'Old team, new start' as the South Dakota State women's basketball aims for Summit League championships
The Jackrabbits won the Summit League regular-season crown after going 21-4 overall, 14-0 in conference play last season.
When the South Dakota State women’s basketball team tips off the 2021-22 season on Nov. 9, there will be plenty of familiar faces taking the court as the Jackrabbits chase Summit League regular and postseason titles.
Not only does SDSU return all five starters from the squad that went 21-4 overall and 14-0 in conference play, won the Summit League regular-season crown and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament last season, but most of the bench returns as well. The Jackrabbits retained more than 92.5% of their production in almost every statistical category, and more than 97% of their points and rebounds.
SDSU was tabbed second in the Summit League preseason poll, just behind the University of South Dakota, as the two schools split the 38 first-place votes (USD 20, SDSU 18). Paiton Burckhard (13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season), Tylee Irwin (12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds) and Myah Selland (19.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists) also represented the Jackrabbits on the preseason all-Summit First Team.
“Especially with the season we had and what we were able to accomplish last year, maybe it didn't end the way we wanted it to, but we have another shot and it’s exciting to have the same group and we get to add two really exciting freshmen into that mix,” Selland said.
The only glaring question mark entering the new campaign is the status of Selland — last year’s Summit League Player of the Year and the preseason favorite to win the award again this season — who’s unlikely to be available early in the season while she continues to recover from knee injury that required surgery and ended her 2020-21 season in February.
“There’s no real timeline, no date when she’ll be back,” explained coach Aaron Johnston. “... We don’t think that’s too far off, but I don’t know that she’ll be playing full-out today (Nov. 1) in practice either, so we’re somewhere in between those two statements.”
With or without Selland, SDSU has loaded its nonconference schedule, which includes early road tests against Mississippi State (Nov. 12), Iowa State (Nov. 15) and Creighton (Nov. 21) before a late November trip to Estero, Florida, for the Gulf Coast Showcase.
The Jackrabbits begin Summit League play just before Christmas, with back-to-back road games at Kansas City (Dec. 20) and Oral Roberts (Dec. 22). Both regular-season meetings with rival USD will be in 2022, as the first will be played Jan. 8 in Vermillion and will be followed four weeks later with a Feb. 5 clash in Brookings.
With an extra year of eligibility granted to all NCAA winter sport athletes that competed last season, SDSU looks to play out 2021-22 with effectively the same cast as a season ago, and Johnston says his team is excited for the unique opportunity.
“I think they’re hungry after the success but also the obstacles of last season to get back on the floor and overcome some of that,” he said. “… This is a really old, experienced team, but I think everybody feels like it’s kind of a new start.”