cats thought they might travel to).
“The opportunity to play in this tournament is just great, regardless of who we’re playing,” Brown said. “Just pure excitement.”
Brown and Battle said they don’t know much about Kansas State. Sprinkle has watched them “quite a few times on TV throughout the year,” he said, and has been impressed by Wildcats such as Keyontae Johnson. The Florida transfer leads Kansas State with 17.7 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.9% from the field. Senior point guard Markquis Nowell averages 16.8 points per game (37.7%) and 7.6 assists per game.
The Wildcats (23-9) were the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament and lost to sixth-seeded TCU 80-67 in the quarterfinals (their first game of the tourney).
“Coach (Jerome) Tang’s done an unbelievable job,” Sprinkle said, adding, “They’re good. That’s why they’re a 3 seed.”
The Big Sky’s last March Madness men’s victory happened in 2006, when 12th-seeded Montana upset No. 5 seed Nevada.
“You’ve got to go be the aggressor. You can’t be on your heels in games like this,” Sprinkle said. “Yeah, you need some bounces to go your way, but there’s going to be some upsets. Why not us?”
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