Madness has already played out in the Summit League Tournament, and on Tuesday night, it all comes to a close when either the Western Illinois Jackrabbits or the South Dakota State Jackrabbits punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Western Illinois isn’t the prettiest team in the world, as it averages just 62.0 points per game. That being said, the team slows the pace of the game down quite a bit. You wouldn’t know that this team shot 46.1 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from beyond the arc this year, but those types of numbers parlayed with a stingy defense which allowed just 59.8 points per game on the campaign makes for a nasty combination. The bench is rather thin for this team, which is why the tempo needs to stay down. In the upset of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles which shook the framework of this conference, there were only seven total bench points for the Jackrabbits. Ceola III Clark had 11 points and played all 40 minutes, while Terell Parks had 14. They were the only double digit scorers on the night, and there are quite a few nights in which that turns out to be the case. In the end, it is the defense that is going to have to make all the difference in the world, because if the pace of this one gets out of control, Western Illinois is going to be in plenty of trouble.
The Jackrabbits have been the team that everyone has forgotten about this year in the Summit League. After all, they did win nearly as many games as Oral Roberts did, yet unlike the Golden Eagles, who are still considered a fringe at large team for the NCAA Tournament, no one figured that SDSU was worth all that much. Offensively, this is a team that could be a real pain in the neck for anyone that it faces, though it will be up against it versus this Western Illinois defense. The team shoots 47.2 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three point land, and the end result is 78.1 points per game. Again, this isn’t a particularly deep team, but Nate Wolters is one of the best pure scorers that the conference has. He is averaging 21.5 points per game, and he is one of the three that are good for at least 10 points per game on this club. He also leads the team in rebounding, assists, and stealing. Watch out for Jordan Dykstra, who is a 48.6 percent three point shooter and is a real assassin from the perimeter.
The Final Word: The Jackrabbits are clearly the better offensive team, and if the tempo gets out of control, Western Illinois is in some trouble. We just don’t like the matchup for the Leathernecks, and though they were able to beat Oral Roberts last night, we just don’t see them being able to pull off yet another upset when push comes to shove.
Western Illinois Leathernecks @ South Dakota State Jackrabbits Pick: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.