The University of South Dakota women's trip to the NCAA Tournament is providing the athletic department and its supporters a much-needed boost. USD has had its fair share of struggles in its journey to Division I, but now with the Yotes punching their ticket, fans are re-energized.
With their upcoming NCAA Tournament appearance, the women's basketball team becomes the first team from the school to make a Division I national tourney. They were also the last at the Division II level. The Yotes finished runner-up in 2008 before making their transition to DI.
It's been a struggle, but the Coyotes have made the most of their DI journey, playing in post-season games each of the past three years. While the Women's Basketball Invitational and the Women's National Invitation Tournament aren't the "Big Dance," they've provided plenty of experience.
The Yotes aren't completely without NCAA Tourney history. Second-year Head Coach Amy Williams took part in "March Madness" as a player for Nebraska and an assistant for Tulsa. Senior standout Polly Harrington has tourney court time too. Harrington hit the hardwood for Louisville as a freshman in the NCAAs before eventually making her way to South Dakota. If ESPN projections are correct, the Summit League Tourney MVP will meet up with her old team in the first round in Ames, Iowa.
That's just 217 miles from Vermillion. In comparison, the shortest trip for the 13-15 seeded South Dakota State women from Brookings in the past four years has been 704 miles to Boulder, Colorado. Regardless of how far the Coyote women have to travel, we already know they've come a long way.
Along with being new to the NCAA Tournament, the basketball program will have a new arena soon as USD breaks ground on a $66 million project next to the DakotaDome in mid-May.