Summit League Men’s Tournament Preview: (1) South Dakota State vs. (8) Western Illinois
Last year, the South Dakota State men's basketball team came into the Summit League Tournament as underdogs, the number-four seed overall. That didn't stop the Jackrabbits from running the table in Sioux Falls, and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
In 2018, SDSU is the team to beat in the field of eight. The Jacks (25-6/13-1) are on a roll, winning 16 of their last 17, en route to their first-ever outright Summit League regular season title.
The most potent offense in the conference (85 points per game), featuring the Summit League's Player of the Year (Mike Daum), will open the post season with number-eight Western Illinois, Saturday (March 3) in Sioux Falls.
The Leathernecks (12-15/3-11) are last in the league in most statistical categories, but do boast the third best rebounding attack, with Brandon Gilbeck inside. Gilbeck also leads the conference in blocked shots, earning him Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Freshman point guard Kobe Webster is on the Summit's All-Newcomer team after fishing fifth in scoring and 12th in assists.
South Dakota State swept the season series, winning by 28 in Macomb and by 20 in Brookings. Webster had 17 points in the first meeting, but was just 1-of-10 in the second.
SDSU's David Jenkins Jr scored scored 47 points in the two games.
WIU shot under 40 percent in each first half against the Jackrabbits and have gone just 7-of-37 (19%) from the three-point line in their last three games.
Tipoff is 6:00 PM, Saturday in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota State closed out the regular season with a pair of wins last week.
Last Thursday (February 22), the Jackrabbits beat South Dakota 76-72, clinching their first-ever outright Summit League regular season title, their fourth crown overall. SDSU used a 16-3 run and weathered an 11-1 spurt from the Coyotes to lead by ten at halftime.
That lead ballooned to 16 in the second half before USD came all the way back, holding the Jacks without a field goal for more than five minutes at one point.
But down the stretch, SDSU did just enough to win, hitting 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the final minute.
Daum finished with 20 points, Jenkins had 18, while Lane Severyn had a career game on senior night - 14 points and eight rebounds.
After being out rebounded by ten in a loss in Vermillion, SDSU turned the tables with an eleven rebound edge against the Coyotes in Brookings.
The Jackrabbits closed out the regular season, Saturday (February 24), with a 97-90 win at Fort Wayne.
The Mastodons had an early five-point lead before the Jackrabbits erupted for 17 of the next 18 points to take the lead for good. Fort Wayne made it interesting with runs of six, eight, and 11 straight in the second half to pull to within one, but SDSU put it away with six unanswered points in the final 48 seconds.
Daum finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds. The Jackrabbits made 16 three-pointers in the game, the most made threes for SDSU in a Summit League game this season.
I talked with South Dakota State head coach TJ Otzelberger about last week's sweep and match-up Western Illinois: