DES MOINES, IA – The Grizzlies have arrived in Des Moines, ready for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Head coach Travis DeCuire wants to make the trip just like any other road trip the team has taken. But it is very hard to do with all of the excitement around the Big Dance.
There was a sendoff in Missoula Tuesday morning, a charter flight, which the team usually never gets, and they flew out two days before the game instead of the usual one day before a contest.
So everything is a little different this time around. But Montana wants to make sure they play the same way they did in their 26 wins this season.
“I don’t try to make one mean more than the other, just because you’re going to play different if you’re going about it like that,” said junior guard Kendal Manuel, echoing the theme of his head coach. “So for me personally, I think it’s just another game.”
One of the Montana natives on the team, Manuel is making his first trip to the Big Dance as a Grizzly. The former Billings Skyview star has already traveled once as an Oregon State Beaver his freshman year, although he missed that game. And he said this one will feel extra special.
“It feels way better this time, knowing that I’m going to be able to be out there,” said Manuel. “My freshman year I got hurt, so I wasn’t able to be out there and play actually. But now knowing I’m going to have a role, and I’m going to be able to make some things happen for this team, I’m excited to go out there and play on this big stage.”
The Grizzlies will take it easy Tuesday night at their hotel. Then they’ll practice hard Wednesday morning, before heading over to Wells Fargo Arena for their official practice that we’ll all get to see Wednesday afternoon.
Then it’s on to playing Michigan at 7:20 Thursday night in the first round of the Big Dance.