SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Following the conclusion of the 2021 NSIC regular season, the tournament brackets were announced for both men and women. Three South Dakota universities will play in Thursday’s opening round including Augustana, Northern State and USF.
NSIC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP – FEB. 25-28
The women’s tournament will tip-off at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 25 as the top-seed from the North Division, Minnesota Duluth, meets the fourth seed from the South Division, USF.
The South Division top-seed, Augustana, will meet MSU Moorhead on Thursday at 1:00 p.m.
The final games of the first round will start Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. as Concordia-St. Paul will battle with Bemidji State and then St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato will follow.
SOUTH #1 – AUGUSTANA VIKINGS (10-3)
The Augustana women’s basketball team started just 3-2 in south division play. However, the Vikings went on to win six of their last seven to finish the season as the NSIC South Division Regular Season champions.
“For things to kind of come together again, with what turned out to be a short season, but it just made me proud of both what we’ve done as a team, but there are a number of our kids individually that I just felt need a pat on the back,” Augustana head coach Dave Krauth said.
Some of the player’s coach Krauth could be referring to could be the three players who are in the top fifteen for scoring per game in the conference.
Izzy Van Veldhuizen leads the team with 14.3 points per contest, followed by Lauren Sees (13.9) and Aislinn Duffy (13.7). Then fourth leading scorer Hannah Mitby (12.7 ppg) sits at twenty-first in the conference.
Now the Vikings will prepare to face the fourth seed from the North Division, MSU Moorhead.
“The only thing we’ll talk about in practice is Moorhead and then have ourselves as prepared as we can be for them,” Krauth said. “It’s a team we played and split with early in the year and that feels like quite a while back now, so we’ll have to refresh a little bit with some film work.”
The Dragons and Vikings met back in the first weekend of the season. Each team walked away from the weekend double header with a win.
“We split and we won the first one and we lost the second one and that happened to us on more than one weekend throughout the year,” Krauth said. “Did we get educated with a first experience with a team or not? It looked like it on some weekends, but it’s hard to know if either team has a little advantage or not. It does make preparation a little easier.”
Augustana and MSU Moorhead will cross paths at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 25.
SOUTH #4 – USF COUGARS (8-5)
The other South Dakota university competing in this weekend’s NSIC women’s tournament is the USF Cougars.
USF started the season on a roll as they won their first five games and later improved to a division best 7-2 record. However, the Cougars suffered three straights losses before finally grabbing a win over SMSU which would send them to the tournament with an 8-5 record.
“I was impressed with our kids the way we bounced back (Sunday),” USF head coach Travis Traphagen said. “We were on a three game skid and where were we at mentally and for our kids to come out and just play a hard fought game, especially when you know, it’s win or go home.”
The Cougars have been led this season by the third leading scorer per game in the conference, Anna Brecht. The Sioux Falls Lincoln alum transferred from Green Bay to play with USF and she has paced the Cougars with an impressive 18 points per game.
USF had to play on Sunday, since their games were pushed back due to NSIC testing guidelines. However, because they had to play Sunday, the Cougars have to take a day off due to NCAA practice rules. Coach Traphagen chose Monday, which means the Cougars will return to practice on Tuesday.
The Cougars will now prepare to face North Division top-seed Minnesota Duluth, a team that USF has not faced this season.
“For me, I’m still fairly familiar with the teams, I mean when you’re in a regional conference, you still watch,” Traphagen said. “Duluth would be the top overall seed, if there was a top overall, but we’re still very familiar and they’re very similar to a year ago.”
Minnesota Duluth is led by the conference’s leading scorer in Brooke Olson. The 6’2″ forward is scoring an impressive 20 points per game.
“I think we’re two different teams. I think they’re a little more methodical. They take a lot of shot clock and we probably aren’t going to be as big and maybe we’re a little more athletic,” Traphagen said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to space the floor and use some of our athleticism to our advantage, but we’ll see because they play two 6’2″ players.”
USF will meet Minnesota Duluth in the first game of the women’s tournament on Thursday, Feb. 25. Tip-off is set for 10:00 a.m.
NSIC MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP – FEBRUARY 25-28
The men’s NSIC tournament will tip-off Thursday afternoon, following the first two women’s contests.
The first game of the men’s tournament will feature North Division top-seed Northern State against South Division number four Augustana. Tip-off is set for 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.
That match-up will be followed by Wayne State against St. Cloud State on Thursday night. Friday’s two match-ups will feature Upper Iowa against Minot State, while the MSU Moorhead Dragons will meet Minnesota State Mankato in Friday’s night cap.
NORTH DIVISION #1 – NORTHERN STATE WOLVES (13-1)
The Northern State men’s basketball team started the season an undefeated 13-0, but suffered their lone setback to MSU Moorhead on Saturday, February 20.
“I thought we made good strides overall, defensively this year. We also did a good job of transitioning leadership from Gabe King and Cole Dahl to some other guys that stepped up and did it collectively,” Northern State head coach Saul Phillips said. “We’ve been efficient offensively, we’ve been efficient defensively and we’ve worked really hard. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve been able to do in a year of uncertainty.”
Unlike several other teams in the NSIC, the Northern State men’s team was able to play all of their games this season.
“That’s actually a noteworthy achievement this year that we got to play them all and you know, it’s a testament to all of our guys and how seriously they took everything,” Phillips said. “There’s also a little luck involved also because there are teams that did everything right and still got popped.”
The Wolves have been led by the conference’s leading scorer in Parker Fox who is scoring more nearly 23 points per game. They also have several other talented players such as Mason Stark (16.6 ppg) and Tommy Chatman (10.6 ppg).
Now Northern State will prepare to face the Augustana Vikings in the first round of the NSIC tournament.
“There will be some very specific game prep for Augustana, first of all. We’ve played Augustana twice since I’ve been here and they’ve both been games that have gone down right to the last possession,” Phillips said.
The Wolves are hoping to pick up a win on Thursday, but they won’t be straying far from the path that has given them success this year.
“You’re trying to keep a rhythm going and we did have a loss in our last game, but for fifteen of the sixteen games that we played, we came out on the right end of it,” Phillip said. “You always have a few things that you sprinkle in, but boy, when you’re a one seed, you don’t want to get away from what got you to this point. So we’ll do a lot of the same things.”
The Wolves will meet Augustana on Thursday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 4:00 p.m.
SOUTH DIVISION #4 – AUGUSTANA VIKINGS (7-6)
The Augustana men’s basketball team started just 3-5 on the season, but picked up four wins in their final five games. However, the Vikings needed a USF loss to reach the tournament and that’s exactly what they got.
“We’re feeling pretty fortunate and I mean, we’ve played good basketball and we won four of our last five and I think we have a good team, but boy, we were pretty fortunate to get into the tournament. We’re pretty happy about it,” Augustana head coach Tom Billeter said.
Augustana does not have a player who is top 25 in conference scoring, but they do have six players that average more than ten points per contest including: Dylan LeBrun, Michael Schafer, Tyler Riemersma, Adam Dykman, Isaac Fink and Matt Todd.
As the Vikings prepare for Northern State, their practice tendencies won’t change too much.
“You don’t really change much in February, you know we have a system set in place from the first day these kids set foot on our campus,” Billeter said. “We don’t really change much come tournament time. We’ll do with what we do, we’ll look at some film and do some tweaking there, but it’s not a whole lot different.”
Despite having to play the top-seeded Wolves, coach Billeter and the Vikings are ready for Thursday.
“We talk about one game at a time and I know every coach says that, but we really do and that’s all we’re going to approach our team with,” Billeter said. “We’re in a good place, we’re on a roll, we’re doing some good things right now. We’ll continue to focus on the positive, it’s one game at a time and I know Northern State is too, but we’re excited to play Northern. We like that game and I know they like to play us.”
Thursday’ contest between the Wolves and the Vikings will tip-off at 4:00.
KELOLAND News will have coverage of all three games on Thursday. Follow @KELOSweeter on Twitter to see in game updates. Check KELOLAND.com for highlights and postgame stories.