In the ninth installment of our 20ish-part series, Get to Know an Auto-Bid, we examine the South Dakota State Jackrabbits.
SDSU clinched their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and second in a row with a 79-77 victory over Nebraska-Omaha in the Summit Tournament Championship game. The two-point game was one of the best games of championship week thus far.
SDSU’s run was full of close games as the Jackrabbits defeated the No. 1 seeded South Dakota in the semifinals on a last second jumper from Michael Orris.
The Jackrabbits were actually fortunate to be the No. 4 seed in the Summit Tournament. SDSU finished in a three-way tie for fourth place and because they owned a tiebreaker over Denver and IPFW, were able to clinch the four-seed in the tourney.
Tuesday’s win marks South Dakota State’s fourth Summit League Championship in the last six years. The Jackrabbits, however, have not been able to translate that success into a win in the NCAA Tournament.
SDSU is 0-3 in the NCAAs and their closest game was a five-point defeat at the hands of Maryland in the first round of last year’s tournament as a 12-seed.
Although the Jackrabbits have yet to win a game in the tournament, the Summit League has had recent success in March. North Dakota State upset Oklahoma in a 12-5 matchup in 2014.
South Dakota State has been a power in the Summit League for most of this decade, but this was an unusual year. SDSU tallied a 18-16 overall record with an 8-8 mark in conference and was on the periphery of the conference race for most of the season.
The Jackrabbits caught fire towards the end of the season as they won six straight games and nine of their last 11 contests.
Mike Daum leads South Dakota State with 25 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The Jackrabbits punched their ticket to the tourney largely on the shoulders of Daum as the sophomore went for 37 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Tuesday’s championship game.
South Dakota State can score with any team in the country. SDSU has scored at least 73 points in 16 of their last 17 games and tallied at least 82 points in 11 of those contests.
Defense, however, is a huge liability for the Jackrabbits and a high-major squad can exploit that weakness in the tournament.
The Otter Room official bracket projections have South Dakota State as a 15-seed, but could move up to a 14 depending on the developments in other conference tournaments. The Jackrabbits will have their work cut out for them in the first round, but because they have such a potent offense, they are dangerous and can put a scare into anyone.