The women’s basketball team finished the regular season with a 10-6 record in Amy Williams’ first year as head coach. They went into the season picked to finish sixth, so by that measure the Coyotes overachieved. Regardless of what happens in the tournament, the Williams II era has gotten off to a promising start by earning the third seed. They know their first game will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 9 against Western Illinois, North Dakota State or Kansas City. USD has split with Kansas City and NDSU and beat Western Illinois twice.
The Coyotes didn’t shoot the ball very well at Omaha (33.9) but the Mavs weren’t starting the court on fire, either, hitting 18-of-59 shots with an 0-for-8 effort on 3-pointers.
I think the Coyotes have arrived at a sort of inner peace regarding their periodic shooting issues. I think they’ve struggled with it enough to know there are going to be a lot of nights were hitting one of every three shots is how it’s going to go — so there is no reason to let that alone affect rebounding and defense. Perhaps earlier in the year not being able to score points would have altered other areas of their game, but not so much now.
The men are in an interesting spot as they prepare to end the regular season at Western Illinois. The game doesn’t mean anything to the Leathernecks as far as the tournament is concerned given that they’ve locked up the second seed already. A win for USD would secure the sixth seed and a game against NDSU on Sunday night, March 9. A loss would likely mean – assuming Kansas City will beat IUPUI on Saturday – that Coyotes would be the seventh seed and play Western Illinois again in the 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9.
The tricky part is that based on what has happened during the regular season, earning a sixth seed and an opening game against NDSU doesn’t seem like such a great deal. No. 1, you’re looking at a bi-partisan crowd with scores of North Dakotans migrating this way to get a taste of a spring thaw that won’t work its way to Fargo until sometime in June. Plus, it’s the one school in the conference that twice posted one-sided wins over the Coyotes. In addition, the Bison would likely have Taylor Braun back for that game. Braun, a 6-7 junior, was first-team all-Summit as a sophomore and has been out for more than a month with a foot injury. He’s returning to practice this week. While he might not be 100 percent for the tournament, the Bison were looking like a potential league champion until he got hurt.
On the other hand, winning a pair of road games to end the regular season would be likely mean a lot to the Coyotes, who have lost five conference games by five points or fewer. And ending with regular-season with a three-game win streak would give the program a little mo going into next season, regardless of what happens in the tournament.