Summit League Women’s Tournament Preview: Coyotes Square off against Fort Wayne, Jackrabbits Face Denver
Same great event, new great home.
That pretty much sums up the 2015 Summit League Women's Tournament, which returns to Sioux Falls for the seventh straight year, but for the first time in the new Denny Sanford Premier Center. The 12,000 seat venue could deliver the highest attendance numbers ever seen at this event in any location.
Whatever the final numbers at the turnstiles are, one thing is certain: home cooking has been very good to the Rushmore State's two women's basketball teams in this tournament.
In the last six seasons, South Dakota and South Dakota State are a combined 20-2 in Summit League Tournament action with six straight championships between them (five for SDSU, one for USD). What's even more amazing, those two losses came against each other - the Jackrabbits beating the Coyotes in the 2013 title game, and USD extracting their revenge in the semifinals last year.
South Dakota's two entrants are again the teams to beat this year.
The Coyotes are the number one seed, after completing their first-ever Summit League regular season championship run, finishing 13-3 in conference play. USD is the number one scoring team in the league and returns four starters from last season's tourney title team.
USD's first round opponent is #8 seed Fort Wayne. The Coyotes swept the Mastodons during the regular season, winning by two in Indiana, 11 in Vermillion. IPFW has lost seven of eight, but is always dangerous when guard Haley Seibert is on the floor. The senior is second in the Summit League in scoring (20 points per game) and in the Top 20 nationally in three-point shooting. In two games against South Dakota this season, Seibert scored 58 points and knocked down 11 threes. USD head coach Amy Williams told me keeping Seibert uncomfortable is defensive priority number one:
Tipoff is 12:00 PM in Sioux Falls Saturday. The winner plays in the semifinals Monday at noon against either IUPUI or Western Illinois.
Second seeded South Dakota State looks to start another Summit League Tournament winning streak when they play number seven Denver immediately following the USD game Saturday afternoon. The Jackrabbits and Pioneers split during the regular season, with SDSU winning by 41 in Brookings, DU by five in Colorado. Shooting was the biggest difference in the two games. In the Jacks win, they hit 12 three-pointers and shot 50 percent from the floor, while the Pioneers shot just 28 percent. In the rematch, DU made eight threes, while SDSU shot just 36 percent. Denver is led by guard Paige Bradley, who is second in the conference in assists and third in three-point shooting.
One of the big question marks for the Jackrabbits is the status of starting forward Chynna Stevens. The sophomore has missed the last seven games due to injury. I asked head coach Aaron Johnston about her status heading into the tournament:
The winner of the SDDU-Denver game plays either Oral Roberts or North Dakota State in the semifinals Monday at 2:30 PM.