I find preseason rankings pointless. So here are some preseason rankings. After the conference schedule has been released in the last two seasons, I have ran through each team’s schedules and done different predictions through different scenarios.
The first time I would go through and predict wins and losses based on different factors, such as: who is coming off a tougher game, who has a better bench, who is just a better overall team, who do I hate less, who is a better defensive team, and so on and so on. I add up all the wins and losses and then that’s how I come to rankings.
Like last season, there doesn’t really seem to be much separation in the Summit League from 2 to 7. There are not many automatic wins. The 4 seed won in the conference championship last season, so anyone has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Don’t come at me if you don’t like the rankings.
1) South Dakota State – projected conference wins: 9 to 12
As the 4 seed in the Summit League tournament in 2017, the Jackrabbits were able to ride Mike Daum all the way to the NCAA Tournament. They have Mike Daum back, and they even return 75% of their scoring, so it’s pretty easy to envision them as the best team in the conference.
The Jackrabbits graduated their starting point guard Michael Orris, who was 4th in the Summit League in assists per game. On paper, they have what it seems to make up for that production after signing junior college transfer Brandon Key, who averaged 7.2 assists per game as a sophomore and was 5th in NJCAA in assists. They were also able to sign Dallas Polk-Hilliard from junior college, who averaged 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore. Polk-Hilliard once had an offer from the Mavericks.
The Jackrabbits are going to be able to play small, play big, shoot threes, defend, and they have a pretty deep bench to go along with a solid starting 5. Summit League teams are going to have to rely on the Jackrabbits making mistakes and beating themselves in order to pick up a win against South Dakota State.
2) Denver – projected conference wins: 8 to 9
The Pioneers were supposed to have a difficult time transitioning to Rodney Billups’ offense, but they had no problem last season. They only lost CJ Bobbitt from their rotation, who transferred to New Mexico State. The team is also bound to not run out of steam as they are able to go 9 or 10 players deep.
If the Pioneers can get to a situation where they South Dakota State in the conference championship, can Daniel Amigo show up to play? Amigo scored in double figures in all but three conference games last season, including the conference tournament. All three of those games were against South Dakota State.
3) South Dakota – projected conference wins: 8 to 9
The Coyotes still have Matt Mooney, who is a top 5 player in the league. They are still going to play great defense, and hustle, and do the things that they do to help themselves win basketball games. They do have more question marks than you would think.
Their top post player graduated, and their starting point guard transferred to Georgetown, so there is a little ground to make up there. Junior forwards Dan Jech and Tyler Hagedorn have yet to show consistency in their careers, and no one is even really sure what Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller can be. Without a back up point guard, sophomore Triston Simpson is going to have to play some big minutes at the point. Matt Mooney will likely have to play stretches at the point guard spot.
4) Fort Wayne – projected conference wins: 7 to 9
John Konchar could win 5 conference games completely on his own, so they really just need a few more guys to step up to be in the top half of the conference. The ‘Dons are still going to come out and hit threes and play at a fast pace.
They will have a solid starting 5, but out of all the teams competing for the Summit League championship, Fort Wayne has the most questionable bench. If they find themselves in foul trouble in big games, other teams should be able to outplay them. Again, like in 2015-2016, the Mastodons don’t have a deep enough team to last three nights in a row in the Summit League tournament, so it’s going to be very important for them to land in the top 2 seeds.
5) North Dakota State Bison- projected conference wins: 7 to 9
The Bison are actually the youngest team in the Summit League this season. You know what happened the last time they were the youngest team in the Summit League? Lawrence Alexander led them to the conference championship, but the Summit League wasn’t as deep as it is now back then. Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson are the only two seniors on the team, and Jacobson is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.
The Bison pride themselves on guys stepping up when someone goes down, and I’m sure a star will rise this season, but can Paul Miller carry the Bison like Lawrence Alexander once did? Can this young team mentally get through the last 4 of 5 conference games on the road heading into the conference tournament?
6) Omaha – projected conference wins: 5 to 8
The Mavericks seem to have too much to make up after losing Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, and Tre’Shawn Thurman. Omaha is actually the oldest team in the Summit League after adding transfers Renard Suggs and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey to the lineup, but there still appears to be a lot to figure out for the Mavericks. They may even have a difficult time figuring out rotations against a non-conference schedule against Oklahoma, Washington, Louisville, TCU, and Kansas.
Losing 4 steals per game from Tra-Deon Hollins will be difficult in the sense that they may not be able to play as much transition offense as they did the last two seasons, which was Omaha’s comfort zone. There will have be more half court sets and ball movement this season, which hasn’t been a huge strength of theirs in recent memory. They do have the pieces around Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to be competitive in the Summit League and play in half court sets, but there cannot be as many mistakes as there has been in the last season.
Figuring out how to divide up 40 minutes between Daniel Meyer, Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, and Matt Pile sounds like it could be a challenge for Derrin Hansen. After seeing Matt Pile play against Creighton and show off his rebounding ability, and how good he is at setting screens, he may find himself beating out two seniors for minutes this season.
7) Oral Roberts – projected conference wins: 2 to 5
Paul Mills is known as being able to coach up an intense defense, and the Golden Eagles are going to need that in his first season.
Oral Roberts has the least amount of offense returning from last season, after graduating three starters and Kris Martin transferring to Colorado State. The team has a serious three headed monster in the post with Albert Owens, Emmanuel Nzekwesi, and Javan White, but is that really a threat in a run-and-gun league? They are capable of pulling off an upset against anyone, but consistency looks to be an issue for this team.
8) Western Illinois- projected wins: 1 to 4
I could not say with any confidence that any starter on their basketball team could start for any other Summit League team. The Leathernecks could be classically bad.
Brandon Gilbeck averaged 3 blocks a game last season. That’s cool, I guess. Maybe he could have a break out season after the Leathernecks graduated their two leading scorers, and have few offensive weapons on the team.