Expectations are higher for the SDSU men’s basketball team heading into the 2010 Summit League Tournament than they were at this time last year.
The No.4 Jacks (14-15, 10-8) take on No. 5 IPFW (15-14, 9-9) on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Arena in the first round of the conference tournament. If recent history is any indication, these two teams are as evenly matched as any 4/5 matchup in the last few years.
Each has split their last six meetings, with the home team winning each time, including two games this season that weren’t decided until the final minute.
In January at Frost Arena, SDSU overcame a 16-point first-half deficit to win 65-64. Two weeks ago in Fort Wayne, the Jacks comeback fell short, as they cut a 23-point IPFW lead down to three in the final minute before the Mastodons won 78-72.
“It’s two teams that play so similarly: a motion offense and man-to-man defense,” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said. “I think our philosophies are a lot the same. The games have been tight, tough and physical, and I don’t expect any different.”
SDSU pulled off a huge upset in last year’s tournament by beating the second seed and three-time defending conference champion Oral Roberts 72-69 in overtime.
“We are playing in Sioux Falls against the host team, and if you were there last year, you saw what they did to Oral Roberts,” IPFW head coach Dane Fife said. “It’s not going to be easy. We match up well, and it’s going to be a home-court advantage for them.”
An obvious advantage for the Jacks last year was the home-court advantage of the Sioux Falls Arena, where SDSU had nearly 12,000 in attendance for their two tournament games, something Fife thinks will play a factor again this year.
“The question will be whether our guys will be prepared for that mentally or not,” said Fife. “That’s what it is going to come down to: mental toughness and whether we will be able to handle the crowd and having everything seemingly go against you.”
“One thing I know about it, I don’t think IPFW is afraid to play South Dakota State in the tournament,” Nagy said. “I think (Fife) really does a really good job, and I know he’ll have those kids ready.”
One advantage that IPFW may have is that of momentum. The ‘Dons finished the regular season winning four of their last five games, with the only loss coming to conference champion Oakland on Feb. 27, 86-83.
Meanwhile, the Jacks lost four of their last five games, with their only win coming on Feb. 25 versus No. 7 Western Illinois, 66-53.
“Momentum is very strange,” said Nagy. “We were playing very well, and all of a sudden we hit a skid and we could play very well here again.”
On the other hand, SDSU came into last year’s tournament losers of four in a row before pulling the shocker vs. ORU.
“I think we are okay,” Nagy said. “We need to take this week and shed some of the negative feelings, which I think the guys will be able to do. Our guys will be fresh when they show up.”