The college basketball ranks in the state of South Dakota have been dominated by South Dakota State and Augustana University over the last few years, but there has been a change in that landscape this season.

The University of South Dakota men's basketball team has taken the reigns as the best team in the state of South Dakota right now.

SDSU has struggled to find their way and Augustana lost so many great seniors that they are navigating through the NSIC without key contributors from a year ago.

That left the door open for USD to take a step forward and that is exactly what they have done this season.

USD is off to a 12-7 start and have begun play in the Summit League with a 3-1 record with two consecutive wins over Denver and IUPUI after a last second loss to SDSU on New Years Eve.

And yes, I realize that USD lost to SDSU in that game in Brookings, but the better team on that court that night didn't win.  SDSU has the best player in the state in Mike Daum and his bucket at the end was the difference, but the better TEAM that night and right now is USD.

The fact that USD rebounded from a last second loss to SDSU on the road and turned it into two consecutive conference wins, shows the heart and growth of this team.

Craig Smith has done a excellent job of legitimizing the USD program since he took over and this season could be that building block that has eluded that program for so long.

One thing that really impressed me with Smith, was when he once told me that he and the rest of the staff wear USD gear all over and try and market 24/7 on the recruiting trail to hopefully plant seeds for the future. The foresight and awareness of what it takes off the court to build a brand that wasn't well known is just another reason why the success is happening in Vermilion.

There is a long time between now and the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls in March, but if USD continues the effort, production and commitment, this could be a year to remember for the Coyotes.

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