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.

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Jan 6

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.

 

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Dec. 16

1st – South Dakota, 9-3

Last month’s ranking: 1st

Even with a knee injury to senior guard Triston Simpson, the Coyotes are the still the deepest team in the Summit League, even though they don’t really have a signature win.

Forwards Tyler Hagedorn and Stanley Umude combine for the best front court in the League, averaging 34.8 points and 14.2 rebounds together.

2nd – North Dakota State, 7-4

Last month’s ranking: 3rd

This ranking, while trivial, may actually just be based on respect to North Dakota State.

I don’t really like to compare team stats in the non-conference season because everyone plays different levels of competitions, and there are a ton of outliers.  North Dakota State, however, has a weird make up.

The Bison are currently 8th in the conference in points and field goal percentage, 7th in 3 point field goal percentage, last in blocks per game, 8th in forced turnovers, 6th in defensive field goal percentage.  They also have the worst RPI strength of schedule in the Summit.

The Bison are the reason people use the expression “they just find ways to win.”  That’s basically why they are 2nd.  And because I’ve ranked them low in the past, and then they do crazy things like win the conference.

3rd – Omaha, 6-7

Last month’s ranking: 4th

Last I checked, the Mavericks are still the only Summit League team with a win over a power conference school.

With just an 8 man rotation, the overall depth of this team could turn into a potential issue. Finishing in the top 2 in the standings will be most important for the Mavericks, as their depth may not be able to survive 3 games in 3 days in the Summit League tournament.

It cannot be stated enough how important Matt Pile is to this team.  His 19 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks against University of Texas – Too Many Words In a Name has to be one of the Baxter Arena performances by a Maverick.  Three of his assists came from him being double or triple teamed and he just looked at the weak side and saw a cutting Zach Thornhill or Marlon Ruffin to the basket for the easy lay up.  That’s not something he could do the last few years.

Watching Matt Pile on a basketball court is like watching a group of puppy shih tzus playing with a ball, and someone throws a 3 year old English bull dog into the mix and he just bulldozes his way to the ball and take it away from all the shih tzus and doing whatever the hell he wants for the rest of the day.

4th – South Dakota State, 7-6

Last month’s ranking: 5th

The Coyotes have had the luxury of not running into any big injury issues while trying to figure out their new roster.  I also wanted to say “while trying to figure out that new team smell” but I thought that would be weird.

The Jackrabbits have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, and lost to the teams to the teams they were supposed to lose to.  Except for Nebraska, they should have beat Nebraska.

5th – Oral Roberts, 5-5

Last month’s ranking: 2nd

Oral Roberts is just weird and I don’t even feel like discussing them.

Emmanuel Nzekwesi has missed half of the season with an injury.

They’ve kind of played a tough schedule with Creighton, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Wichita State, and Tulsa but they’ve also played 4 non-division one opponents.

The guards seem selfish and look like they’re intentionally trying to miss jump shots.

Maybe when they get to the conference season and play a more consistent schedule things will turn around for them.

6th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 7-7

Last month’s ranking: 7th

If you watch the Mastodons play basketball, you’ll constantly find yourself asking what’s wrong.  Eventually, you’ll realize their problem is that John Konchar graduated and is now playing professional basketball.

Every offensive possession is played as if there is no plan.  That may be because Jon Coffman has elected to not play a true point guard in the starting lineup.

7th – North Dakota, 4-7

Last month’s ranking: 6th

The Fighting Upset Mascots wont play a home game this season against a division one opponent until January 5th when they play Fort Wayne, so it’s understandable they’ve had a frustrating non-conference.

I thought they turned a corner when they picked up wins against Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia Southern, and a 2 point loss against Campbell in a 3 day tournament.  They lost two games since and are now on a 3 game losing streak.

Freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens has been a nice surprise for North Dakota, averaging 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and he’s already had 2 double-doubles on the season.

8th – Denver, 4-8

Last month’s ranking: 8th

The Pioneers have 2 more wins than most people thought they would at this point in the season, so that’s good.

I don’t really have much to talk about with the Pioneers other than something I want to vent about…

At the Summit League media day, Rodney Billups took a moment to mention junior college transfer Tristan Green could be a big time player for them.  After that, every person making a preseason prediction mentioned how Green could be a difference maker for the team.

Green averaged 2.5 points at a junior college last year, and people just took Billups’ word for it and thought he’d be some kind of stud.  He’s currently averaging 1.6 points in 14 minutes per game. I didn’t understand any hype given to Green, and I think Billups tried to jedi mind trick people.  That or Billups is in over his head as a head coach.

9th – Western Illinois, 2-6

Last month’s ranking: 9th

While 2-6, it might be worth mentioning that Western Illinois has been in all of their losses, with the exception of their loss to Indiana.

All of their losses have been in single digits and they only lost to Evansville by 4, who beat Kentucky.

The Leathernecks also shoot 85% from the free throw line.

 

South Dakota State comes to Lincoln to take on Nebrasketball as an “underdog”

Friday night, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits basketball team will come to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. At the start of Friday, the Cornhuskers are a 6.5 point favorite for the game.  If the Jackrabbits were to pull off a win, would it be considered an upset?

Maybe?

Summit League schools going up against a power conference school always seems like this big event. The smaller schools get to come check out the big time facilities, play in front of larger crowds they’re not used to, and get the opportunity to possibly play on national television.

Nebraska is not an environment the Jackrabbits should walk in to scared like it’s some haunted house. If you’re a Nebraska fan, you may want to sit down for what I’m about to tell you.

Out of the games Nebraska has played so far, South Dakota State has the highest RPI they have seen, and Nebraska will have the lowest RPI of any team they have seen so far.  Actually, I hope you weren’t sitting down for that, RPI is pretty worthless at this point in the season.


If you are a Nebraska fan, and you just want to think I’m some Anti-Nebrasketball fan, I would love to present you with this.

I am a Nebrasketball fan. I’ve enjoyed watching Nebrasketball since Tyronn Lue played for the Huskers. I can also tell you that I am a life long Boston Celtics fan, and Tyronn Lue on the Lakers team made me care about the Lakers for a few seasons. I was called a bandwagon fan those years, and it still hurts my feelings to this day. I’m pretty sure Nate Johnson played for the Lakers summer league team at some point and I paid attention to that as well.  Terran Petteway played for the Celtics summer league team a couple seasons ago, and it was a big time for me. I also hate the Cleveland Cavaliers, so Lue coaching them was also rough for me.

I’m not sure if this helps, but typically for someone to prove their fan hood, they have to answer a riddle as old as sports: “I bet you can’t name 5 players for (Sports Team).” I ran into this situation over this Summer when some Kansas City native (he was a Creighton student too) questioned my Royals fan hood and said he bet I couldn’t name 5 Royals other than Alex Gordon…actually, the Royals roster last season was a little rough to find player names in my mind, so instead I named off the 5 pitchers from the 2010 season. That my friends was Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar, and Bruce Chen.  I was trying to lose weight that season and watched every game on a treadmill.  I yelled a lot.

I don’t think I can sit here and name off the current Nebrasketball roster without looking up their names, mostly because of the new faces. I could sit here and say there are two junior college transfer guards, a French freshman I prefer to call “YoGo,” a couple grad transfers, one from Seattle and one from Florida Gulf Coast.  Essentially, this year’s roster to me is like from a NCAA video game and the game doesn’t give any names, everyone is just “#14” and whatever other number. It’s like when you walk into a party and you know everyone’s faces, but you can’t remember from where, because you likely met them while intoxicated.

I can name off a list of Husker players who had okay seasons in their first years of Nebrasketball and as Husker fans we would say “oh man, we’re going to be so good with (dude’s name) in a year or two” but then they just ended up disappointing us in one way or another…Joe McCray, Jamel White, Jim Ledsome, Jay-R Strowbridge, Cookie Miller, Eshaunte Jones, Christopher Neimann, Jorge Diaz, Christian Standhardinger (who I thought would be in the NBA), Deverell Biggs, Walter Pitchford, Nate Hawkins, Jake Hammond.

Cool, let’s all go cry now.


Nebrasketball and South Dakota State are two teams I do regularly follow.  I haven’t had the opportunity to actually sit down and watch either of them this season, but I have paid attention to the rosters, box scores, and all that stuff that makes you feel like you know what you’re talking about in conversation.

Both teams have a lot of fresh faces on their rosters, including new coaches. South Dakota State returned 18% of their scoring from last season, which was last in the Summit League. I haven’t done the math to see the percentage of returning scoring for what the Huskers brought back, but I’m fairly sure Thorir Thorbjanarson is the only returning player from last year’s roster, and he averaged 2 points per game in 2018-2019.  So unless Nebraska scored 10 points per game as a team last season, the Jackrabbits should have returned more scoring.

While trying to figure out their new team, the Huskers have gone 0-2. As the Big 10 team, you would think the Huskers would at least have enough talent to beat Big West and Big Sky teams. I had this conversation with my boss last night. We were both like, it’s understandable the Huskers are still in trying to figure it out mode, but they still lost to two teams they should have beat. During the conversation, I did also learn my boss thought South Dakota State was division 2 in everything except for basketball. So there was that.

You might think the Big 10 team has the more talented roster. I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate in this instance. I legitimately don’t know. I do think the Jackrabbits will have the best player on the floor in junior college transfer Douglas Wilson, and it appears the likes of two true freshman will be responsible for guarding the post player averaging 19.5 points per game and shooting 58% from the floor so far this season.

I do know intangibles matter in games like this. South Dakota State football played Minnesota football better than Nebraska football did, and much of the credit was given to so many Jackrabbit players knowing the Gopher program so well. A lot of people got down on the Gophers after that game, they’re 9-0 right now.

The Jackrabbits will have two Nebraska natives on the roster, ready for the chance to play in Pinnacle Bank Arena. There will also be plenty of Jackrabbit fans in the arena. It’s not a long drive from Brookings, and large number of South Dakota State alumni reside in the city of Omaha. There is a reason Baxter Arena’s largest attendance for basketball is South Dakota state versus Omaha every season.

I also found tickets to this game on Seat Geek for 1 dollar.

I’m not here to argue South Dakota State will definitely win this basketball game. I’m here to say that it is an actual toss up of a basketball game. If these two teams played each other 10 times, and they were all played in Pinnacle Bank Arena, Nebraska might win 7 of them.

The thing is, so early in the season with Nebraska trying to figure things out, this could be one of those three times.

 

 

 

 

Have we taken JT Gibson for granted?

I once watched this video of this on some recruiting website of this high school basketball player out of the state of Minnesota. I thought he had kind of a weird way of dribbling the ball, like it came up too high in between hitting the floor and coming back to his hand, I also thought he had a slow release on his shot.

The reason I watched the video of this kid was because he was given scholarship offers by South Dakota State, North Dakota State, North Dakota, and Omaha.

That kid became the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year. He eventually became one of the best Mavericks to shoot a basketball.

It’s JT Gibson’s fifth year in Omaha, and just his first being the number one guy. Even if he is the number one guy, you as a Maverick fan, probably haven’t really considered him as the number one guy, yet.

In November of 2015, Omaha opened up their season in the brand new Baxter Arena. It was Omaha’s first game in their new home, it was their first game being eligible for the Summit League tournament. Some Omaha people saw it as the first Maverick basketball game that actually mattered.

It was one of the weirdest nights, honestly.

I bought season tickets, I was 8 rows behind the team bench, it was the first time I bought season tickets to anything. I think it was the most excited I had ever been to attend a basketball game. There were over 3500 people to see the Mavericks in the new arena.

I showed up thinking Marcus Tyus would be in the starting lineup. Nope, they decided to scratch him from the game, and the season due to an injury. Some freshman named Zach Jackson, who didn’t seem as highly touted as that other freshman from Minnesota, was thrown into the starting lineup.

This all seemed off…

Neither UC Santa Barbara or Omaha could make a basket in the first half of that game. The Gauchos* shot 31% in the first half and the Mavericks shot 29% from the floor and were 0-of-9 on threes. Along with 3500 other people, I was wondering if Baxter Arena was broken. I think some of us spent that first half wondering if this division one experiment would fail.

*UC Santa Barbara is the Gauchos, right? I’m too lazy to go look that up.

In a game that was frustrating to watch with so many misses, you were thinking to yourself everyone needs to drive to the basket and just see a ball go in the basket. There wasn’t even great defense in that game, there were open shots all over the place and no one was even close.

Halfway through the second half, Omaha was down by 14, and it felt as if they were going to lose by 25 on opening night.

Then JT Gibson finds himself wide open at the top of the key and puts up this three and it rattled in, like it was kind of a mistake that it went in, but ball don’t lie. The Gauchos** missed their next shot and Tre’Shawn Thurman grabbed the board and threw it down the floor. Gibson found himself open again and drained his second three in less than 30 seconds.

**Seriously, I’m not going to go look it up. I can remember that Mitch Kupchak’s son played for UC Santa Barbara, but I cannot remember if they are the Gauchos or what.

The crowd went crazy. We suddenly gave a shit, even if the Mavericks were down by 8. The Mavericks eventually came back in the game, and had a 3 point lead late in the game. They still ended up losing by 1, but I’ll forever give credit to JT Gibson for providing life to the Mavericks and Baxter Arena that night.

Gibson eventually got hurt that season and we only got 8 games out him that year, receiving a medical redshirt. If you think about it, the Mavericks shouldn’t even have Gibson on their roster this season. Actually, if he wouldn’t have committed to the Mavericks, he could have committed to South Dakota State and they would of had Mike Daum, David Jenkins, and JT Gibson on one basketball team. Yikes!

Gibson’s second chance at a freshman season was about as inconsistent as any other freshman at a mid-major level. On one of the the best Maverick teams ever, Gibson was lost in the rotation behind arguably the best back court Omaha has had with Marcus Tyus, Tra-Deon Hollins, and Daniel Norl.

His sophomore season, the Mavericks had a season to forget. I’m pretty sure we all forget this season. It’s okay to forget it. The summer was filled with players transferring, the regular season was filled with injuries, losses, and selfish play.  Injuries allowed Gibson to find himself in the starting lineup and average 10.2 points per game.

With the Mavericks having such a bad 2017-2018 campaign, there wasn’t much optimism heading into the 2018-2019 season for the Mavericks outside of Omaha, or even from our own home base, I suppose. Even as the Mavericks exceeded expectations on the season, Gibson was just another “double digit scorer” to people. He was the third option on offense, and I’m willing to bet you can’t really remember a single JT Gibson moment from that season. You’re not some weirdo like me who vividly remembers a 30 second span from a basketball game 5 years ago.

His junior season, he was the third scorer for the Mavericks. So much attention was given to the seniors Zach Jackson and Mitch Hahn for their stellar play, big shots, and leadership. Matt Pile was given celebrity status due to his size and freakish strength. KJ Robinson was even known for leading the offense and keeping the team under control helping lead the team to the fewest turnovers in the Summit League.

In the Mavericks most successful reason, he was seen as just another scorer. With Pile, Hahn, and Jackson in the front court, Gibson really didn’t have many rebounding opportunities, but still managed to pull off grabbing nearly 3 rebounds per game. He was also second on the team in assists.  Gibson also led this team in steals, which was third most by a junior since Omaha transitioned to division one. I doubt anyone cares about that stat, but the only two guys in front him in that stat are Tra-Deon Hollins and Devin Patterson, who were probably the two best perimeter defenders the Mavericks have ever had.

At a certain point in time, Gibson may of had the reputation as “The Next Marcus Tyus.” It’s easy to compare the two, as they’re both from Minnesota, and both primarily play basketball from the perimeter. Gibson made 76 three point field goals his junior season, which is the most by any Mavericks since transitioning to division one. The second most was by Tyus, who made 72 threes in the 2016-2017 season.

Tyus saw success as being more than 3 point shooter. He had a nice pump fake and speed to get by his defenders to get to the basket, something we haven’t seen Gibson do much. Gibson’s speed is underrated, he does have a second gear. I cannot give you a specific example from an exact point, but there was a game last season I was streaming and he stole the ball near around the three point line and took off to the other basket for the score, and literally no one could catch him.

He has that capability just as Tyus did, and he has shown it off a bit already this season.

A wrist injury may have slowed down Gibson before the start of the 2019-2020 season, and it seems most attention for the Mavericks has gone toward Matt Pile, the emergence of Ayo Akinwole, and people being sad about the graduation of Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson.

The 2018-2019 Omaha Mavericks had a reputation of being “all business” and Gibson fits that mold. Before squaring off against Bethune-Cookman, I saw Gibson during the women’s game, and he was already completely dialed in. He was 100% business and ready to go.

In warm ups, in the past, Gibson had a lot of smiles and joked around with teammates. Before playing Bethune-Cookman, Gibson was focused on the upcoming game. He’s taken on the role seriously, just as last year’s seniors Hahn and Jackson did.

Bethune-Cookman was the first game of the season for the Mavericks seen as a toss up. The expectations for Wichita State were just hoping the Mavericks kept it close, and yay they beat the spread. Then Midland was well, it was a game against Midland.

This was the first must win game of the season to prove yourselves as a team. Gibson came out aggressive against a tired Bethune-Cookman team, came off ball screens and read the defense maybe better than he ever has.  At one point I looked up and said “oh wow, he’s on pace to score 40 tonight.”

With Zach Thornhill, Matt Pile, and Ayo Akinwole, this may not be a year that the Mavericks need Gibson to have a good game in order to win, but there is no doubt that this is Gibson’s basketball team.

 

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Nov 12

The first week of college basketball passed on by, and now we no longer have to discuss basketball teams in terms of what they have coming back from last season.  We can gauge them on how they beat up on division three opponents and how they kind of came close against teams from better conferences.

1. South Dakota, 3-0

My preseason ranking: 1st

The Coyotes started their season undefeated in Hawaii as part of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic with 2 neutral games against Pacific and Florida A&M, as well as a game at Hawaii.

Even though Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver, it appears he’ll still be sitting out this season. The Coyotes were still able to prove they had plenty of depth with 5 players scoring in double figures over the weekend.

The Coyotes shot over 50% from the field and 50% from behind the three point line over the weekend. Three players averaged 17 points or more in Hawaii.

6’7″ true freshman Hunter Goodrick out of Australia showed off as a nice surprise averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds through the first three games.

2. Oral Roberts, 1-1

My preseason ranking: 2nd

Down by as many as 14 in the second half, Oral Roberts was able to come back and almost beat Oklahoma State. The Golden Eagles are now 2-0 against the spread this season.

With three seniors off the bench, the Golden Eagles will be a mature team and that teams will have to play a complete 40 minutes against.

Sophomore RJ Fuqua came back to the lineup after sitting out 2018-2019. Maybe it was rust, but Fuqua had 10 turnovers and shot 25% from the field through the first two games and may not be the appropriate point guard to lead this team who had the most turnovers in the Summit League this season. He almost seems to be too fast, if that’s possible.

Kevin Obanor hasn’t had a great start to the season. Coaches say the biggest jump for players can be from their freshman to their sophomore season, but sometimes a sophomore slump can occur. Obanor got in foul trouble in his first two games this season and has shot 2-of-12 on the year. He really didn’t use his large frame to get inside baskets and relied on the three just a bit much.

Still with Obanor and Fuqua struggling, the Golden Eagles took Oklahoma State to the wire and beat Houston Baptist by 14.

3. North Dakota State, 2-1

My preseason ranking: 3rd

The Bison haven’t started as hot as they would have hoped to, shooting 29% on threes, but it’s the North Dakota State Bison and they will come around.

4. Omaha, 2-1

My preseason ranking: 4th

The suspension of KJ Robinson has allowed for Ayo Akinwole to step up into a starring role, and allow Zach Thornhill and Wanjang Tut to showcase their talents as they’re being integrated into the starting lineup.

Without Robinson, the Mavericks are averaging nearly 15 turnovers a game.

Not having Robinson and UMKC transfer Marco Smith, the Mavericks are only playing with 7 players, which is depth that won’t get you too far in conference season.

5. South Dakota State, 3-0

My preseason ranking: 8th

The Jackrabbits are 3-0 with a team entirely made up of newcomers. We’ll have a little to compare them to as their first opponent, UT Rio Grande Valley will square off against North Dakota State this Friday.

Sophomore Matt Dentlinger was a huge surprise notching a double-double in their home opener.

Junior college transfer Douglas Wilson is on his way to being candidate for Newcomer of the Year, averaging 21 points and 8.7 rebounds through three games.

6. North Dakota, 1-0

My preseason ranking: 5th

The Fighting Hawks haven’t fought too hard, only playing one game so far against division three Crown College.

Paul Sather’s team will play the opposite of opponents tonight when they faces off against Gonzaga.

7. Fort Wayne, 1-2

My preseason ranking: 7th

The Mastodons only beat Division 3 Manchester by 11 points?

With not much of a point guard presence, the Mastodons look lost on offense and everything appears to be played in random.

8. Denver, 1-1

My preseason ranking: 9th 

The team everyone thought would get beat up by everyone this season actually has not looked bad to start the season.

With an 11 point loss to Colorado State and an 12 point win over Utah Valley, the young team can look to build on some confidence. They were able to beat Utah Valley with Ade Murkey scoring just 9 points, and people said the Pioneers would live and die with Murkey.

9. Western Illinois, 0-2

My preseason ranking: 6th

I don’t even want to talk about Western Illinois right now. They’re 0-2 with an understandable loss to Indiana and a 2 point loss at home to Stetson. They lost at home against Stetson only committing 5 turnovers in the game.

A biased and trivial Summit League preseason ranking preview: The top tier

Here it is. The top 3 teams in this exercise.

I mentioned there are 3 tiers to the Summit League. The bottom tier, which is just Denver. The middle tier which was 5 teams who’s seasons will depend on health and rest against each other, as they have some talent, but may not be that deep.

Then we have the top tier here. These three teams are stacked with talent, and will be able to survive health issues, should they arise. The top tier are the locks to finish in the top three. They’ll all be competing for a top 2 spot in the Summit League tournament for that extra day of rest.

All three teams should end up receiving Mid Major Top 25 votes at some point in the season.

alec


South Dakota

Projected Conference Wins: 11 to 13

Projected Regular Season finish: 1st to 3rd

Key returning players: Brandon Armstrong (Sr), Tyler Hagedorn (Sr), Cody Kelley (Sr), Tyler Peterson (Sr), Triston Simpson (Sr), Stanley Umude (Jr),

The Coyotes have one of the best teams the Summit League has seen on paper in a while. They’ve really got it all: size, depth, experience, athleticism, shooting, speed, defense.

In Todd Lee’s first year, South Dakota faced injuries up and down the roster, sometimes only playing 7 players on a given night. 6’10” Tyler Hagedorn faced an injury in the beginning of the year elected to use his redshirt for the 2018-2019 season.

Hagedorn was selected as a 2nd Team All Conference player in the preseason. He was actually healthy and practicing with the team half way though the season, but he didn’t want to play just half a season. Without Hagedorn in the lineup, South Dakota didn’t have a go to player in the post, and it obviously impacted the Coyotes’ season as they lost 11 games by 7 points or less, 6 games in the Summit League. With Hagedorn back in the lineup, the Coyotes can close those gaps and turn this season around.

According to Jeff Goodman, Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver and will be eligible to play this season. Heiman did not play in South Dakota’s exhibition game against Concordia St. Paul, so it’s still unclear if the 6’10” sophomore will play or still use a redshirt this season.

Lee claimed in order to be good at this level in college basketball, you have to be experienced, and the Coyotes certainly have experience.

The combined total of division one minutes on the Coyotes’ active roster is 11455 career minutes. That’s more than 1000 minutes over the next closest in the Summit League, North Dakota State. The 11455 minutes, does not include Heiman’s minutes at Nebraska.

If Heiman doesn’t play, he’ll be on the practice squad and scout team with Nebraska-Kearney transfer Kanon Koster and Augustana transfer A.J. Plitzuweit. They could have some competitive practices.

The Coyotes are returning 85% (2nd most) of their conference scoring from last season, 75% (2nd most) of their conference rebounding, and 82% (5th most) of their 3 point field goals made in conference play.  None of that is including Tyler Hagedorn.

If you recall, I said there might not be anyone in the league with 40 better minutes at point guard than Omaha with KJ Robinson and Ayo Akinwole, well, South Dakota will have 40 great minutes at point guard with seniors Triston Simpson and Cody Kelley. Simpson also did not play in the Coyotes’s exhibition game, so maybe the injuries are already starting to mount up. They will also have freshman Kruz Perrot-Hunt at point guard, who played for the same New Zealand basketball organization as Nebraska’s Tai Webster.

I don’t know how to pronounce Perrot-Hunt, but I hope it sounds Parrot Hunt.

Lee said with such an experienced roster, it takes a load off the shoulders of the coaches, and if his staff can’t see success, then that means he’s not that good of a coach. If he can’t finish in the top 3 with this team, it probably will be all of his fault and someone will point and laugh. Except for a Coyote fan, they’ll probably throw fruit at him.


Oral Roberts

Projected Conference Wins: 11 to 14

Projected Regular Season Finish: 1st to 3rd

Key returning players: RJ Fuqua (So), Sam Kearns (Sr), Emmanuel Nzekwesi (Sr), Kevin Obanor (So), DeShang Weaver (So),

The Golden Eagles were another team to face injury problems last year. One of the best players in the league, Emmanuel Nzekwesi missed 6 conference games last year, but thankfully he was healthy enough to play against Omaha both times… Head Coach Paul Mills stated that Nzekwesi is as healthy as he has ever been, and had one of the best summers he’s ever seen anyone have in all of years of coaching, so Nzekwesi has the potential to be the best player in the league.

You’ll hear the likes of Omaha, South Dakota State, and Fort Wayne talk about trying to replace what they lost from last season, but Oral Roberts doesn’t need to bring it up. The Golden Eagles are bringing back their top 4 scorers from last season to go along with Nzekwesi.

In addition to bringing back their main core, the Golden Eagles are adding experience for immediate impacts to the roster. They are adding two graduate transfers, Deondre Burns from Arkansas-Little Rock and Ty Lazenby from Oklahoma (don’t get super duper excited, he hardly played at Oklahoma, but still).

The team is also bringing back point guard R.J. Fuqua who redshirted his sophomore season, after averaging 8 points and 3 assists as a freshman. Fuqua once had 17 points and 8 assists in a 19 point win over Omaha, so that’s cool. The Golden Eagles committed the most turnovers in the Summit League last season, which led to them committing the most fouls in the conference. If Fuqua’s return can help with the turnovers, that could help Oral Roberts win more games this season. That sounds like that’s how basketball statistics work.

Mills has said that taking care of the basketball has been a major emphasis for the team. His staff has also required the team to carry basketballs with them everywhere on campus. You know, like in the middle school when you had to dress up 2-liter bottle and pretend you had a baby. He compared it to “Remember the Titans” when they made the players carry footballs around school, but I like my comparison better.

Oral Roberts has the biggest roster in the Summit League, which creates mismatches all over the place, but those mismatches aren’t incredibly beneficial if they’re turning over the ball and giving up so many fast break opportunities to the quicker teams in the conference.

Unlike other top teams like South Dakota and North Dakota State, Oral Roberts doesn’t have an instate conference rival to fluster them in some game. It doesn’t really seem like Oral Roberts really has a rivalry with anyone in the Summit League, being so far away from everyone.


North Dakota State

Projected Conference Wins: 9 to 13

Projected Regular Season Finish: 1st to 4th

Key returning players: Sam Griesel (So), Cameron Hunter (Jr), Rocky Krueser (Jr),  Jared Samuelson (Sr), Vinnie Shahid (Sr), Tyson Ward (Sr),

It makes perfect sense for everyone to pick the Bison as the preseason favorite. They won the conference tournament last season, and they return everything to their roster except for Deng Geu.

Please remember this is all based on the regular season might shake out, and the Bison are going to be a threat to anyone on any given day. Their style of play, however, can lead to games being played close, and they can still sometimes do things like lose to Denver like they did last season.

They won the conference tournament, but the Bison are a still a team that finished tied for 3rd last season. They’re returning 85% of their scoring from last season, but they don’t have anything to impact or change that 3rd place finish, like South Dakota has Hagedorn coming back, and Oral Roberts had 3 guys with experience coming in. The Bison are simply just still good.

Cameron Hunter did see a dip in production his sophomore season as compared to his freshman season, mostly due to a wrist injury, so if he can be healthy that can be a jump for the team.

Offensively, statistically the Bison weren’t anything spectacular last season, ranking in the bottom half of the league in most categories, yet defensively they were in the top half. This isn’t a knock at them being bad, it’s just more of a testament that they play games close and it sometimes can keep a team in the game and they can lose a head scratcher from time to time. The biggest thing on the side of the Bison is their team chemistry and experience, and that will go a long way, which is why they should finish in the top 3 in the conference.

A big obstacle of the Bison will be their schedule. Yes, everyone plays each other twice, but the Bison have a hard time with travel.

The Bison are playing at Oral Roberts, South Dakota State, Western Illinois, Omaha, and South Dakota all on weeknights; and each time they play their in-state rival North Dakota will be after tough contests with South Dakota. Last season, the Bison were 1-4 on conference road games played on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and they were 3-0 on conference Saturday away games.

A big key to winning those weeknight away games will be more consistent play from senior point guard Vinnie Shahid. Shahid struggled to adapt to the Summit League as a junior college transfer, but eventually found his stride. In a 5 game winning streak from January 26th to Valentine’s Day, Shahid scored 21.6 points per game, shot 50% on threes, and dished out 4.2 assists per game. After the streak, the Bison lost 3 of their last 4 with Shahid scoring 12.5 points per game, which includes a 19 point performance in a 1 point loss against South Dakota State.

I looked that up, because once I felt like most teams were bad on the road during weeknight games, and it wasn’t really everyone. The Bison have historically been bad playing on the road on weeknights. Other teams, not as bad.

Regardless of what happens, the Bison will be ready come March. Their style of play wears teams down, and the Bison will be able to play 12 men deep with their roster. They essentially have the best scenario for playing 3 games in 3 or 4 days.


My trivial Preseason Summit League rankings

1st  South Dakota

2nd  Oral Roberts

3rd  North Dakota State

4th  Omaha

5th  North Dakota

6th  Western Illinois

7th  Fort Wayne

8th  South Dakota State

9th  Denver