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

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.

 

 

 

 

Are the Mavericks finally turning a page here?

Fact: The Mavericks are still writing their story for their most successful basketball season since transitioning to division 1.

Thought: Does this program have the momentum to keep this going to the future?

The 2017-2018 Omaha men’s basketball season was filled with several thoughts of wondering what could have been had things just gone better for them. Injuries plagued that team from top to bottom. There were only a couple games where the team had their entire roster healthy to play. Several games were lost of bad plays down the stretch, and the team saying: we’re one or two plays away from a winning record. The team was also trying to mesh together a hoard of new faces and get everyone on the same page.

The 2018-2019 season has been the complete opposite. The Mavericks are actually several Mitch Hahn baskets and double digit comebacks away from having a pretty average season.

After Hahn’s game winner against South Dakota State, I checked the Jackrabbits’ fan forum page to see their thoughts on the game.  As I’ve done this in the past after Mavericks-Jackrabbits games, it’s typically filled with just some fans whining about Gary Sharp’s sarcasm. Something else really caught my eye this time.

Someone begged the question: Have the Mavericks finally turned the page and are moving away from mediocrity?

The question being asked by a Jackrabbit fan sets it up for me to think that the South Dakota State fans think they’re the Texas of the Summit League, or the Gonzaga of low major basketball.  They’re not, though, South Dakota State is the South Dakota State of the Summit League.

Perhaps, we should rephrase this question into a tone that doesn’t offend me. Have the Mavericks moved into position to consistently be in contention for a Summit League regular season championship?

Regardless of how this season has gone down, 19 wins and a 2nd place seeding in the Summit League Tournament has proven to be the most successful season in the division one era for the Mavericks, but how is the future?

The Mavericks are only going to be graduating two players, but those players are Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson, two of the best players this program has ever had.

The Summit League will be graduating two of the best players the conference has ever had, so the field is already open in 2019-2020.  Actually, I think North Dakota State and South Dakota are going to be the toughest teams to beat next year, but this is for another day.

Omaha will presumably bring back a Big 3 of Matt Pile, JT Gibson, and KJ Robinson. None of them have shown that clutch killer instinct of the likes of Hahn or Jackson, but they certainly have that potential. This Big 3 is going be one of the most talented in the Summit League next season.

You never know, though. Pile could get a bizarre toe injury and his feet won’t be able to support his pro wrestler body, or Gibson or Robinson could transfer to Nevada just for kicks.

No one can ever replace Hahn or Jackson, but we’ll find out what Logan Strom can do. We’ve been teased with the potential of Zach Thornhill.  Ayo Akinwole has proven to be a weapon when given the opportunity. Wanjang Tut is a quality defensive post player, and there have been glimpses of offensive potential.  Incoming freshman Lamel Robinson’s game seems similar to Devin Patterson’s.

A successful season like this can lead to Omaha being an attractive transfer destination for former Nebraska kids to come back to. Let’s just say hypothetically that Tim Miles gets fired from Nebraska, Omaha could definitely be a possibility for someone like Brady Heiman. Omaha can absolutely be a place for any of the former Nebraska kids in the Mountain West looking for more playing time.

Perhaps, this is all a conversation for another day. The Mavericks have North Dakota to worry about to continue building on this season for a hopeful present and future.

 

 

.