Living out dreams at the NCAA Tournament: Jaxson Robinson

Sunday, March 17, 2024, is a day that my team and I have been looking forward to ever since the end of our 2022-2023 season. After a 19-15 record in the WCC, we knew we had work to do heading into the toughest basketball conference in America. Even though many people doubted our team, we hoped we would prove them wrong and our name would be called on Selection Sunday.

After being picked to finish second to last in the Big 12, that gave us more motivation and reason to work harder. We as a team faced many difficult ranked and unranked opponents every week, but we were able to finish the season with a 22-9 record before heading into postseason play. With this impressive record, we were able to claim 5th in our conference while also being ranked in the AP Poll Top 25 for 17 out of the 20 weeks of this college basketball season. 

At the conclusion of the season, our team was projected to be a 5th seed in the NCAA Tournament. For many players, this was the first time they would hear their team called and have the opportunity to play in March Madness. Similar to other teams hoping to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, we gathered together in the Marriott Center/Annex to watch the broadcast with our friends, families, and supporting staff. 

Before watching the announcement, we as players were able to take a few minutes to highlight and thank all of the people who have made all of this possible thus far in the season. After we all had the opportunity to speak, Coach Pope said a few final words before turning on the broadcast where we would find out where we would play and who our opponent would be. 

The announcers started with the East bracket where we quickly heard our name announced as a 6-seed playing against an 11-seed Duquesne in Omaha, Nebraska. 

The Duquesne Dukes are a tough team who just came off of a win against Virginia Commonwealth University in the Atlantic-10 conference championship finishing their season with a 24-11 record. 

The Dukes pride themselves on the defensive side of the ball where they love to take chances and gamble for steals whenever their opponents become lackadaisical with the basketball. They also love bringing multiple defenders to the ball when their opponent drives to the paint looking for opportunities to get steals to run out in transition. 

Offensively, the Dukes thrive in transition led by guards Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III when given the opportunity off of forced turnovers or defensive rebounds. After dead balls, the Dukes walk the ball up the court and get into set plays to get the defense moving in order to get open looks at the rim and from three. 

Overall, the Dukes are a great matchup for us in the first round. We will need to be dialed in defensively in order to stop their dynamic duo of Clark and Grant. We will need to push the pace and make sure we dictate the speed of the game because transition is what makes us so great offensively. As a team, we are looking forward to the first round and competing against a great opponent.

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