After beating Cincinnati in the AAC Championship on Sunday, SMU hurried to see where it would be seeded in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m way at the back and I could barely see or here, but everybody starts cheering when our name comes up, and I’m like, ‘Who do we play? Who do we play?’” SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Then I find out we’re playing in Tulsa, which is great, and it’s Friday, which is great because we need the extra rest. Then finally someone tells me we play Providence.”
Well, that could be true. SMU, seeded sixth in the East, plays the winner of Providence versus USC.
Jankovich, however, didn’t hear that last part. So he did an interview Sunday talking about how the team is getting ready for Providence.
“Then I find out we don’t even know (if) we’re playing them,” Jankovich said, amused. “So that’s a little embarrassing. We might need to get a little more information.”
Whoever SMU plays, it won’t be easy. USC (24-9) and Providence (20-12) are quality teams with quality players.
“We want the team that’s playing the poorest this time of year, whoever that is, whichever one,” Jankovich said, laughing. “But obviously neither one are because they wouldn’t be in the tournament if they were.”
Either way, Jankovich is thrilled to be in the NCAA Tournament in his first year as SMU head coach. He arrived from Illinois State in 2012 and worked under Larry Brown. It’s not easy to leave a head-coaching gig to be the coach-in-waiting at another school, but Jankovich saw enormous potential at SMU.
“When we came here five years ago, the biggest reason I came here is I thought SMU was the No. 1 sleeping giant in college basketball,” Jankovich said. “It’s the only Division I school in Dallas, Texas. Think about that. Dallas is one of the greatest cities in the country. It’s one of the greatest basketball high school cities in the country. The Metroplex is growing like crazy, SMU is an incredibly beautiful school with amazing facilities, the academics – everything. I thought this is an incredible potential here, and lo and behold, I think we were right. We have taken it to where I believe it should be.”
The SMU fan base couldn’t be happier.
“We sell out every single game,” Jankovich said. “We’ve had a lot of standing-room only. President Bush and his wife come to most every home game, sit on the front row. A lot of the Cowboys, the Mavericks, you name it – it’s really caught on in a big, big way. It’s been surreal sometimes just to look around and see all the people that you know and see and watch all the time. So the fever is here. The city is behind us. When we win, a lot of times downtown, they light up a lot of the buildings with the red and blue. It’s been incredible. We are in a city with a lot of pro competition, but they have embraced us, and our fan base right now is amazing.”
As for Larry Brown, Jankovich learned a lot from the 76-year-old, who resigned from SMU last July.
“He is really funny when you hang around him on a daily basis,” Jankovich said. “He’s got a really witty sense of humor, a really dry sense of humor. So he’s made me laugh an awful lot of times.”
SMU (30-4) opens the tournament Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET. If victorious, the Mustangs play the winner of No. 3 Baylor (25-7) and No. 14 New Mexico State (28-5) in the Round of 32.