D-1 Success Without Leaving Home

For years, the state of South Dakota was virtually ignored on the collegiate sports stage. Yes, there were the occasional success stories, a Division II or NAIA title here or there, the athlete that went from the Rushmore State to a Division I program, where he or she had success.

Now some of these success stories are being made by athletes without having to leave their home state.

A year ago, the South Dakota State volleyball team opened the door to NCAA Division I success, earning its way to state sport’s field of 64. Unfortunately, that story ended nearly as quickly as it began, with eventual champion Nebraska disposing of the Jackrabbits in under an hour.

This year SDSU is eligible in all sports, and has already earned its first-ever berth in women’s soccer. The Jacks earned their first NCAA Tournament win, blanking Colorado 1-0, before falling to the University of Minnesota.

The SDSU women’s basketball team, which has twice earned berths in the Women’s NIT because it has not been eligible for the “Big Dance,” is off to another great start, winning six of seven games to start the season. The Jacks have gone 4-1 against teams from the major conferences, the six involved in football’s Bowl Championship Series. (Wednesday’s loss to Maryland is the lone setback so far.)

The Jackrabbit women will get their chance to lock up their first NCAA Tourney berth on about as close to a home court as they can get without playing in Frost Arena, as the Summit League Championships will be played in Sioux Falls.

The success of the SDSU women has not gone unnoticed. ESPN.com’s Graham Hays posted a column on Wednesday touting the Jackrabbits, who were in Cancun, Mexico, for the Caribbean Challenge. (The Jacks lost to No. 10 Maryland, and beat Illinois and Montana in the trip.)

The Jackrabbits have not only had success in women’s sports, but on the men’s side as well, namely football. The SDSU football team won the Great West title in 2007, its first conference football title in a long time. This year the Jacks’ football record slid back a little in their first year in the Missouri Valley, but the team has shown it is on the right track to succeed at the Division I FCS level.

USD has shown some early signs in its first year in Division I as well but, as we did with the folks in Brookings, we’ll have to wait and see how the Coyotes progress in their transition to Division I.

And, once the Coyotes have completed their transition, can we PLEASE drop all the bickering and BS and get back to playing State-U games again?

Iverson Coming Up Big

Just five games into his collegiate career, Yankton native Colton Iverson is already making some noise for the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team.

Iverson has started all five games for the 5-0 Golden Gophers, the first true freshman to start in the post for Minnesota since current Portland Trail Blazer Joel Przybilla.

In just his second game, Iverson swatted away nine shots in a victory over Bowling Green, which ties as the second-best performance in school history. In game five, Iverson dropped 20 points on 10-13 shooting, and added five rebounds and four assists in a win over Eastern Washington.

So far, the former Bucks is averaging 9.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots, and is shooting 67 percent from the field.

“He’s a little raw, but he’s got a ton of talent,” said Spencer Tollackson, who started for the Gophers from 2005-08, in a St. Paul Pioneer Press report. “It’s definitely hard to be thrown into the fire so early, but it’s a good thing for him to get the experience to be ready for the Big Ten.”

The Gophers host North Dakota State today, where Iverson will get to renew an old rivalry with former Pierre standout Michael Tviedt. Tveidt (14.0 ppg), the Bison’s third-leading scorer, and Iverson will not likely match up against each other often, as Tveidt plays power forward and Iverson plays center.

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