TCU-S. Dakota St. Preview
March 20, 2009
(AP) - South Dakota State has already had a season to remember, one that continues with their NCAA tournament debut Sunday night.
Having received a No. 7 seed in the Raleigh Regional in its first year of eligibility on the Division I level, the Jackrabbits take on 10th-seeded TCU on Sunday night in Lubbock, Texas.
South Dakota State's move up from Division II starting in 2004-05 left it ineligible for postseason for four years. During that time, the Jackrabbits (31-2) have developed into a budding powerhouse, going 101-31 against D-I opponents.
Coach Aaron Johnston's club rallied to win this year's Summit League tournament title, beating Oakland 79-69 on March 10.
"We really needed to get to tonight to get some focus on what we need to do as a team now," said Johnston, 224-64 in nine seasons at South Dakota State. "The team really needed this sense of purpose so getting through tonight will really help us."
The Jackrabbits, who lost to Oakland in early January and then-No. 3 Maryland in November, have the second-most wins this season in Division I play behind Connecticut. With one more victory, the Jackrabbits will tie the school record for wins in a season set in 2002-03, when they won the D-II championship.
Jennifer Warkenthien is the player to watch on the 16th-ranked Jackrabbits, as the senior forward leads the team with 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Three others - sophomore guard-forward Kristin Rotert, sophomore guard Jill Young and junior forward Maria Boever - average just over 10.0 points.
TCU (20-10) finished third in the Mountain West Conference and will be making its eighth NCAA tournament appearance in nine years. The Horned Frogs have been ousted in the opening round in two of their last three appearances and have never made it past the second round.
TCU defeated Maryland in its season opener and knocked off California in early December, with both teams ranked third at the time. The Horned Frogs, though, lost their other three games against ranked teams by an average of 10.4 points.
Like the Jackrabbits' Warkenthien, Helena Sverrisdottir is TCU's go-to player. A sophomore guard and native of Iceland, Sverrisdottir tops the team with 16.0 points and 7.4 rebounds a contest.
TK LaFleur, a junior guard and transfer from Nebraska, contributes 14.8 points per game.
Sunday's winner will face second-seeded Baylor or No. 15 seed Texas-San Antonio on Tuesday.