My friend and I were talking and making fun of the Big 10 in how it has all these challenges, really I do not know if two challenges classifies as “all of these” but still, one sounds like enough. Anyway, we were talking, and we got on the subject that the Summit League should get a challenge going. It might not make a bunch of a sense really. Challenges are meant for the bigger conferences, I guess, but really they are meant for some nice television ratings and to ensure all of the bigger conference teams do not just schedule all the SWAC and American East teams of the world…or the Summit League teams.
Maybe for a conference like the Summit League it would not mean a world of exposure, but it could at least ensure a game on television, or atleast ESPN3, for each of the schools involved in a challenge. It seams most Summit League teams automatically throw in some WAC and/or Big Sky teams on the schedule, so really if you put together a challenge with the Summit League and the WAC or Big Sky, you really would not create much of a buzz. So my friend and I (lazily) threw out the Missouri Valley Conference as a potential challenger to the Summit League.
It does not have that high amount of prestige that the Big 10/ACC Challenge has, but what does, really? A bulk of the teams are already all in the same region, some even go after the same recruits, so maybe there would not be much national exposure to this, but regionally it could pick up a decent amount of attention. Fox Sports could get in on this, they seem to like the Missouri Valley, mainly because there is not a whole bunch else they can pick up, so they could get behind this.
So here, I put together what it could look like if these two teams were to meet up in a challenge. I based it off of the 2014-2015 standings, and took Wichita State out, just because, you know… After you see this, you will clearly see that I am in no way qualified to coordinate a conference versus conference challenge. But it actually creates for some pretty fun and interesting match ups if you get these conferences got together.
Final 2014-2015 RPI Rankings in parenthesis.
North Dakota State (94) @ Northern Iowa (11)
Admit it, you just got a little excited and you may have to go to the bathroom. Both schools have gone up against each in recruiting, in just about every single sport that both have available. If you have ever been to the Northern Iowa or the Fargo areas you will know that both like to pretend that they are in the state of Minnesota.
This could really serve as the marquee match up of this hypothetical challenge. Obviously, Northern Iowa finished with a much higher RPI ranking, and South Dakota State even finished higher than North Dakota State, so really you could flip-flop the two. North Dakota State has earned some national recognition for themselves, probably a little more than Northern Iowa sadly. Northern Iowa really seemed to sneak up on people in the middle of the 2014-2015 season, but really they are almost always a really solid team that can go right up against anyone. This game could really be the, Can North Dakota State Prove Themselves game, or the Is Northern Iowa Really That Good game, depending on which way you want to look at it. I want to put a disclaimer here, that I believe both schools are the real deal, but most people unfamiliar with both schools pretty much never give either of them any credit and attribute their winning to playing a weak schedule.
Knowing what I know about Fargonians, if you take the pride that they have in North Dakota State, which is a ton of pride, and you remind them that Northern Iowa snapped the football team’s winning streak, they might declare war on the state of Iowa until this game were to actually happen in basketball. Honestly, if this game were to happen in 2015, I am not sure North Dakota State has anyone that can handle Seth Tuttle. AJ Jacobson and Chris Kading are pretty good, but Tuttle is incredibly consistent and he is 6’8″ and 240 and can do literally everything.
Illinois State (53) @ South Dakota State (84)
It just so happens that these two teams will see each other in the Cancun Challenge in November. It is no guarantee that they will play each other, but they could at least see each at the hotel or something.
Both teams won 20+ games last season, and both made it to the 2nd round of the NIT in the 2014-2015 season. The teams though are returning the opposite type of players though. Illinois State is returning more post players, while South Dakota State is returning an incredibly solid core of guards. Both teams played 35 games in 2014-2015, the Jackrabbits attempted 116 more threes on the season than Illinois State did, so that might be an indicator of the different styles of play that the two teams go with…or it might be some dumb weird coincidence that stats are lying about, I honestly did not watch any Illinois State games last year.
IPFW (215) @ Indiana State (177)
Hey, hey, hey, Indiana! Indiana is a basketball state, but these two schools have not really profited off of that notion for quite some time. These schools appear to be moving in opposite directions with Indiana State on the rise and IPFW on the fall. Okay, has IPFW ever really been on the top of the world? Probably not, but they continue to underachieve. Maybe a little match up with the Sycamores could get them to care. It is not like the Sycamores are above exceptional, but they do have more glamour than the Mastodons do. Wait for it, wait for it…IPFW graduated a good deal of their core, while the Sycamores only graduated two players that were the 4th and 6th best scorers on the team.
(I think) The last time these two teams met was in 2006 in Fort Wayne. The Sycamores won the game 67-61 in front of about 2400 people. Indiana State finished that season 13-18 and IPFW finished 12-17. It is totally cool to not fully understand why people think Indiana is a basketball state.
Evansville (82) @ Oral Roberts (156)
Okay, we are getting lucky here. An Indiana-Indiana match up and now a Private School-Private School match up. Evansville always seems to be a bit of a wild card, and Oral Roberts is showing every sign of being a wild card in 2015-2016. This game could seriously be directed by Wes Anderson. You would be entertained, but you really would not know why. It would be incredibly slow at moments, and then just oddly paced for brief stints to confuse the crap out of you. You would constantly be thinking that you know what will happen next, but you will pretend to be surprised that it actually happened the way you thought it would exactly happen. You would also pretend that you were entertained the whole time afterwards, and somehow forget that you were just survived 2 of the most boring hours of your life, but hey that one guy was really good in it.
South Dakota (212) @ Loyola (87)
Nothing gets you going like an old Coyotes and Ramblers match, or a good old Vermillion against Chicago atmosphere. Does it shock anyone else to hear that Loyola had an RPI of 87? With the exception of a loss to Southern Illinois, the Ramblers really had a season in which they lost to the teams you would have expected them to lose and they won the game they should have won. This was the same team that most of us made fun of as the replacement to Creighton in the Valley. South Dakota exceeded expectations in 2014-2015, much like the Ramblers, but the expectations were so incredibly low for the Coyotes that no one outside of the Summit league seemed to notice. There was some inconsistency, like just about every team in the Summit League…they picked up a win against North Dakota State, but also lost to IUPUI.
Drake (259)@ Denver (234)
We are back on a little private school on private school action. Both teams will return very little in 2015-2016, so this would turn out to be a Who the Hell is That Guy With the Ball? game. Drake had transfers from Northwestern and Penn State sitting out, so they will have some instant help coming in, note that I did not say instant stars, I said instant help.
Also, take note that this is the state of Colorado against the state of Iowa. Those two states have a hate for each other that I will never understand. Maybe it is the fact that they are complete opposites. One has mountains, one has trailer parks, sorry for the slams Iowa, but seriously. I like to think it is because of the episode of South Park when they find the guy frozen from the early 90s, and to help the guy adjust to modern times they send him to Des Moines because it is constantly 3 years behind in everything. South Park is completely factual.
Wait, back to this…Denver is known for not scoring a bunch of points, not because of the inability to do so, but more so for the ability to be patient and wait for shots. With that in mind, Denver scored more points per game than Drake. That is how fun Drake is at the moment. I watched a few of their game this last season, they were incredibly slow, and not because they ran an offense like Denver’s, but because their players were physically all incredibly slow. Drake did shoot 41% on threes in 2014-2015, so there is that.
Missouri State (237) @ IUPUI (257)
These two teams between them only had one guy that averaged more than 10 points per game. that one player, Marcus Marshall, averaged 19.5 before leaving the team in January. I am really not building up a great case of this challenge to be an entertaining series. But IUPUI already gets every game of theirs on ESPN 3 somehow…
Omaha (299) @ Southern Illinois (274)
I love how outside of a basketball game, Derrin Hansen seems like the most fun loving guy you will ever encounter, like he would just go get a beer and watch the NBA playoffs and crack a bunch of jokes with you…but on the sideline he never smiles and is completely ready for business. There is no limit on the price that I would pay to see Derrin Hansen mean mug Barry Hinson all night.
Southern Illinois fans are some of the most sport educated people you will ever encounter. In case you cannot tell, I am being sarcastic. They are probably unaware that UNO is division one, but that is cool, it is not their job to know. But when their fans are looking up information on Omaha on their Motorala Razrs they will realize that their former big time rival is from Omaha. Ohhhhhhhhh, this will boil their blood like no other.
Western Illinois (328) @ Bradley (280)
This would definitely be the Aquaman versus Namor the Sub-Mariner of the crossover. That is a DC vs. Marvel reference, and a damn good one if you ask me. Western Illinois has Garrett Covington and JC Fuller to help them appear entertaining, note that I said entertaining. and not championship contending. Bradley has, well I am sure they have something entertaining about them. I know, I know, I have been completely ignorant for a guy that is in love with a basketball team that finished 299 in RPI.