Jackrabbits Get #12 Seed, Open NCAA Tournament With Maryland
Sometimes it's not just the view from the top that's pretty sweet. For whatever reason, the number-12 slot has been pretty good to teams in the NCAA Tournament recently. That's a trend South Dakota State hopes continues in 2016. ESPN likes SDSU's chances (see #10 on their list).
The Jackrabbits scored an all-time best 12th seed in the South Regional and play fifth seed Maryland, in Spokane, Washington, Friday afternoon.
Only twice in the past 16 tournaments have the number-five seeds swept the twelves - 2007 and last year. In both 2013 and 2014, three of the four twelves pulled off upsets, including the Summit League's own North Dakota State two years ago.
But the thrill ride ends shortly after that.
Only 27 percent of the winning twelves follow up their first round upset with a second round win, and of those teams, only one (Missouri in 2002) has made it to a regional final.
As for the game itself, the Jackrabbits (26-7) are the regular season co-champs of the Summit League and winners of the conference tournament, after pulling out dramatic wins over Oral Roberts and Denver, by a combined four points, before dispatching North Dakota State in final. SDSU is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance and is still looking for its first win.
The Jacks are in the top 50 in the nation in scoring margin, rebounding margin, and free throw shooting. Redshirt freshman Mike Daum led SDSU in scoring, averaging 15 points per game. Daum is among the 50 most accurate shooters in the nation, knocking down 56 percent of his attempts this season. Seniors George Marshall, Deondre Parks, and Jake Bittle provide the leadership.
Maryland (25-8) finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings and were ousted by Michigan State in the conference tournament semifinals. The Terrapins are making their 26th NCAA Tournament appearance and have won at least one game in the last 11 tournaments they were part of. Maryland won it all in 2002.
The Terrapins are in the top 20 nationally in blocked shots, free throw shooting, and field goal percentage. They are in the top 50 in defense, fewest fouls, and three-point shooting. Sophomore guard Melo Trimble was the Big 10 pre-season player of the year and leads Maryland with 14 points per game. The Terrapins are the only team in the Big Ten to have five players average in double figures in scoring.
Maryland's size will be an advantage against South Dakota State. Center Diamond Stone is 6'11 and forward Robert Carter is 6'9. Daum (6'9) is the only SDSU starter taller than 6'6. Stone and Carter combined to block 96 shots this season.
The one area the Terrapins struggled this season was taking care of the basketball. Maryland tied for the third most giveaways in the Big Ten.
Tipoff is 3:20 PM CDT, Friday, in Spokane, Washington. The game will be broadcast nationally on TBS.
I talked with Jackrabbit assistant coach Rob Klinkefus about the Summit League Tournament and the NCAA first round match-up with Maryland (see top of story).