Jackrabbit Women Grab #12 Seed, Play #5 Miami Saturday in NCAA Tournament
The life of a mid-major basketball program is a very humbling one at times. Regardless of how many games you win, or the caliber of the teams you beat, you are often overlooked when it comes to seeding in post season tournaments.
Five times in the past six years, South Dakota State was one of the top mid-major programs in women's basketball, playing a tough non-conference schedule, and finishing at, or near, the top of the Summit League every season. But during that run, the Jackrabbits could never manage anything higher than a 13 seed and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament after one game. Because of their seeding, SDSU was forced to play on their opponents' home floor in four of those five losses.
In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Jackrabbits are a 12 seed, and what a difference one spot makes.
SDSU will battle Miami (FL) in the opening round, not on the Hurricanes home floor in Southern Florida, but rather in Northern California (Stanford), Saturday night.
The Jackrabbits (26-6) finished second in the Summit League regular season, but beat top seed South Dakota, to win the conference tournament for the seventh time in eight years.
SDSU has four players who average in double figures in scoring, led by sophomore Macy Miller's 15 points per game. The Mitchell native was the Most Valuable Player at the Summit League Tournament and was a first-team all-conference selection.
Freshman Madison Guebert was the Summit's Freshman of the Year, after averaging 10 points a game. Junior Clarissa Ober was the conference Defensive Player of the Year after finishing second in blocks per league game and fifth in rebounding.
As a team, the Jackrabbits are among the top 50 in the nation in fewest turnovers, most assists and blocked shots, and three-pointers attempted, made, and accuracy.
The Hurricanes (24-8) are 20th in the latest Associated Press poll, and tied for fifth in the ACC this season, losing to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Miami has just one senior on its roster and is led in scoring by junior Adrienne Motley, whose 16 points per game were fifth best in the league.
Junior Jessica Thomas is second in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio. She and Motley are the only two players that score in double figures. Freshman Laura Cornelius is fifth in the league in three-point accuracy. Three players average five or more rebounds a game.
As a team, Miami distributes the ball well (top 30 in the nation) and plays excellent defense, averaging 10 steals (32nd in nation) and forcing 19 turnovers (42nd in nation) per game.
Tipoff is 5:30 PM, Saturday, in Stanford, California. The game will be seen nationally on ESPN2.
I talked with SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston about the match-up with Miami: