Summit League predictions: Jan 29-Feb 2

I actually got some games right last week.  Every home team won last week, but it likely won’t be the same thing this week.

January 29th

South Dakota State @ Oral Roberts

Both teams are undefeated at home this season. The size of Emmanuel Nzekwesi, Kevin Obanor, and Elijah Lufile should be able to contest South Dakota State’s Douglas Wilson and Matt Dentlinger, who both shoot 61% from the floor. If Oral Roberts can alter their shots, they should be able to pick up the win at home.


January 30th

North Dakota @ Fort Wayne

The Mastodons are one of the sloppiest teams I’ve seen in the Summit League in a while.  Though, I will maintain IUPUI had some pretty sloppy teams in their day.  Even with that, North Dakota turns the ball over too much and Fort Wayne is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the conference, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities at possessions.

North Dakota State @ Western Illinois

The Leathernecks have had success against the Bison in the past in Macomb, but it usually takes a lot of things to go Wright for the Leathernecks and a lot of things to go wrong for the Bison. Seems like a bit to much of something to ask for from a team who may have given up on their head coach.

Please, recognize that play on words with “Wright” for the Leathernecks.

South Dakota @ Denver

The Coyotes defeated the Pioneers by just 2 points in Vermillion, so maybe you think home court advantage will come through for the Pioneers.  Maybe, maybe not. That game was played three weeks ago, and South Dakota wasn’t a fully healthy basketball team.  That game started a streak of the Coyotes winning 5 of the last 6 games. The one loss was at North Dakota State, a game that ended with a few questionable play calls.


February 1st

North Dakota State @ Fort Wayne

The most disciplined team against the least disciplined team.

South Dakota State @ Western Illinois

Am I crazy? Was it crazy when Western Illinois beat the Jackrabbits in Sioux Falls last March?  Yes it was.

Denver @ Oral Roberts

Denver is 0-10 on the road this season, and there is no plausible argument for anyone to make that they pick up their first road at the larger and more experienced Oral Roberts.


February 2nd

South Dakota @ Omaha on ESPN3

South Dakota defeated Omaha in Vermillion by 10, and home court advantage usually isn’t worth 10 total points.  Omaha had opportunities to win that game, but came up short in the end.

Omaha may have a 16 game home winning streak, and I am going to pray they win this game, Omaha has experienced scoring droughts in 5 consecutive home games forcing them to fight their way back to hold on for wins.  South Dakota is too experienced of a team and one of the best shooting teams in the country for the Mavericks to fall behind to.  Omaha is going to have to start out hot and keep it rolling for 40 straight minutes to beat the Coyotes.

The Mavericks will be playing this game on more rest than their opponent, however, the last time Omaha had a week of rest, they ended up losing in Denver by 15 points.

My trivial Summit League rankings: Jan 28

1st – South Dakota, 14-8 (5-3)

Last week’s ranking: 3rd

The Coyotes have won 5 of their last 6 games and shot higher than 50% in the last 4 games. Their bench hasn’t been what we thought it would be this season, but Ty Chisom and Brandon Armstrong have been giving the Coyotes quality minutes off the bench.  They haven’t really needed much of their bench as their starters are so solid.  All of their starters average 30 or more minutes per game.

Interesting stat: South Dakota is 4th in division one in 3 point field goal percentage.  The Coyotes also have the 9th best overall field goal percentage.  They also rank 37th in free throw percentage, and that’s 4th in the conference.  Western Illinois, North Dakota, and North Dakota State are all in the top 10.

2nd – South Dakota State, 15-8 (6-2)

Last week’s ranking: 2nd

In the preseason, I pointed out that it seems every year there is always a team with bunch of injuries and it’s just a year from hell.  I thought that would be South Dakota State this year, and while they have faced a number of injuries to key personnel, they are 6-2 in the first half of conference season.  Their players really buy into the The Next Guy philosophy.  After injuries to senior Brandon Key and junior Tray Buchanan, the team turned to sparingly used freshman Matt Mims, who has averaged 9.7 points and shot 67% from the field in the last few games.

Interesting stat: While seeing South Dakota was 4th in division one in field goal percentage, I also noticed South Dakota State is 14th.  They’ve ranked 1st in field goal percentage conference games. It helps when their two main interior post players Douglas Wilson and Matt Dentlinger both shoot higher than 60% from the field.  Also, somewhat scary they can shoot that well as a team and still average more than 10 offensive rebounds per game.

3rd – North Dakota State, 14-7 (5-2)

Last week’s ranking: 1st

Ranked 1st last week, and they dropped a game at South Dakota State and beat Denver, so not the biggest week to brag about.  It’s not like any of this matters.  It’s just winter and you came here because you’re bored.

Interesting stat: College Basketball Power Index predicts the Bison to have the best winning record at the end of the season, in the Summit League.  They have also had the weakest overall RPI Strength of Schedule if that makes you feel any better.

4th – Oral Roberts, 11-9 (4-3)

Last week’s ranking: 2nd 

The Golden Eagles only lost one game last week, at South Dakota, but one has to ask…if this team is known for their size and having such a strong interior presence, how did they let Tyler Hagedorn score 31 points and grab 9 rebounds against them?

Interesting stat: None, they’re boring.

5th – Omaha, 12-10 (5-2)

Last week’s ranking: 5th

Even if the Mavericks did win 2 games last week, they found themselves down after big scoring droughts in each game.  With moving Ayo Akinwole to the bench, the Mavericks will have 2 high energy guys off the bench with he and Marlon Ruffin hopefully providing sparks when the team finds themselves in those droughts.  Ruffin has scored in double figures in six consecutive games.

Interesting stat: Omaha has the highest RPI in the conference.

6th – North Dakota, 10-12 (4-4)

Last week’s ranking: 6th

After 4 straight losses, the Fighting Hawks were able to get a bit back on track with home wins over Denver and Western Illinois.  They really don’t have much of a bench, they may have a few more wins if they had one or two more quality guys.  Aanen Moody not playing since December 1st hasn’t helped.

Interesting stat: Marlon Stewart has won more Player of the Week awards than anyone in the conference this season.

7th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 9-13 (2-5)

Last week’s ranking: 7th

The Mastodons held a 5 point lead on the road against Omaha, but did not score for the last 4 1/2 minutes to let Omaha take back the lead for the win.  Jon Coffman stated that neither of his point guards have really been in that situation and the team really couldn’t hold their composure.  This has been consistent with their team play, as it frequently looks like no one really knows what’s going on and they are definitely the sloppiest team in the conference.

Interesting stat: They are leading the conference in Summit League games in rebounds and steals, but are still dead last in field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, points, turnovers, and defensive three point field goal percentage.  Two conference wins is actually fairly impressive when you take that into consideration.

8th – Western Illinois, 5-13 (2-6)

Last week’s ranking: 8th

The Leathernecks have lost three consecutive games and will now have North Dakota State and South Dakota State at home before two straight road games against Fort Wayne and South Dakota.  A wise bald man once said “d’oh!”

Interesting stat:  They’re pretty good at free throws.

9th – Denver, 5-17 (1-7)

Last week’s ranking: 9th

I’m not for or against Rodney Billups being fired, but I saw a supporter of his say his team is young so you have to give him a chance.  Well, his team was experienced last season and they still finished dead last.  South Dakota State is also just as young, and they’re currently first in the conference standings.  I realize this sounds like I’m pro Billups getting fired, but as an Omaha fan, he can coach Denver as long as he likes.

Interesting stat: Heading into last week, Denver had the 2nd fewest turnovers in the conference.  Last week against the North Dakota schools, the Pioneers had a total of 31 turnovers and now rank 7th in turnovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some post game Western Illinois observations

  • The Mavericks best lineup is the 4 captains (Matt Pile, JT Gibson, KJ Robinson, and Ayo Akinwole) and Marlon Ruffin.
  • Matt Pile’s 37 blocks this season is the most by a Maverick in a season since Omaha transitioned to division one.  There are at least 10 games left this season.
  • CJ Duff of Western Illinois is a sneaky good on ball defender. He forced Gibson to tough shots all night and kept him in front of him the entire time.
  • Matt Pile was 8-of-11 from the free throw line?!  The team was 22-of-25 overall?  Can we get that all the time?
  • This was likely Billy Wright’s last game as a head coach in Omaha.
  • Prior to the start of the season, we wondered who the guy to take the big shots for the Mavericks would be.  That guy is KJ Robinson.
  • Is KJ one of the most underrated Mavericks ever?  If not the most?  The leadership KJ Robinson displays in the second half of game might be some of the best we’ve ever seen.  He may actually enjoy playing from behind, though.
  • The play in which Ben Pyle went up for a lay up, but was blocked by both Matt Pile and Zach Thornhill was one of the best defensive plays to watch in The Baxter Arena.
  • Billy Wright stood outside of the coach’s box for most of the game. He finally received a warning with 2 minutes to go in the game.  Derrin Hansen called him a cheater, and I legitimately could not tell if he was joking.  He was most likely joking, but I seriously couldn’t tell.

More on Billy Wright..

Billy Wright as a head coach in the Summit League might be one of the biggest crimes ever.  The main reason his team had a first half lead was because the Mavericks could not hit shots.  Their threes were uncontested and just didn’t fall.  The Mavericks’ defense adjusted to nick nack officiating and made everything difficult on the Leathernecks in the second half. He couldn’t draw up a single play in the second half to get his players any easy looks.

He actually has quality players on his roster, and any Summit League coach could coach the Leathernecks to a better record.  The lack of discipline and ball movement on the offensive end doesn’t allow for the team to ever get in a flow.  His players frequently looked confused at his play calling in Omaha.

His players are the exact same players from their freshman year to their senior year who no development. I once was told he doesn’t believe in weight lighting during the season.  Business professors should look into renaming The Peter Principle into The Billy Principle.

This game against the Leathernecks is an important one

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s Western Illinois, and the Mavericks have won 14 straight home games, so you’re expecting an Omaha win, but don’t underestimate how important this game is for the Mavericks.

In a preseason post, I pointed out how the Mavericks’ last 5 of 7 games are on the road, so being in 1st place in the conference at the end of this 4 game home stand is the most important thing to the Mavericks. Their lack of depth and loss at Denver, makes protecting home court even more important.

Every conference game is important, but given the Mavericks only regularly playing 8 players, a day off in the Summit League tournament is what they need*. After a loss at Denver, the Mavericks are going to need to play their best basketball against the Leathernecks to gain that confidence and momentum with these 4 home games to head into the end of the regular season.

*Most of the Summit League teams aren’t really deep, so the first 2 seeds are important to everyone. Teams in the 5th and 6th spots with 2 weeks to go in the regular season might want to consider intentionally losing games to drop to the 7 seed to get a day off.

Ayo Akinwole started off the season hot, but has cooled off and gone missing as KJ Robinson has been playing strong for the Mavericks.  In the last 4 games, Akinwole has averaged 2.3 points and shot 29% from the field.  Don’t blame Robinson on this. I don’t know why you would, unless you’re a psycho, but Akinwole isn’t getting by dudes like he was at the beginning of the season.

Zach Thornhill also went missing against the Pioneers not scoring at all.

Marlon Ruffin has turned into the perfect energy guy off the bench to lift the Mavericks when the team runs into a drought.  When the Mavericks hit a lull in the game, he’s capable of starting the run.  KJ Robinson has also been that guy, but you expected that since the start of the season when you didn’t see him in the starting lineup.

The Leathernecks give up the most points per game in the Summit League at 84 points per game, and have the worst defensive field goal percentage at 50%.  So this is the game for the Mavericks to regain composure and confidence after a 2 game losing streak.

However, Western Illinois does have experienced players on their roster. Coming into the season, they had the 4th most division one minutes returning to their team in the Summit League.  They currently have 4 guys averaging double figure scoring numbers, and all 4 are capable of knocking down big threes.  I mention this, because at most Mavericks games I find myself some kid from the opposing team shooting lights out on a career day and screaming: “WHY CAN’T HE MISS!”

If the Mavericks have one of their typical lulls in the game, and they allow the Leathernecks to get hot, things could get dicey for the Mavericks.  I’m imagining a world where Omaha drops consecutive games to Denver and Western Illinois, it’s bad. It’s as bad as the time Netflix recommended I watch “Ghost Rider” as a 97% match.

 

 

Summit League predictions: Jan 22-25

Okay, while last week was a week for the Dakotas in the conference, this week it is just Omaha and the Dakotas with home games.  Scheduling is weird.

January 22nd

North Dakota State @ South Dakota State on ESPN3

If Douglas Wilson is not playing, the Bison sure do have a strong advantage.


January 23rd

Western Illinois @ Omaha

The worst rebounding team in the conference will go on the road to face the best rebounder in the conference. The Leathernecks have not won on the road in over 2 months.  In their two conference road games so far, they allowed South Dakota State and North Dakota State to shoot 51% from the floor.

If Matt Pile, JT Gibson, and KJ Robinson can play to their usual abilities, they should be able to extend their home winning streak to 15 games.  If not, I’m going to be a sad boy/

Denver @ North Dakota on ESPN+

I legitimately don’t have anything to say about this game.  Just one of the least interesting games of the year.

Fort Wayne @ South Dakota on ESPN+

The Mastodons were able to take advantage of a sore South Dakota team in Fort Wayne, perhaps the Coyotes are looking for a little revenge with Triston Simpson back at full strength.


January 25th

Denver @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

The Pioneers did win in Fargo in January two years ago in a down year for the Bison.  The teams have gone in opposite directions since then. The Bison’s love of controlling the pace and amount of possessions might be too much for the youthful Pioneers.

Oral Roberts @ South Dakota on ESPN3

Despite what the Summit League will want you to believe, this will be the game of the week.

South Dakota appears to be back to full health, but Oral Roberts is on a tear winning their last 4 games by 15 or more points.

Western Illinois @ North Dakota

These teams have the same amount of depth, Paul Sather’s team isn’t striving in the three point offense he prefers, but they do have decent shooters and should hopefully strive against the worst defense in the conference.

Fort Wayne @ Omaha

Usually a great game you never know who will win until it’s over, but this isn’t the same Fort Wayne team we’ve seen the last 4 years.

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Jan 21 (also some interesting stats)

So I didn’t do this last week as I felt there really wasn’t much of a change in the rankings, but last week was a big week for the Summit League. I know you missed it last week.

1st – North Dakota State, 13-6 (4-1)

My last ranking: 2nd

Huge week for the Bison last week. They picked up 2 home wins, they beat South Dakota at home with a last second shot by Tyson Ward after drawing up an amazing play to get him a free lane to the basket for an easy layup.  Then they were able to bring back senior Jared Samuelson back into the lineup to help beat their in-state rival North Dakota.

Interesting stat: Vinnie Shahid has not missed a free throw in over a month.

2nd – Oral Roberts, 11-8 (4-2)

My last ranking: 6th

After dropping their two first conference games on the road, the Golden Eagles have won 4 in a row.  Including two beat downs on the road over Western Illinois and Fort Wayne.

Interesting stat: In non-conference games, Oral Roberts had the worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the Summit League. In conference games, Oral Roberts has the best assist-to-turnover ratio.

3rd – South Dakota, 12-8 (3-3)

My last ranking: 5th

The Coyotes came close to picking up a win in Fargo. With the game tied, Cody Kelley drove into the lane late in the game, but was called for a charge in just an awkward call. The play was awkward, he ran into a Bison player and fell to the ground while trying to make a pass to an open teammate.  The official seemed to even take a second to process what happened before making the call.

The Coyotes picked up a win against their in-state rival on Sunday, and shot 64% from the field. Holy schnitzels.

South Dakota has been struggling lately as they’ve been waiting for Triston Simpson to get back to playing at full strength.  Simpson was 8-of-9 from the floor against South Dakota State, so yeah, I’m thinking he’s back.

Interesting stat: Tyler Hagedorn is currently 3rd in division one in three point field goal percentage, shooting 55% on threes.

4th – South Dakota State, 14-8 (5-2)

My last ranking: 3rd

Their star player Douglas Wilson did not play against South Dakota. That won’t turn out well if he is out for an extended period of time. Senior point guard Brandon Key did come back in limited minutes against the Coyotes.

Interesting stat: The Jackrabbits have the most players averaging at least 10 points per game in Summit League play with 5 players at with least 11 points per game.

5th – Omaha, 10-10 (3-2)

My last ranking: 1st

Oh boy. A 3-of-17 performance from JT Gibson in a 15 point loss to Denver. The Mavericks are a young team, and typically young teams don’t do well on the road, so it’s a good thing the Mavericks will have 4 games in a row at home.  Unfortunately, 5 of their last 7 games will be on the road, and I’ve said it before, it is extremely important for the Mavericks to be in first place in the conference when they head to South Dakota State on February 8th.

Interesting stat: With 3 blocks at Denver, Matt Pile passed Tre’Shawn Thurman with the most career blocks since the Mavericks transitioned to Division 1.  Matt Pile, as of Tuesday, is currently tied for 20th in Division 1 in rebounds averaging 10.3 per game.

6th – North Dakota, 8-12 (2-4)

My last ranking: 4th

The Fighting Hawks have dropped 4 in a row, three of those games were on the road at Oral Roberts, Denver, and Western Illinois.  Now, they’ll have a chance to get back on the right track with home games against Western Illinois and Denver this week.

Interesting stat: North Dakota averages the most turnovers in the conference.  They are also ranked behind North Dakota State in every single statistical category except for rebounds…but the Bison do average a better rebounding margin.

7th – Fort Wayne, 9-11 (2-3)

My last ranking: 7th

The Mastodons’ two conference wins are against Western Illinois and South Dakota, who was inserting Triston Simpson back into the lineup after an injury.  The Dons are also the only team in the conference who haven’t really faced an injury issue this season.

Interesting stat: Usually one of the highest scoring offenses in the Summit League, the Mastodons are currently 9th in points per game, nearly 4 points less per game than Western Illinois.  The Mastodons are also last in field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage.  So it actually should not shock you that they average the most offensive rebounds in the conference play.

8th – Western Illinois, 5-11 (2-4)

My last ranking: 8th

I guess the Leathernecks have also yet to face a real injury to any of their players.

Interesting stat: Someone recently was telling me Brandon Gilbeck got so many blocks last season because he had so many opportunities as the Leathernecks were so bad at defense he had to erase all of their mistakes.  Currently in conference play, the Leathernecks give up the most points per game, have the worst defensive field goal percentage, and the worst rebounding margin.  It’s probably not good they also shoot the 8th worst field goal percentage on the offensive end.

9th – Denver, 5-15 (1-5)

My last ranking: 9th

Denver beat Omaha and I’m so furious I’m going to throw my laptop at someone!

There is chatter among Pioneer fans debating if Denver should let Rodney Billups ride out his contract through next season, or fire him at the end of this season.  I don’t think beating Omaha should help the argument for him not being fired, but it certainly doesn’t hurt it.

Interesting stat: Denver actually averages the 2nd least amount of turnovers in the Summit League, which is pretty remarkable for such a young team.  They do average the most fouls and send their opposition to the line more than anyone, though.

 

Summit League predictions: Jan 15-19

Man, I went 3-5 last week at this.  I was feeling like living life on the edge and taking some risks, but still.

One might consider this Rivalry Week in the conference with the North Dakotas playing the South Dakotas and the North Dakotas play each other and the South Dakotas play each other.  While the rest of the us struggle accepting the conference doesn’t actually care about us.

January 15

North Dakota @ South Dakota State on ESPN+

The Fighting Hawks are bad on the road, and the Jackrabbits are 10-0 at home this season. Though, it should be worth considering the only team that has played against the Jackrabbits in Brookings with a better RPI than North Dakota was Oral Roberts.  The Jackrabbits shot 62% against Oral Roberts to win that game.

With health issues, neither team is particularly deep at the moment.  North Dakota does match up well with South Dakota State.  Filip Rebraca and Kienan Walter match up well against Matt Dentlinger and Douglas Wilson, and Marlon Stewart will hit some big shots to keep the game close.

Paul Sather’s offense will want to take a bunch of 3s, but South Dakota State is the best Summit League team at defending the 3.  I think the Jackrabbits win the game, but North Dakota can beat the spread.

South Dakota @ North Dakota State on ESPN+

These teams match up really well.  Their big glaring difference is that the Bison pride themselves on making the most of each and every possession, and South Dakota forces more turnovers than anyone else in the Summit League.  The big difference maker for North Dakota State losing to Oral Roberts was turnovers.  They had 4 more turnovers and lost by 6 points.

I’m going with South Dakota in this one.  It’s a big risk considering South Dakota has yet to win a road game in the conference so far, and their losses were to Western Illinois and Fort Wayne.

The Bison played Oral Roberts without Jared Samuelson and Sam Griesel.


January 16

Oral Roberts @ Western Illinois

The Golden Eagles have not won in Macomb since 2016.  They have won a game in the state of Illinois this season when they defeated Chicago State.  Also, let’s just add Chicago State to the conference already.  I get it, they’re atrocious, but I need an excuse to go to Chicago.

This game seems to lay completely on the shoulders of Kevin Obanor.  If he just wants to hang out on the perimeter and not play aggressive, it allows for Ben Pyle to not really play defense, and Western Illinois is a much better basketball team when Pyle plays well.


January 18

Oral Roberts @ Fort Wayne

Oral Roberts has not won in Fort Wayne since coming back to the Summit League (the Western Illinois and Fort Wayne trip isn’t kind to them).  They’ve also lost 5 in a row to Fort Wayne…granted that was all with John Konchar.

It’s upsetting as Oral Roberts is considered the most talented team in the league by people who actually pay attention to the conference.  They do shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers and bad shot selection, something Jon Coffman’s team would love to take advantage of.

Omaha @ Denver

The team with the best RPI in the conference versus the team with the worst RPI in the conference.

The Pioneers are going to be throwing a true freshman out there to guard Matt Pile, JT Gibson hit 5 threes in Denver last season and led all scorers in the game with 22 points.

I’m going to be real sad if Omaha loses this game.

North Dakota @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

Again, due to health reasons, neither team is particularly deep at the moment.

Is it weird I don’t care and I just can’t possibly imagine the Bison two straight at home?  Aside from that, the Fighting Hawks are just a generally more inconsistent basketball team.


January 19

South Dakota State @ South Dakota on ESPN+

South Dakota is the more talented team and experienced team, by far.  They have had issues the last few weeks with Triston Simpson struggling to get back into a groove after an injury.  With the feelings of being The B School in the state, the Coyotes are out to have something to prove, and with 5 seniors in the rotation, this is their biggest opportunity to take some notoriety and respect in their own state.  This Jackrabbits squad is a team set up for the future, but the Coyotes are set up for right now.

I suppose anything can happen with an in-state rivalry, I wouldn’t know from experience.  If your school’s fraternities can get in a bar fight with another school’s fraternities on a weekly basis, you should be required to play each other in basketball.