Augustana (SD) is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division II Tournament Central regional. They will put a 30-2 record and BR-2 national ranking on the line this weekend and, although history doesn’t favor the Vikings (9-13 in NCAA tournament action), I think they’ll get that record to at least .500 before this tournament is all said and done.
Here are the five reasons why I believe Augustana (SD) will win the Central Region and advance to the D2 Men’s Basketball Tournament Elite Eight:
1. Home court advantage
This is the most obvious one. Playing on your own hardwood doesn’t guarantee anything, and can sometimes actually equate to more pressure for the host school. But Augustana is already playing with house money. This is the first NCAA appearance in two seasons and doesn’t have many players with tournament experience. The fact that they’re playing at home will make it easier for the Vikings to pull out the tight games down the stretch.
2. Historic No. 1 seed
The Vikings start their first ever campaign as a No. 1 seed with a matchup against BR-157 Arkansas Tech (18-13). It’s the first time Augustana has been a No. 1 seed. No game is a gimme, but we predict a comfortable win for the Vikings in this one. A confidence-boosting win to get the tournament jitters out will be good for Augustana.
3. Excellent offense
Augustana’s offense is potent enough to beat the best teams in the country, as the Vikings have shown all season. They average 87.1 points per game and their average scoring margin of +16.3 is sixth best in the division. The Vikings shoot nearly 50 percent from the floor, which will get the job done more often than not, even in the tournament.
4. Mr. Clutch
It always helps to have a clutch player who can make the key play down the stretch. Augustana has that in Daniel Jensen. The 6-foot-9 junior averages 19.7 points and seven boards a game, and hits 38.7 percent of his looks from deep.
In an interview with local ABC affiliate KSFY earlier this season, Augustana (SD) head coach Tom Billeter said of Jensen, “our biggest, strongest kid on the floor has made and shot more three-pointers than anybody on the team. Dan can go down on the block, but that diversity, which he worked hard at, allows him to go outside. He is an inside-outside player, and we are comfortable with that.”
He does it all for the Vikings, and will continue to do so when it matters most.
Jensen can’t do everything however. Getting everyone involved is so key in the tournament, when the best teams are able to match your best player(s) man-to-man. The Vikings have three others besides Jansen averaging double figures this season: Casey Schilling (18.8), Alex Richter (15.1), and Jordan Spencer (11.5), who also leads the team in assists with 6.3 per game.
All eight Vikings who have seen the floor for at least 200 minutes this season average better than 40 percent from the field. You can stop one Viking, but you can’t stop them all.