Once again, both South Dakota and South Dakota State find themselves in the NCAA Tournament. Although things will be significantly different this year (neutral location, limited fans, etc), the goal remains the same: to win in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll go through each first round matchup for USD and SDSU and provide a prediction!
USD (11) vs Oregon (6)
Monday, March 22 | 9:00Pm CT| ESPN2
If you are a Coyote follower or fan, you remember what happened the last time these two teams met in 2016. If you are unfamiliar, you can watch the highlights HERE. To this day it remains the single greatest shooting performance from a team I’ve ever seen, men or women. The atmosphere in the DakotaDome was unreal.
But Coach Kelly Graves and company don’t give a duck about 2016. Only some of the coaching staff remains from that WNIT semifinal game. Oregon is a completely different team with a much different style of play compared to 2016.
Get To Know OREGON (13-8)
Oregon lost to Oregon State in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal game a couple of weeks ago. The Ducks are currently ranked 23rd in the AP poll and have a net ranking of 10. Oregon is led by freshman Te-Hina Paopao (10.2 ppg., 3.2 rpg.), redshirt-sophomore Nyara Sabally (12.6 ppg., 7.3 apg.), and senior Erin Boley (10.3 ppg., 4.8 apg.). PaoPao and Sabally were both named to the 15-player all-Pac-12 team, while Paopao was also named to the five-player conference all-freshman squad. Paopao is one of only two first-year Pac-12 players to garner conference recognition. Sabally received Pac-12 all-defensive honorable mention as well as a spot on the all-Pac-12 team. Boley was an all-conference honorable mention.
Get To Know SOUTH DAKOTA (19-5)
USD is fresh off of winning their second consecutive Summit League Tournament Championship. South Dakota is led by the trio of seniors Hannah Sjerven (17.1 ppg., 9.7 rpg.), Chloe Lamb (16.2 ppg., 44% 3-point), and Liv Korngable (14.7 ppg., 50% FG). All three student athletes made the 16-player all-Summit League teams, while Sjerven was named Summit League Defensive Player of the Year. The all-league trio accounts for 63.7% of the team’s scoring.
This game may present the biggest challenge for USD’s Hannah Sjerven. Oregon’s size will be a factor on Monday and that will present many challenges for the Coyotes. The battle on the block between Hannah and 6’5″ Hyara Sabally will be key, especially early on. How the teams utilize their post players to create open shots on the perimeter will also be important. Unfortunately for the Ducks, Paopao is expected to be out for this game due to an injury suffered just before the Pac-12 Tournament. That’s huge because both Paopao and Boley shoot it extremely well from deep for Oregon; Boley is currently tied for fourth all-time in three pointers made at Oregon (211). USD will need to have a big game from Lamb, Korngable, and Krull to match Oregon’s offense. Both teams score about the same per game; USD with 75.3 ppg., and Oregon with 73.1 ppg.
If USD can shoot it like they have the past month, they have a really good chance of winning, especially with Paopao out for Oregon. I think Oregon goes up by double digits early and USD has to play catchup most of the game. Would it be too much to predict a buzzer beater at the end of one of the quarters from the Yotes as well? Free throws and three-point shots become important at the end of the third and fourth quarter and I think USD knocks them down when they need to; meanwhile, the Ducks get cold. I believe the play of USD’s senior trio makes the difference down the stretch and USD picks up their first-ever D-1 NCAA Tournament Victory. USD wins by 1-5.
SDSU (9) vs SYRACUSE (8)
Sunday, March 21 | 4:30PM CT | ESPN2
In a rematch of the 2019 second round game, the Jackrabbits and Orange will face off once again, this time as an 8v9 first round game. SDSU defeated Syracuse 75-64 in that game as they earned their way to their first-ever Sweet Sixteen game.
This game is interesting because there are still players on both teams from that matchup two seasons ago. SDSU has Tylee Irwin and Paiton Burkhard; Syracuse has Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, Tiana Mangakahia, Emily Engstler, Amaya Finkley-Guity, Kiara Lewis, and Digna Starutmane on the roster still. Irwin and Burkhard had 13 points combined last time. Syracuse returns most of their scoring from that matchup, the players listed above combined for 47 in the matchup for the Orange.
Get To Know SYRACUSE (14-8)
Syracuse was defeated by Louisville in the ACC Tournament semifinal game 72-59. They are led by four players who average double figures in ppg (Lewis, Cardoso, Mangakahia, Engstler). Cardoso and Engstler both average over eight rebounds per game. Cardoso was named the 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year and Co-Defender of the Year and Engstler was named ACC Co-Sixth Player of the Year. Mangakahia was named All-ACC team honorable mention. Adding to her accolades, Cardoso also led the ACC in FG% (.595). Mangakahia led the ACC and nation in assists per game (7.5) and contributes 11.6 ppg.
Get To Know SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (21-3)
SDSU was stunned by Omaha in the first round of the Summit League Tournament as they became the first 1-seed to ever lose to the 8-seed in the Summit League Tournament. No doubt that a big piece missing from the team was and still is the Summit League Player of the Year Myah Selland. She will presumably be out again for this game and that makes a huge difference with scoring for SDSU. Players to know for this game are Tylee Irwin (13.3 ppg., 40% 3-point), Paiton Burkhard (12.0 ppg., 5.6 rpg.), and Tori Nelson (9 ppg., 74% FT). Burkhard and Irwin were named to first-team All-Summit League and Head Coach Aaron Johnston was named Coach of the Year.
Syracuse gives up 68 ppg and hold their opponents to 38.3% from the field. They are also second to last in the ACC in shooting three point shots (30.2%). SDSU scores 70.5 ppg and shoots 43% from the field and 31.7% from deep. If Myah was playing I would honestly feel different about this game. If Tylee shoots it like she normally does, SDSU can hang around. Unlike the game vs Omaha, Paiton will need to step up and make shots down low; a lot of shots.
I think Paiton and Tylee have good games shooting. It’s after those two that I get a little doubtful in SDSU’s ability to keep up with this Syracuse team. Syracuse is long and they defend well. That being said they don’t shoot the three-ball particularly well, but neither does SDSU this year. If SDSU can get to the FT line more than 20 times, that will keep them in this one. Syracuse proves to be too much this time and the Orange avenge their 2019 loss to move on to the second round. Syracuse by 5-10.