Iowa State Cyclones vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits Pick & Prediction MARCH 21st 2024

Eric Henderson was promoted to head coach at South Dakota State five years ago because T.J. Otzelberger departed for UNLV.

Otzelberger is now the head coach at Iowa State and he will look down the sideline and see his good friend on Thursday when the second-seeded Cyclones (27-7) face the 15th-seeded Jackrabbits (22-12) in an NCAA Tournament East Region clash at Omaha, Neb.

Otzelberger and Henderson shared coaching strategies for three seasons at South Dakota State but one of the two will see their season conclude in the ultra-friendly reunion on the March Madness stage.

South Dakota State is looking for its first-ever NCAA Tournament win at the Division I level, while the Cyclones are forecasted to make a deep run.

“Coach Henderson does a great job,” Otzelberger said. “They won the (Summit) League outright, won the tournament. To do that you’ve got to have a really good group. I’ve watched them a fair amount through the season because of my relationship with coach Henderson and their coaching staff from my time there.”

Henderson said his relationship with Otzelberger has played a huge part in his career.

“There’s just a lot of respect,” Henderson said, according to Dakota News Now. “It’s exciting to be playing close to home, it’s great for our fans. We have a couple of Nebraska guys, so to be able to get down there and play in front of their families is pretty special.

“But then obviously with coach Otzelberger, just the amount of respect that I have for him. The opportunities that he’s given me in this profession are just really endless.”

South Dakota State has won eight consecutive games as it aims to change that 0-6 NCAA tourney mark. But the Cyclones are huge favorites.

Iowa State ripped off three victories by an average of 20.3 points while winning the Big 12 tournament. The capper was a 69-41 of top-seeded Houston in the championship game.

The Cyclones don’t have a true go-to player but have solid balance and a group of players willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.

“This is a whole new ball game for everybody,” Iowa State forward Tre King said. “There’s different ways you’ve got to prepare for scouting and I think the one advantage that we have with different leading scorers every night is teams don’t know who to really key in on because it really could be anybody on any given night.

“I think that’s just a credit to how much we share the ball and care for each other and really just make the simple plays and stuff like that.”

Keshon Gilbert paces Iowa State with a 13.8 scoring average, while Tamin Lipsey contributes 12.3 points and a team-best 4.9 assists per game.

For the Jackrabbits, Summit League Player of the Year Zeke Mayo routinely shines with an 18.8 scoring average and 88 3-pointers. Mayo scored 20 or more points 16 times this season with a high output of 35.

Mayo, Charlie Easley (64) and Kalen Garry (46) have combined to make 198 treys.

The winner of this contest faces either No. 7 Washington State or No. 10 Drake on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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