Where might South Dakota State women's basketball get seeded for the NCAA tournament?
Jackrabbits are 28-5 with a handful of impressive wins on their resume
SIOUX FALLS — South Dakota State is going back to the NCAA tournament, courtesy of their 93-51 win over Omaha in the Summit League tournament championship game.
It'll be their 11th trip to the Big Dance.
Where might they go? What kind of seed are they looking at? It's hard to tell for sure, but if the national prognosticators are to be believed, they're not going to get an especially high seed.
Most projections have put SDSU in the 10-12 range, which seems at least a little odd.
The last time SDSU made the tournament, in 2021, they were coming off an upset loss in the first round of the Summit League tournament and still got a 9-seed as an at-large pick. Playing without their best player, Myah Selland, they lost in the first round to Syracuse.
Last year USD earned a 10-seed. It felt like they deserved better than that, and when the Coyotes surged to the Sweet 16 and very nearly the Elite Eight, it only reinforced that idea.
SDSU, of course, went to the Sweet 16 in 2019, the last time they won the Summit League tournament. They were a 6-seed that year.
So, why, if SDSU was a 6-seed in 2019 and reached the Sweet 16, earned an at-large bid and a 9-seed in 2021, and the Coyotes narrowly missed the Elite Eight last year as a 10-seed, are the Jackrabbits a potential double-digit seed?
It could be because the rest of the Summit League was, uh, not so good this year. The Jacks went 21-0 against the conference, winning each of the last nine by more than 20 points. They won the tournament championship game by 42 points. Only two other teams in the league had winning records (NDSU and UND) and they both lost in the first round of the conference tournament. Omaha, the team SDSU beat in Tuesday's final, had a NET ranking of 260 (SDSU is 37th).
Still, the Jacks' resume isn't exactly lacking. They're 28-5. None of the wins during their school-record 21-game streak are especially impressive, but they have some nice non-conference wins.
They beat Louisville when they were ranked 10th in the country (the Jacks' first-ever top-10 win) and Kansas State when they were 24th, though both of those teams have since fallen out of the poll. They beat a 20-win SEC team in Mississippi State and a (bad) Big Ten team (Rutgers).
Their losses? One came to the No. 1 team in the country, South Carolina (the Jacks were semi-competitive in a 62-44 defeat). Another was to No. 17 UCLA and a third to a Creighton team that was ranked 21st at the time and is currently receiving votes.
The other two are the "bad" losses. On a post-Thanksgiving trip west, the Jacks lost 61-41 to Washington State and 71-66 to Montana State.
But how bad were those losses?
Washington State just won the Pac-12 tournament, knocking off UCLA in the title game. The Cougars are 23-10, headed to the NCAA tournament and just entered the Top 25 at No. 22. That the Jacks lost to them by 20 is definitely not a good look, but SDSU didn't even have Paige Meyer then.
The Montana State loss is tougher to defend, but the Bobcats are 20-11. They're not a bad basketball team.
Maybe all this means the bracketology experts are wrong, and the tournament committee will give SDSU more respect than we're expecting. But honestly, unless they were going to bump the Jacks all the way up to a 7-seed, SDSU is probably better off as a double-digit seed. If they're an 8 or a 9, they just have to face a No. 1 seed in the second round if they win. USD proved last year that a 10-seed can make a run, and as an 11 or 12 seed, the Jacks would have a winnable first round game against a five or six, at which point they'd be facing a three or 4-seed in the second round. Also winnable.
"It'll be interesting to see how it all goes," said coach Aaron Johnston. "This year it's a really strong field. There's not a lot of average bubble-ish teams. There's some really good teams that probably won't make it this year, and other years it's different. But when I look at our team right now - we've got a really good team. How we're seeded will certainly have a lot to do with how we do, but it will have a lot to do with the other side of the bracket, too. We're capable of beating some good teams and I'm excited about that. I think the team will feel the same way, so now we just got to wait a couple days and see how the committee views us, I guess."