BY TERRY VANDROVEC
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
BROOKINGS — Some South Dakota State women's basketball players were unhappy with the way things played out on Selection Monday, but not for the reasons you might think.
Publicly, the Jackrabbits were OK with receiving the No. 15 seed in the Spokane Region and being sent to Cincinnati to play No. 2 Xavier on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament. Instead, their beef was with the wait time — almost 45 minutes — for their seed, site and foe to be unveiled by ESPN. That was one new experience in their third straight championship berth.
“I almost thought they might have forgotten we were even in this,” senior wing Kristin Rotert said with a smile.
While that didn’t happen, SDSU (19-13) again was not done any favors by the selection committee. For the third year in a row, it was seeded slightly lower than expected based on the national projections and paired with a foe that’s facing little to no travel. The 1:30 p.m. game — set to be aired locally on ESPN2 — will be played at the Cintas Center, the Musketeers’ 10,000-seat home court. Xavier is 14-0 in that building this season, averaging 2,284 fans per game. Tickets will go on sale at 9 a.m. today at the SDSU ticket office.
Overall, the Musketeers — regular-season and postseason champions of the Atlantic-10 — are 28-2 and ranked fifth in the latest Associated Press poll. They reached the Elite Eight last season and boast two Wooden Award finalists in guards Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips.
“They’re really good, I mean really good,” Jacks coach Aaron Johnston said. “They’re not one of those No. 1 seed, but they probably played like it. They don’t play in one of the power leagues so they don’t get the respect they probably deserve, but they’re as good as anybody in the country.”
To that end, their only losses came against No. 1-seed Stanford and No. 2 Duke. By comparison, SDSU went 1-5 against teams that made the field of 64 and just 1-8 in the middle of the season.
Still, the Jacks have won 11 of their last 12, earned an unprecedented third consecutive Summit League postseason title and are the first team in NCAA history to reach the Division I tournament in each of their first three years of eligibility.
In that regard, the scene that played out Monday evening — waiting with maybe 300 fans inside Frost Arena for the bracket to be unveiled — has become something of a tradition. The only wrinkle this time around was the extended delay — the players got visibly antsy after the ESPN.com projection of taking on Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, fell through.
Right state, wrong school, long wait.
“This is a special event,” Johnston said. “Our players feel really good about our chance to be a part of these things.”