NCAA Basketball Pick: Western Illinois vs. South Dakota State

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, March 9, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

There are two quarterfinal games in the Summit League Tournament Sunday, and in the nightcap the Western Illinois Leathernecks face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits.

The third seed in the Summit League Tournament comes in red-hot and gets to play in its home state Sunday night when the Western Illinois Leathernecks (10-19, 3-14 away/neutral) take on those South Dakota State Jackrabbits (18-11, 8-8 away/neutral) at Sioux Falls Arena in Sioux Falls, SD at 9:30 ET.

The point spread at Bet365 has South Dakota State as a big favorite for this contest with the current line at -9½ with odds of -110.

The Summit League may have eight teams, but this is a seven-team tournament with sixth place Nebraska-Omaha being ineligible this season. Thus, the regular season champions North Dakota State get a bye to the semifinals after a sparkling 23-6 season including 12-2 in the conference. The Bison will take on the winner of the first game today between Denver and South Dakota Monday, while the winner of this game takes on IPFW, which won on Saturday.

This is technically considered a neutral site game for third seeded South Dakota State as this game is not on its home court, although the Jackrabbits will obviously have most of the crowd support in their home state. This also looks like a favorable matchup for them as they swept Western Illinois during the regular season, extending their dominating winning streak over the Leathernecks in this head-to-head series to 11 straight games!

You may recall that South Dakota State won both the regular season title and this Summit League Tournament last year before losing to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. The heart and soul of that team Nate Wolters has now moved on to the NBA, but the Jackrabbits had another fine season this year going 18-11 and 10-4 inside the Summit.

And they come into this game on a nice roll having won eight of their last nine games with the only loss coming vs. the regular season champs from North Dakota State on the road. South Dakota State finished third in the conference in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency during Summit play, and believe it or not the Jackrabbits led the entire country in defensive rebounding percentage at 81.3 percent vs. a national average of 68.5 percent!

South Carolina State boats the leading rebounder in the conference in Jordan Dykstra, who is also second in the conference in scoring with his 16.4 points per game and has excellent range for a big man, hitting on an excellent 39.8 percent of his three-point attempts. That was not over a small sample either as Dykstra went 45-for-113 from beyond the arc.

While the Jackrabbits are hot, the Leathernecks are certainly not as they had lost seven straight games before salvaging the regular season finale vs. last place IUPUI, which ended the year at 6-26 after losing to IPFW in the first quarterfinal game yesterday. Western Illinois has taken a big step back this season after going 22-9 last year and going to the CBI.

The Leathernecks avoided losing their 20th game this year vs. IUPUI, but that seems inevitable here for a team ranked 326th in the country in offensive efficiency, due in large part with ranking 327th nationally and dead last in the conference in offensive turnover percentage. Besides being sloppy with the basketball, Western Illinois finished 332nd in offensive rebounding percentage, so expect very few second chances vs. the best defensive rebounding team in the country.

Add this all up and Western Carolina might not get out of the upper 50’s in this game, so give the big points with South Dakota State in a probable double-digit win on Sunday.

[gameodds]14/260688/?r-1=43-238-92-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: South Dakota State -9½ (-110)