Which Jackrabbit Team Will Show Up Tonight Against Butler?
Physically we know what to expect from South Dakota State when they open WNIT play at home with Butler Thursday night.
Mentally? That’s a whole other story.
We’re 20 days into March and already the Jackrabbits have had to deal with two big disappointments.
The first came March 10th when top-seeded SDSU went one and done at the Summit League Tournament, losing to eventual champ South Dakota by 14. The setback was the first ever for five-time defending tournament winners.
The second blow came one week later, March 17th, when the Jackrabbits were left out of the NCAA Tournament field of 64 teams, despite a Top 50 RPI, and just one conference loss this season.
Head coach Aaron Johnston told me he still held a glimmer of hope about getting into the ‘big dance’, but he realizes the selection system is far from perfect:
So now Johnston’s team has the re-shuffle the deck for WNIT play.
But the outlook is not all bleak for the blue and gold. The Jacks do get at least one more game in front of their home fans at Frost Arena (something that would not have happened in the NCAA Tournament) and they get a chance to play in a tournament that gives them the opportunity to make a much deeper run than only winning one or two games in the NCAAs:
Johnston says in the days leading up to the WNIT announcement he did not see his basketball team at its best:
Since Monday night, the Jacks have had their WNIT assignment: a 15-15 Butler team just completed their first season in the Big East.
The Bulldogs will present SDSU with some challenges as a trio of players (guard Daress McClung, center Liz Stratman, and guard Taylor Schippers) all average in double figures in scoring, while Stratman is a presence inside, leading the Big East in blocked shots, and second in the conference in field goal accuracy:
So now the challenge is to regroup mentally after a pair of big letdowns, and Johnston’s message to his team is a bit of ‘tough love’: stop feeling sorry for yourselves:
Tipoff is 7:00pm Thursday at Frost Arena. The winner advances to play the Creighton-Missouri winner in round two.