South Dakota State University's Student-Run Independent Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Student-Run Independent Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Student-Run Independent Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

Women earn second highest seed in program history

Abby Fullenkamp
ABBY FULLENKAMP The Jacks are presented the Summit League Championship trophy March 6 at the Denny Sanford PREMIERE Center. The Jacks beat the Coyotes 65-60. SDSU faces Villanova in the first game of the NCAA Tournament at 6:30 p.m. March 16 in Notre Dame, Indiana.

For the eighth time in 10 years, the South Dakota State women’s basketball team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Six days after defeating the South Dakota Coyotes in the Summit League Tournament Championship Game, it was revealed during the Selection Show Monday that the Jackrabbits will be an eight seed and will face the Villanova Wildcats in Notre Dame, Indiana, March 16.

The No.8 seed is the second highest seed SDSU has earned in its NCAA Tournament history. The Jacks were a No. 7 seed in 2009. The last time the Jacks were in the tournament was in 2016. They won their first tournament game in program history defeating Miami 74-71 in the first round, before falling to Stanford 66-65 in the next round.

Head coach Aaron Johnston who, along with the team, watched the selection show live from Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill March 12, was excited for his team after the announcement.

“An eighth seed is great,” Johnston said. “It’s great to be back at that level where people look at you and think that you are one of the top teams playing. I’m excited to be playing in a somewhat regional location. Most of the time, we’ve played all over and going to South Bend is a regional trip for us and most of our fans and families that want to go and watch.”

Senior forward Ellie Thompson thought the Jacks deserved the high seeding.

“I was kind of surprised by getting the eighth seed, but it’s just a testament to our program as a whole and the culture SDSU has to offer. We’ve done a great job of playing as a team, playing together and believing in ourselves so it is a great reflection of how this season has gone.”

Thompson said having a tournament win under their belt will help the Jacks going into this year’s tournament.

“We were one point shy of going to the Sweet 16 in 2016, so we have a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in ourselves,” she said. “I think that determination will really propel us forward going into this tournament.”

Villanova will come into the first round game as the No. 9 seed. The Wildcats, who finished third in the Big East standings at the end of the regular season, are 22-8 and earned an at-large bid after losing to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals on March 4.

Four players are averaging double figures in points per game this season for Villanova. The team averages 66.9 points per game, but defense appears to be the biggest strength for the Wildcats. They allow just 59.3 points per game, which leads the Big East Conference.

Minutes after hearing who the Jacks will be facing, Johnston already thought the Wildcats will be a tough matchup.

“(Villanova’s) talent and skill level is very good,” he said. “They play in the Big East conference, which is phenomenal. They are really disciplined and defend well. They are a hard team to play against because of their style but it’s certainly a team who we have some history with.”

Harry Perretta leads the Wildcats and is in his 39th year as head coach of the team. The legendary coach has won over 700 games and has led his team to 11 NCAA tournament appearances.

The only time the Jacks and Wildcats have ever played each other was in the 2012 regular season, when Villanova won 71-47.

Johnston hopes the team can continue to play at a high level.

“We played so well in Sioux Falls, so we don’t want to lose that edge and mentality,” he said. “Now that we have an opponent, a location and a time, it will bring everything in focus and really energize us in the next couple of days.”

The game is scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m. at Purcell Pavillion and will be televised on ESPN2.

The winner between SDSU and Villanova will face the winner of Notre Dame and Cal State Northridge in the second round on March 18 or 19.

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