Unless the women have built up a pile of goodwill with the selection committee, South Dakota State will not be sending a basketball team to an NCAA Division I championship this year. It will be the first failure to do so in six years of being eligible.
Not the first MAKE, but the first MISS.
The Jackrabbits men and women combined to win seven Summit League tournament crowns in their first 10 opportunities. I’m not good at math, but I’m pretty sure that’s a high success rate for schools in one-bid leagues.
By comparison, Fort Wayne – a school that moved to Division I a tick earlier and joined the conference at the same time – had never made a Summit tourney final on the men’s or women’s side before this week. That’s despite being plenty respectable most years.
Did SDSU play to its season averages in its semifinal losses? No. For that, fans can be disappointed – players and coaches were, too. But to suggest, as some have, that the sky is falling or at least that systems are broken? That’s nonsensical especially since both teams did enough to earn consideration from other postseason events.
This will be a learning experience, a part of the maturation process for a school still in its first decade at the D-I level: Dealing with falling short, getting ready for a Small Dance instead of the Big One and probably being differently motivated going into the summer.
Again, this isn’t what anybody associated with the Jacks wanted, but it’s not all bad, either. It’ll challenge players, coaches, fans, fundraisers – you name it. In some ways, it’s a more interesting turn in the story.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.