It’s not uncommon for South Dakota State to score 52 points in a half. But even a rough offensive night wasn’t enough to keep the Jackrabbits from claiming its first bid to the NCAA tournament.
A 52-50 overtime victory against Western Illinois in the Summit League championship marked the Jackrabbits’ lowest point total of the season, but much of that credit is due to the Leathernecks’ fantastic defense. Open shots were not common.
(Yes, it was Jackrabbits vs. Leathernecks. Yes, That’s awesome.)
South Dakota State hit just 35 percent of its field-goal attempts, enduring a brutal night from its star scoring guard, Nate Wolters. The 6-4 junior averages 21.5 points per game, but made just five of 22 shots and finished with 14 points. Indeed, he didn’t even make a basket in the final 7:23.
Instead, it was teammates Chad White (two 3-pointers, one that came in OT) and Griffan Callahan (clutch free throws at the end of regulation that tied it up, then the game-winning 3-pointer in OT) who hit the clutch baskets at the end.
Now the Jackrabbits (27-7) enter the Big Dance as one of the unknown teams that people should know more about. They’ve beaten Washington and Buffalo and finished right on the heels of regular-season Summit League champ Oral Roberts, which only ran off a 13-game win streak this season.
But there’s a reason they’re an unknown. South Dakota State’s only been a D-I team for five seasons and has played on national TV twice, including Tuesday night. Jackrabitts might not sound scary, but they are.
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.
Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.
Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.
The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.
John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.
We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.
For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.
Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.