Sacramento State men’s basketball coach Brian Katz has had to adjust his schedule these days.
Usually around this time of year, his team’s season would be over and he’d be traveling the Northern California high school playoff circuit to observe recruits and scout prospects.
But this season has been different in a number of ways.
In producing their best record in the NCAA Division I era and the third-most wins in school history, the Hornets (20-11) have spent most of the past four weeks on the road competing in Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament games.
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Katz did double duty late Sunday when the team returned to Sacramento from Montana, where the Hornets lost on Friday in the semifinals to eventual champion Eastern Washington in the Big Sky tournament.
He checked in on the playoff progress of 2015-16 recruits Jeff Wu of Modesto Christian and Joshua Patton of Sierra-Manteca while also prepping for the Hornets’ first D-I postseason appearance. Sac State plays at Portland on Wednesday in the 32-team CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
“I’m just getting caught up,” Katz said. “It’s a little frustrating because I haven’t been able to follow the high school playoffs like in the past. But we’re happy that we’re still playing.”
Katz said it will be good to play Portland, which defeated the Hornets 80-75 at The Nest on Dec. 14, Sac State’s only home loss in 14 games.
“On a short turnaround like this, where there isn’t much time to prep, it’s better to play against someone you’re familiar with,” Katz said. “We can pull up the old scouting report and look at their last few games and feel pretty good that we’ll be ready.”
Portland, which finished sixth in the West Coast Conference and upset Saint Mary’s in the conference tournament, is led by all-conference second-team guard Alec Wintering (12.4 points per game, 5.7 assists) and honorable-mention selections Kevin Bailey (14.8 points) and Thomas van der Mars (10.4 points, 8.0 rebounds). Former Jesuit High School standout Bryce Pressley, a junior guard, (8.1 points) also is a starter.
Despite being 0-6 against the Pilots in Portland, Katz thinks his players will be focused on making a little more history.
The Hornets could win their first D-I postseason game and with a deep run surpass the most wins in a season. The 1987-88 team holds the record at 22. That was the last team from Sac State to qualify for the postseason, albeit in D-II.
“Our guys are resilient,” Katz said. “As soon as our game against Eastern Washington was over, I told them this is no time to start crying. We’ve got another game.”
Unlike the NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament, the seven-year CIT determines matchups for the next round based on the results of the previous round.
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