What an outstanding year it's been for Division I women's college basketball in South Dakota.
On Wednesday night, the University of South Dakota booked a trip to the championship game of the Women's National Invitation Tournament with a convincing win over Oregon. The Coyotes will will host Florida Gulf Coast University for the WNIT title Saturday in Vermillion.
USD was relegated to the WNIT this year when South Dakota State University won an in-state rivalry game at the Summit League postseason conference tournament championship, which sent the Jackrabbits to the NCAA national tournament.
But USD certainly made lemonade out of lemons. While the Jackrabbits had a very respectable run at the NCAA national tournament with a 1-point loss in the second round to Stanford, USD powered through the WNIT and prolonged its season well beyond expectations.
What's so exciting for USD is, by the conclusion of the WNIT tournament, four of the team's games will be played in Vermillion.
Earlier in March, our state was flooded with collegiate women's basketball success.
The Summit League tournament was again held in Sioux Falls and attended by the masses. There were several attendance records set at the Summit League postseason tournament this year, including an impressive 8,647 people who went to the women's championship game. The women's tournament total attendance was 28,871, eclipsing the previous record set in 2015 by more than 4,000.
And when SDSU and USD matched up in the championship game, many of the players who took the court were born in South Dakota. Then, when the teams moved on to their respective end-of-the-year tournaments, those South Dakota natives showed their talent on a much bigger stage.
And, not to be forgotten, the NCAA Division I National Tournament regional game was held March 25 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center for the first time. Those games, like the Summit League postseason tournament, also were very well attended, drawing in excess of 4,000 fans.
Collectively, the accomplishments of South Dakota State, the University of South Dakota and the successful hosting of major postseason games are all really impressive for our state.
Nationwide, there is a lot of room to help the popularity of women's basketball grow. But we hope NCAA officials realize that our state can make a strong influence on that.
The successes this year are just too hard to ignore.