South Dakota State’s chances with Wolters
by Patrick Stevens, Special for USA TODAY Sports
Team of the day: South Dakota State
Route to the Dance: Automatic bid (Summit League)
Credentials: 25-9 (15-3 Summit), conference regular-season and tournament champions
Signature win: The Jackrabbits accomplished something no else could all season and did so in immensely challenging circumstances.
On the surface, the 70-65 victory at New Mexico on Dec. 22 was significant enough. But it came after a blizzard in the Midwest forced the Jackrabbits to take a bus from Nashville, Tenn. — where they lost to Belmont on Dec. 19 — to Albuquerque. On top of that, star guard Nate Wolters was nursing a sore ankle as South Dakota State made its 1,220-mile trek.
Wolters had 28 points and seven assists in the triumph, the only time all season the Lobos would lose at the Pit.
Team strength: Offensive efficiency
Name it on offense, and the Jackrabbits probably do it well. And they’ve generally done it well for a while.
They don’t turn it over much. They are a reasonably effective 3-point shooting team (especially in conference play, when they were 42.1 percent from the outside).
And they score. Oh, how they score. To the tune of 1.14 points per possession. Michigan is a decent defensive efficiency team, but South Dakota State is going to score points in the round of 64. If you can score, you have some hope. The Jackrabbits certainly can — and do entering Thursday’s game in Auburn Hills, Mich.
This team will remind you of: 2012 Murray State
It isn’t a perfect comparison, not by any stretch. But last year’s Racers had a well-known quantity at guard (Isaiah Canaan) and paired him with a couple veteran forwards who scored in double figures. It added up to a 31-2 season and a spot in the round of 32 as a No. 6 seed.
The Jackrabbits weren’t quite so fortunate, neither with avoiding losses or getting a great seed. South Dakota State isn’t quite as sharp a rebounding team as Murray State was a year ago, but it is more effective at avoiding turnovers. Either way, the formula of a potent scorer being complemented by savvy interior players was at work for … [For more on Cinderella Watch: South Dakota State's chances with star Nate Wolters, click here.]