How is it going? Has the New Year been pretty good to you? Do you have those 6 pack abs yet? Nope, well that sucks. At least there is basketball.
I wrote a post for an Oral Roberts at Omaha preview for Saturday, but forgot to hit the “publish” button, so here we are. We’re going to do some rankings out of my genuine incompetence.
1st – Omaha, 9-8 (2-0)
Last week’s ranking: 3rd
The Mavericks have won three consecutive tough games in a row, however, they have all been at home. Omaha will face a tough test with three straight road games.
Omaha has 4 veteran leaders who can help power them through tough moments in games, combining that with sophomore role players like Zach Thornhill, Wanjang Tut, and Marlon Ruffin will make the Mavericks a tough beat for anyone in the conference.
Also, it should be worth noting the Mavericks started 2020 with a three point field goal by Tut and two swishes at the free throw line by Matt Pile.
2nd – North Dakota State, 11-5, (2-0)
Last week’s ranking: 2nd
Why would Omaha jump over North Dakota State for the top ranking when they’re both 2-0 in the conference? The Mavericks defeated Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, two teams who received 1st Place votes in the Summit League Preseason Coaches’ Poll. North Dakota State defeated Denver and Western Illinois, two of the worst teams in the Summit League.
3rd – South Dakota State, 11-5 (2-1)
Last week’s ranking: 5th
After losing to Omaha, the Jackrabbits defeated Oral Roberts and then gave a full out beat down to Western Illinois.
This has been with a lack of depth due to injuries to Brandon Key and Tray Buchanan, and with only returning 15% of their scoring from last season. I guess I’m impressed.
Luckily, for the Jackrabbits, they are loved by the Summit League office. This week will be their toughest week, travel wise, as they travel to Denver and then all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play the Mastodons. Pretty cool it comes on winter break.
Aside from my psycho conspiracy theory, prior to the start of the season Eric Henderson said this team was going to have to play an unselfish brand of basketball and the team was going to have to make up their loss in scoring from last season as an entire unit. They have done just that, and they have started the conference season off strong.
4th – North Dakota, 8-8, (2-0)
Last week’s ranking: 6th
When reviewing the Fighting What Are They Nows over the summer, I was impressed at how much they had returning and it appeared as if Paul Sather could be a great fit for what they had as a team.
North Dakota has won 3 of their last 4, one of those wins at Nebraska. North Dakota might be real, and another team to showcase just how deep and even the Summit League is this year.
Also, Marlon Stewart is averaging 25.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists to start off the Summit League this season. That’s okay.
5th – South Dakota, 10-7, (1-2)
Injuries plagued the Coyotes last season, and much of the same has happened this season. Senior point guard Triston Simpson was able to return at the start of the Summit League season, but the Coyotes dropped road games to Western Illinois and Fort Wayne, as Simpson struggled.
They also defeated Denver by just 2 points at home. The Coyotes’ next three games will be against Omaha, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State. This could be another long season if the Coyotes do not find themselves at full strength soon.
You could argue that none of this really matters, as all that matters in this league is who wins the Summit League championship game. This was supposed to be the Coyotes’ year, and Todd Lee’s expectations for this team was to win the regular season and to at least make the NIT.
6th – Oral Roberts, 7-8 (0-2)
Last week’s ranking: 4th
The Golden Eagles dropped their first two conference games, and will have two tough tests at home as both North Dakota schools make their way to Tulsa…also North Dakota schools traveling to Oklahoma in January has got to be like traveling to Phoenix for a normal person.
Oral Roberts really should have beat Omaha. They had the size advantage in a generally evenly called game by the referees, but poor shot selection and turnovers have been an issue for this team for two seasons.
7th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 8-9, (1-1)
Last week’s ranking: 7th
It’s nice Fort Wayne was able to take advantage of a hobbled South Dakota team, but as the only person in Omaha who has watched the Mastodons play this season, I can tell you this team has a real problem with execution and finishing.
8th – Western Illinois, 4-9, (1-2)
Last week’s ranking: 9th
Congratulations to the Leathernecks on winning their conference opener and starting off the conference season with less fear of not making the Summit League tournament, like past seasons. Billy Wright must be very proud.
Western Illinois’ next three games will be at home against Fort Wayne, Denver, and Oral Roberts. Oral Roberts has not won in Macomb since 2016. I think Western Illinois treats Oral Roberts coming to Macomb like their Mega Bowl.
If the Leathernecks can win their next three games, you know what, I’m not going to draw any conclusions, if they win their next three games they will be 4-2 in the conference and that’s all I have to say about that.
9th – Denver, 4-13 (0-3)
Last week’s ranking: 8th
No one had high expectations for this team for a reason. David Nzekwesi hasn’t turned out the way anyone thought he would, and Rodney Billups calling out his work ethic in public probably didn’t help.
Freshmen Robert Jones and Roscoe Eastmond have showed potential as future stars in the league, though.