March Madness is officially upon us and, even though the Minnesota Golden Gophers didn't make it once again (they'll play in the 2012 NIT Tournament bracket, though), readers of SB Nation Minnesota will have a team to root for in the 2012 NCAA Tournament field. That's because our neighbors to the west, the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits, are dancing for the first time in school -- and state -- history after receiving a No. 14 seed and ensuing date with the Baylor Bears.
The Jackrabbits are located in lovely little Brookings, S.D., but we're not going to follow their path to the NCAA championship just because they're located less than a half hour from the Minnesota border. The reason it makes sense to keep such a close eye on them is because
their mascot is a Jackrabbit, duh their top player is St. Cloud native Nate Wolters.
Wolters averaged 21.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds for the Jackrabbits during the regular season, leading the team in all three categories while gaining national attention as a junior at a Summit League school. Sweet-shooting power forward Jordan Dykstra is probably going to be the team's other player to get attention this week, but senior guard Griffan Callahan hit some big shots over the course of the season and Chad White is typically excellent off the bench.
The Jackrabbits finished the season strong, winning 11 of their final 12 games -- including the Summit League tournament to get the league's automatic tournament bid -- but the win people are going to want be aware of came against the Washington Huskies in December. Wolters scored 34 points and Callahan hit all three of his 3-point attempts in that game as the Huskies defeating the Pac-12's regular season championships by 19 points.
South Dakota State drew a pretty difficult matchup in the first round as the Baylor Bears are one of the worst teams the Jackrabbits could have to face in the first round considering Baylor's roster is quite athletic when comparing them to the Jackrabbits. Wolters could certainly cause problems for Baylor, though, and the Jackrabbits could pull off the upset if the shots are falling from beyond the arc for the rest of South Dakota State's roster.