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South Dakota State Prepares for Top Seed Gonzaga in NCAA Tournament

South Dakota State University vs Denver Summit League Basketball Championship
Dave Eggen/Inertia

The South Dakota State men’s basketball team, and every other mid-major team in this week’s NCAA Tournament, have visions of a Cinderella run deep into the bracket.

But, SDSU’s task is as tall as they come.

The 16th seeded Jackrabbits, the 2017 Summit League Tournament champions, will face top seeded Gonzaga, in a West Region game in Salt Lake City, Thursday (March 16) at 1:00 PM CT. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

A 16 seed has never beaten a one seed in the history of the tournament.

SDSU is in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season (6 games), after starting the season 1-6 and beginning the Summit League schedule 2-6.

The Jackrabbits are in the top ten nationally in free throw percentage and in the top 40 in three-pointers per game, but rank in the bottom half of points and field goal percentage allowed.

Sophomore Mike Daum is the Summit League Player of the Year after finishing the regular season second in the nation in scoring, tops in free throws attempted and made.

Saint Mary's v Gonzaga
Getty Images

The Bulldogs (32-1), out of the West Coast Conference, are making their 19th straight appearance in the tournament, their 20th overall. The Zags have advanced as far as the Elite Eight twice, in 1999 and 2015

Coach Mark Few’s team is tops in the nation in scoring margin (+23 points), second in field goal percentage (52%), second in opponents field goal percentage (37%), eighth in fewest points allowed (61 per game), and tied for eighth in rebounding margin (+8 per game). Junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss averages 18 points per game, and led in the WCC in steals and free throw shooting. Senior Przemek Karnowski and junior Jonathan Williams were one-two in the conference in field goal percentage, each hitting better than 60 percent of their shots this season.

Gonzaga’s lone loss of the year came to BYU, February 25, in a game the Bulldogs led by 16 early on. The Zags ended up missing 13 free throws and turning the ball over 16 times in that game.

I talked with South Dakota State head coach TJ Otzelberger about the match-up with Gonzaga:

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