South Dakota State has had one heck of a year. The Jackrabbits (26-7) won a share of the Summit League regular-season title, they won their conference title and they won 12 of their final 14 games.
None of that, however, will matter when they face No. 5 Maryland (25-8) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
“Let’s face it. Our task is big – figuratively and literally,” South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “We saw Maryland (at a tournament in November) in Cancun. We were in the same tournament. Different brackets, so we didn’t play them, but we saw them. They make our team look like a grade school team. It is a big athletic team. They look like what a national championship team would look like.”
To beat Maryland, South Dakota State will need a big performance from freshman forward Mike Daum, a reserve who averages a team-high 15.2 points per game. Yes, you read that correctly. Daum leads the Jackrabbits in scoring despite ranking sixth on the team in minutes played.
“He’s a tremendous scorer,” Nagy said. “He really is. It just comes very naturally to him. Very easy for him. He can really shoot the basketball. He’s developed his post game. He can get to the free-throw line a lot. We do play through him quite a bit when he’s in the game because he’s so efficient offensively, but we do surround him with four seniors who play a lot. So he doesn’t have to carry the load, but he’s done a great job doing it.”
Daum was First-Team All-League, Sixth Man of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and MVP of the conference tournament.
“He’s had a lot of accolades thrown on him, and he’s handled it very well,” Nagy said. “He just wants to get better. He’s a very humble kid and stays in the gym, works hard, loves the game – just loves it, which is perfect for what a coach needs. We can’t be in the gym enough to help kids develop. They have to love to be in it. Mike does.”
Senior guards George Marshall and Deondre Parks, meanwhile, are averaging 14.9 and 14.7 points, respectively, for South Dakota State.
The 12/5 matchup has been an upset special over the years, but Nagy said his players are not focused on that, nor will they be intimidated by the Terrapins.
“I think our kids believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “One of the nice things is, we’ve been carrying pressure all year in terms of what the expectations are. We were expected to win our league and do very well in the tournament and we did both. And so it’s going to be nice to play a game where we’re not expected to win. I think our kids will really be relaxed and play well.”