SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — March Madness tips off this week with the NCAA Tournament. One team you’ll want to keep a close eye on has a lot of South Dakota connections.

Ryan Miller, who grew up playing basketball for Mitchell High School and Northern State University, is one of three assistant coaches for Creighton University, which was ranked as high as number 7 in the AP poll this season.

His primary job, week in and week out, is defense.

“I come up with a plan of attack, coach goes ‘Oh, I like that, I don’t like that, let’s make this switch,’ whatever it is. We get together and he makes the final decisions as a head coach, and I just give him my philosophies or some opinions,” Miller said.

Head coach Greg McDermott, who is in his 13th season with Creighton, says Miller’s coaching skills are well respected around the country.

“He’s our defensive coordinator for our team, he coordinates our defensive plan for every opponent and currently we are in the top 15 in the country in defense, he’s done a great job, especially only being here a couple of years, he’s really dug into what our plan is and made some good adjustments in how we are doing things defensively,” McDermott said.

Another South Dakota connection is Mason Miller, Ryan’s nephew.

The 6’9″ redshirt freshman plays forward for the Blue Jays.

Mason doesn’t start as a freshman, but he gets a lot of playing time.

“Mason has tremendous upside, he’s extremely athletic, shoots the basketball at a very high level; we redshirted him last year and I think that was a good move for him to just get stronger and really work on that part of the game and that has paid good dividends for him this season, not just a matter of getting some experience but he’s hit some big shots for us and he’s made great strides defensively and he’s going to be an important part of our program moving forward,” McDermott said.

Mason is also the son of South Dakota native and former NBA player Mike Miller.

Does that add any pressure…does he think about it?

“I used to a little bit, but I can’t you know, but I got to be on my own path it’s different than him you know, I can do my own thing, but it’s always something I’ve lived with my whole life no matter what, he’s fine with whatever I do,” Mason said.

Ryan says when he watches his nephew play, he sometimes sees his brother Mike.

“Obviously they both love the game, passion for the game and they work really hard to craft and you know, both have size and athleticism. Actually, Mason’s probably a little bit more athletic. He probably gets it from his mother. She was all American Division One volleyball player for Florida, so he probably is a little more athletic than Mike, and a better shooter than Mike at this age. Obviously, Mike became one of the elite shooters in the world and had great success in the NBA, but we’ll see how far Mason can take it but you know, take it one day at a time, but there are some similarities; great size, great athleticism, and ability to shoot,” Ryan said.

Another South Dakota connection is this guy, Baylor Scheireman, last year’s Summit League Player of the Year.

Scheireman is a senior, but this is his first year of playing with Creighton after entering the portal and transferring from South Dakota State University.

Don: Why did you decide to transfer

Baylor: “You know, kind of just going through the draft process last year, and the feedback I was getting a lot of scouts wanted me to play against higher level competition and see if my game translated specifically like my defense. So, that kind of went into my decision and ultimately, you know, my dream is to, you know, play in the NBA, and I felt like transferring up was gonna put me in like the best position to get there,” Scheireman said.

It’s proved to be a good move for Scheireman, who’s averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds a game for the Blue Jays.

South Dakota’s connection to Creighton University is going to be on display in the NCAA basketball tournament but they know it won’t be an easy road.

Don: What’s going to be the key to making a run in the NCAA Tournament?

Baylor: Just taking it one game at a time and staying connected especially on the defensive end.

That’s exactly what coach McDermott says has to happen too.

“Defensively we were elite for a good portion of the conference season and we stubbed our toe a little bit over the last couple of games, we have to get back to being who we need to be defensively and we’ve been a little bit inconsistent at shooting the basketball and I think if we can flip that we have a chance to beat anybody in the country,” McDermott said.

You can watch Creighton University in the NCAA tournament as they take on North Carolina State this Friday at 3 p.m. CT.