SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Five days of March Madness at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center tips off Friday and concludes with Championship Tuesday.
Ahead of the Summit League Basketball Championships starting, KELOLAND SportZone previews the tournament bracket, recaps season awards, previews all four South Dakota teams and gives an update from commissioner Josh Fenton who is overseeing his first Summit League Tournament. You can view the whole show in the player above.
Expanding to a five-day tournament
There is an extra day in this year’s tournament, which will add four more games to this year’s event.
With the addition of St. Thomas, the Summit League knew a decision would need to be made on their postseason brackets.
“Our membership made a decision that we wanted to provide our basketball men’s and women’s student-athletes with an experience to participate in the tournament, regardless of whether you finished first or didn’t finish first in the regular season,” Fenton said. “It’s more about providing more experience to our student-athletes.”
The USD men and women won’t be directly affected by the bracket change, though the Coyotes appreciate the leagues growth.
“To include all the teams, it’s cool because you’re still in it and everybody still has that chance and I know it’s going to be competitive,” USD women’s head coach Kayla Karius said.
“There’s a lot of leagues that do it our way, with the same amount of teams, so I think it’s really good. Yeah, I’m excited,” USD men’s head coach Eric Peterson said.
The SDSU women are the top-seed, which means they’ll play a team on little rest, though the Jacks won’t know their opponent until Friday afternoon.
“I’ve found that it’s different when we’re preparing in practice and how we want to put things together. We’ve had to be thoughtful there I would say,” SDSU women’s head coach Aaron Johnston said. “Absolutely having to go down and play on Friday and then turn around and play on Saturday. There’s certainly disadvantages to that too.”
The advantages of being a top-two seed certainly outweighs the disadvantages, including the chance to earn a day off during the tournament.
“There’s still an advantage to be that first or second seed. If you’re fortunate enough to win on Saturday, which is not going to be easy for anyone, but you get that day of rest on Sunday,” SDSU men’s head coach Eric Henderson said.
Selland, Abmas earn player of the year honors
SDSU’s Myah Selland was named this year’s Summit League player of the year. The Letcher, South Dakota native posted 16.1 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists per contest this season. She also owned the third best shooting percentage in the conference at 55%. Selland is the 7th player in league history to claim the award multiple times.
On the men’s side, Oral Robert’s Max Abmas was named the Player of the Year as he posted a league high 22.3 points per game, while hitting on a league best 68 three pointers. He also earned his third consecutive trip to the All-League First Team.
SDSU women riding 18-game winning streak
SDSU opened conference play with a three-point win over Oral Roberts in December. That began an 18-game win streak, in which SDSU won by double digits in 16 of those games and 13 of those wins came by 20 points.
The Jackrabbits are no stranger to being the top-seed, but this year, they’ll have a new approach, as their quarterfinal opponent is yet to be determined. They’ll have to wait till Friday’s outcome between St. Thomas and Western Illinois.
“It does change the week I would say, not dramatically, but it certainly changes what we’re trying to do in practice and how we prepare. We won’t find out until Friday and that’s not a lot of time to get ready for a specific team. We’ve got to weave a couple different game plans into the week here,” SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said.
“Being able to finally play in that environment and then hopefully do some pretty awesome things in that environment, will just be really special,” Burckhard said.
SDSU will play in the Summit League quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Coyote women enter as No. 4 seed
After dropping four straight games in the middle of conference play, the Coyotes won three of their last four games, which included a win at Oral Roberts last Thursday. South Dakota swept the Golden Eagles and having just a handful of days from their last meeting to their postseason showdown, USD has its game plan in place.
“That familiarity is there. I expect probably some game plan changes on their end, and so just getting ready for those. And really it comes down to a matter of having that confidence on the floor on Sunday and then executing,” USD head coach Kayla Karius said.
Grace Larkins led the team with 17.5 points, nearly eight rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 steals per contest. The Coyotes and Golden Eagles will meet at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Jackrabbit men ready for either quarterfinal opponent
The SDSU men won seven of their last eight games to finish the conference season with a 13-5 record, earning them the second seed in the tournament. Now, now the Jackrabbits play the waiting game to see who they’ll play as Kansas City and Omaha are set to square off Friday night, with the winner playing SDSU on Saturday.
“We’re fairly familiar with most of our league opponents and to be able to play both of the teams we would happen to play on Saturday, in the last ten days, it probably makes it even a little more clear,” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said.
“It gives us time to get our bodies right and rest up a little bit. Friday night we have to really, really pay attention and watch some good basketball to know what we’ll be looking for on Saturday and understand our opponent,” SDSU guard Zeke Mayo said.
The Jackrabbit men will play in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
USD men will look to upset NDSU
The USD men earned the No. 6 seed and will take on third-seeded NDSU. The Coyotes suffered a brutal run in February, where they lost five straight games but still secured a bye into the quarterfinals with a 34-point win over Kansas City in the regular-season finale.
In that game, the Yotes shot above 50 percent from behind the arc and hot shooting has been their calling card all season. USD ranks sixth in the country in 3-point field goal percentage at 39%. The Coyotes split the regular season series with NDSU, so they will look to upset the Bison.
“We have our work cut out for us against North Dakota State. And you know you look at it one game at a time, right. As a team, you prepare one game at a time. But I like our draw,” USD head coach Eric Peterson said.
USD will meet NDSU in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 8:30.
KELOLAND Media Group will have ongoing coverage both on-air and online throughout the Summit League Tournament.