South Dakota State versus Denver preview

So who is officially the 4 seed in this game?  Who is officially the 5 seed?  Does any of that matter?  This isn’t really a David versus Goliath match up.  It’s more of a David versus Glenn match up.

Pssh, freaking Glenn.

Does it just feel weirdly obvious who is going to win this game?  I hope that is not just me.  If anything, being over confident in the outcome of basketball games has not steered me in the right direction this season.

Clearly, anything can happen after the official throws that ball up for the opening tip, but one of these teams appears to already have the edge and it’s only Wednesday.

South Dakota State is playing in a game that they might as well be playing at home.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of that blue in the arena during the Summit League tournament is from Jackrabbit fans and not from Mastodon fans.  The Jackrabbits are also coming into this game with on a 3 game winning streak, while Denver will be arriving in Sioux Falls while they are suffering through a 3 game losing streak.  The Pioneers also only one 1 of their last 5, with the one win against the 8th seeded Leathernecks.

These two also just faced each other last weekend in what was supposed to be an evenly contested game, and the two centers Daniel Amigo and Mike Daum were going to battle it out all night like Arnold Swarzenegger battling the world for a Turboman doll.  Daum had 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting in that game.  Amigo had 8 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

If you’re looking for a breakdown on Daum’s stats on the year, or his stats heading into the conference tournament, they can simply be summed up with: they’re better than yours.

The Jackrabbits also have their second leading scorer AJ Hess back in the lineup, as well as competent backup center Ian Theisen.  South Dakota State is actually healthy, something I don’t feel used to saying.  These teams may have similar characteristics, but the Jackrabbits are a man or two deeper than the Pioneers.

Theisen in my opinion seems like the biggest x-factor for the Jackrabbits, or really just how much TJ Otzelberger decides to play him.  Theisen in the lineup with Daum, allows Daum to play out of the post and play as a stretch 4, where he appears most comfortable.  The backup center can also make surprise shots from the perimeter, give Amigo another big man to go up against.  He also as a significant size advantage over Denver’s backup center Christian Mackey.

Still, weird things happen in college athletics.  It’s still two first year head coaches heading into the opening round of a conference tournament.  One that had his team fall well below expectations, and the other that had his team rise up above the expectations.  Neither of these coaches created the expectations, they just dealt with them.

Who would have thought that a 4 versus 5 would have been so evenly matched?  Both of these teams are fast paced offenses that have had their troubles on the defensive end.  Aside from the crowd advantage, someone may think South Dakota State has the edge as their roster hosts more experience.  Another person might think Denver’s roster is a better unit as a bulk of their players have played with each other longer.

The Pioneers are also coming in with a major sense of revenge factor.  They were just demolished by 22 points a week ago in Brookings on a Senior Day that was for two Jackrabbits that have only been in the program for 30 games each.  Denver was also two free throws away from playing North Dakota State for the conference championship and a NCAA Tournament birth last season before falling to the Jackrabbits in 2016.

Mind games are a heavy thing in college sports.  If the first year coaches are not preparing for this game the right way, they could get the early out Sunday night.  The South Dakota State players could be playing with big egos because of the home court advantage and before of the lopsided win last week.  Denver could be extremely focused to overcome such a disastrous week.  Sometimes, losing can be the best thing for you.

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