1. South Dakota State, 7-2
Last week: 2nd
They’re getting healthier, and their core is back and playing well together. Good for them… Mike Daum has emerged as one of the top post players in the league, and could really be the presence this team needs to win the Summit League.
The Jacks have not been as good on the road, and they still have to play at IPFW and at Omaha this season. That game in Omaha could really be the biggest crowd the Mavericks get all season, maybe around 4,000 or so. There is a part of me hoping that the Coyotes end at 8th in the Summit, as they would really give the Jacks problems in the first round of the Summit League tournament.
2. IPFW, 7-2
Last week: 3rd
Max Landis is averaging 5.3 assists per game since Mo Evans was declared ineligible. He is averaging nearly 40 minutes a game as well. Could the ‘Dons start to losing games if Landis’ legs are getting too tired to shoot and play basketball? They have a tough road week at South Dakota (who IPFW beat by 20) and at North Dakota State (who IPFW beat by 5).
3. Omaha, 7-2
Last week: 1st
Clearly, I love the Mavericks, but their two losses are to South Dakota State and IPFW. Tim Smallwood just averaged 12.5 points last week, and Randy Reed averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds…how good could the Mavs be with that production from them every game?
4. IUPUI, 7-2
Last week 5th
The Jaguars have 7 games left this season, and have already surpassed how many conference wins they had last season (as did Omaha). This is the only team in the league with a win over South Dakota State and IPFW, the home loss to Oral Roberts is still a little shaky.
They won 2 games last week by a total of 3 points. Matt O’Leary had to go 9-of-9 from the field to beat Western Illinois, and IUPUI needed a three pointer from Jordan Pickett at the end of the game to beat the Bison…and Paul Miller just barely missed a full court shot to win the game. To win against North Dakota State in the final minute, their defense was able to force the inbound pass to Dexter Werner, who is a 61% free throw shooter…and he went 1-of-2 from the line (2-of-6 overall).
This team has some offensive deficiencies to really beat down any teams, but they defense can really give everyone problems, and they can keep any game close. The Jaguars have their next 4 of 5 on the road, so they could begin to fall from the other teams at 7-2.
Jordan Pickett looks good after hitting a game winning shot against North Dakota State, but he continues to get better and better. He is also an incredibly mature player if you listen to him talk. He was one of the transfers from Loyola, and Pickett could become a top three point guard in the Summit over the next two seasons…and he could be a big help as to why the Jaguars will be competing for the regular season title next year.
5. North Dakota State, 4-4
Last week: 4th
Kory Brown is turning into the scorer, averaging 16.4 points over the last 5 games, that the Bison wanted him to be with the departure of Lawrence Alexander. Their offense is really difficult to watch when Paul Miller goes to the bench, surprisingly, Paul Miller is the best on the team at driving to the basket. The Bison have a winnable home schedule remaining with: IPFW, Western Illinois, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts. Their remaining road schedule though is: South Dakota, South Dakota State, Omaha, and Denver.
6. Denver, 3-6
Last week: 8th
Denver beat South Dakota, and was pretty close with South Dakota State pretty late in the game on Saturday. The Pioneers are still not a very good road team, and they have a three straight games on the road in a row in a few weeks.
7. South Dakota, 2-7
Last week: 7th
The Coyotes lost to Denver by 14 last week, which is pretty much a beat down. Still the number one seed will not at all want to play the Coyotes in Sioux Falls. Tyler Flack had 14 points and 6 rebounds against Omaha on Saturday. Flack missed all of the 2014-2015 season with a back injury, if Flack can be fully healthy and effective, the Coyotes could be deeper and deadlier with him back in the lineup.
Vermillion is a difficult place for away teams to play, so maybe the Coyotes can get going on a little run now with three home games in a row. But seriously South Dakota, just seed yourself to play South Dakota State in Sioux Falls.
8. Oral Roberts, 3-6
Last week: 6th
All that the Golden Eagles had last week was IPFW, and Oral Roberts gave up a lead to lose the game in the final minutes. Oral Roberts is on a three game losing streak, but those three losses are to South Dakota State, Omaha, and IPFW; and now they are going into a week at North Dakota State and South Dakota, two games that Oral Roberts should not be favored in.
This team is athletic, but young and they haven’t played too many games together. In the last few minutes of their game against IPFW, players held onto the ball too long, didn’t even pay attention to the shot clock, and played as if the season did not even matter. It doesn’t matter how good of a coach Scott Sutton is if his players do not listen to him.
9. Western Illinois, 0-9
Last week: 9th
I think instead of talking about the Leathernecks, it would be more useful and more productive if I told you about a yogurt fruit mix my wife and I make. It’s vanilla Greek fit yogurt mixed with apples, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, and sunflower kernels. It’s pretty freaking tasty, and really good as a breakfast. I got the plain Greek fit yogurt, instead of vanilla, and I got to tell you…it was pretty awful. So get vanilla. It wasn’t my fault, HyVee was out of Vanilla because of so many people stocking up for Snowmagedon. Really, why do people stalk up for something that might force them home for one and maybe two days?
I will add this about Western Illinois…ah hell, never mind.