Like USC, South Dakota State players enjoy being together on the court

Culture is something coaches always talk about. The good coaches change it when it’s broken. The great ones sustain it across many years and graduating classes. Both coaches in this upcoming USC-South Dakota State NCAA Tournament game have proved they can change and sustain cultures.

Lindsay Gottlieb sustained a winning culture at California with the Golden Bears. She is building a new culture with the Trojans and hopes to lock it in place for a long time.

USC players — including those who transferred in from other programs — have mentioned this season that they feel at home in ways which did not previously apply to their collegiate careers at other schools. Gottlieb has helped foster a sense of belonging. It’s a big reason why USC is in the NCAA Tournament in Year 2 of Gottlieb’s tenure.

It’s similar at South Dakota State.

Coach Aaron Johnson has maintained a winning culture for multiple decades with the Jackrabbits. Players love playing for him and at SDSU.

Consider these quotes from Jackrabbit players:

(h/t Trent Abrego of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

“I think our team does a good job of just staying focused in those moments and we all just play off each other so well. And like I said, it could be anyone today on this team, we’re just so deep,” Haleigh Timmer said. “So, I think yeah, they just hit me.”

South Dakota State doesn’t depend on the individual; it depends on the team, with everyone chipping in.

Players love being in that kind of an environment. Consider Dru Gylten, a South Dakota native who played for Utah but then transferred to South Dakota State and has been an important part of this year’s Jackrabbit roster:

“My decision to come to SDSU — there’s no regrets at all,” Gylten told the Mitchell Republic. “It’s been an amazing season here. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms. The culture here is just so different than in other places. Being able to say I’m a part of that, and then making it to March Madness again has been a blessing. It’s been awesome.”

Both USC and South Dakota State have a healthy, winning culture. Friday’s game won’t be decided by that. It’s a tie. The winner will be the team which executes better.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire