Summit League predictions: Feb 19-22

February 19th

South Dakota State @ North Dakota on ESPN+

Look, I’m kind of rooting for the Fighting Hawks in this one, since I picked the Jackrabbits 5th in my preseason rankings and I don’t want to look so stupid; but I cannot find much of a reason for North Dakota to be a favorite in this game.

North Dakota State @ South Dakota on ESPN3

The Bison won their first match up with the Coyotes in Fargo by 2 points. It was a weird ending with a late offensive foul call on Cody Kelley. It was a foul that could have gone either way, and even the referee stood there for a few seconds trying to figure out what to call.  Expect the senior loaded Coyotes to come out focused against the Bison, as they’re also looking to secure a top 2 seed in the conference tournament.


February 20th

Omaha @ Fort Wayne

The Mastodons are not perfect at home. They’ve dropped home games to South Dakota State, Oral Roberts, and North Dakota State.  I’m hoping a dunk by Marlon Ruffin, which didn’t even count, will spark a fire in the Mavericks through the rest of the season.

The ‘Dons are also a young basketball team, and the younger teams tend to get worse as the season goes on. The big difference in their match up with the Mavericks earlier in the season was experience. Late in the game, the youth of the Mastodons’ point guards became an issue against the likes of JT Gibson, Ayo Akinwole, and KJ Robinson.  Jon Coffman said that, I did not say that.

Oral Roberts @ Denver

Matt Pile dominated the Pioneers down low, I can only imagine Emmanuel Nzekwesi and Kevin Obanor will do much of the same.  Especially since they already did once this season.

Robert Jones is eventually going to be so good, though.  Hopefully he doesn’t transfer when Rodney Billups gets fired.


February 21st

Omaha @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Man, I’m just being super biased this week.  The Leathernecks will have a week of rest coming into this game, but it just seems as if these players have given up on Billy Wright, and maybe a week of rest and getting out of any type of rhythm is a bad thing for a team so horrendous at offense.

How crazy would it be if Denver ended up going 2-1 in their last two games and ended up in the Summit League Tournament?  Maybe that saves Rodney Billups’ job…maybe a youthful Denver team sees a youthful South Dakota State team in the Summit League Tournament.  That would be madness.  Some might even call it madness in March.

North Dakota State @ North Dakota on ESPN3

Tough week for North Dakota. They play the two toughest teams in the Summit League at home.  Maybe they drop both games on purpose in hopes of falling to 7th in the conference so they potentially play on Saturday during the Summit League Tournament to get an extra day off in the event they win.  Maybe they don’t.


February 22nd

South Dakota @ South Dakota State on ESPN+

You’re not reading this anymore, are you?

I just think the Coyotes need and want this game more than the Jackrabbits.

 

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.

Summit League predictions: Jan 8-11

Dude, I thought of doing these last week like old times, but I was in the middle of a 2 week vacation from work and was on full out Lazy Mode.  It was pretty great.  I got NBA 2K20 for Christmas.  I got a trial of Amazon Prime and watched everything I could possibly watch before the trial was over. I regret nothing.

Anyway, here are some sure to go wrong predictions for Summit League games this week.

January 8th

Omaha (2-0) @ North Dakota (2-0) on ESPN+

I would expect the line in this game to be North Dakota favored by 1 point. These teams both play just 7 or 8 players deep, both have senior leading guards, and both have double -double post players.  I’d actually give the slight edge to North Dakota purely based on them needing this game more for themselves after losing to Omaha three times last season.

Purdue Fort Wayne (1-1) @ Western Illinois (1-2)

The only advantage The Mastodons really have in this game is Jon Coffman over Billy Wright, but Coffman hasn’t been able to get this team to play consistently on the road this season.

South Dakota State (2-1) @ Denver (0-3)

Prior to the start of the season, I marked this as one of few games Denver would win this season.  Now that South Dakota State has proven me wrong, I’m fully on board into thinking the only game the Pioneers will win is in the conference is when Western Illinois heads to Denver.


January 9th

North Dakota State (2-0) @ Oral Roberts (0-2) on ESPN3

Teams who really contradict each other.  Oral Roberts is the bigger team who should take advantage of Emmanuel Nzekwesi down low, but they consistently take bad shots (they’re 9th in the Summit in field goal percentage and 3 point field goal percentage) and turn the ball over.

North Dakota State prides themselves in taking care of the basketball and taking the best shot possible.

Man, North Dakota and North Dakota State could be the only two undefeated teams in the conference after Thursday night.


January 11th

Denver (0-2) @ Western Illinois (1-2)

So I have a very serious situation on my hands here.  I make some pretty delightful guacamole.  I go all out when I make it.  People usually demand I bring it when I’m invited to a party.  I do, however, put corn in my guacamole. My friend says this is a crime, and then people are like “yeah, corn doesn’t belong in guacamole,” but then they scarf it down like crazy people.

Dude, I was in Utah at some Mexican restaurant and they put corn in the guacamole and it changed my life.  It was like the time I experimented with mango in a fish taco.  I’m never going back to a life of fish tacos without mango.

Does corn belong in guacamole?

Oh, and this might be the worst basketball game of the conference season.

Omaha (2-0) @ South Dakota (1-2) on ESPN3

Before the start of the season, there was no way I would have taken Omaha in this game.  I also didn’t realize just how freaking good Matt Pile would be this season, and how much of an impact he can have in games.  I knew he would be good, but he’s a freaking monster. Do you think when Pile was young and he was watching “Sesame Street” his parents told him the Cookie Monster was actually the Protein Monster and Pile just consumed protein bars like they were cookies for a normal child?

Triston Simpson has been struggling coming back from injury, and if Pile is enough to throw Tyler Hagedorn off of his normal game, it could translate to a win for the Mavericks.

South Dakota State (2-1) @ Purdue Fort Wayne (1-1)

I legitimately believe South Dakota State is the all around better team, but traveling from Denver to Fort Wayne isn’t ideal for a young team.

North Dakota (2-0) @ Oral Roberts (0-2) on ESPN3

I don’t know, man.  Oral Roberts should be due?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

A not very confident Summit League preseason ranking preview: 6th place

Western Illinois

Projected Conference Wins: 5 to 8

Projected Regular Season Finish: 5th to 7th

Key returning players: CJ Duff (Sr), Ben Pyle (So), Kobe Webster (Jr)


“I kind of like this Western Illinois team” is something I have never said or heard another human being say, but I kind of like this Western Illinois team.

robocop

Now, Western Illinois hasn’t finished better than 7th in the Summit League since 2013-2014. They finished 2nd in the league in 2012-2013.

The Leathernecks graduated Gilbeck, Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, but does that even really matter? They’re going to lose some rim protection without Gilbeck, but their offense should flow much better without Gilbeck.

Gilbeck slowed down the offense, and he had the 3rd most turnovers in the league.  He had the most for any forward/centers in the conference. How effective of an offense can you run if every time you throw the ball in down low you main post presence gives the ball to the other team?

The Leathernecks also lost Isaac Johnson, who transferred to Nicholls State. Johnson was the 3rd leading scorer for the Leathernecks last season, and their 2nd leading rebounder, behind Gilbeck.

Anyway, now that I’ve said a few hurtful things, I’ll try to explain why they’re 6th.

For starters, their schedule is somewhat easy. They’re one of three conference schools to never have three consecutive away games in the conference. They at one point have a entire week of rest in between home games against Oral Roberts and Omaha. Oral Roberts has lost 3 years in a row in Macomb, by the way. At another point they have a week of rest in between playing at Fort Wayne and then playing at South Dakota.  Even after that South Dakota game, they go home to face Omaha who will be coming off an away game at Fort Wayne and one less day of rest.  After playing Omaha, they get another week of rest to play at home against North Dakota, but North Dakota will also have a week of rest for that game.  So that’s neat. The toughest part of their schedule is when they’ll have to travel to Tulsa for a Thursday night game against Oral Roberts, and then fly to Denver for an away game on a Saturday…and that’s the last week of the regular season.

Summit League teams like to go on the road and play multiple big conference schools in the non-conference season. They say it tests them and they want to play the best competition to be the best, but they really just want money.

The Leathernecks will start the season at Indiana, but they won’t play another larger conference school the rest of the way. After Indiana, they’ll play 4 consecutive home games. Their non-conference schedule won’t test them like other conference teams’ schedules but they should be able to pick up confidence as the season goes, and hopefully not get beat up and be healthy when the conference season starts.

Even with the losses of Johnson and Gilbeck, the Leathernecks return 67% of their scoring from last season, which is the 5th most in the conference.

Losing their two leading rebounders, the Leathernecks appear to lack some size, but they do bring in some post players with a collection of interesting resumes. They don’t need an all conference center, but they do need post players to rebound and not turn the ball over on offense.  Billy Wright added 6’10” junior college transfer Kyle Addington, who played on the same NJCAA Championship team as South Dakota State’s Douglas Wilson.

We’re not really going to go too far into depth about what Western Illinois is returning, because, well, even if they’re returning a lot, they were still plain bad last year.

However, they were a young team last season, and they will be returning a Big 3 of their own in Kobe Webster, CJ Duff, and Ben Pyle. Webster and Duff make up for one of the better and most experienced starting back courts in league, and Pyle apparently added a good amount of muscle, according to Wright. This team is probably the deepest team we’ve seen the Leathernecks have under Wright, but that really isn’t saying a lot. The Leathernecks are 2 players deep at every position, which hasn’t really happened under Wright.

Even though its been bad experience for the Leathernecks, there are over 8000 division one minutes on the roster, which is the 4th most in the conference. This will be the third straight year for the Leathernecks having Duff and Webster as their starting back court. That is the most games started together by any Summit League back court at 118 games. The next closest is Omaha’s back court of JT Gibson and KJ Robinson starting 99 games together in the last 2 seasons.

At 6’7″, Pyle can play like a shooting guard playing at the 4. He stretches the floor, and honestly, looking back at it I literally cannot remember when Western Illinois had a weapon like that.

Pyle definitely showed potential last season as a true freshman and certainly is an x-factor for the Leathernecks. In conference wins last season, including the conference tournament, Pyle averaged 12.6 points per game, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, he shot 45% from the field and 37% on threes. In conference losses, he scored 6.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, shot 33% from the field, and 29% on threes.  In a 29 point win over Fort Wayne, Pyle was just short of a triple-double when he scored 9 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and had 9 assists. If Pyle has put on more muscle like Wright stated (the Western Illinois website lists him as the same weight as last season) and he can be a more consistent player, the Leathernecks should be able to improve on their 4-12 season.

Their conference tournament win over South Dakota State appears to giving the team a lot of confidence. They just look together as opposed to past seasons, they look like they actually give a shit in the team’s social media posts.

Expectations are never high for the Leathernecks, and 6th place would be considered an outstanding year for Western Illinois. They have a good and experienced core, and quality role players to go around them. They’ll probably never surprise us again as they did in the 2019 Summit League Tournament, but they are capable of giving everyone in the league a fight this season.

With the high team chemistry, confidence building schedule, and playing experience, the Leathernecks might finally finish better than 7th in the conference.


My trivial Preseason Summit League rankings

6th Western Illinois

7th Fort Wayne

8th South Dakota State

9th Denver

 

Some things to think about with basketball teams around the Summit League

College basketball is back in two weeks, so I’ll be coming out with some of my own Summit League preaseason rankings and obviously biased team previews over the next couple weeks.

How about we start you off with a little something to think about around the Summit League.

DENVER

The Pioneers had a disaster of a season in 2018-2019. Rodney Billups’ staff  had picked up two graduate transfers, Ronnie Harrell from Creighton and Tory Stewart-Miller from Colorado, to go along with a veteran team, and the preseason expectations were high. Some even thought the Pioneers were going to be able to compete with Mike Daum and South Dakota State for a conference championship.

Unfortunately, the team had injuries up and down the roster, and Pioneers season seemed to get worse and worse as time went on. There were only 3 players on the roster who played in every game for the Pioneers last season.

The injuries allowed for more playing time and development for freshmen David Nzekwesi and Jace Townsend, who are expected to be young leaders in 2019-2020.

As the least experienced team in the Summit League, most are expecting the Pioneers to miss the conference tournament again this season. In combination with being the youngest team in the conference, the coaching staff will also have 3 assistant coaches in their first year in their roles.

One thing helping the Pioneers is that they are one of three teams in the conference to never have 3 consecutive conference road games this season. Also, with only 6 returning players, it could be difficult to scout Denver.

NORTH DAKOTA

Did you know the Fighting Hawks had the best defensive three point field goal percentage in the Summit League last season, but the worst overall defensive field goal percentage?

Another weird stat: they were 3-0 playing at home on Saturdays, and 0-4 playing on the road on Saturdays in the Summit League.

North Dakota will be returning 68% of their scoring, and that’s the 4th most in the conference. One of their best players last season, Marlon Stewart, was slowed down with injuries last season, but is apparently the healthiest he has been in a while.

It’s hard to get a feel for North Dakota with a brand new coaching staff.

Head Coach Paul Sather appears to be quite excited about redshirt freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens, and thinks he’s a future star in the league.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE

The Bison were picked as the preseason favorite in the Summit League, with good reason.

They won the conference tournament last season, and they only lost Deng Geu who transferred to North Texas, so they do lose some height and energy off the bench. Dave Richman has a steady track record of finding replacements, so it’s not really something to worry about.

It’s hard not to like the Bison. One thing to think about is that Cameron Hunter was playing with an injury last season. Hunter averaged 9 points a game as a freshman and saw a drop in production his sophomore year, and he’s just going to be another weapon for the Bison if he comes back at 100%.

OMAHA

Everyone in Omaha is talking about the losses of Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson, and yeah it’s a lot to lose.

Something no one in Omaha seems to be discussing is the losses of 6’9″ Brett Barney, 6’8″ Logan Strom, and 6’11” Evan Tricker. With just 4 upperclassmen on the roster, the Mavericks will be younger, but they’re also going to lack some serious size, even with Matt Pile on the roster.

We’re going to discuss Omaha more at a later time. I think that’s obvious.

One thing to consider…The Mavericks and the Creighton Bluejays never have a home game on the same day this season. With some energy and attention brought on with a successful 2018-2019 season, the Mavericks home games could start seeing some larger crowds.

Also, did you know that last season was the first season the Mavericks have had a winning road record since joining division one?

ORAL ROBERTS

The Golden Eagles started the conference season in 2019 with three straight wins, and they eventually faced injury situations with Emmanuel Nzekwesi and struggled with consistency.

Though, they are the biggest team in the conference, the Golden Eagles struggle with taking care of the basketball. They had the most turnovers in the Summit League last season, and teams were able to outrun them.

The Golden Eagles were picked 3rd in the preseason poll, but they are intimidating on paper.

In addition to returning 83% of their scoring from last season, the Golden Eagles are adding experience to their roster. Paul Mills’ staff added two graduate transfers and will also have point guard R.J. Fuqua coming back to the roster, who redshirted his sophomore season.

Paul Mills has also stated that Nzekwesi is 100% healthy, and had the best summer that he has ever seen in all of his years of coaching.

If Oral Roberts can cut down on the turnovers and Nzekwesi is healthy, the Golden Eagles can beat anyone in the league.  Maybe even any team in the state of Nebraska.

Purdue Fort Wayne

I initially wasn’t feeling impressed with the Mastodons. John Konchar was one of the best players ever to play in the Summit League, and I’d argue that he was a better overall player than Mike Daum. Making up that loss seems like it’s too much.

I don’t think they’ll be better than the likes of North Dakota State or South Dakota, but they’ll be competitive, and they will frustrate anyone in the league.

The ‘Dons will be adding Brian Patrick, a 6’5″ transfer from Kansas State, who didn’t see the floor much for the Wildcats, but he does have experience in 4 NCAA Tournament games. In addition to losing Konchar, the ‘Dons also lost guard Matt Weir to transfer, and I thought Fort Wayne would be light at the point guard sport. Jon Coffman landed junior college transfer point guard DeMieere Black, who was made the Honorable Mention List on JUCOrecruiting.com’s Top 100 recruits list. The website also listed him at 6’3″ and Fort Wayne’s website lists him at 6’0″, so maybe just no one knows what they’re talking about.  Fellow incoming junior college transfer Jalin Wimberly also made the list. Wimberly scored 15 points on 73% from the field as a freshman. Yikes!

Fort Wayne might be the most sneaky good team in the conference, but maybe the Summit League will sabotage the Mastodons’ last Summit League season?

The Mastodons have never been particularly deep, at least since I started paying attention to them after Omaha joined the Summit League, and last year the Mastodons had 9 players play in all 33 games on the season. Can they be that lucky with health again?

That may sound like a threat of some kind after mentioning the Summit League might be out to sabotage their season, but it’s not. Welp, this is awkward.

South Dakota

With 5 seniors and 2 juniors, the Coyotes will be the most experienced team in the Summit League.

The roster has 11,455 division one minutes played on the active roster. That’s over 1000 more minutes over the North Dakota State with the second most.

According to Jeff Goodman, Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver to be immediately eligible to play this season for South Dakota. It is unclear if Heiman will still use his redshirt, but the 11,455 minutes does not include Heiman.

The Coyotes are another team we’re going to discuss more later.

South Dakota State

Who gave the Jackrabbits first place votes in the preseason poll? Seriously, who? Two people apparently did this.

I’d love to meet the two maniacs who went camping on the hottest day of the year, saw who could chug a bottle of Fireball the fastest, then had a candy corn eating contest, bumped each other in the head, and then rolled down a hill into a bee’s nest…then apparently came to and said: “Yeah, South Dakota State is definitely better than North Dakota State, South Dakota, and Oral Roberts.”

The Preseason Summit League Notes in the press release for the preseason rankings said something nice about all the teams in the conference except the Jackrabbits. They couldn’t even think of a positive note about this team, but two people thought they’d be the best team in the conference.

The Jackrabbits lost the Dauminator, their top 4 scorers, and their head coach.

Western Illinois

Riding the confidence of upsetting South Dakota State, and almost beating North Dakota State in the Summit League Tournament, this Leatherneck team could be the most talented and well rounded team Billy Wright has had at Western Illinois. I understand that isn’t saying much, but it’s true.

 

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings – Dec 4

1. South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits have beaten two big conference teams, so it would be difficult to put them any lower than first right now.  They did play a horrendous game on Saturday against Missouri State.  Mike Daum was 3-of-14 from the floor, and it was one of the worst team performances I’ve ever seen out of the Jackrabbits.  At one point, I was wondering if the entire team was hungover.

2. South Dakota

The Coyotes really are a complete team.  They can play big, they can play small, they can defend, they can shoot.  Tyler Hagedorn has played extremely well to start the season averaging 13.5 points and 5 rebounds.  He’s outplayed Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller, which should show Nebraska fans how good they are at recruiting.  I’m being mean to Fuller, and I don’t like it.  I’ve always liked Fuller, he’s a smart player and does have some moves.  40 minutes of Hagedorn and Fuller won’t be fun for Summit League teams.  Hagedorn did have an embarrassing missed dunk against Duke, but oh well.

If I were a Coyote fan, I would just be worried how the team plays on offense when their point guard Triston Simpson goes to the bench.

3. North Dakota State

The Bison are 3-4, but their strength of schedule in RPI is ranked 42, at this point.  AJ Jacobson has been playing through injuries, but sophomore Tyson Ward and freshman Cameron Hunter have stepped up to make up the ground – which is just kind of North Dakota State’s thing.

The Bison really don’t have a point guard on the team, so they have been playing with Paul Miller at the point guard spot.  This could turn out really swell, or it could be a bad thing.  Miller may not be as comfortable in that spot as the Bison need him to be.  He is shooting 37% from the field, which is down from last season when he shot 45% from the floor.

4. Fort Wayne

The ‘Dons are beating the teams they’re supposed to beat, and keeping close against teams that are considered toss up games.  They arguably have the best back court in the league as Bryson Scott is efficiently scoring 23 points per game and John Konchar is still proving that he’s the best all around player in the Summit League.

Their front court, though.  I mean, they’re their.  Actually, maybe that’s why John Konchar averages 10 rebounds per game.

5. Denver

The Pioneers schedule hasn’t been overly difficult in comparison to other Summit League teams, but they did earn an impressive win over Wyoming.

Not much has changed in the Pioneers from last season.  They’ll play just a little bit smaller than last year, but not by much.  Their non-conference season has mostly been a Look At What Daniel Amigo Can Do theme.  Daniel Amigo has had 4 double-doubles in 8 games so far.

6. Western Illinois

Sure, the Leathernecks are 5-2, but they’ve played two non-D1 opponents, and they’ve only left the state of Illinois once so far.  They did shoot 60% against former Summit League team IUPUI, so that’s kind of cool.

While this team has had a few players really step up their games, it is hard to really gauge how good (or bad) this team is at this point.  The Leathernecks have a serious lack of depth with 5 players averaging more than 28 minutes per game.  Billy Wright played senior Dalan Ancrum every single minute of their double overtime loss to Miami (Oh), and he even played Ancrum in every single minute of a 70-45 loss to Iowa State.

Freshman Kobe Webster is fun to watch and can handle the basketball tremendously.

There, I said something nice about the Leathernecks.  I think this is the first time in 3 years.

7. Omaha

The non-conference season for the Mavericks could be summed up with one of these: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Mavericks have played in incredibly difficult schedule mostly on the road while trying to mold together so many new faces, as well as deal with injuries to Mitch Hahn and Renard Suggs, who has yet to play a game this season.

With no players receiving any preseason awards, Zach Jackson is putting together a case to make an All Conference team in the post season, and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey could be a candidate for Newcomer of the Year.  Is there a Most Improved Player Award?  I’m not sure and I’m not ambitious enough to look it up, but if there is one, KJ Robinson could be handed that award.

8. Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles earned their first win of the season over a division one opponent on Saturday when they defeated 2-6 Arkansas-Little Rock on the road in double overtime.  The Golden Eagles have faced injuries and inconsistent play from newcomers while trying to figure out their newly assembled roster.

They have started playing with a bigger lineup with a starting front line of 6’9″ Albert Owens, 6’10” Javan White, and 6’8″ Emmanuel Nzekwesi.  In the win over Arkansas-Little Rock, White had 18 points and 20 rebounds.

Summit League Predictions: Feb 22-25

A little better last week, but damn it this league is hard.

February 22

North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

The Bison really had no answer for Albert Owens in Fargo as he went off for 28 points and 9 rebounds for the losing Golden Eagles.  The Bison have lost their last 2 road games, and this will be Oral Roberts’ Mega Bowl as they are only playing for a good show and to send their seniors out the right way on their last game.

Omaha @ Denver

Denver shot 64 percent the last time these two teams played, and still lost.  The Mavericks were able to pick up a win in Denver last season, but with 29 points from Jake White as the rest of the team struggled a bit.

Okay, I might be trying to reverse jinx the Mavericks here.

It costs $9.95 to view this game on the Pioneers’ website.  I really don’t want to give them my money, but I might.

February 23

Fort Wayne @ IUPUI on ESPN3

Fort Wayne defeated the Jaguars by 30 a month ago.  IUPUI had 20 turnovers in that game, and it’s probably a bad idea to give the fast paced team like Fort Wayne the ball 20 times at home.

The Jaguars will not turn the ball over that much at home, but their offense is not good enough, even against a sub par defense like Fort Wayne’s, to put up enough points to make up the difference against the Mastodons.  I say that, and remember at one time Western Illinois once outscored Fort Wayne.

South Dakota @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Western Illinois’ defense is capable of frustrating South Dakota, but South Dakota’s defense is also capable of frustrating the non-existent offense of Western Illinois.

South Dakota was without Tyler Flack and were able to beat Western Illinois in Vermillion.  The Leathernecks’ post players are not very well built to stop a player like Flack.

February 25

Denver @ South Dakota State on ESPN3

After a 51 point and 15 rebound performance against a fast paced offensive Fort Wayne, Mike Daum gets a week of rest to play a fast paced offensive Denver.

Maybe this is Mike Daum’s last game in Brookings?  Maybe not.  Either way, good luck Denver.

South Dakota @ IUPUI on ESPN3

The Jaguars are completely unpredictable, who knows what they’ll do.  They lost in Vermillion when the Coyotes were playing without Tyler Flack.  The Jaguars will need to knock down threes against the South Dakota defense, but the match up of the day could come down to Tyler Flack versus Matt O’Leary.

North Dakota State @ Omaha

The Mavericks have shown that they are a tough team to beat when they come out with a high energy level, and they should definitely be playing with some energy on senior night for Marcus Tyus and Tra-Deon Hollins…and Kyler Erickson.

Are the Mavericks going to get a medical hardship for Erickson and make him a 7 year senior next season?

The game between these two last season in Omaha was one of the better games Maverick fans have seen at Baxter Arena or Ralston Arena.  The energy for both teams was high.  The Bison had to figure out how to play without AJ Jacobson, who was in foul trouble.  Jake White had to sit a little bit with some foul trouble, but came back into the game and made huge shot after huge shot.  The Bison were also without Paul Miller in that game, and he is capable of hitting big shots against the Mavericks defense.  Hollins, Tyus, Zach Jackson, and Daniel Norl will need to play big defensive minutes and slow him down.

The Bison are also not the greatest team on the road.  They have lost their last 3 of 4 on the road with the one win at Western Illinois.

Fort Wayne @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Okay, so my take on their previous match up couldn’t have been more wrong as I just wrote:

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA

Western Illinois somehow won that game.

Western Illinois was in a zone in that stretch of the season where they were hitting threes with consistency and putting up points.  Other than a 91 point performance in a double overtime game last week, the Leathernecks have struggled to score over the last month and a half.

Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak could go off against the poor defense of Fort Wayne.  That could be enough to top the Mastodons, maybe.

This could potentially be Billy Wright’s last game with Western Illinois.  Maybe the Leathernecks will want to see what he can do next season with a core of Brandon Gilbeck, Dalan Ancrum, and CJ Duff.  I don’t really know though, Western Illinois appears to care the least about athletics in the league.  He’s only been at Western Illinois for 3 seasons, but the Leathernecks have still yet to earn 20 wins over D1 teams.

Summit League predictions: Jan 18-21

January 18

South Dakota State (1-4) @ IUPUI (2-3) on ESPN3

It’s good that South Dakota State’s game plan this season has been MIKE FREAKING DAUM, and that Mike Daum went a combined 13-of-17 in his two games against the Jaguars last season, but South Dakota State’s defense is pretty terrible.  They are ranked in the 300s in many defensive categories, especially any based on perimeter defense.

Darell Combs and Kellon Thomas could combine for 50 tonight, which doesn’t automatically equate to a win, but it wont hurt.

Denver (3-2) @ Omaha (3-3)

There are a load of mismatches in this game, and it really could come down to which team gets into more foul trouble and all that fun non frustrating stuff that we all love.

Omaha has made it as public as they can that they are bitter about their loss to Denver in the Summit League tournament last season.  They also were also pretty upset with themselves losing in Baxter Arena last season to the Pioneers.  Some guys like Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins may have a bit to prove to themselves.

South Dakota (4-2) @ Oral Roberts (1-4) on ESPN3

Somehow, South Dakota versus Oral Roberts always turns out to be a fun game.  I don’t get it.

Seems like it would take more things to go right for Oral Roberts than South Dakota would need to go right.  Maybe we’ll see South Dakota starting to be affected by their post depth with Tyler Flack out when they go up against Albert Owens and Emmanuel Nzekwesi?  While Nzekwesi is a future star in the Summit League, he has not been totally consistent in his freshman season, which is completely understandable, but needing to rely on him against a team that has been consistently good and defending post players this season can be an issue.

January 19

Fort Wayne (3-2) @ North Dakota State (4-1) on ESPN3

This was expected to be a huge game before the start of the season, and should still be a huge conference game.  These two team currently have the two best RPIs in the Summit League with North Dakota State at 99 and Fort Wayne at 120.  Omaha is at 123.

Fort Wayne shot 28 percent in Fargo last season.  The Bison weave offense is a style that frustrates the teams like Fort Wayne and Omaha, but Denver didn’t have a problem with it last week.  Damn it, I’m so conflicted.

Here is something weird to think about.  Paul Miller only played in one of the three games against Fort Wayne last season, and the Bison won the two games he didn’t play in.

What I’m trying to allude to here is that I am seriously only picking North Dakota State because they are the home team.

January 21

Denver (3-2) @ IUPUI (2-3) on ESPN3

IUPUI is at home for the week and Denver is on the road for the week.  I really don’t want to go into this any further.

Denver is not bad on the road though.  The game should be close, but Jaguars by less than 5.

North Dakota State (4-1) @ Western Illinois (3-3) on ESPN3

Can you believe I picked North Dakota State losing at Western Illinois last season?  Clearly, I was too young and naive at the time.  North Dakota State has not lost to Western Illinois since 2013.  I THOUGHT THE LEATHERNECKS WERE DUE!!!

The Leathernecks did end a 9 year losing streak to the Jackrabbits this season, so maybe?

If Garret Covington is injured, and the Leathernecks heavily rely on him to win games, who knows what Billy Wright will do.  He might just give up and play Sudoku on the bench.  The Bison will be coming off a heavily contested game against Fort Wayne, and the Leathernecks will be on a full week of rest.

Look, I’ve tried to talk myself into Western Illinois in the past and it has burnt me every single time, so I’m going to stop.

Omaha (3-3) @ Oral Roberts (1-4) on ESPN3

Omaha had the sweep of Oral Roberts last season.  Defending Albert Owens could be an issue, but the same goes on the opposite end for the Golden Eagles guarding Tre’Shawn Thurman and Mitch Hahn.

Omaha is deeper and has better overall guard play to beat Oral Roberts, but Omaha has got to keep the turnovers down.  Oral Roberts loves to get out and run, so the Mavericks don’t want to give the Golden Eagles more possessions and confidence at home.

Fort Wayne (3-2) @ South Dakota State (1-4) on ESPN3

Remember talking about how abysmal South Dakota State’s perimeter defense is?

The Mastodons are throwing a party right now.

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 17

1. South Dakota

Last week’s ranking : 3rd

It’s okay, I have a difficult time believing it as well.  I’m not wild about it either. Like I said earlier, there is not a huge difference from the best team in the conference to the 7th team in the conference this season.  I could just as well be drawing these team names out of a hat and seeing how it goes.

Without Tyler Flack, the Coyotes were able to split the week with North Dakota State and Fort Wayne.  They came pretty close to beating the Bison as well.  The Coyote defense is something that should be taken seriously.  They held the Mavericks to 69, the Jaguars to 74, the Pioneers to 69, and now the Mastodons to 63.  All known for scoring this season, and all below their average for points.

In the same week last week, they held North Dakota State’s AJ Jacobson to 2-of-9 shooting in 37 minutes and Fort Wayne’s John Konchar to 4-of-12 from the floor in 36 minutes.

Still, the big test for the Coyotes will be in the first two weeks of February when they play three straight road games at Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  Then come home to play their nemesis South Dakota State.

2. Fort Wayne

Last week’s ranking:  2nd 

They’ve lost two conference games by a total of 5 points.  Two of their three conference wins are by a total of 6 points.  Their next four of five games will be on the road.  While the Mastodons’ shooting is exceptional, their defense is average.

The next five games is a crucial part of the season for their positioning in the Summit League tournament.  Because of their depth, the top two seeds in the conference tournament are the most important for the ‘Dons  in comparison to the other top teams in the conference.  Daily RPI predicts the ‘Dons going 3-2 over the next 5 games, and then win the rest of the regular season.  There, you don’t need to watch basketball anymore.

By the way, if you watch the ‘Dons get in foul trouble you’re going to spend much of your time trying to figure out if freshman Jax Levitch could turn out to be the real deal.  Some of your other time will be spent debating if Jax Levitch is a bad ass name, or just a really weird name.  It’s interesting.   I think it’s the name of the world’s least trust worthy Financial Advisor, but we’ll keep track of him for his entire life to see what happens.  Not weird or anything.

3. North Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 1st

What happened last week?  In the last three halves, the Bison have been outscored by 36 points.  Denver out rebounded the Bison by 22 rebounds.  Didn’t Denver have like one and a half post players last season?

Here is something that should be a concern to Bison fan:  AJ Jacobson is 2 of his last 14 on threes.

4. Omaha

Last weeks’s ranking: 5th

The Mavericks are on a roll right now winning three in a row.  It should also be worth noting that they will not have back-to-back road games for the rest of the season.

Also, in the last 4 games, Mitch Hahn has shot 56 percent on threes.

5. Denver

Last week’s ranking: 8th

Honestly, I have not had the chance to watch Denver.  I don’t have Altitude so I don’t feel that bad about it.  They did sweep the week against “a hot” Western Illinois and embarrassed North Dakota State who has the best RPI in the Summit League.

Rodney Billups said that Daniel Amigo was going to have a huge break out year, and I thought he was trying to be funny.  He was completely serious.  Look at his jump from last season.

capture

6. IUPUI

Last week’s ranking: 6th

The schedule has not been kind to the Jaguars, but at least they did not lose at Oral Roberts.

This was supposed to be the year for the Jaguars but they lost three key players with no real explanation, and also with the graduation of Marcellus Barksdale they lost their scrappyness on defense.  The Jaguars do still have a fair amount of depth to go to the wire with any team in the Summit.  However, if they do get a game down to the wire, they’re 8th in the conference in free throw shooting.  Hopefully they don’t get into too many battles at the line with teams, even though they are likely to.

7. Western Illinois 

Last week’s ranking: 4th

I love how the argument for this team for being good by every commentator is that “they are a weird match up.”

When are we just going to admit that this team completely relies on Garret Covington playing efficient on top of him having a second guy to be competent on a nightly basis?

In the Leathernecks’ only 4 wins over D1 teams this season, Covington shot 57 percent from the field.  In just their last 4 losses, Covington has shot 28 percent from the floor.  He’s only shot better than 50 percent in one of their losses.

Covington was apparently slowed with an injury against Omaha.  It’s cool, I’m sure Billy Wright has something up his sleeve.  Like putting all of his chips on switching to a zone defense and then never going away from it.

8. Oral Roberts

Last week’s ranking: 9th

They picked up their first conference win, and they may not be having that great of a year but at least they are staying in most of their games.  With their next four of five games at home, they may be able to sneak in a few wins to help give them enough distance to not be the team left out of the conference tournament.

9. South Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 8th

Hold on.  I am taking a minute to reflect on something.

Remember when TJ Otzelberger was hired and the Jackrabbit fans were thinking that the new system was going “to be like Omaha, but with actual defense.”

At least Mike Daum is balling.