SDSU set to face Syracuse in NCAA Tournament


Evan Patzwald, Sports Reporter (He/him)

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team earned their first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in school history and their 10th appearance overall as the bracket was announced Monday night. 

“Having a chance to be at the NCAA Tournament and create that kind of memory for our team and our fans is really special, and we are going to make the most of it,” said head coach Aaron Johnston in a press conference Tuesday.

No. 9 SDSU (21-3) will go up against No. 8 Syracuse (14-8) in a rematch of their 2019 second round matchup, which sent the Jackrabbits to their first appearance in the Sweet 16 in school history. The Jacks won that game 75-64.

“I think this one’s pretty special,” senior Tylee Irwin said. “We’ve never had an at-large bid before. We had such a good season and then that tough loss to Omaha happened, so now we get a new opportunity to show who we are.”

Syracuse most recently lost their semifinal matchup in the ACC Tournament to Louisville 72-59 March 6. For the Jacks, they also last played March 6, as they were the top seed in the Summit League Tournament and saw themselves upset by eighth-seeded Omaha 52-40. 

Irwin has stepped up since Myah Selland’s injury a few weeks ago and is leading the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game. The Jacks are also going to need Paiton Burkhard to play well, as she is averaging 12.9.

“We’re gonna need our key players,” Johnston said. “They are going to need to step up, but I absolutely think some of our young players will need to step up, like Paiton did as a freshman the last time we played Syracuse.”

The Orange has four players averaging double figures, with Kiara Lewis and Kamilla Cardoso leading the way, averaging 14.3 and 13.7 respectively. 

This season, the entire tournament will be held at different arenas in San Antonio, Texas to limit travel and have everybody in a “bubble” to lessen the chance of a positive COVID-19 test within a program. 

The two teams will play in the Riverwalk Region at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, March 21 on ESPN 2.