It’s gotten to the point in the Summit League basketball season where a single weekend update will not suffice. (Suffice - one of the many words I may or may not have picked up from Downton Abbey.)
On Saturday in Macomb, the South Dakota State women will try to lock up at least a share of the regular-season title. It would be their second straight and fourth in six years.
But even if the Jackrabbits take care of business, they’ve allowed for a certain level of intrigue in dropping both meetings against IUPUI. Yes, IUPUI. The Jaguars had never beaten SDSU prior to this season and now have done it twice in a row.
Although both games were close, the matching results make you wonder if IUPUI is just a bad matchup for the Jacks in terms of being athletic and aggressive and pretty deep. And regular-season results in the series won’t necessarily apply to the conference tournament setting.
Regardless, things are shaping up to be more interesting than they once figured to be.
Meanwhile, there are big things brewing for Saturday night at Frost Arena as the SDSU men host Western Illinois.
For starters, it’s senior night - the final regular-season home games in the significant careers of point guard Nate Wolters and forward Tony Fiegen. The former is the best player in program history, the latter a local kid who sacrificed his offensive interests to do dirty work. They will be honored after the game rather than before as has been custom.
But it’s also a defacto conference title game as the Leathernecks (11-2) lead the Jacks (11-3) by a half game after an impressive road win Thursday over North Dakota State (10-4) that dropped the Bison into third-place just half of a game up on Oakland (9-4). After this, SDSU has just one game left - at Omaha in two weeks. The Necks will host Kansas City and USD to wrap things up.
The Jacks have won 29 in a row at home and eight straight in the series (including an overtime decision in last year’s tourney title tilt), but very few of those have been easy due to the grind-it-out style of WIU, which leads NCAA Division I in fewest possessions per game.
WIU will be in line to win the regular-season title outright with a victory, while SDSU would have the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a win - that would be a sweep of the regular-season series.
The Jacks haven’t won a regular-season conference crown since moving to the D-I level in 2004. The Necks probably laugh at that - they haven’t finished first since 1982-83, the first season in Summit history.
Somebody will take a big step toward their primary regular-season goal Saturday night in a nationally televised gamed played before a packed house in the best venue in the conference. Good stuff.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.