Summit League women’s bracket predictions

Landon Dierks, Sports Reporter

The Summit League kicks off today. Sports Reporter Landon Dierks gives you his Summit League predictions for the women’s bracket.

Quarterfinal matchups:

No. 1 South Dakota State (23-6, 15-1) and No. 8 Purdue Fort Wayne (7-21, 3-13)
12 p.m. Saturday, March 9

South Dakota State looked like one of the two best teams in the Summit League (along with South Dakota) throughout the season and it would take a colossal effort from Fort Wayne to take down the No. 1 seed in the first round. In the two regular-season matchups, SDSU won by a combined 57 points, so this one likely won’t be close down the stretch.

No. 2 South Dakota (26-4, 14-2) and No. 7 North Dakota State (7-21, 4-12)
2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9

Similar to the weekend’s first matchup, this pairing produced two lopsided outcomes the first two times around (South Dakota won by 19 and 26). It’s hard to believe NDSU will stop the Coyotes from reaching the semifinals by handing them just their second loss in more than two months.

No. 3 Denver (17-12, 10-6) and No. 6 North Dakota (11-18, 6-10)
2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10

Denver swept the regular season series over North Dakota, but this pairing could surprise people come Sunday afternoon. The Pioneers blew out UND by 21 early in the conference season, but the most recent matchup would indicate the two squads are more evenly matched heading into the tournament. DU needed overtime to escape an upset on the road by one point on Feb. 23. The Pioneers proved to be the better team over the course of the season and should advance, but don’t be surprised if UND keeps it close throughout.

No. 4 Oral Roberts (17-12, 10-6) and No. 5 Western Illinois (12-17, 8-8)
12 p.m. Sunday, March 10

Oral Roberts got the best of Western Illinois in both regular-season meetings between these two squads, winning by four at home in early January and seven on the road just over two weeks ago. Taking in to account the head-to-head results and an ill-timed slump from the Fighting Leathernecks (they’ve lost four in a row heading into the tournament), ORU should be able to take care of business and move on to the semifinals.

Potential semifinals:

No. 1 South Dakota State and No. 4 Oral Roberts

Should this be the matchup for Monday afternoon? I think so. SDSU will look to improve upon its regular season performances against ORU. The Jackrabbits won both regular-season meetings between the two schools, but the Golden Eagles proved to be the stiffest competition outside of second-place USD. In Brookings, SDSU’s 23-0 second-chance points advantage game them a 13-point win. When the Jacks traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, they fell behind by 14 early but rallied to win by nine. Expect SDSU to advance to the final, but it’ll need to play well to get by ORU.

No. 2 South Dakota and No. 3 Denver

If DU and USD meet for the third time, it would be the first matchup of the weekend where one team didn’t sweep the other. In the first meeting, the Pioneers defended their home court with a 104-99 win. Unfortunately for DU, the Coyotes trended upward for most of the season after the loss in Denver (the team lost only once the rest of the season), while the Pioneers haven’t proven they can compete with the top two teams in the league again. DU dropped both contests against SDSU by more than 15 points and allowed USD to avenge the early-season loss with a 15-point win in the rematch. The ‘Yotes should be playing for the conference title come Tuesday.

Potential women’s final:

No. 1 South Dakota State and No. 2 South Dakota

It’s the matchup many expect to happen, and rightfully so. These were the top two squads in the Summit League throughout the season. Combined, both had half as many conference losses (three) as third-place Denver (6), and two of those losses were caused by each other. In two games, the Jackrabbits and Coyotes have played three overtimes—evidence of how evenly matched the in-state rivals are this season.

At this point, a coin flip could be the most accurate predictor of which South Dakota institution will claim the conference tourney title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. No matter what happens inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center over the next several days, there’s sure to me the excitement and drama that comes along whenever college basketball and March mix.