BY JEREMY HOECK
The consistent theme we’ve heard around the University of South Dakota men’s basketball program this season — and more accurately, the past five years — has been patience.
‘Work in progress’ is a phrase not used lightly.
In many ways, it’s the truth.
This is a program still building to be consistently successful at the Division I level. The pieces are still coming together and the results will vary; in other words, there will be highs and there will be lows, but mostly lows.
And then there is this upcoming weekend.
USD, at 6-9 overall and 2-1 in the Summit League, sits in prime position to not only hand two league powers a loss, but to potentially thrust themselves in the ‘contender’ talk.
Yes, I’m looking ahead a little here, and yes, I realize, that’s asking a lot for the Coyotes to beat North Dakota State tonight (Thursday) and South Dakota State on Saturday.
But doing exactly that would be a rather significant step in the progression of this USD program.
First, both NDSU and SDSU are ranked in the mid-major poll, the Bison at No. 14 and the Jacks at No. 16. North Dakota State may right now be the best team in the league, while South Dakota State, of course, is the defending conference champions.
And consider last season’s Coyote team started with five straight losses in Summit League play and went on to finish 10-18. This season, however, the Coyotes rank first in the conference in scoring in league games — helped by a 95-point outburst at Omaha — and suffered their only Summit League defeat on a buzzer-beater to Western Illinois.
Still, patience has to be required with USD. The Coyotes have yet to play a conference road game with an eligible program (Omaha is ineligible for the league tournament), highlighted by that weekend trip to Brookings and Fargo later this month.
And so, yes, while it would be impressive to pick up a pair of victories this weekend, there’s simply too much basketball yet to be played to get overly worked up about tonight and Saturday. No matter what happens.