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The South Dakota State Jackrabbits were probably the nation’s most entertaining team entering the NCAA Tournament. They shot lots of threes, scored lots of points, have a great nickname and hadn’t lost since December 15.
And now they’re gone, dropping a 66-57 decision to Providence on the first day.
South Dakota State entered the day as a No. 13 seed out of something called the Summit League; Providence is a No. 4 seed out of the Big East. Still, the Jackrabbits had their chances. They led by four, trailed by 14, battled back and gave themselves a shot at the end.
But as is so often the case in these matchups of majors vs. mid-majors, the Friars got every important call from the officials and made all the critical turning-point plays.
“This is just another step for us to improve,” Providence coach Ed Cooley told truTV.
There are plenty of fun teams left in the tourney, of course, plenty of reasons to keep watching. Few, however, shoot the ball like South Dakota State, which went 45 percent on 3-pointers for the season. Sadly, the nation finding out about the Jackrabbits was not meant to be.
Credit to Providence, which took away what South Dakota State does best. The Friars let the Jackrabbits have almost all the good looks they wanted from inside the arc. Every shot beyond it, though, was challenged.
“Great defense beats great offense every single time,” NBA legend Charles Barkley said from his chair on the CBS studio show.
That may be true. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.