BROOKINGS – South Dakota State earned its second-highest seed all-time – No. 8 – and faces No. 9 Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Spokane (Wash.) Region game will air on ESPN2. The host Fighting Irish (29-3) are the top seed in the region and take on No. 16 CSU Northridge (19-15) at 4 p.m.
“It’s great,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said following a selection show gathering at Cubby’s Sports Bar & Grill. “Eight is the second highest we’ve had, so that is a good accomplishment for the team and good recognition for what they’ve done.
“Villanova is awfully good. They are really disciplined; they shoot it well. Their style is really similar to some of our other Summit League opponents – they run a lot of motion offense and really try to spread you out. They do it a really high level.
“The Big East Conference is a tough conference. They have a lot of experience there. Coach Harry Perretta has been their a long time; he has a great track record.
“So it’s a tough draw, I would say, but certainly one that we’re ready for.”
The Jackrabbits (26-6, 12-2) finished second in the Summit League regular-season standings before beating South Dakota 65-50 in the conference tourney final March 6.
The Coyotes swept SDSU in the regular season, as the Jackrabbits’ other losses came to NCAA Tournament qualifiers Louisville (a No. 1 seed), Green Bay (No. 7), Creighton (No. 11) and Florida Gulf Coast (No. 12) – the latter three came on the road.
“It’s really cool to see our name up there and just the respect that we got,” said conference Player of the Year Macy Miller. “I believe that’s the seed we deserve from the nonconference schedule we played – how we beat N.C. State and how we played against Louisville.
“It’s cool and I’m really proud of our team.”
Added fellow-junior Madison Guebert, “I think we’re just really excited. Everyone has kind of asked what we thought of it, but coming in it’s hard to tell where you’re going to be regardless of the projections. So we’re just really excited about where we’re at and can’t wait to start preparing and get out there.”
SDSU will be the higher-seeded team for the second time in 10 NCAA Tournament contests.
The Jackrabbits were a No. 7 in their Big Dance debut in 2009.
SDSU has been a 12 once, a 13 and a 14 twice each, and a 15 once.
With that said, being a No. 8 seed doesn’t change anything in terms of preparation for the game or motivation, Johnston said.
“The goal is to really put the seedings out of your mind now and figure out how to win, and that’s what we’ll emphasize the next couple of days,” he added.
The Wildcats (22-8, 12-6) ended up third in a solid Big East Conference, finishing behind co-champions Marquette (23-9, 15-3) and DePaul (26-7, 15-3) and a spot ahead of Creighton (18-12, 11-7).
Villanova fell 63-58 to sixth-seeded Georgetown in the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament on March 4.
The Jackrabbits are making their 12th consecutive postseason appearance and are in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in 10 years of eligibility.
SDSU has a 2-7 mark in the Big Dance.
SDSU posted a win in its debut, beating 10th-seeded TCU 90-55 on March 22, 2009, in Lubbock, Texas. It fell 60-58 to No. 2 Baylor in the second round.
The Jackrabbits defeated No. 5 Miami 74-71 on March 19, 2016, in Palo Alto, Calif., before falling 66-65 to host and fourth-seeded Sanford in its last appearance.
SDSU has played five true road games in the NCAA Tournament, dropping each of them.
Overall, SDSU is 9-11 in the postseason in the Division I era.
The Jackrabbits are 7-4 in the WNIT, reaching the semifinals in 2014. They also played in the event in 2007, 2008 and 2017.
They were not eligible for the NCAA Tournament until 2009.
Raleigh (N.C.) Region
March 22 – No. 7 SDSU def. No. 10 TCU 90-55.
March 24 – No. 2 Baylor def. No. 7 SDSU 60-58.
The Bears lost in the regional semifinals.
Kansas City (Mo.) Region
*March 21 – No. 3 Oklahoma def. No. 14 SDSU 68-57.
The Sooners went on to advance to the Final Four.
Spokane (Wash.) Region
*March 20 – No. 2 Xavier def. No. 15 SDSU 72-56.
The Musketeers fell in the next round.
Fresno (Calif.) Region
West Lafayette, Ind.
*March 17 – No. 4 Purdue def. No. 13 SDSU 83-68.
The Boilermakers dropped a second-round game.
Norfolk (Va.) Region
March 23 – No. 4 South Carolina def. No. 13 SDSU 74-53.
The Gamecocks lost in the second round.
Spokane (Wash.) Region
*March 20 – No. 3 Oregon State def. No. 14 SDSU 74-62.
The Beavers lost in the next round.
Lexington (Ky.) Region
Palo Alto, Calif.
March 19 – No. 12 SDSU def. No. 5 Miami 74-71.
*March 21 – No. 4 Stanford def. No. 12 SDSU 66-65.
The Cardinal advanced to the regional finals.
*true road game
Miller, who missed a majority of last season due to an injury, leads the way with averages of 18.06 points, 5.69 rebounds and 3.19 assists per game.
She’s shooting a career-best 50.1 percent (213-of-425) from the field and 46.2 percent (55-of-119) – also a career high – on 3-pointers.
Miller is fourth at SDSU and 11th in the Summit League with 1,692 career points.
Guebert has knocked down 82 treys while averaging 14.8 points. She’s fourth in Summit League history with 263 career 3-balls.
Myah Selland averaged 9.9 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 49.7 percent in 24 games (17 starts) so far this season.
Ellie Thompson contributes 8.5 points and 5.6 boards per outing, shooting 49.3 percent.
Tagyn Larson has started 15 games, including the last 14, as she adds 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 46 percent.
Tylee Irwin is averaging 6.6 points per contest and starting point guard Alexis Alexander adds 4.9.
Villanova is balanced offensively as Alex Louin averages 12 points, Mary Gedaka 11.6, Kelly Jekot 11.3 and Adrianna Hahn 10.7.
Louin, a 6-foot senior guard, adds 6.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Gedaka, a 6-1 forward, is shooting 60.8 percent from the field.
Summit League Championship, Sioux Falls
Quarterfinals, March 3 – SDSU def. No. 7 North Dakota State 87-62.
Semifinals, March 5 – SDSU def. No. 3 Western Illinois 80-51.
Championship, March 6 – SDSU def. No. 1 South Dakota 65-50. [Attendance: 8,704.]
Big East Conference Tournament, Chicago
Quarterfinals, March 4 – No. 6 Georgetown def. No. 3 Villanova 63-58.
Current Jacks tourney history
• Miller is averaging 18 points and seven rebounds in three career NCAA Tournament games.
• Guebert scored 19 points, hitting 5-of-7 treys, in the win over Miami last year.
• Thompson has averages of 10 points and 4.3 boards in three career games.
• Alexander has also made three appearances, scoring 11 points in 44 minutes off the bench.
Photo from www.gojacks.com.