Six games in three days makes for a big helping of Division I men’s college basketball at the Sanford Pentagon going into the Thanksgiving break.
South Dakota State, George Mason, Nevada and Washington are all going to be part of the Mammoth Sports Construction Crossover Classic. This series of contests begins on Monday, Nov. 22, and continues through Wednesday, Nov. 24, at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Last year’s Crossover Classic had teams and games but, because of the pandemic, no fans. That is not the case this year. This opportunity to see two games a day for three days — highlighted by the Jackrabbits’ three appearances — will include both quantity and quality.
The four teams have a combined 37 NCAA Tournament appearances and 10 trips to the Sweet 16. All four programs finished in the Top 150 in KenPom rankings last year.
SDSU in Sioux Falls
“We’re extremely excited to be able to welcome fans back, first and foremost, but also to welcome these teams to Sioux Falls,” said Jesse Smith, Sanford Sports vice president of operations and legal counsel. “Our hope is that this event becomes part of the fabric of the community and the fabric of the sports culture of this region. At the same time, it gives our local schools the chance to compete in their own backyard against some of the best programs in the country.”
Last year the Pentagon become a safe haven for college teams looking for games while the pandemic was restricting competitive opportunities nationwide. In that time, the Pentagon’s reputation for hospitality and safety — and its status as a unique venue with an old-school feel — reached new pockets of the college basketball world.
This year the return of basketball-loving spectators rejoins the list of reasons it’s an enticing place to play a game and also watch one.
“Most importantly for us is that we’ll give our fans here in Sioux Falls the chance to celebrate our team without driving 45 minutes to see us play,” said SDSU head coach Eric Henderson, in his third year with the Jackrabbits. “We’re going to be able to play these teams on our own soil. Maybe not our home arena but our home soil. That makes this a unique and special opportunity.”
It is not everybody’s home soil, but it definitely qualifies as a special opportunity for the visiting teams.
For Washington coach Mike Hopkins, this will be his first visit to the Pentagon. He has information, however, that he is bringing along with the team thanks to Emmitt Matthews Jr., who was on the West Virginia team a year ago that won last year’s Crossover Classic.
“It’s one of these tournaments where you get high-quality basketball in a city that loves basketball,” Hopkins said. “When you’re in holiday tournaments, those are the ones you remember as special. I know they’re the ones that I considered special when I was a player.”
For former Indiana Hoosier legend Steve Alford, now in his third season as coach at Nevada, a stretch of seven games in 16 days has put a premium on limited practice time. Even with what was already looking like a crowded schedule, the Mammoth Sports Construction Crossover Classic still seemed like a good idea.
“Coming out of COVID, NCAA events were all over the place,” Alford said. “Sometimes you were in them and then you were out of them – there was a lot of confusion. Most importantly in this case, there was a lot of good feedback about the Pentagon from the teams that played there.”
Six helpings of basketball
- Nov. 22 – SDSU vs. Nevada (6 p.m.); George Mason vs. Washington (8:30 p.m.)
- Nov. 23 – George Mason vs. Nevada (6 p.m.); SDSU vs. Washington (8:30 p.m.)
- Nov. 24 – Nevada vs. Washington (6 p.m.); SDSU vs. George Mason (8:30 p.m.)
The Jackrabbits played eight games at the Pentagon last year and went on to win their fourth consecutive Summit League regular-season title. It was the seventh title in the last nine years for the program, which is the preseason favorite to finish on top again.
“Three games in three days is definitely challenging,” Henderson said. “But if you want to put your team in the NCAA tournament, you also want to put your team in some tough spots during the regular season. You don’t get this kind of opportunity too many times so we want to take advantage of it.”
The Jackrabbits’ 6’6” sophomore Baylor Scheierman and 6’7” senior Doug Wilson earned all-Summit honors a year ago and were named to the league’s preseason first team. Also back is 6’4” sophomore Noah Freidel, who was named to preseason second team.
On the opening night at the Pentagon, the Jacks will face Nevada. The squad is led by 6’2” point guard Grant Sherfield, the preseason Mountain West player of the year, and is coming off a 15-9 season.
“Across the board they’re an outstanding shooting team,” Alford said of the Jackrabbits. “It’s a physical team that plays hard at both ends of the court…It’s a good culture – they play with high energy and effort with a lot of good players.”
Next up for SDSU is Washington, led by Jamal Bey, a 6’6” guard who averaged 10.3 points a game last year. Newcomer Terrell Brown, Jr., a 6’3” graduate transfer from Arizona, has led the Huskies in scoring so far.
On Wednesday, SDSU faces George Mason, coached by former Missouri star Kim English, who is in his first year at George Mason. The top returnee is Josh Oduro, who averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds as a sophomore.
“The teams involved are going to get three really different games,” Smith said. “Depending on the day you could be facing a team that likes to run or a team that slows it down. You’ll get a chance to see what you’re good at and what you have to work on before entering conference play.”
- Crossover Classic returns to Sanford Pentagon for 2021
- West Virginia wins inaugural Crossover Classic
- National sports medicine council welcomes Sanford surgeon