The Big East’s Providence Friars take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in just over an hour on truTV! This 4-13 matchup has been pegged as one of the most intriguing and fascinating games of the Round of 64. Mid-Major Madness’ Nick Lorensen stopped by to chat about the Jackrabbits and what they’re all about. You can follow Mid-Major Madness on Twitter at @mid_madness.
So… this is kind of awkward, because it seems South Dakota State is a trendy upset pick to beat 4th-seeded Providence. Tell us and those who may be unfamiliar with the Jackrabbits why perhaps they should be as fearful as many think they should be?
Nick Lorensen - I think it’s more of a Providence thing. Yes, South Dakota State is an outstanding basketball team but people see that Providence is the luckiest team in the country and have the lowest KenPom of any of the teams seeded 1-8 and everyone begins to hop on the Jackrabbits bandwagon.
But, the Jackrabbits can’t miss. They have the top effective field goal percentage in the country, don’t turn the ball over which makes them one of the most efficient offenses in the country. Baylor Schierman is the Summit League Player of the Year along with not only one of the best shooters in the country, he has a top 65 defensive rating. Charlie Easley has come out of nowhere and is in the Top 12 of the country in offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. But there are also a lot of downsides.
…But also, if there’s a reason why South Dakota State wouldn’t win this game, what would that reason (or reasons) be?
NL - South Dakota State really lacks size and struggles on the defensive end. The tallest player for the Jackrabbits is 6-8 Luke Appel and he comes off the bench. Douglas Wilson is effective at 6-7 but nothing above and beyond. To add back onto that, they don’t force turnovers and struggle on the defensive end. Their offense was just above and beyond better than everyone in the Summit League that they ran the table in the league. There were only two other teams in the Top 200 of KenPom in the league.
Douglas Wilson has been a standout for SDSU this year, but so has sophomore sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman. Of this duo, who do you expect to be poised for a big game?
NL - For South Dakota State to win this game, it needs to be Douglas Wilson. He’ll have to find a way to shutdown Nate Watson. But, I think Scheierman is the one who will have a big game. He has scored double digits in the last seven and seems to come up big in the big games.
If there is one unheralded player who could be an X Factor, it would be _______
NL - I know that I tend to overlook anyone who averages under 10 points per game so Freshman Zeke Mayo may be the X-Factor. He is an efficient shooter, can drain his threes, but is just a little spotty. Mayo started the last 20 games of the season so he’s kind of been elevated into a role where he can play in the big game.