Date & Time: Monday, March 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Radio: ESPN Syracuse 97.7 FM
Series Record: This is the first meeting between The Orange and the Jackrabbits.
Head Coaches: SU: Quentin Hillsman (13th year, 288-144); South Dakota State: Aaron Johnston (19th year, 468-155)
Coach’s Bio: Johnston got his first and only head coaching job with South Dakota State in 1999, after serving as an assistant with North Dakota State College of Science for a year, and then as a grad assistant at Sout Dakota State (still D2 at the time) for another two years. After taking over as an interim head coach for six games in 1999-2000, he earned the job outright due a a 4-2 record including an upset over the No. 2 team in D2 (NDSU).
Since transitioning to Division I in 2004, SDSU has posted 335-121 record. South Dakota State has eight NCAA tournament and four NIT appearances in that time. In 2006 and 2007, Johnston was named the Division I Independent Coach of the Year and in 2009 he was a finalist for the Naismith Women’s College basketball Coach of the Year.
Last season: South Dakota State finished 26-7 and lost to Villanova in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Jackrabbits finished second in the Summit League regular season standings, with the only conference loses coming at the hands of their rival South Dakota. SDSU would go on to avenge those loses and beat South Dakota in the Summit League Conference championship to earn a bid in the NCAA tournament.
Last game: The Jackrabbits beat 11-seed Quinnipiac 76-65 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. South Dakota State was paced by its leading scorer Macy Miller who scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
SDSU shot 40% from the field and 42% from three-point range. The most impressive stat for the Jackrabbits might have been the 83% the team shot from the free throw line. The team finished 20-24 a the charity stripe. South Dakota State took a 41-30 lead into halftime and that 11 point lead would prove to be the deciding factor because both teams 35 points in the second half.
Myah Selland was one rebound short of finishing a double-double for the Jackrabbits. Selland had 16 points and nine rebounds in the South Dakota State’s first round one win over the Bobcats. Quinnipiac was led by 25 points and nine rebounds from Jen Fay.
Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman knows beating South Dakota State won’t be an easy task. “We’ve got to be very disciplined, we gotta stay home, we gotta make them make plays off the bounce and not just give them catch and shoot opportunities in the game,” said Hillsman. “They’re a very, very good team and it’s going to be a great game. And that’s why you’re in this tournament to play great teams, so we are excited for the challenge and the opportunity.”
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Macy Miller averages 18.4 points per game is incredibly efficient from three-point range, shooting 46% from deep on the season. She leads the team in assists (3.4 per game) and steals (1.4 per game). Miller is second on the team averaging 5.9 rebounds and leads the team in defensive rebounds per contest (4.7).
If Syracuse wins: The team will advance to the Sweet 16 in Portland, Ore. where they will play Oregon (just beat Indiana, 91-68 on Sunday). The Orange lost to Oregon by two points on the road in Eugene in early November and this game would be a similar atmosphere to what the Ducks have at home.
If Syracuse loses: It will be the end of a promising season in a year where the Orange felt like they could advance far in this year’s NCAA tournament.