Men’s Summit League Tournament Preview: South Dakota vs. Western Illinois
The South Dakota Coyotes may be the seventh seed as they enter their first Summit League Tournament tonight in Sioux Falls, but you can hardly call USD the underdog against conference co-champs Western Illinois.
Not only will the Coyotes be playing in front of a highly partisan South Dakota crowd at the Sioux Falls Arena, but USD comes in knowing they had not one, but two, legitimate chances to beat the Leathernecks during the regular season.
The meetings between Western Illinois and South Dakota came at opposite ends of the Summit League schedule, but looked very similar. In the first conference game of the season for both teams, the Leathernecks won 73-71 on a Ceola Clark runner in the lane as time expired in Vermillion, in November.
The two teams didn't meet again until last weekend's regular season finale, only this time it was the Coyotes with the ball in hand with the game on the line. In Macomb, Juevol Myles had two cracks at a game tying bucket in the final few seconds and came up empty. Final score: Western Illinois 61, South Dakota 59. Two games decided by a total of four points.
The Leathernecks have been doing it with defense again this year. WIU is second in the conference in points allowed (56 per game), second in opponents field goal percentage (40%), and tops in opponents three-point shooting (33%).
Western Illinois' best defender is also their biggest question mark. Terrell Parks picked up Summit League Defensive Player of the Year honors this week (1st in rebounding and blocked shots), but he hasn't played in two weeks because of an ankle injury. He's questionable for tonight's game.
The Leathernecks are still a capable defensive bunch, even without Parks. Ceola Clark was the Summit's Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011, and was 4th in steals this season.
Parks and Clark are on the All-Summit League First Team this season, while Western's Jim Molinari is the conference Coach of the Year, after leading WIU to its first league title (co-champs with South Dakota State) since 1983.
South Dakota does not have an all-conference player in its first year of post season eligibility in the Summit League, but Kansas State transfer Juevol Myles is on the All-Newcomer team, after finishing fifth in scoring (16 points per game) and first (14th in the nation)in free throw shooting (91%). Myles is trying to recover from a bit of a shooting slump in February, when he shot just 35 percent, and saw his scoring average fall by nearly four points per game.
The entire USD roster has had trouble shooting the ball consistently this season, as evidenced in the box scores of the two games against Western Illinois, when the Coyotes shot 31 percent in the first half and 58 percent in the second half.
Trevor Gruis is having a solid junior season, with top ten finishes in scoring (13 points per game), rebounding (6 per game), field goal shooting (60%), free throws made (52), and blocked shots.
Tipoff is 8:30 tonight at Sioux Falls Arena. The winner gets the North Dakota State - Kansas City winner in Monday's semifinal round.