Frequent foes and Summit champs Jacks, Bison to meet in Monday's men's semifinal round
SDSU is 4-1 against the Bison in Sioux Falls but the teams split the regular-season series.
SIOUX FALLS — It’s the rivalry that rules the Summit League in men’s basketball.
And we’ll see it again on Monday night in the conference tournament semifinals, when North Dakota State and South Dakota State meet on the court at the Premier Center.
Monday’s 8:30 p.m. meeting will be only the second to take place in the semifinal round. Usually, it’s a championship matchup, as it has been in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2022, with the most recent of those being a 75-69 win for the Jackrabbits.
SDSU is 4-1 against the Bison in Sioux Falls but the teams split the regular-season series, with each team holding serve on their home court in games decided by margins of six and five points, respectively.
In the last 12 tournaments, counting 2023, the Jacks and Bison have been a top-five seed, with SDSU winning six times and North Dakota State winning five times since 2009.
NDSU coach Dave Richman called the game a “tremendous challenge” three times in the team’s seven-minute press conference following their 70-68 win over South Dakota on Sunday night in the quarterfinals.
“It’s March. I mean, they understand it,” Richman said. “This is a great win. If they don’t get this great win, we don’t get this opportunity tomorrow night.”
The teams have star power, with SDSU led by sophomore guard Zeke Mayo and NDSU boasting junior forward Grant Nelson, and huge supporting casts that help make it all go. They’re the two winningest programs in the Summit League since they got in the conference, and they’re used to making it work in Sioux Falls over three games even when the season had its sideways moments.
“It’s a tough deal for these kids but we wouldn’t want it any other way, either,” SDSU coach Eric Henderson said after Saturday’s win over Omaha, speaking about the challenges to consistently win in the tournament.
Henderson was an assistant for Richman from 2014 to 2016 before moving to the Jackrabbits to be an assistant coach and is now in his fourth season as the team’s leader, with a record of 87-34. A win on Monday night would be overall win No. 175 for Richman.
Each team sticks out on each other’s season schedule and results from the season. SDSU lost a grinder of a game in Fargo in a 65-59 contest on Jan. 5, one of only three losses for the Jackrabbits when they’ve allowed fewer than 70 points.
When the Bison went to Brookings, NDSU gave up 90 points, including a career-high 41 points for Zeke Mayo on Feb. 4 in the victory. It was one of two times NDSU has allowed 90 points on defense in the conference this season, with the other being at the hands of Oral Roberts in a loss.