SPOKANE, Wash. -- Rasheed Sulaimon has been in three very different places in March during his college career.
As a freshman at Duke, he went to the Elite 8 before losing to eventual national champion Louisville. Then as a sophomore, his Blue Devils lost to No. 14-seeded Mercer in the first round in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets.
He was dismissed from last year’s Duke team before getting a chance to see March, instead watching from home as his former teammates won a national title without him.
Now Sulaimon is at Maryland with the Terrapins, a No. 5 seed, as they prepare to take on 12-seed South Dakota State in Spokane on Friday. Two 12-seeds will have already won their first-round games this year by the time Maryland takes the floor.
If there’s anyone who knows the mindset of a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament and the sting of losing a game to one, it’s Sulaimon.
“They have nothing to lose, you know? A lot of people, especially publicly, might count them out and expect them to lose anyway so they go in and they play free,” he told CSN on Thursday. “They play with a chip on their shoulders as well.”
They are essentially playing with house money. Twelve-seeds are often small-conference tournament champions with talent, but may be undersized or feature less interior muscle or perimeter speed than a high-major.
That will be South Dakota State against Maryland on Friday. That was Mercer in 2014 against Duke.
“Just thinking about the one loss that I had and an early exit, the mindset of our team we knew we were better and kind of overlooked them and it bit us in the butt,” Sulaimon said.
“That Mercer team that beat us, they were hungry, they played a tremendous game and if we play 100 times, that’s probably the only time they beat us but on any given day if you don’t show up you can exit in this tournament and we realize that. And from my experience that’s one of the main things that I try to express to the guys is don’t take anything for granted and play humble because you don’t want any game to be your last.”
Maryland is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. Eastern tip against SDSU.