Top-seeded Hokies aren't overlooking SDSU
BLACKSBURG, Va. – As South Dakota State enters its second round matchup in the NCAA Tournament against No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech, the Jackrabbits aren’t going to creep up on the Hokies like a traditional mid-major No. 9 seed would.
SDSU has beaten plenty of good teams over the past decade-plus and has even pulled the upset when its been in this position before. With that, Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said his team will not be overlooking the smaller school from Brookings.
“[Our players] know that South Dakota State is a really good basketball team,” Brooks said. “I don't think, you know, [SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston] and his group are fighting for respectability. They have been here for a long time.
“People who know [women’s college basketball], know that they're a very good program. They're competitors, compete, play hard, disciplined, play fundamentally good basketball. So our kids understand it. They know that they're not just going to be able to, you know, walk through anything regardless of what the number is beside you.”
In 2019, SDSU beat No. 3 seeded Syracuse in the Carrier Dome to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. The Jacks have beaten teams like Louisville, Mississippi State and Kansas State this season and played No. 1 ranked South Carolina close as well.
Brooks said SDSU has beaten so many good teams throughout the years because they’re not scared of anybody.
“Like I mentioned before, they're not scared of the moment,” Brooks said. “They're not scared of, you know, when some people call a Power Five. They think they're as good as anyone. And I agree, I think they are.
“Do I think they're a nine seed, no, I think [they’re better]. You watch some of the teams around the country who have better seeding, and I know they went through their conference pretty easily, and maybe that's why they got a nine seed, but they're a good basketball team. And they belong where they are. They belong to have an opportunity to advance because they're extremely well coached.”
This is the 11th time that SDSU has made the NCAA Tournament and the fifth time that the Jacks have advanced past the first round. Virginia Tech has made it to the Sweet 16 just one time in its program history and the Hokies failed to make it to the second round last season. Virginia Tech junior point guard Georgia Amoore said that even though SDSU is considered a mid-major team, the Jacks are just as good as a lot of teams in the country.
“Mid-majors are good teams. I think every mid-major, they're good teams. [SDSU] has that team aspect that when they go out, they throw haymakers. They play with a level of aggression and a desire to win and have a great desire to win. And The term mid-major, I think it has a negative consultation, but they're strong teams,” she said.
SDSU beat USC in overtime, 62-57, in the first round on Friday night, while the Hokies beat Chattanooga, 58-33. It was a defensive battle on between the Jacks and the Trojans and Amoore said when she watched that game, she noticed that the Jackrabbit players don’t get rattled, even when they’re going up against a bigger team who puts the pressure on.
“I think [SDSU] is persistent. And as I said before, they're fundamentally sound. They have very good schemes and plays and you know, I think they're just overall really tough. They don't let anything get to them. I think USC tried to pressure them. They didn't look phased at all. They continued to play their style. That's something that stuck out to me,” Amoore said.
We’ll find out whether or not the Jackrabbits are up for the task of beating the top-seeded Hokies on Sunday at 4 p.m. Central time. You can watch the game ESPN2.