WICHITA, Kansas – The Big Sky Conference men’s basketball champions have arrived ready for the NCAA Tournament. To the victors go the spoils.
Montana gets to travel a much easier way to this tournament than most of their games in the season — on a charter plane, two days before to get plenty of time to prepare, and the players even got to sit up front.
“Typically we have to fly and go through somewhere, right? Denver, Salt Lake, Seattle,” said assistant coach Chris Cobb. “So it’s nice to fly in here and kind of save our legs. The guys got first-class seats, so they were happy when they got on the plane. But yeah, it’s a huge benefit for us to be able to do that.”
“It helps us get a little bit more mentally prepared,” added junior forward Bobby Moorehead. “There’s a lot of, not necessarily distractions, but a lot of things going on in Missoula that would take our attention away from basketball right now. Where as here, there’s only one thing we’re focused on, and that’s the game on Thursday.”
It’s been a great four years for this group under head coach Travis DeCuire. But they have never made it to the Big Dance in that run. After a crazy week in Reno, after three straight comeback victories, the Griz know anything can happen.
“We’re feeling pretty good. I think we went through just about everything possible last week to help prepare us for this moment. A lot of times where we probably shouldn’t have won the game, but we did,” said Moorehead, who hit a late 3-pointer to tie the Big Sky semifinal versus Northern Colorado and force overtime. “So I think everybody is feeling really good right now. It’s a high-level belief that we can do this thing and that we’re going to play well this week.”
“It’s been a big goal of ours for the whole year,” added Cobb. “I think they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor a little bit right now and feeling good about themselves, but focused. They’re enjoying the experience here and they’re excited for that, but also focused and ready to go compete and win a game.”
DeCuire told his team at the end of practice Tuesday afternoon, “you have earned the right to enjoy this.” But he also cautioned that Wednesday will be a very long day.
Montana will have a closed practice Wednesday morning, then head over to Intrust Bank Arena for a press conference and an open practice in the afternoon, before relaxing the rest of the night.
And then the Griz will still have to wait all day Thursday before they tip off the final game of the evening against Michigan. The 14th-seeded Grizzlies and No. 3-seed Wolverines will tip off at approximately 7:50 p.m. Mountain time.