The second-seeded South Dakota Coyotes open their quest for a Summit League tournament title when they face the Western Illinois Leathernecks in the quarterfinals on Saturday night. The game — as well as the entire tournament — will be held at The Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
South Dakota swept both meetings these teams had in the regular season, both in Illinois in late January. The Coyotes (13-10) have dropped four of their last six, including an 89-77 decision to North Dakota State last Sunday.
Western Illinois (7-14) is on a two-game losing streak, falling twice at Oral Roberts last weekend. Those games followed a two-week break from competition and snapped a five-game winning streak for the Leathernecks.
South Dakota is a seven-point favorite if you’re betting online on this contest, with the over/under set at 152½ points.
Western Illinois vs South Dakota Preview
The Leathernecks were on a roll before their COVID-19 shutdown and haven’t really been the same team since their return. Oral Roberts averaged 90 points a game in beating Western Illinois twice last weekend, with the Leathernecks averaging 77.9 points scored by opponents this season.
For Western Illinois to make some college basketball news with an upset, it will need a big game from Will Carius. The senior forward is leading the Leathernecks with 15.7 points per game while also grabbing 4.9 rebounds per contest, and he’s connected on 42.5% of his 3-point attempts, leading the team with 48 on the season.
Carius is coming off his worst game of the season, managing just three points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field, including 1-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, in a 36-point loss to Oral Roberts on Sunday. Carius must be able to get going against the Coyotes to give the Leathernecks some hope early on.
Junior forward Tamell Pearson is a presence on the interior, averaging 11.2 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game, while junior guard Colton Sandage is coming off an 18-point, four-assist effort in Sunday’s loss.
Looking For A Run
The Coyotes won’t be making NCAA March Madness without a successful run through the Summit League tournament.
Senior guard Stanley Umude is averaging team-highs of 20.4 points and 7.3 rebounds, along with 2.8 assists per contest.
Sophomore guard A.J. Plitzuweit suffered a major knee injury two games ago and is not expected back. Plitzuweit was a solid second scoring option for the Coyotes, averaging 19.0 points and a team-high 3.9 assists while hitting a team-best 52 3-pointers.
The loss of Plitzuweit means others need to step up. In the last game, it was Tasos Kamateros, who had 22 points, including hitting 5-of-6 from 3-point range, in the loss to North Dakota State.
The elimination portion has begun for these teams, with the next loss likely going to be their final one of 2020-21. While South Dakota has higher hopes, it also has to deal with being short-handed the rest of the way.
Western Illinois would like to send Carius out in a good way, but that’s going to be up to him to rebound from an ugly performance last Sunday. If he can get hot, the Leathernecks could stay in this one.
We’re going to go with the higher-seeded team in this one, though. The Coyotes just have too much talent to fall in their first game of the tournament. When making your college basketball picks, take South Dakota to win and cover to advance.