The month of March brings many great things: warmer weather, longer days, and more importantly March Madness. The overwhelming amount of college basketball turns bandwagon fans in to betting junkies who fill out multiple brackets that tend to cause more frustration than one could assume.
In the D-League, the month of March brings a win or go home mentality. With three teams already claiming post-season invitations, five spots are still up for grabs. Unfortunately for the Toros they are in a position where if they don’t keep winning their season could be over in 11 games.
Talk about a pressure situation.
Fortunately for the Austin Toros the team has four players who have experience playing in March. Most importantly they have a guy who knows what it is like to play for a national title. Who’s that guy? Toros’ Lance Thomas.
Thomas, who was drafted in the second round by the Toros, won a national title last year with the Duke Blue Devils. The thrilling win came in a close victory over Butler 61-59. Thomas is the only Toros player who knows what it is like to be invited to the big dance every year during his collegiate career.
So what’s the difference that a year makes?
“It’s the same for me. March is big for college basketball. I got a taste of winning and I still want to win,” said the rookie forward.
His teammates who have participated in the NCAA tournament (Tre Kelley 2004, Kyle Weaver 2007-2008, and Aubrey Coleman 2010) have never made it past the Sweet 16.
The experience that the team has from playing in March might be enough to allow them to continue their season in April. Is it enough to carry them to the D-League Finals? Who knows but Thomas seems confident that the team has what it takes to bring the first D-League Championship trophy to Austin.
“We’ve got quick play. We’ve figured out what we need to do to win. A lot of teams have maxed out already. We’ve got a good group of guys who share a goal to make it to the next level.”
Before the Toros can make plans for playoffs they must first continue their two-game win streak on the road. The team tips-off tonight against the Texas Legends in their first of four remaining games against their in-state rivals.
When asked if Duke had what it takes to repeat Thomas was confident in his response.
“Definitely. Leadership and talent are both there. I’ve watched them be the tougher team many times this season.”
Thomas’ alma mater faces off against Maryland tonight at 6:00 CST in the ACC quarterfinals. A win over the Terps could lead to a better seed at the NCAA tournament for the fifth ranked Blue Devils.
Follow Lance Thomas on twitter @slangmagic.