My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

I find preseason rankings pointless.  So here are some preseason rankings.  After the conference schedule has been released in the last two seasons, I have ran through each team’s schedules and done different predictions through different scenarios.

The first time I would go through and predict wins and losses based on different factors, such as: who is coming off a tougher game, who has a better bench, who is just a better overall team, who do I hate less, who is a better defensive team, and so on and so on.  I add up all the wins and losses and then that’s how I come to rankings.

Like last season, there doesn’t really seem to be much separation in the Summit League from 2 to 7.  There are not many automatic wins.  The 4 seed won in the conference championship last season, so anyone has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Don’t come at me if you don’t like the rankings.

1) South Dakota State – projected conference wins: 9 to 12

As the 4 seed in the Summit League tournament in 2017, the Jackrabbits were able to ride Mike Daum all the way to the NCAA Tournament.  They have Mike Daum back, and they even return 75% of their scoring, so it’s pretty easy to envision them as the best team in the conference.

The Jackrabbits graduated their starting point guard Michael Orris, who was 4th in the Summit League in assists per game.  On paper, they have what it seems to make up for that production after signing junior college transfer Brandon Key, who averaged 7.2 assists per game as a sophomore and was 5th in NJCAA in assists.  They were also able to sign Dallas Polk-Hilliard from junior college, who averaged 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore.  Polk-Hilliard once had an offer from the Mavericks.

The Jackrabbits are going to be able to play small, play big, shoot threes, defend, and they have a pretty deep bench to go along with a solid starting 5.  Summit League teams are going to have to rely on the Jackrabbits making mistakes and beating themselves in order to pick up a win against South Dakota State.

2) Denver – projected conference wins: 8 to 9

The Pioneers were supposed to have a difficult time transitioning to Rodney Billups’ offense, but they had no problem last season.  They only lost CJ Bobbitt from their rotation, who transferred to New Mexico State.  The team is also bound to not run out of steam as they are able to go 9 or 10 players deep.

If the Pioneers can get to a situation where they South Dakota State in the conference championship, can Daniel Amigo show up to play?  Amigo scored in double figures in all but three conference games last season, including the conference tournament.  All three of those games were against South Dakota State.

3) South Dakota – projected conference wins: 8 to 9

The Coyotes still have Matt Mooney, who is a top 5 player in the league.  They are still going to play great defense, and hustle, and do the things that they do to help themselves win basketball games.  They do have more question marks than you would think.

Their top post player graduated, and their starting point guard transferred to Georgetown, so there is a little ground to make up there.  Junior forwards Dan Jech and Tyler Hagedorn have yet to show consistency in their careers, and no one is even really sure what Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller can be.  Without a back up point guard, sophomore Triston Simpson is going to have to play some big minutes at the point.  Matt Mooney will likely have to play stretches at the point guard spot.

4) Fort Wayne – projected conference wins: 7 to 9

John Konchar could win 5 conference games completely on his own, so they really just need a few more guys to step up to be in the top half of the conference.  The ‘Dons are still going to come out and hit threes and play at a fast pace.

They will have a solid starting 5, but out of all the teams competing for the Summit League championship, Fort Wayne has the most questionable bench.  If they find themselves in foul trouble in big games, other teams should be able to outplay them.  Again, like in 2015-2016, the Mastodons don’t have a deep enough team to last three nights in a row in the Summit League tournament, so it’s going to be very important for them to land in the top 2 seeds.

5) North Dakota State Bison- projected conference wins: 7 to 9

The Bison are actually the youngest team in the Summit League this season.  You know what happened the last time they were the youngest team in the Summit League?  Lawrence Alexander led them to the conference championship, but the Summit League wasn’t as deep as it is now back then.  Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson are the only two seniors on the team, and Jacobson is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

The Bison pride themselves on guys stepping up when someone goes down, and I’m sure a star will rise this season, but can Paul Miller carry the Bison like Lawrence Alexander once did?  Can this young team mentally get through the last 4 of 5 conference games on the road heading into the conference tournament?

6) Omaha – projected conference wins: 5 to 8

The Mavericks seem to have too much to make up after losing Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, and Tre’Shawn Thurman.  Omaha is actually the oldest team in the Summit League after adding transfers Renard Suggs and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey to the lineup, but there still appears to be a lot to figure out for the Mavericks.  They may even have a difficult time figuring out rotations against a non-conference schedule against Oklahoma, Washington, Louisville, TCU, and Kansas.

Losing 4 steals per game from Tra-Deon Hollins will be difficult in the sense that they may not be able to play as much transition offense as they did the last two seasons, which was Omaha’s comfort zone.  There will have be more half court sets and ball movement this season, which hasn’t been a huge strength of theirs in recent memory.  They do have the pieces around Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to be competitive in the Summit League and play in half court sets, but there cannot be as many mistakes as there has been in the last season.

Figuring out how to divide up 40 minutes between Daniel Meyer, Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, and Matt Pile sounds like it could be a challenge for Derrin Hansen.  After seeing Matt Pile play against Creighton and show off his rebounding ability, and how good he is at setting screens, he may find himself beating out two seniors for minutes this season.

7) Oral Roberts – projected conference wins: 2 to 5

Paul Mills is known as being able to coach up an intense defense, and the Golden Eagles are going to need that in his first season.

Oral Roberts has the least amount of offense returning from last season, after graduating three starters and Kris Martin transferring to Colorado State.  The team has a serious three headed monster in the post with Albert Owens, Emmanuel Nzekwesi, and Javan White, but is that really a threat in a run-and-gun league?  They are capable of pulling off an upset against anyone, but consistency looks to be an issue for this team.

8) Western Illinois- projected wins: 1 to 4

I could not say with any confidence that any starter on their basketball team could start for any other Summit League team.  The Leathernecks could be classically bad.

Brandon Gilbeck averaged 3 blocks a game last season.  That’s cool, I guess.  Maybe he could have a break out season after the Leathernecks graduated their two leading scorers, and have few offensive weapons on the team.

 

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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.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 10

1.North Dakota State

There is no team better suited to survive an injury to a top three player on their roster.

As good as the Bison appear, they are last in the conference in free throw percentage.  Hopefully, they don’t find themselves in a close game down the stretch and need big time free throws…which is how they picked up a few close losses last season.

The Bison are also 8th in the conference in three point field goal percentage.  Even though they are the best team in the conference, they are not flawless.

2. Fort Wayne

Their offense has such great ball movement and passing around the perimeter for finding open shots, it is no wonder they are one of the best three point shooting teams in the country.  I just need to know how John Konchar went off against Omaha and then had just 6 points at home against Denver.  It legitimately hurts my feelings.

The Mastodons appear to be struggling a little more on defense than we thought they would, and for being such a great offensive team, they are not exactly blowing out Summit League opponents.  They lost by 2 to Western Illinois, beat Oral Roberts by 11, defeated Omaha by 2 on a last second shot, and escaped Denver by 4.  They’re only really playing 7 guys, which is what hurt them toward the end of the year last season.

3. South Dakota

Craig Smith said he had a far more competitive roster this season, and he was 100% correct.  The Coyotes would be 4-0 had it not been for a late Mike Daum shot in Brookings.  They have the Bison and Mastodons this week, and expect Smith’s team to give the two top Summit League teams everything they’ve got.

The Yotes will be without Tyler Flack until February, he leads South Dakota in rebounds and blocks, and is second on the team in points and free throw percentage.  South Dakota has a difficult schedule with Flack out, so maintaining a top spot in the league may be difficult.  They will start February with three straight road games at Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  He might be back in time to play that North Dakota State game.

4. Western Illinois

This hurts me to core, but there is no denying the fact that the Leathernecks are 3-1 and have a road win over Fort Wayne.  Garret Covington is solid, but the rest of his supporting cast has a history of inconsistency, so we will see how long this lasts.

Sophomore center Brandon Gilbeck had a week for himself.  Against Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, he averaged 11 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.  If Gilbeck can play like this in the Summit League, the Leathernecks have a chance to stay good.  Since last season, the Leathernecks are 5-0 when Gilbeck score 10 or more points.

You would think with 3 wins, the Leathernecks have already secured a spot in the Summit League tournament, right?

5. Omaha

The Mavericks looked like they were completely back on track against Fort Wayne and South Dakota State, for the most part.  The Mavericks perimeter defense is sick, and I do not mean that in a good way.  It’s also difficult for them to hold on to a lead, because they do not know how to slow it down and burn clock in the final 5 minutes of the game.  That’s a negative effect when you have a Take The First Decent Shot mentality.

Marcus Tyus shot 18-of-26 last week.  Holy crap!

Did you know, that even though the Mavericks are 1-3 in conference play, they still have the second best RPI in the conference?

6. IUPUI

The Jaguars dropped two games last week, but it they were on the road at North Dakota State and South Dakota so it is pretty understandable.  The newcomers and supporting cast have under performed a bit this season, but I’m sure I just jinxed it and they’ll have the night of their lives on Wednesday.

7. South Dakota State

I thought maybe the last time the Jackrabbits lost 2 conference games in the same week was in World War 2 before the Summit League was ever created, but it was actually last year.

1-3 and their next 4 of 5 are on the road.  This might get ugly for the Jackrabbits.  There is honestly not a huge world of difference this season between the top two teams and the bottom two teams.  It might actually be in the Jackrabbits best interest to finish in 7th or 8th, as the Summit League tournament is designed to give the winner of the day one games an extra day rest.

8. Denver

All of their conference games have been close with their biggest loss by 6 to South Dakota.  The Pioneers do have a solid 8 man rotation, but like Omaha they have struggled on defense so far this season.

Their next 4 games at Western Illinois and North Dakota State at home, and then on the road against Omaha and IUPUI.

9. Oral Roberts

It was assumed that this would be a down year for the Golden Eagles, but their next 6 out 7 games are in Tulsa so maybe they have a chance to pick up some wins.

The New Year’s Day Leatherneck-Maverick Bowl

Back from a trip to see the in-laws in Portland just in time to see some Summit League basketball.

Random Note:  I was wearing an Omaha Mavericks shirt out in Portland and ran into a guy with a Nebraska Cornhuskers who started a rant at me that the Mavericks “suck.”  I am still unsure what to make of the whole situation.  I tried to talk to my father-in-law about it, but he is a North Dakota fan, so that was worthless.

Anyway, it is 2016, and the Mavericks are still a full fledged member of division one.  The Western Illinois Leathernecks will be the first opponent for the Mavericks to try and build their record to get in good standing for their first trip to the Summit League tournament.  There is a good chance (or a bad chance depending how you look at it) that the Baxter Arena crowd may not be a large crowd in the conference opener.  College bowl season is going on today, students are back home (even though most UNO students hail from Omaha), and many people are still struggling to find dignity at 1pm on New Year’s Day.  The Mavericks started each season in the Summit League on the road, but this season they get a great chance to start out with a decent record with 2 games at home against Western Illinois and IUPUI.

What is there to know about the Western Illinois Leathernecks?

  • Record: 7-4
  • They beat Wisconsin at the beginning of the year, you may have heard of it.  You probably have not heard many positive things for the Badgers since that either, but hey let the Leathernecks brag about it to cover up their loss to Chicago State.  Oh wait, this sounds familiar.
  • They only played out out of the state of Illinois in 3 games in their non-conference schedule.  This is their second game in the state of Nebraska after losing to Creighton 97-67 in November.  Does this make you want the Mavericks to beat the Leathernecks even harder to hurt Creighton’s RPI?  I am not even sure if that would hurt Creighton’s RPI, but it wouldn’t help it.
  • Leathernecks beat Eastern Illinois twice, Omaha beat EIU once.
  • Garret Covington is pretty good at this basketball thing.  At 6’5″ and 180lbs, Covington is currently 3rd in the Summit in scoring with 17.4 points per game.  I don’t want to talk smack about Covington, but he does not really rank that well in any other statistical category…He is 10th in the Summit in free throw percentage.
  • JC Fuller appears to be the X-factor for the Leathernecks.  In wins, he is averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting 52% from the field.  In losses, Fuller is averaging 9.5 points per game and shooting 29% from the field.  Do the Mavs have a really good defensive guard to help slow Fuller down?  Yes…
  • Jabari Sandifer gave the Mavericks problems last season.  He is 2nd in the conference in assists behind Tra-Deon Hollins, and Sandifer is 2nd in the conference in Assists to Turnover ratio, so the match up between Sandifer and Fuller against Hollins and Devin Patterson appears to be a big factor in this game.
  • The Leathernecks were really excited for 6’11” freshman Brandon Gilbeck before the start of the season.  The frosh is averaging 3.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and has only made one free throw all season, so I am not sure if they are still super jacked about him or not.  The front line for the Leathernecks is deep with 4 guys that are 6’8″ or taller to play in the post, but none of them are half has good as Jake White or Tre’Shawn Thurman.

Since only one conference game has been played so far, and the non-conference schedule had completely different levels of competition for each Summit League team, I feel it is dumb to discuss team statistics at this point…and Western Illinois only played 11 games in their non-conference schedule when everyone else had 13 or 14 games…and 3 of their 11 games were against non-D1 teams…and they played Eastern Illinois twice…my teeth hurt right now.  But hey, the Summit League is currently 10th in RPI as a conference!

The Summit League RPI rankings as of December 31st…

37. South Dakota State

77. Oral Roberts

91. IPFW

120. South Dakota

153. North Dakota State

172. Omaha

212. Western Illinois

227. IUPUI

241. Denver


 

But hey, if you like Kenpom more…

57. South Dakota State

144. Omaha

160. North Dakota State

176. IPFW

181. Oral Roberts

193. Western Illinois

201. South Dakota

219. Denver

 

My precarious Summit League preseason rankings

This intro is copied from yesterday’s post…

Sometimes I find preseason predictions pointless, other than starting a conversation about the upcoming season or letting people know what could potentially be the biggest games of the year, there is not really much of a point to it.

I mainly find them useless because of the methodology in ranking teams.  Many seem to just copy and past the standings of last year, and then make a small edit if a team had a high amount of turnover from last season’s roster.  But I came up with a plan to do this for the Summit League.  I was reading some preseason predictions for the Big 10 football season which was done by a bunch of ESPN writers.  Some made good points but they all had to come up with a record for each team, and the math did not always make sense.  One clown had Ohio State going 12-0 with a 8-0 Big Ten record and Michigan State going 11-1, and also with a 8-0 Big Ten record.  Seriously, how drunk and lazy and/or bad at math was that guy?  Or some guys would have two teams going 8-0 in conference, a couple going 0-8, and everyone else going 5-3.  The math didn’t add up and they were telling you that these teams would win these amount of games because they are Skeletor and they said so.

So I came up with a plan.  I would go through the Summit League conference schedule and assign wins and losses over the course of a number of weeks.  At first it was just: South Dakota State is a better team than Denver, so win goes to the Jackrabbits.  Then later, I would look at the difficulty of each team’s conference schedule.  Obviously, everyone plays each other twice, but there are some things that stick out; like how Denver is the only team with the highway to the danger zone in playing at North Dakota State and South Dakota State in back to back games.  Or how South Dakota and Oral Roberts are the only two Summit League teams without three straight games on the road in conference play.  Then things like Omaha playing on the road against someone on a Thursday, as road games on Thursdays appear to be difficult for most teams.  Actually road games are pretty difficult for anyone.  Then I would go through the schedule again and consider some teams’ strengths versus their opponents weaknesses.  Like how teams better be good at three point shooting against South Dakota as they forced teams to take the most threes with their defense…and other things.

But I assigned wins and losses to each game, and did it several times considering different factors.  Then I plain and simple would add up each team’s wins and losses to see who had the most after going through it about 15 times.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than just saying South Dakota State will go 15-1 in conference because of Jesus?  Probably.

Really, after going through all of this; I really do not see much separation between many of the teams.  South Dakota State seems like a clear cut favorite.  Then North Dakota State seems like they are 2nd best, but they really should not be as comfortable as one would think.  Then Oral Roberts-Omaha-IPFW-IUPUI-South Dakota appear to be in a fight for spots 3 to 7 with Denver and Western Illinois sitting at 8 and 9; but Denver is a difficult place to play; and Western Illinois, while not great last year, they do return basically everything.

So much of the 3 to 9 in the Summit League appears to come down to:

  • Who can stay healthy?
  • Who can win on the road?
  • Who can pick up a win against South Dakota State and North Dakota State?

South Dakota State

Range of wins: 13 to 15

This team’s back court is extremely good, and the Jackrabbits could score 30 points a game on just three pointers alone.  The obvious question mark for the team is who is going to rebound and play center?  Scott Nagy has admitted to not knowing what to do there.  I think one of the most underrated part of Cody Larson’s game was his passing ability.  A big man that can pass is so huge for your team.  He could draw in the double team and kick it out to the open man, or pass it to a driving player, and it was just a huge weapon for the Jackrabbits.

Their three game road stretch of at North Dakota State, Oral Roberts, and South Dakota is an extremely tough road stretch for them, but they will be fine in the end.  They start their conference schedule at home with Denver and Western Illinois… must be rough.


North Dakota State

Range of wins:  10 to 13

At first I just thought to myself: oh they have everyone back, and they have enough players to make up for the loss of Lawrence Alexander, so they should just own this conference.  Then I thought: replacing Lawrence Alexander might be one of the most difficult things to ever overcome.  So much of their offense was based on what Alexander could do, and he only had two games last season where he did not score in double figures.  No player in Bison history won more games at North Dakota State than Lawrence Alexander.  Teams generally have a significant drop off when they lose one of their best players in program history, but somehow I still really like them to finish 2nd in the conference.

Dave Richman has this team completely confident though and they are buying into his system, and their team motto is: just get better and better every day…which they do a good job of doing.  One thing that is scary to think about in addition to losing one of the program’s best players in history: is the fact that they went 12-4 in the Summit League last season, but they did not exactly blow anyone out.  Only three of their wins were by more than 10 points, and one of those was a revenge game against South Dakota where Alexander had 31 points on 11-14 shooting.  So who is for sure going to score the ball down the stretch when they find themselves in close games this season?  I am not saying that they cannot find anyone, but it is something to definitely consider.

The Bison probably have the best post game cores in the league with AJ Jacobson, Dexter Werner, and Chris Kading; but Kading is coming off some summer surgeries.   They can go small, they can go big with those three; the three of them each bring something different to their front court to give them several different options.  The Bison also appear to be extremely excited about freshman Deng Geu, but they have also stated that they may redshirt him.

They lucked out with the greatest 3 game road stretch ever.  They are at IPFW on a Thursday and then at Western Illinois on a Saturday, they then have a 8 day break before playing on the road at IUPUI.


Omaha

Range of wins: 7 to 11

I already talked about the Mavs

I realize I look like a total homer placing them this high.


Oral Roberts

Range of wins: 7 to 10

At first, I thought no way on this team.  They have lost too many players in the last few seasons, the newcomers do not look all that great, and they might even be one of the least deep teams in the Summit League, which is almost an accomplishment.  Then I remembered that is the exact same thing that I thought about North Dakota State last season.  Obi Emegano is going to have to have to be the same type of player that Lawrence Alexander was for North Dakota State last season, which is something that he appears to be capable of.

No one seems to be taking the losses of Korey Billbury, Denell Henderson, and Bobby Word very seriously though.  Billbury was potentially a 1st Summit Team player, and he is being replaced by unproven guys.  The whole team is completely changed.  Their two top returning guys (Emegano and Brandon Conley) had shoulder surgery over the summer as well, and did not play in their summer trip.  There is a lot to point at and say that this why they wont be a top 3 team in the conference, but for some reason, I always consider them a top 4 team in this conference.  I just think Scott Sutton is that good of a coach and that Obi Emegano is that good of a player.  Sutton has finished in the top 3 in the Summit League in every season that they were in the Summit League since 2003-2004.

I would not be shocked if this team finished 2nd in the conference, and I would not be totally surprised if they finished 8th in the conference.  There is just no telling what is going to happen.  Jalen Bradley appears to be in the perfect situation playing alongside Emegano.  Freshman Javan White, while he looks like you could snap his arm like a twig, seems like he can really help the Golden Eagles in the low post in a league with not much depth in post players this season.

The start of the conference season does not look like a big help to them.  Three teams they can beat, but on the road against IPFW, then back home for South Dakota, then back on the road against Denver, then back home for North Dakota State.  They make up for it late in the season when they have three straight home games against IUPUI, Western Illinois, and Denver.


IUPUI

Range of wins:  6 to 10

This team was picked last in the preseason rankings before the start of last season.  Everyone thought it was one of the worst rosters they had ever seen, but they were able to pick up 6 wins with that roster.  What were they bad at last year?  3 point shooting…fine add Darell Combs, a transfer that made 32 threes in his sophomore year at Eastern Michigan.  Rebounding…fine add two 6’8″ transfers from Loyola.  Too many turnovers…fine, everyone that turned the ball over the most left the team, except for Marcellus Barksdale who handled the ball the most for the team.  Guard dominated league?  Fine, put Marcellus Barksdale on Obi Emegano or Garret Covington on any given night.  Hell, they don’t even see him as their best perimeter defender.

The roster has improved, the coaches have a year of being together under their belt, and the program is improving more and more every day.  They did hold an open scrimmage this week, but had 3 newcomers sitting out with some nagging injuries.  One of the players that sat out was Jordan Pickett who transferred from Loyola where he had a history of injury problems, and it sounds like the Jaguars were expecting him to be one of the team’s primary ball handlers.  That could become an issue.

They might be one the most boring team to ever watch, but you cannot ignore their improvement and upside.  They also had Marcellus Barksdale playing four different positions last season in just about every single game, and he will not have to take on as much of a load this season with the additions to this team.


South Dakota

Range of wins:  5 to 8

I admit that I really like Craig Smith, and I think the loss of him as an assistant coach was a big factor as to why the Huskers had a drop off last season.  Some of these preseason rankings appear to just rating the Coyotes around 5th primarily on the fact that Craig Smith is their coach…and I am totally cool with that.  This team lost the most scoring in the Summit League, their team has been plagued with injuries in the preseason, oh and the staff currently has no idea who is going to score the ball for them.  Spots 3-9 in the Summit League could be incredibly close, injuries could ruin any team, as well as pretty much starting 3 weeks later than everyone else as far as full team practices go.

Another thing that is kind of weird is that Trey Norris is probably their starting point guard, who started is sophomore year, but Smith thought it was a much better decision to send him to the bench in his junior year.  So does Smith even believe in his point guard?  Also Tyler Flack is returning from a back injury.  You back isn’t important in basketball, is it?  I was on the Craig Smith can coach this team to 3rd or 4th bandwagon, but there seems to be something new every week that continues to point to the fact that this is going to be a long year for the Coyotes.

This team though is going to force teams to take 3s on them.  They forced their opponents to take the most amount of threes last season, and held them to the lowest three point field goal percentage in the Summit League…so you kind of need to be able to hit the three against them.


IPFW

Range of wins:  5 to 7

I have seen this team ranked any from 4th to 6th in preseason rankings.  The Summit League ranked them as the 4th best team.  I don’t see it.  They return the 2nd least amount of scoring the Summit League, and they return the least amount of division one starts on their team.  The losses of Steve Forbes, Joe Edwards, and Isaiah McCray seem too big.  It seems like they are asking their newcomers to do too much and are placing too high of expectations on them.  They think Brent Calhoun is going to have a breakout year because he lost a bunch of weight and is really healthy, but let’s wait a few games to see how much of an asset that can be.  They are putting a lot of emphasis on redshirt freshman John Konchar to be an undersized 4 man and play small ball this season.

I am just not sold on this team yet.  This team was the worst free throw shooting team in the Summit League, but I think they really are going to improve there, which could help them with some of the rule changes, but teams should be adjusted to the rule changes come conference play.  I do think this team does have probably the best order of games in the conference as well.  Oral Roberts at home on a Wednesday, South Dakota at home on a Wednesday, North Dakota State at home on a Thursday, South Dakota State at home on a Thursday; and on top of that they never have three games in a row in which they should not be completely unfavored.  Have to give credit to the fact that they have one of the top back courts in the league with Mo Evans and Max Landis, but who knows how valuable that can be in a back court dominated league…says the guy that bases part of Omaha’s potential success on the Mavericks having one of the top back courts in the league.

The team did underachieve last season, but Joe Reed admitted that last year’s team was just completely focused on the Summit League tournament, and did not look at their season on a game-by-game basis.  He said they are more focused on taking it one game at a time this season.  I will be surprised if this team ends up in the top half of the Summit League, but they could do it with lucky breaks with injuries to other teams and whatnot.  It is a young team, and a team of mostly newcomers.  I will say if they can keep this roster together, add their two transfers sitting out this season, and a 6’10” freshman that recently committed, that the Mastodons will be a very good team against the Summit League in 2016-2017.


Denver

Range of wins:  2 to 7

There are many question marks for this team.  I am really curious how a 30 second shot clock affects a team in the Princeton offense, probably not a ton, but it has to affect it in some way shape or form.  Denver does have 3 seniors to run that offense, but they do have 13 underclassmen on their team that have to learn that offense and be prepared to hit shots with the shot clock winding down.  Denver can pick up a few wins at home with their elevation advantage,  style of play, and Joe Scott’s coaching abilities, but do you really feel fully confident in 9 freshman and 4 sophomores on the road in conference play?  They also have 3 seasons in a row of declining in wins, so it is not like there is a bunch of momentum heading into this season.  Not to mention, they were picked 2nd in preseason polls last season.  I have seen them ranked as low as 9th in the Summit and as high as 6th.

This team should have a pretty decent non-conference season though with no power teams on their schedule, and Wyoming is the hardest team on their non-conference schedule, who lost everyone.   The start to the conference schedule is not very kind to the Pioneers.  They start off with with two weekend games on the road against North Dakota State and South Dakota State, and then they have Oral Roberts at home…so they are starting off with the three teams that are known for being the toughest in the Summit League.  After the Golden Eagles, they have IPFW at home who swept them last season by 16 point margins in each game; and then they are back on the road for games against Western Illinois and IUPUI.  It is possible that they start the conference season at 0-6.  Talk about momentum!


Western Illinois

Range of wins: 2 to 5

No one is taking Western Illinois very seriously, and it completely makes sense.  They ended 2014-2015 on a nine game losing streak and they were 0-8 in Summit League road games.  Western Illinois is not an easy place for other teams to pick up wins though.  They were 3-5 at home, and they lost both of their home games to North Dakota State and South Dakota State by 2.

It also seems like everyone on this team was injured at some point, and they return the most scoring in the Summit League at 89% of their offense.  They are also very excited about their two freshmen 6’11” Brandon Gilbeck and 5’11” DeAngelo Brewster.  Gilbeck and Brewster do not need to carry the load for this team with Garret Covington, JC Fuller, and Jabari Sandifer still on this team, but they need to just be role players; so it is not like they have any pressure on them.  It is completely easy to write off the Leathernecks and pencil them in as the worst team in the Summit League, but they could seriously surprise a couple teams this year and pick up a shocking win or two.  The toughest part of the season for them is going to be when they 6 out of 8 games on the road in the conference.

But the serious questions were all no for the Leathernecks last year.  Can they stay healthy?  No.  Can they win on the road?  No.  Can they beat South Dakota State or North Dakota State?  No.

Just some haphazard notes listening to the Summit League Media Day

 

  • Joe Scott knows his team is young and the Pioneers are a work in progress, but he is preaching maturity to his team.
  • Jon Coffman is pretty damn excited about college basketball and his team.
    • Redshirt Freshman John Konchar has apparently put on a ton of muscle, and the ‘Dons are really excited about him and are more prepared to go small ball this year in the Summit
    • Brent Calhoun is expected to make a big jump for the ‘Dons, he has lost a bunch of weight and is in the best shape of his life.
    • I have realized that after an entire season that I have been spelling “Mastodons” incorrectly.
  • Jason Gardner is excited about this program, and thinks his staff will be more comfortable working together this year.  He has gained a large amount of respect for the Summit League.
    • In his opinion, Mason Archie is his team’s best defender and wants to defend the other team’s best player.
    • Marcellus Barksdale had to play four different positions in just about every single game for the Jaguars, he will not have to do that this year and expects Barksdale to benefit from not having to playing too many different roles.
    • Barksdale and Archie have both graduated already, and set a great example for the team.
    • His 4 transfers are really going to help this team.
    • The new arena has really helped the Jaguars in recruiting.
  • Dave Richman acknowledges that his team has 11 of his 15 guys as freshman and sophomores, but they are a deeper and more talented team than last year.
    • Chris Kading had 3 surgeries in the off season, will probably miss the first couple games of the regular season.
    • Lawrence Alexander carried the Bison on his back, he was the winningst most player in Bison history, it is not going to be easy to replace him.  They will have to replace him by committee.
    • The Bison ended up 12-4 in the league, but many of their games were won by just a possession.
  • Derrin Hansen (and Brittany Lange) is excited about the new arena, it has been a huge asset to the program, and they know it will help them catch up to the rest of the league in the next few years.  Not to mention it is extremely huge for the community.
    • Hansen is expecting more productivity from Tim Smallwood, Hansen is unclear if Smallwood will start or come off the bench yet.  Smallwood has a much better feel for the game right now.  He was a huge help when Marcus Tyus missed the last 6 games of the season.
    • Devin Patterson has become better in his leadership role.
    • Marcus Tyus is coming off his knee injury very well.
    • Jake White was only healthy for 2 or 3 games last year, he can have a big year if he is healthy.
    • Randy Reed is going to have a big role this year.
    • The players UNO has brought in bring in a winning culture, with all of them playing in their state championship games.  Zach Jackson’s team won the state championship.
    • Hansen thinks his new guys can be immediate impacts for his program, but it sounds like minutes may be an issue at this point.
  • Scott Sutton says he is excited and optimistic, but he also sounds like he wants to skip the morning and get straight to lunch.  He likes his new players, he knows there will be growing pains, but it is a tough group of guys that should be ready by the conference schedule.  Their non-conference schedule should really help prepare the Golden Eagles for the Summit League.
    • Obi Emegano and Brandon Conley have both been injured throughout the summer and had shoulder surgeries, but are doing very well at this point.  The staff is doing the best that they can to protect them.
    • Sutton thinks the rule changes in college basketball are going to benefit a guy like Emegano the most.  He already led the league last year in free throws attempted per game and he should get even more attempts at the line this season.  Sutton also likes how his team plays with a 30 second shot clock.
    • Sutton really really likes Jalen Bradley, and will have a hard time keeping him out of the lineup.  Bradley got to play a lot on the team’s summer trip, where the team got to play with a 24 second shot clock.
    • Sutton could have a year where he is starting a couple freshmen.  AJ Owens is their post player, but not as consistent as they would like him to be.  Owens could have the biggest jump this year in the league.
  • Craig Smith sounds like he came to party. He thinks it is going to be a heck of a year for the Summit League, and his team will be a work in progress.  He is glad that his team set a foundation and a culture last year.  They lost a lot of scoring, so they have to figure out a way to score the ball.
    • Smith really does not know who is going to help take on the scoring yet, but Tre Burnette really caught on toward the end of the season.  Casey Kasperbauer is one of the best three point shooters he has ever coached.
    • The Coyotes have had a lot of injuries.  They have 17 players on the roster, but ended a practice with only 10 players recently.  It has been hard to get going and figure out lineups and who plays well together.
    • Dan Jech can score in a lot of different ways and is a great rebounder.  Smith sounds really excited about Jech.
    • Tyler Hagedorn has a great feel for the game and can do a lot of different things.
    • Tyler Borchers has been a great surprise for the Coyotes, he doesn’t look pretty with everything that he does, but he does great things.
  • Scott Nagy says his team has taken their time getting ready because of the great experience that they have at the guard position.  He thinks the Jackrabbits have a lot of depth, which is going to be needed in college basketball with the rule changes.
    • He points out that preseason awards mean nothing.  No one expected Deondre Parks and George Marshall to be all league picks last year.  Some transfers from IUPUI or on other teams could be big time players, and no one knows anything about them yet.
    • Jake Bittle and George Marshall both have nagging injuries, nothing that would keep them out, but they will be hurting after games.
    • Nagy thinks his team is smaller than he would like it to be.  They could even go very small with no true post player in some games.
    • Adam Dykman works extremely hard, and down the road will be a tremendous 4 man in the future.
    • The biggest question mark for the Jackrabbits is: how will they replace Cody Larson?  They are looking at 3 guys to replace him…Connor Devine, Ian Theisen, and Mike Daum.  He has no idea who will be their starting center at this point.
    • Nagy just seems displeased by rule changes, doesn’t see the need for them, but they have to play with them.  He doesn’t think the rule changes will affect how they play though.
  • Billy Wright feels his program is headed in the right direction.  His team has set a philosophy in how they want to recruit and compete.
    • Western Illinois returns 85% of their scoring.
    • His freshman are working hard to compete for starting spots and playing time.
    • Garret Covington has really worked hard to improve his rebounding
    • JC Fuller is one of the most underrated players in the league.
    • De’Angelo Brewster and Brandon Gilbeck will have big breakout years as freshmen.
    • The Summit League is close in talent, you are an injury or two away from going from the top to the bottom, or a recruit away from going from the bottom to the middle of the pack.