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NCAA Basketball

Western Illinois Leathernecks Face A Big Test Against South Dakota State

Greg Smith-US Presswire

The Western Illinois Leathernecks are moving on up in the world of college basketball. The Leathernecks are now ranked No. 18 in the Mid-Major poll. This ranking comes on the eve of a huge matchup between the Leathernecks and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits and then an even bigger matchup between the North Dakota State Bison.

The Jackrabbits are in third place in the Summit League. They are currently 4-2 in the conference and 13-6 overall. They are ranked right behind the Leathernecks in the poll. Meanwhile, the Bison are 6-0 in the conference and 15-3 overall. They are currently ranked #10 in the poll.

The Leathernecks play the Jackrabbits on January 17th and then the Bison on the 19th. These next two games, will show where the Leathernecks really stand. Look, I’m not saying that the Leathernecks haven’t played great competition so far. The Leathernecks have, but the Bison and Jackrabbits are the two best teams in the conference. However, the Leathernecks can’t look ahead to the Bison. They have to focus on beating the Jackrabbits.

The Leathernecks should win this game but it won’t be easy. The Jackrabbits aren’t 4-2 for no reason. The Jackrabbits have three players that are averaging more than 10 points per a game. The star player on the Jackrabbits, Nate Wolters, scores 21.2 points per a game. The Jackrabbits also are ranked 70th in the nation in points per a game at 73.1, they also rank 73rd in the nation in field goal percentage at .457.

If the Leathernecks focus on defense then they will win this game. They rank fourth in the nation in defensive scoring; they have held their opponents to 52.2 points per a game. They are also ranked 34th in field goal percentage defense at 38.3%. The Leathernecks do shoot better than the Jackrabbits. They are ranked 27th in the nation in field goal percentage at .478.

The Leathernecks aren’t going to put a lot of points on the board. Even though they scored 89 on January 12th when they beat the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, the Leathernecks still only score 62.8 points per a game. That puts them 274th in the nation. This means that they can’t start trading baskets back and forth with the Jackrabbits.

The Leathernecks are playing with a purpose and drive that has never been seen before in the programs history. To win this game shut down the Jackrabbits early and keep the score low. After that, it’s time to play the Bison.

Who do you think will win the game? Leave a comment and follow me on Twitter @EvanCrum1319