BROOKINGS – From four to nine. Four is the number of NCAA tournament teams the South Dakota State women's basketball team played last year compared to nine which now dot the 2017-18 schedule announced Thursday by 18th-year head coach Aaron Johnston.
The 2017-18 schedule includes: Nine NCAA Tournament teams; three WNIT teams; and six teams with 2016-17 final top-50 RPI ratings.
The Jackrabbits, who are coming off their 11th 20-win season in 12 years and their 11th Division I postseason appearance, host eight nonleague home games, plus two exhibitions in October and November.
Nov. 10 marks the opening of the 52nd season of women's basketball when NJIT comes to town. The Jackrabbits have won their last four home openers and nine of the last 10, and are celebrating 46 years of women's basketball in the friendly confines of Frost Arena.
The first road trip of the season takes SDSU to the nation's capital to play George Washington Nov. 12. Former North Central Conference member and future Summit League member North Dakota is on the home schedule Nov. 15. It will be the 64th meeting of the two teams.
South Dakota State begins a three-game road trip when it travels to Green Bay Nov. 18. The Phoenix made an NCAA Tournament appearance last year and finished with a No. 28 RPI and ranked fourth in the final CollegeInsider Mid-Major poll.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Jackrabbits are at the Puerto Rico Clasico in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, where they play North Carolina State Nov. 24 and Charlotte Nov. 25. The Wolfpack is the only new opponent on State's schedule this year. NC State reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, had a RPI of 39 and final rankings of 17th in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls in 2016-17.
South Dakota State closes November against Northern Iowa in Frost Arena Nov. 30. The Panthers played in the NCAA Tournament and finished 24-9 last year.
The toughest stretch of the Jackrabbits' nonleague schedule is in December with five games against NCAA Tournament teams.
SDSU has back-to-back home games against Louisville Dec. 3 and Oklahoma Dec. 6. The Cardinals reached the NCAA Regionals, had final ranks of 13th in the AP and 12th in the Coaches polls and a final RPI of 11. The Sooners were ranked 23rd in the AP and 21st in the Coaches polls and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
After having last year's game was canceled due to weather, Bowling Green makes a trip to SDSU Dec. 9.
The Jackrabbits have two tough road stops in mid-December when they play at Creighton Nov. 15 and at Drake Nov. 17. The Bluejays reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament and had a 23 RPI. The Bulldogs, last year's mid-major darling after finishing the Missouri Valley Conference season undefeated, finished 2016-17 28-5, with a 26 RPI, a trip to the NCAA Tournament and final rankings of 20th in the AP and 24th in the Coaches polls.
After hosting Wichita State Dec. 20, the Jackrabbits close the year at Florida Gulf Coast Dec. 29. The Eagles played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and were ranked 10th in the final mid-major rankings.
State's final nonleague game is Jan. 16 when it hosts NAIA-member Dakota Wesleyan. The Tigers reached the NAIA Tournament second round and finished 27-7 last year.
The Jackrabbits host a pair of exhibition games against NCAA Division II opponents Minnesota State, Moorhead and Northern State, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, respectively, to tip off the season.
The Jackrabbits return three from last year's starting lineup and eight returners from last year's team that finished 23-9 and advanced to the second round of the WNIT Tournament. SDSU has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances, the most in The Summit League.
Tip times and broadcast information will be announced at a later date.