Greg Lansing is experiencing his first NCAA Tournament as a head coach.
But that doesn't mean the Indiana State head man isn't aware of the pressure his team will be under against favored Syracuse in the second round on Friday, or the focus his Sycamores will need to upset the Orange.
"This is the biggest stage of all," Lansing said on a conference call on Monday. "There's nothing like it because of the scrutiny you are under. But, I'm telling my kids they need to enjoy it first and foremost because if they don't, they may never be in this position again."
Unlike the Orange, who are making their 28th appearance under head coach Jim Boeheim, Indiana State is a relative unknown in the Big Dance. This is just its fourth appearance, and the first since 2001. So every player on this team is learning how to react and keep their composure on the fly.
"The one thing we don't want is for the kids to go into this game against a great opponent with a 'deer in the headlights look'," Lansing said. "We'll use last week as a barometer of how we reacted to pressure, and hopefully that kind of effort will carry over."
Indiana State (20-13) needed to win three games in three days, including victories over the top two seeds (Wichita State, Missouri State), to claim the Missouri Valley Conference championship and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"I want my kids to be at ease and just play basketball," said Lansing, who went to the NCAA Tournament three times as an assistant at Iowa early in his coaching career. "But that's going to be very difficult against what I consider to be one of the most powerful teams in the country."
Lansing said he's had the opportunity to watch the Orange a couple times during the season, and he was impressed with their talent and athleticism.
"I mean they have four or five guys with seven-foot wing spans that just intimidate you," he said. "It's a beast. We haven't really seen that kind of length this season."
Lansing is mainly concerned about how his kids will attack and compete against the vaunted Orange 2-3 zone defense, a common issue with teams that have not faced SU.
"It's a little different for us because we've seen very little zone," Lansing said. "And they play it 40 minutes, so it's not like they are going to change during the game."
The key to attacking the zone well, according to Lansing, is "being unselfish and not to let it paralyze you into doing something you're not used to doing. You may get an open look here and there, but it doesn't last long."
And don't be lulled into the fact that there appears to be an opening in the middle of the zone. "With their length," Lansing said, "that also closes off pretty quickly because they cover so much ground."
Indiana State doesn't have a star or a dynamic scorer. The Sycamores do have seven guys averaging between 7 and 11 points per game.
"We're not a glamour team for sure," Lansing said. "But we're just solid top to bottom."
When Indiana State lost four games in a row in the middle of the season, Lansing said he did a poor job of "having them compete in practice. After we went to Missouri State and lost, but fought hard, we committed to each other to get better every day and the teams seemed re-energized."
Freshman guard Jake Odum, who is the team's second leading scorer, said the fact that the Sycamores went to St. Louis and came home with a title should help.
"We need to make the most out of this, and not be sorry afterwards that we didn't give our best effort," Odum said. "But Syracuse is a tremendous team with a great basketball pedigree."
Syracuse junior guard Scoop Jardine said it doesn't matter a bit that Indiana State is unranked, or a veritable newcomer to the NCAA Tournament.
"We've got Indiana State, and that's that," Jardine said. "Thinking about anybody else is just foolish."