Climbing the Summit again

AUSTIN HAMM Sports Editor

SDSU women’s basketball looks to return to NCAA tournament despite losing key contributors

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team continued their run of success under Aaron Johnston last year, dominating top-seeded South Dakota in the Summit League tournament and making the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in seven years, where they fell to the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, Ore. But this year’s Jackrabbits will have a new look.

Lost to graduation are Rachel Walters, Megan Stuart and Megan Waytashek, and Mariah Clarin is out of eligibility after four healthy years on the roster. Also gone is Chynna Stevens, who transferred to the University of San Diego following her sophomore campaign last year. Between the other four, the Jacks are losing 36.3 points per game of the teams 72.2 average. They also lost their top three rebounders from last season in Clarin, Stevens and Waytashek.

Fresh faces and old friends:

Top returners for the Jacks include sophomores Macy Miller, Second-Team, All-Summit League last year; and Ellie Thompson, who was a Summit League All-Newcomer and All-Tournament team selection. Clarissa Ober is also back, as she looks to take over the starting center spot in her third season on campus.

But the biggest plot twist in returners is Gabby Boever. The guard was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and will likely be counted on to be a leader for a Jacks team that has to replace half of their scoring from last season.

Freshmen will likely be counted on to step up and play a key part in replacing that scoring, especially with the 2015 South Dakota and Minnesota Gatorade Players of the year now on board. Madison Guebert (Apple Valley, Minn.) has started both exhibition games and looks primed for a big part in her first year. Sydney Palmer (Pierre, SD) has come off the bench in a reserve guard role, but looks to have a developed shooting touch from the outside that could allow her to provide a nice scoring punch off the bench. Also new is four-star recruit Tonnia Wade (Bloomington, Minn.), but the six-foot forward has not suited up for either of the Jacks’ exhibitions and may be redshirting this season.

Best case scenario:

Miller will continue to establish herself as a top player in the Summit League, using her unique combination of height and athleticism to lead a balanced SDSU lineup that has multiple players that can hurt itself from the inside out shooting the ball.

A traditional multi-headed Jackrabbit attack will balance with an excellent team defense, and the team will gain national notoriety with home wins over the likes of Arkansas and Notre Dame. They can cruise to the Summit League regular season title, roll through the tournament and make the NCAA tourney as a 10-seed or better, giving a good battle to a higher ranked team in the first round, potentially coming away with the program’s second win in the NCAA tournament.

Worst Case scenario:

Position-less basketball may lead to stagnant offense as players stand around and watch one another dribble around and put up off-balance jumpers. Embarrassing losses to power conference opponents will mount, but the Jacks’ talent level can keep them at the 2-or 3-seed in the Summit League tourney. Without a fluid offense, they will fall to a tough USD squad in the final and be left to push for another run through the NIT.