VERMILLION, S.D. | The ultimate goal, of course, was making the NCAA Tournament, but a semifinal loss in the Summit League Championship derailed any chances the South Dakota Coyotes had of realizing that dream.
On Sunday, the Summit League champions learned that they would be a No. 8 seed in the National Invitation Tournament and play the University of Iowa in a first-round game Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
“It’s an honor to play in a postseason tournament with that prestige and on top of it you get to play the University of Iowa which is very good and just missed the (NCAA) tournament,” USD Coach Craig Smith said. “You get to play a team with their history, tradition, a Big Ten opponent. Spending two years at Nebraska I’m very familiar with their style of play.”
The Coyotes enjoyed a successful season under third-year coach Smith, who was named the Summit League Coach of the Year after leading USD to its first regular season title and a 22-11 record.
Matt Mooney and Tyler Flack were named first-team all-conference players with Mooney also being recognized as the transfer of the year. Mooney was the third-leading scorer in the Summit averaging 21.1 points while Flack hit for 18.2 and grabbed 5.7 rebounds.
The Coyotes won eight of nine games entering the Summit League Tournament before falling to South Dakota State 74-71 in the semifinals.
It has been an impressive season for the Coyotes, who were picked to finish no better than seventh in the Summit to begin the season, coming off a 14-18 campaign a year ago.
“We’re really excited where our guys are at,” Smith said. “Certainly it (SDSU) was a gut-wrenching loss but that’s life and you have to be able to bounce back, have a short memory and learn from things.
“We gave our guys a couple days away to recharge and we’ve had three practices now. We’ve had some tough losses and some exhilarating wins. I’m proud of this team for a lot of things but one thing is in conference play we were the only team in conference play to not lose back-to-back games all year.”
One of South Dakota’s starters, guard Trey Dickerson, began his collegiate career at Iowa before transferring to USD. Dickerson, a New York native, played with several members of the Hawkeye squad.
Dickerson, Mooney, Carlton Hurst and Trey Burch-Manning are each transfer starters for the Coyotes.
South Dakota is making its first postseason appearance since 2010 when it played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and 16th overall, second at the Division I level.
“For most kids it’s the same when you’re a little kid growing up all you dream about is playing in the NCAA tournament, my mom used to let me skip school to stay home and watch the NCAA tournament,” Mooney said. “That’s what you dream about but we still have an NIT bid and that’s the second best postseason tournament bid in the country and we’re going to face some really tough opponents. As tough as it was we have to try and move forward and focus on our next opponent.
"It was real cool to watch what the women did last year (winning the WNIT). It was special for them to end their season with a win, only a couple teams can say they are able to do that. A lot of teams don’t get to play in the postseason and we’re fortunate enough to be able to play more.”
Iowa, a No. 1 seed, enters the NIT with an 18-14 overall record, finishing in a tie for fifth place in the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes are led by senior guard Peter Jok, averaging 19.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Because the Hawkeyes are a No. 1 seed, they could play three home games
The winner will meet the winner of a game between fifth-seeded Fresno State and No. 4 TCU.
Iowa is in the NIT for the eighth time. The Hawkeyes advanced to the championship game the last time they were there in 2013.
South Dakota and Iowa will meet for the 12th time, though the team’s only meeting since 1965 was Dec. 4, 2012, in Iowa City. Coyote center Tyler Flack, the lone senior on this year’s roster, logged 29 minutes in that contest. He scored five points, had seven rebounds and blocked two shots in an 87-63 Iowa victory.
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has approved some rules for the NIT that affect team fouls and the shot clock.
Among the experiments are team fouls will be reset to zero at the end of 10-minute segments of each half – incorporating elements of playing four quarters while staying with a two-half format – and the shot clock will be reset to 20 seconds instead of 30 at times when the ball is inbounded in the front court.