It was a funny moment on Monday when USD women’s coach Amy Williams was describing watching the Jackrabbits play in the NCAA tournament last year. Williams was the coach at Rogers State and her sister, Emilee Thiesse, was an assistant coach for Aaron Johnston at SDSU.
“When they’d hit a 3 to put it into overtime I was just beside myself,” Williams said. “And now here I am on the other end of it. It’s kind of funny how things turn.”
The Coyotes will be big underdogs going into this game. The manner in which the Jackrabbits dispatched Fort Wayne on Monday afternoon was pretty crisp. Fort Wayne was a little groggy from having played two overtimes the day before, but even so, SDSU was not messing around.
If I thought the Coyotes had played poorly in either of their losses to SDSU during the regular season, perhaps there would be reason to think things could stay competitive today from start to finish, but I thought USD played pretty well in both losses to the Jacks. As such, taking a Summit championship today would be a huge upset.
Certainly in the last few weeks there has been an upswing on the part of the Coyotes in their ability to get their offense rolling occasionally, and you’d have to figure that into what happens today. You also have to figure in, however, how sharp the Jacks looked in two wins in three days so far.
SDSU will be playing three games in four days and USD will be playing three games in three days. As well, the Jacks really didn’t have to go crazy to win those games whereas USD, though they built up comfortable margins in wins over NDSU and IUPUI, had to devote a lot of energy to those projects to do so.
It’s all first-time stuff for USD in the tournament and the players, who have not been in these situations before, have reacted well to it. Most notably Nicole Seekamp has made the most of the opportunity. In both games she got everyone going in second-half surges. I’ve also really been impressed with the work of Sam Mehr. It’s a nice story — Mehr is a senior who hasn’t played a lot. She’s can be a deadeye shooter, something her teammates have been well aware of the last few years, though spectators haven’t seen it quite so much. They’re seeing it this week, however, with seven 3’s in two games.
You’ll see some pretty fierce battles for the basketball underneath today. If USD can hang in there on the boards, they’re going to have a much better shot at staying with SDSU. I think the real key for the Coyotes will be shooting, however. They’re going against a team that has been here before, and a team that will have 80-85 percent of the crowd emphatically on its side. Knocking down a few 3’s early for USD would have a settling effect.
I don’t think the Coyotes can win a grind-it-out 16-for-48 kind of a game against SDSU — they’re going to have score some of their points without having to stand on their heads to do so. On the plus side for USD, I kind of expected the Coyotes to struggle more offensively given this was their first Summit League tournament, but the opposite has been true. In the second half against NDSU and IUPUI they played their best basketball of the season.
Regardless of what happens today, departed athletic director David Sayler — Sayler, how the hell did he get into this blog? — appears to have made a smart decision in hiring Amy Williams, who was coming off a five-year stint running an NAIA program. People I’ve talked to in the basketball business this week have been very positive about what she and her staff have done in getting the squad through the season and prepared for this tournament.