Game: #4 IPFW v #5 South Dakota State
Date: Sunday, March 6
Time: 6 p.m. Central Standard Time
TV: Midco Sports Net/ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com
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4. IPFW 18-11 (11-7)
Apparently Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne is on the "DO NOT CALL US THIS OR ELSE" part of the Summit League Media Guide...
Last 10: 6-4
Top Scorer: Frank Gaines, 14.7 Points/Game
Top Floor Shooter: Trey McCorkle, 54.7% Fieldgoal
Top Sharp Shooter: Ben Botts, 44.4% Three-Point
Team Fieldgoal Percent: 45.6% (7th Summit, 80th National)
Team Possessions/Game: 68.2 (7th Summit, 173rd National)
Team Turnovers/Game: 12.1 (3rd Summit, 75th National)
Player To Watch: Ben Botts
If you were lucky enough to catch the end of the IPFW/Oakland game in the O'Rena (or even IUPUI's loss at Conseco Fieldhouse last year), you know all about Botts' ability to hit any and all uber-contested shots. The kid isn't afraid of one, two, or eight hands in his face. While he might not be putting up gaudy numbers, Botts can be absolutely electric at any time. His ice-water-veins from deep translate to the foul line as well, where Botts is shooting an incredible 86.1% on the year.
Most Underrated Player: Jeremy Mixon
Coming off the bench in every game this year, Mixon has done more than his part to propel IPFW into the post season. While on the floor, he is the second most utilized player on all of Dane Fife's ball club (46.0% usage rate), and has scored in double digits 17 times. Not bad for a 6'1" kid in a league dominated by wing-style players.
5. South Dakota State University 18-11 (10-8)
Last 10: 6-4
Top Scorer: Nate Wolters, 19.0 Points/Game
Top Floor Shooter: Jordan Dykstra, 54.5% Fieldgoal
Top Sharp Shooter: Jordan Dykstra, 50.0% Three-Point
Team Fieldgoal Percent: 46.5% (6th Summit, 44th National)
Team Possessions/Game: 70.8 (3rd Summit, 62nd National)
Team Turnovers/Game: 9.9 (1st Summit, 4th National)
Player To Watch: Nate Wolters
If Wolters isn't a first team all Summit League player, I don't know who is. Though his team struggled to have a signature road win, there was absolutely no stopping him from showing off his incredible skill. The sophomore was third in the conference in scoring (19.0 points/game), first in assists (6.0 assists/game), tied for fourth in steals (1.3 steals/game), and first in assist to turnover ratio (2.7:1). Some of his best performances came against Oral Roberts, IPFW, IUPUI (twice), and Oakland. Seeing the look in his eye after the loss to UMKC back on January 27th reminded me of Tim Tebow's rant post-Mississippi State. He is a champion, and I would be shocked if he wasn't cutting down the nets in the near future. (Oh, and he plays exactly like some kid named Ben Woodside, if you remember him. Kansas fans should.)
Most Underrated Player: Dale Moss
Moss is the "Tanto" to Wolter's "Lone Ranger" status. Despite not getting much attention - at least outside of Brookings - Moss is contributing in his own distinct way. The 6'4" guard is fourth on the team in rebounding, pulling down 4.2 boards per game. Not surprisingly, he's second in assists (1.8 assists/game) to Wolters, but he's hitting the open shot when he's called to do so at an impressive 57.1% rate. His best games have come against Oral Roberts and IPFW.
IPFW Wins If: They can guard both Nate Wolters and Clint Sargent. Neutralizing these two assets would completely stun both the overwhelmingly pro-Jackrabbits crowd, in addition to forcing guys that aren't used to carrying the load offensively (Wolters and Sargent account for 34.3 points and nearly all of the assists per game) to step up in a do-or-die situation.
South Dakota State Wins If: They can keep the game close. I really don't see this game getting out of hand in favor of IPFW, and if that happens the Dons are in a whole heap of trouble. As I said, SDSU will be the crowd favorite (just a few hours from Brookings, and a full day-plus drive from Fort Wayne), and any ounce of belief those fans have will be flamed by a competitive game. Watch out for the Jacks to really lay the smackdown...down...if they sense IPFW is feeling down and out.
South Dakota State 82-71 IPFW
This one will be extremely close through the half, but then South Dakota State is going to pull away. Botts his a few acrobatic superhoops late in the game allowing IPFW to feel better about the final score. I'd be absolutely shocked if Dane Fife doesn't get at least one technical foul.