SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – College basketball success is happening in South Dakota. 

While plenty of attention will be on the South Dakota State women’s basketball team playing in its 11th NCAA Tournament Friday night, two other South Dakota-based college teams are enjoying deep postseason runs at different levels. 

The Dakota State University women’s basketball team has reached the national semifinals of the NAIA tournament held in Sioux City, Iowa, while the Black Hills State University men’s basketball team has reached the Elite Eight held in Evansville, Indiana for the second-straight year in Division II.  

“The gym is always going to be consistent. The gym is always gonna be nice and warm. It’s always gonna have the lights on,” DSU head coach David Moe said. “You can get really devoted to basketball in the wintertime because it’s really, really cold outside. It’s really fun to see basketball be so impactful in this area.” 

On the men’s side, BHSU head coach Ryan Thompson has seen his team build off a Division II Final Four appearance last year and reach another Elite Eight. 

“It starts with people caring,” Thompson said. “I think all the universities in the state of South Dakota have people that are passionate about basketball within their fan bases. You have people that care about the game of basketball.” 

Dakota State (29-6) will play Clarke (Iowa) at 8 p.m. in Sioux City, Iowa, while Black Hills State (28-5) will play the University of Minnesota Duluth at 12 p.m. CT/11 a.m. MT in Evansville, Indiana. 

Both Athletic Directors at BHSU and DSU said opportunities are endless for high school athletes in South Dakota and the surrounding states.  

“You don’t have to go someplace else to be in a great program to play in the postseason, to be on a top-20 team, or a top-10 team or even a national championship team,” DSU’s Jeff Dittman said. “Those opportunities are available to you in this state at multiple schools.” 

BHSU AD Padraic McMeel has been in Spearfish since 2021 and mentioned the Yellow Jackets had postseason success at the NAIA level in the late 1990s before the school moved to Division II in 2010. 

“When you look at this state as a whole, ‘wow,’” said McMeel, who graduated from Central Michigan and has worked for colleges in Georgia, Arkansas and Michigan. “To live in South Dakota and see the caliber of basketball in this state is pretty special.” 

Record year for DSU 

Moe has been coaching the Trojans since 2017 and his program has had three seasons in a row of 27 wins or more. This year, DSU has set program records for wins (29), reached its first national semifinal and has beaten three-straight NAIA Top 25 ranked teams (No. 12 Eastern Oregon, No. 11 Carroll, No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan). 

“Everyone’s talking about us being a Cinderella,” Moe said. “Within our program, no one believes we’re really a Cinderella. We believe that we’re supposed to be here in this moment.” 

In 2023, DSU has only lost one game – a 66-52 defeat to Mayville State on Feb. 26. The Trojans have gone 19-1 since January and Dittman pointed out the roster is full of local talent. Elsie Aslesen, a former Howard Tiger, leads the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game and there’s six players from South Dakota on the roster. The team’s No. 2 leading scorer, Savannah Walsdorf is from Wisconsin and Dittman said DSU’s cyber technology program has been attracting athletes across the Midwest.  

“This is a special team,” Dittman said. “It’s a Midwestern group and it has that Midwestern work ethic and that Midwestern team mentality.” 

DSU’s Fab Four game against Clarke will be streamed on the NAIA YouTube page. 

Yellow Jackets ‘on a mission’ 

This is Thompson’s fifth season has the head coach for BHSU and he said his team has been extra motivated since coming one win away from playing for a national championship last year. 

“We’ve been on a mission all year to get back to this stage and finish it,” Thompson said. “Win a national title. We haven’t shied away from making that our goal.” 

BHSU has only five losses on the season and three of them came against one opponent – Fort Lewis College (Colorado). The Yellow Jackets defeated Fort Lewis College in the NCAA South Central Regional Semifinal in the fourth meeting between the two schools and then won a 68-67 thriller over West Texas A&M University where a final second buzzer-beater was ruled late. 

“I felt like it was pretty obvious in person watching it that it was late,” Thompson said about the game-deciding shot by West Texas A&M. “All of a sudden you see the referees talking and taking forever. They brought out a stopwatch and then I got a little nervous, but I’m thankful that they got it right.” 

Thompson said his team will need to focus on playing strong defense and limiting turnovers to find success against Minnesota-Duluth.  

McMeel said anyone who tunes into BHSU’s game Tuesday night can expect to see one of the best basketball players in the country in Joel Scott, who is a 6-foot-7 senior that was named BHSU’s first NCAA All-American last year. This year, Scott is averaging nearly a double-double per game with 22.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game. 

“He is a very tough go for anybody in the United States,” McMeel said. “You’re going to see some really good talent on that floor and you’re going to see a group that is extremely well coached.”  

BHSU’s Elite Eight game against Minnesota-Duluth will be streamed on the NCAA website