South Dakota versus Western Illinois preview

I have heard commentators say that if there was any year for a 7 or 8 seed to upset one of the top two seeds in the Summit League conference tournament that this would be the year.  Not sure if anyone is feeling that great about it being Western Illinois coming in for the upset in the first round, but we will see.

It is not impossible for the Leathernecks to come take away South Dakota’s NCAA Tournament possibilities, but the Coyotes are riding a 6 game winning streak into the conference tournament which is a 1 hour drive away from their campus.

South Dakota probably has the deepest bench in the entire league, and Western Illinois has the least.  You could make an argument that the one team not playing in the tournament, Oral Roberts, has more talent and depth than the Leathernecks.  With Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak it’s like watching a movie with two up-and-coming stars while the rest of the cast is made up of personalities that made their debuts to entertainment in Tosh.0’s Web Redemption segment.  The movie also has you wondering, sure the up-and-coming stars were good, but would they really be able to have an impact on a likable movie?  Everything about this should remind you that someone once made a Smokey and the Bandit 3.

The Coyotes are the opposite of that.  There is a plan, and every player on the team understands their role.  South Dakota is more like a really good ensemble film that have you leaving the theater realizing that the whole thing worked because of the great ensemble.  That is the usual typecasting that creates the Summit League favorite.

To pull off the upset, the Leathernecks are going to need their offense to show up.  The Leathernecks are a decent defensive team, but much of the team seems instructed to not take a shot on offense unless you have to.  They did struggle to score the ball for most of January and February, but they did end the season averaging 88 points over the last three games.  Two of those last three games did go to overtime.

In their two match ups, Garret Covington combined for 10-of-30 from the field.  I’m lucky enough to know enough math to not need a calculator to figure out that is 33 percent from the field.  Mike Miklusak shot 9-of-24 in the two games against the Coyotes.  So the two leading scorers for the Leathernecks both struggled against the top defense in the Summit League.  They’re going to be going up against South Dakota in what is basically a home game for the Coyotes, so I can sum that up in three words: It’s not good.

While the Leathernecks are filled with inconsistent and players that not appear to have a load of confidence on offense, the Coyotes have players that appear confident and always ready to take a big shot.  Trey Burch-Manning can match up well with Miklusak and battle him on the low block and defend him on the perimeter, and he is the perfect type of player to make every single hustle play a contender needs.  Matt Mooney can also match up well against Covington, and watching Mooney as an opposing fan is incredibly difficult.  He averages 18 points per game and it seems like he averages 12 points per game when the games are on the line.  Mooney also comes off as a smug jerk, but that’s a conversation for another day.  It’s the bands on both wrists.  It’s a typical smug jerk look.

In conference play, Mooney was 3rd in the Summit League in scoring and Covington was 4th.

If there is one fault to South Dakota’s team, it is their free throw shooting.  They finished the season 8th in the conference in free throw percentage, and the Leathernecks were not that much better at 7th.  Still, there were several moments that Craig Smith had Trey Burch-Manning on the court in the final minutes and teams knew to foul the guy who shoots around 60 percent from the line, and it definitely got scary for the Coyotes.

Again, it’s not impossible for the Leathernecks to pull off an upset, but it will take a lot.  They will need guys who have rarely shown up to rise to the occasion to make big shots on offense and big stops on defense.  We have witnessed that the teams in this conference are incredibly close in competition.

Percentage wise, they are not an above average three point shooting team either.  The Coyotes finished 8th in three point shooting in conference games, but players like Mooney, Tyler Flack, and Trey Dickerson can make the big threes when they matter the most.

The Leathernecks are essentially walking into the casino, going straight to the roulette table, and putting all their chips on double-zero green and closing their eyes.

 

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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 Coyotes are going to have a new pack in 2017

So the Coyotes finished 2016 as the 8 seed in the Summit League tournament after being preseason picked as the 5th team in the Summit.

At the beginning of the year, I said, no, this team is not in the top half of the conference.  They lost 54% of their scoring going into the 2016 season, which was the most in the conference.  Now, actually heading into the 2017 season, the Coyotes will lose almost 70% of their scoring…but they cannot get worse than 8th, right?  I mean, right?  Similar to Tim Miles at Nebraska, Craig Smith was supposed to improve this team year after year.

The Coyotes had three transfers sitting out this season who could immediately help the Coyotes try and improve next season and stay away from the 9th spot in 2017.  6’3″ Junior guard Carlton Hurst will join the Coyotes from Colorado State.  Hurst averaged 4.2 points per game and shot 44% from the field in his freshman season, but his production dropped his sophomore year to 1.8 points per game.  That CSU team his sophomore season won a program record 27 games and made the NIT.

Trey Dickerson is a 6’0″ point guard who transferred from Iowa after being upset that he was the 3rd string point guard for the Hawkeyes…and also probably because Fran McCaffrey messed up Dickerson’s income taxes.  Seriously, McCaffrey looks more like the team accountant than the head coach.  Apparently, Dickerson has the potential to be the fastest guard in the Summit League next season… He only played in 15 games for the Hawkeyes and averaged 2.7 points and 1.2 assists over those 15 appearances.  Not super impressive numbers, but yeah, I would be throwing a parade if the Mavericks had a transfer from Iowa being thrown into their lineup.  It would be the world’s worst parade.  It would be more like a random guy walking down Center Street screaming incoherent babblings.

Lastly, the Coyotes will be adding Air Force transfer, Matt Mooney, who will be a 6’3″ sophomore.  Mooney averaged 7 points in a Princeton offense his freshman season at Air Force; he shot 45% from the floor and 39% on threes.  He had 8 games of scoring in double figures for Air Force.  Mooney cited that bullying was one of the reasons for wanting to transfer away from Air Force.

Each player has potential to be at least Honorable Mention in the Summit League in 2017 and/or 2018 and help the Coyotes reload their roster quickly.  Granted, they finished 8th in 2016, so maybe rebuild is a better word here than reload.

Aside from just bringing in transfer players, the Coyotes will also be adding Lincoln native, Triston Simpson – who held offers from South Dakota State, North Dakota State, and also the Mavericks.  Simpson averaged 16.2 points and 6.2 assists per game in his senior year for Lincoln North Star.  I feel like I hardly heard Simpson’s name throughout the high school basketball season, but maybe that is just because he is from Lincoln?  The Lincoln Journal Star named him to the 1st Team Super State team.  South Dakota also signed two wing players: 6’4″ guard Tyler Peterson from the state of Minnesota who also had an offer from North Dakota; and 6’5″ Brandon Armstrong, from the state of Texas, who also held offers from New Hampshire and Texas-Arlington.

South Dakota may be losing 70% of their scoring, but they still have some interesting pieces coming back.  Forward Tyler Flack finally came back after sitting out for nearly a year and a half with a back injury.  Flack ended up averaging 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 17 games this season.  He had a bit of a coming back party in Omaha when he had 14 points and 6 rebounds against the Mavericks at the end of January.  After that game Flack looked like an All Conference player averaging 12.9 points and 6.4 points per game.  If Flack can come back and be healthy all season, the Coyotes can actually make a pretty big jump from 8th place next season.  The Yotes also have their two big freshmen Dan Jech and Tyler Hagedorn coming back for next season, who both had flashes of potential in 2016, but they both kind of fell out of the lineup when conference play started and Flack was back in the lineup as a key player to the team.  A player that probably surprised us all was sophomore Dejon Davis.  His freshman season he averaged 2 points a game, but jumped to 9.2 points per game in his sophomore season…his minutes did increase by almost 20 minutes per game as the Coyotes did not have much depth at the wing…so it wouldn’t be shocking to see his production drop off in 2017 after adding the transfers and incoming freshmen.

Craig Smith and his staff still have 2 scholarship spots to fill, and Smith is likely to still go after some transfers from bigger schools as that is how he has tried to jump start a heartbeat into his program so far.  It would seem pretty typical of Smith to go after Nebraska transfer Johnny Trueblood, as Smith used be an assistant for the Huskers and he clearly likes to recruit out of the state of Nebraska.  Jerk.

I’m going to throw out another potential name that makes me want to punch a stack of bricks.  Marvin Clark, Jr… Smith has also made attempts at going after players from the Kansas City metro area, and Clark is originally from Kansas City.  Clark played two seasons at Michigan State where he saw his minutes drop to 10 minutes per game in his sophomore season, but he was working himself back into the rotation near the end of the season due to some injuries on the team.  He would be a 6’7″ 225lb junior (and could add more weight sitting out for a year) in 2018 and could really make the Coyotes a favorite in the Summit League that season, and he would immediately replace Flack after he graduates.

They may not be from bigger schools, but Milwaukee had a few players leave their team this last month after the coach had been fired; and both Austin Arians and Cody Wichmann had offers from South Dakota out of high school.  Arians would be eligible to play immediately, and at 6’6″ he could really help improve the wing position of the Yotes; he averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a junior…he also made 2.5 threes per game; but Arians visited Wake Forest last week so he may be a little too classy for South Dakota.  Wichmann will also graduate and be eligible immediately; he is a 6’5″ smaller power forward type similar to Casey Harriman (Creighton alum).  Wichmann averaged almost 5 points and 2 rebounds per game in 2016, he shot 47% from the field and 48% on threes in his junior season…He might not be the huge impact to the team that Clark or Arians would be, but he would still help the Coyotes look better than 8th in 2016.

So 2017 may depend on how quickly the Coyotes can get the new faces acclimated to their program, but they can quickly make a jump and hopefully not trend down.  They will be one of the youngest teams in the Summit, which is never great, but they will have players that have been around the block before.  This was also a team that had a decent amount of injuries in 2016, and even a couple of mid season departures, so who knows what can happen if they can actually be healthy in 2017.

 

A stale South Dakota-IPFW SL Tourney preview

Nothing gets you going like a good 1 versus 8 match up in conference tournaments.

So, I know I’ve said it a few times before, but South Dakota’s defense forces teams to take more threes than any other team in the Summit League…and also finished in 8th in defensive three point field goal percentage, so good for them.  Teams averaged taking 22 threes against the Coyotes.  Maybe it’s not that they force teams to take so many threes…maybe they are just giving wide open looks on threes, but still…

On the reverse: no team in the Summit League made or attempted more threes than IPFW.  The Mastodons made just a little more than 10 threes per game, and overall on the season, South Dakota State was 2nd in the Summit League in three point field goals with 93 less total threes than IPFW.  IPFW’s 10.3 threes per game is 6th in division 1.  The ‘Dons also led the conference in three point field goal percentage.  Aside from this, they also lead the conference in rebounding.

In the first meeting between the Coyotes and Mastodons, IPFW shot 9-of-26 from behind the arch.  The team overall also shot 52% from the floor, and four ‘Dons scored in double figures.  The ‘Dons won this game by 20 points, but it was a much different game than what will be played in the Summit League tournament.  Mo Evans is no longer eligible to play and he had 20 points and 9 assists in that game.  Tyler Flack for South Dakota was still not playing at 100% after coming back from sitting out the previous season with an injury; and also Shy McClelland was the only player for the Coyotes to score in double figures, and he has since quit the team.

In their second meeting, in Vermillion, Tyler Flack was becoming more comfortable coming off a couple double digit scoring games, Mo Evans was off of IPFW, and this was going to be South Dakota’s first game without Shy McClelland.  McClelland was a scoring threat for South Dakota, averaging 11.5 points per game, but he shot 51% from the free throw line and did not attempt many threes for South Dakota.  The Coyotes had senior Trey Norris to take the starter role, who had experience starting for South Dakota, but the team would still be left without some depth at the guard position.  Since McClelland left the team, Norris has averaged 12.5 points per game and the Coyotes were 4-4 without McClelland…granted one of those wins was over York, but they beat North Dakota State, Oral Roberts, and IUPUI.  Norris is also an 80% free throw shooter, so you kind of have to ask why Craig Smith wasn’t starting him over McClelland before.

So, in their second meeting, IPFW shot 20-of-36 on three point field goals, and Max Landis made 11 of those threes to help him get 44 points for himself.  IPFW won the game by 13 on the road.  Juco transfer, DeAngelo Stewart scored 17 points off the bench for the ‘Dons, and he probably does not get enough credit, along with senior Michael Calder, in how the ‘Dons have been able to remain successful after the loss of Mo Evans.  Hard to throw credit around at IPFW when Max Landis is more than likely going to be the Summit League player of the year.  Also, freshman John Konchar is a candidate for newcomer of the year averaging nearly 13 points and 9 rebounds per game.  Konchar also had a double-double in each game against South Dakota.  He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in his first game against South Dakota, and then 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists in the second game at South Dakota.

South Dakota can play big against IPFW with Tyler Flack healthy and 6’8″ Eric Robertson at center.  They also have a couple 6’9″ freshmen to come off the bench to back them up.  IPFW can match that really, but with all the threes that South Dakota allows IPFW to make…does it really matter if South Dakota plays big?

The Coyotes have 2 advantages in the first round of the Summit League tournament.
1. This is basically a home game for them…but they let Max Landis go for 44 points when they played in Vermillion against IPFW.

2. Max Landis has played 40 minutes in each of the last 5 games, granted it really does not seem to matter, but it is wearing Landis down a little.  He’s shooting 38% from three in the last 6 games as opposed to his 46% from three on the season.  And really, even if you just contain Landis; Konchar shoots 45% on threes; DeAngelo Stewart shoots 42%; Michael Calder shoots 39%; and Joe Reed shoots 34% on threes.  IPFW’s team three point field goal percentage is 6th in division 1.

Still, you would think IPFW would really like to get a big lead so they can rest Landis as they have IUPUI or North Dakota State in the second round if they win…and IPFW was a combined 1-3 against the Jaguars and Bison.

The game is a bad match up for South Dakota, but really how many 8 versus 1 seeds are great match ups for the 8 seed?

Summit League Predictions: Feb 3-6

I was 7-1 last week, and now I am 21-8 overall if you keeping track.  You are not keeping track.  I feel like I miss the most on IPFW.  Oh yeah, you’re not keeping track.

I may be completely off this week.  I just learned that Elizabeth Banks is going to play Rita Repulsa in the new Power Rangers epic.  It’s not that I am in shock over Banks playing a villain, I am just in shock that Hollywood thinks they can make money on a Power Rangers reboot.  Hopefully there is a really dark tone to the movie and gets taken seriously.  I am just kidding, it will be awful.  Hopefully there will be some realism in this round of the Rangers.  Like, how does Angel Grove go from being completely destroyed by a Megazord versus 500 Foot Alien battle, and there is still 8th period Algebra in the same day?  And this happened a few times a week.  Oh, and no one can replace Amy Jo Johnson as the Pink Ranger…no one.  Someone could easily replace her role in “Susie Q.”

Oh yeah, basketball…

So with the rest of the regular season, the Summit League tournament, and possible post season births; it is completely possible that the Summit League would have 4 teams finish with 20 or more wins.  South Dakota State and IPFW each need 2 wins, Omaha needs 5 wins, and North Dakota State needs 6 wins.  I don’t think the Summit has ever had 4 teams with 20 or more wins.

February 3rd

Omaha (7-2) @ Western Illinois (0-9) on ESPN3

The game in Omaha was a little scary for most of the 2nd half for the Mavericks.  JC Fuller started off hot in the game, but then cooled down in the 2nd half.  Fuller did have some interest from Omaha out of junior college, but not sure if there was an offer given by the Omaha staff.  This could be why he was taunting the Omaha bench after every made shot in the first half…why couldn’t the official that gave Tre’Shawn Thurman a technical foul for taunting IPFW have been doing the game?

Omaha is a better road team…and a home team…and an overall team than Western Illinois, but can the Leathernecks really go 0-16?  Daily Rpi has them going 1-15 in the Summit League with a win in their final game over South Dakota.  My hope is that Western Illinois does not come out with a Hey, We Almost Had This Last Time So This Can Be Our First Win mentality; and I hope Omaha comes out with a We CANNOT Lose This Damn Game mentality.  Omaha has yet to win in Macomb since transitioning to division one, so if they can win in Macomb it would be the 4th Summit League location they finally pick up a win at this season.  There is a little fight left in the Leathernecks, so the game could be closer than what you might think as a Mavs fan.  ESPN, as of the morning, had Omaha favored by 4 points.

Garret Covington was single handedly trying to pick up a win for his team last week at IUPUI.  He scored 8 straight points in a matter of 1 minute to keep the game close in the first half, and the Jaguars really did not have much of an answer for him second half.  Omaha was able to hold Covington to 4-of-13 shooting at the Baxter Arena, Tate Stensgaard became a problem for Omaha who was 13-of-15 from the floor.

February 4th

Oral Roberts (3-6) @ North Dakota State (4-4) on ESPN3

Oral Roberts beat North Dakota State in Tulsa by one point, but now the Golden Eagles have lost three games in a row.  North Dakota State almost won the game in the end…which when I think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous to say someone “almost won a game in the end” in a 1 point game…

North Dakota State is rebuilding a home game winning streak, and Oral Roberts is currently on a downhill trend.  The Golden Eagles average more turnovers in conference games than any other team, and every North Dakota State player appears to play better at home.

IPFW (7-2) @ South Dakota (2-7)

If Max Landis is feeling good, he could get 30 points in this game.  IPFW won the last time these two teams met in Fort Wayne…Mo Evans who is no longer playing this season, had 20 points and 9 assists in that game.

Craig Smith stated after the Coyotes’ loss to Denver that the team really isn’t listening to him right now, and not playing well together at all.  That’s exactly what you want going into a game with one of the best teams in the conference.

South Dakota is the worst rebounding team in the Summit, well other than Denver, and IPFW is the best rebounding team in the league.

IUPUI (7-2) @ Denver (3-6)

At first, I was all about Denver in this game with their home court advantage.  Denver probably will probably still not get away from their Princeton offense, and IUPUI plays the passing lanes and steals the ball away probably 90% as well as Omaha.  Jaguars beat Denver by 15 in Indiana and they can probably still win this game by at least 10.

February 6th

Denver (3-6) @ Omaha (7-2)

Omaha has a somewhat easy week with Denver and Western Illinois.  This better not be a trap.  Next week the Mavs have South Dakota State and North Dakota State in Omaha, both of those games should get over 3,000 in attendance.  When was the last time Omaha basketball had two games in the same week with over 3,000 in attendance.  The game against North Dakota State is the same day Omaha hockey plays Western Michigan.  Double header!

Oral Roberts (3-6) @ South Dakota (2-7)

This is actually a really difficult one.  South Dakota beat Oral Roberts in Tulsa, but Oral Roberts was playing without Obi Emegano.  South Dakota does not appear to really have an answer for a healthy Emegano, but no one seems to actually have an answer for Emegano, it’s the rest of the team that needs to step up.  Oral Roberts does have the needed three point shooting to defeat South Dakota.

IPFW (7-2) @ North Dakota State (4-4)

This could be a really fun, entertaining game.  IPFW won by 5 in Fort Wayne a couple weeks ago, a game that John Konchar had 19 rebounds.  The Bison can give Max Landis a few different looks, especially if they actually play Carlin Dupree again, just like Omaha did in the second half and he struggled against Landis.  By struggled, I mean he actually missed two shots in a row at some point.  This has to be the game that Landis’ minutes start catching up with him…right?

IUPUI (7-2) @ South Dakota State (7-2) on ESPN3

I’m just trying to put together the amount of revenge the Jackrabbits are going to come out with after losing to the Jaguars a few weeks ago, without Jake Bittle in the lineup.

Summit League Predictions: Jan 13-16

I went 4-2 last week missing on IUPUI @ Western Illinois and Omaha @ North Dakota State.  Who else would have picked IUPUI over South Dakota State or Denver over Oral Roberts?  I’m pretty damn happy missing on North Dakota State.  I feel like Western Illinois just keeps lying to us though.  They beat Wisconsin and people thought they would be a dangerous team, they still have votes in the Mid-Major 25, they returned a bunch of experience, but their shooting percentage keeps plummeting.  They’re the girlfriend that keeps cheating on your buddy, and she continues telling him this is the last time, so you have to keep getting drunk and playing Rock Band with him until 4 in the morning every Saturday night to help him keeping his mind off of stuff…and really you need to tell him to just move on.  Not talking from experience or anything.

January 13

South Dakota @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

The home team won each game in this series last year, which is partly why I am taking the Bison here…but mostly because the Bison are an overall better team.  The Bison won in Fargo by 24 the last time these two teams played.  One scary thing, (and I know I have mentioned this before) no team in the Summit League forces teams to take more threes than the Coyotes, and the Bison shoot the 2nd most threes in the league while being 7th in the league in 3 point field goal percentage.  The Bison were 8-of-12 from 3 at home against Denver and 8-of-21 at home against Omaha.  There are really not a lot of knock down three point shooters for the Bison, only Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson shoot higher than 30% from three.  The Bison have also gone with a few different lineup changes over the last few games, which has been a little confusing, but David Richman says his players are completely fine with this.

The fun match up of the game to watch could be the forward position between Tre Burnette (14.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 47fg%) versus AJ Jacobson (13.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 46fg%).  But the real match up to see is whoever Craig Smith decides to try and stop Paul Miller.

January 14

Oral Roberts @ IUPUI on ESPN3

I picked IUPUI to win this game before the start of the season.  I thought Oral Roberts would be favored because it was Oral Roberts and it is IUPUI, then the Jaguars would surprise the Golden Eagles, but instead Oral Roberts is 1-3 and IUPUI is 3-1.

Oral Roberts really has too many newcomers to face a defensive team like the Jaguars.  So far, in 4 Summit League games, the Jaguars are 2nd in the Summit in defensive field goal percentage and 1st in defensive three point field goal percentage.  In 3 games against the Jaguars last season, Obi Emegano shot 10-of-33 from the field and 2-of-9 from three.  The Golden Eagles have shown that they struggle without the preseason player of the year by losing to South Dakota and Denver, each team’s only conference win so far, so how could they do when he is being contained by Marcellus Barksdale?

Denver @ Western Illinois

Denver won in Macomb last season, but this was when Western Illinois basically did not have a roster anymore due to injuries late in the year.  This basketball game could be classically ugly.  There will be one team does not get into the Summit League tournament, and this is looking like the two worst teams in the Summit League, so the last tournament spot could be on the line.

In 4 conference games so far, Denver has the worst defensive field goal percentage in the league, and Western Illinois has shown they can shoot well against poor defenses.  I don’t want to think about this game anymore.

IPFWSouth Dakota State

Both teams are going to have difficult schedules on the week, and this should be a really fun game.  Fort Wayne lost by 29 the last time they played in Brookings, a game that the ‘Dons had 24 turnovers in.  Now, the ‘Dons are coming into this game on a 6 game winning streak.

This is a match up for two of the best back courts in the Summit, and there should be close to 20 three point field goals made.  A serious question for the Jackrabbits is: is Jake Bittle playing?  Without Bittle, I am taking IPFW.  The ‘Dons are a slightly better defensive team than the Jackrabbits, which could make a big difference in a game between two of the best teams.  In their first three conference games, the Jackrabbits have shot 38% from the field against IUPUI, Western Illinois, and Denver.  All of these games have been without Jake Bittle.  They cannot shoot 38% from the floor and beat the ‘Dons.

I don’t know how far back you can go and replay games on ESPN3, but if you can, go watch South Dakota State @ IUPUI.  South Dakota State, who is supposed to be the best coached team in the Summit, would go 5 minute stretches with 4 players not even attempting to move without the ball on every single play.  There is no one on the team that will force their teammates to move without Jake Bittle.

January 16

Denver @ IUPUI on ESPN3

See above about the South Dakota State not moving the ball on IUPUI.  Can IUPUI keep Denver from moving the ball around and getting shots off in their Princeton offense?  IUPUI swept Denver last season by a combined 4 points.  This game will be close, it will be low scoring, and it will be as frustrating as a 14 year old boy dealing with dial up internet when his parents are not home.  Hey, it takes a while to do homework when you’re 14.  Especially with a poor internet connection.

IPFW @ Omaha

The two highest scoring teams in the Summit will be facing off.  I would like to think the Omaha crowd will be larger than normal.  Their team is on their longest winning streak since transitioning to division one, Devin Patterson has won the conference player of the week award twice in a row, Tra-Deon Hollins leads the nation in steals, Omaha is coming off one of their best weeks in division one beating North Dakota State and South Dakota on the road, there will be no competing Creighton or NFL game, and the brand of Omaha basketball is getting some recognition right now.

This is the only game of the week for Omaha, while IPFW has to go on the road against South Dakota State and Omaha.  South Dakota State is ranked 15th in the Mid-Major Poll, IPFW is 20th, and Omaha is 10 votes away from being 25th.

Patterson against Mo Evans should be a really fun match up to watch in this game.  In 4 games against each other; Patterson has averaged 9.3 ppg, 2.3 apg, 1.3 spg, and shot 52% from the field; Evans has averaged 12.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, and shot 42% from the field.  In IPFW’s current 6 game winning steak (not counting Purdue North Central), Evans has averaged 17.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, and shot 49% from the field.  In Omaha’s current 6 game winning streak, Patterson has averaged 21.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2 spg, and shot 53% from the field.

Maybe Patterson and Evans cancel each other out, I don’t know.  Another interesting match up should be the battle in the post with IPFW’s Joe Reed (10.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 55 fg%) and John Konchar (11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 58fg%) against Jake White (16 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 57fg%) and Tre’Shawn Thurman (14.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 52fg%).  IPFW could start Brent Calhoun at the center spot, but Jon Coffman regularly takes him out pretty quickly and plays small ball with the 6’4″ Konchar at the 4 position.  Calhoun has gone from basically just being a tree in the middle of the lane to being effective in the last couple of games for the ‘Dons.  Last week against South Dakota and Denver, Calhoun averaged 13 & 5 and shot 11-of-12 from the floor.

These teams actually sound pretty close to each other on paper.  Now I feel bad for dogging on the ‘Dons all year.  Okay, how about this.  At the 2 guard position, Tra-Deon Hollins and Max Landis are almost opposite.  Hollins is not a great three point shooter, Landis leads the Summit in three point field goals made (Evans is 2nd in three point field goals made).  Landis is not known for being a great defender, Hollins leads the nation in steals.  Who is going to get the better of the two here?

This game has a recipe for a lot of drama.  Maybe another game Omaha is down by double digits and has to fight back, but the ‘Dons have several offensive weapons so it might be as easy as coming back on the Leathernecks or Coyotes.

South Dakota State @ North Dakota State on ESPN 3

I admit it.  I am for the most part only taking the Bison because they are the home team in this rivalry.  Last week, I took NDSU against the Mavericks mainly because they were the home team and because almost no Maverick ever had a quality game against the Bison…and I was very happy to be wrong.

Oral Roberts @ Western Illinois

Obi Emegano should hopefully be fully recovered from his concussion at this point.  I also don’t think Obi Emegano would let his team fall to his former school.  Against Western Illinois last season, Emegano averaged 23.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and shot 52% from the field.  Western Illinois’ best player, Garret Covington had 13.5 ppg, 6 rpg, and shot 26% from the field.  Emegano has the ability to fully put his team on his back and win a basketball game similar to North Dakota State’s Lawrence Alexander last season.

Western Illinois also recently stopped using Jamie Batish off the bench, who was leading the conference in three point field goal percentage at one point.  Mike Miklusak was giving the Leathernecks’ good minutes off the bench, but was injured against Omaha, and hasn’t been seen since.  Miklusak missed the last 13 games of 2014-2015 and Western Illinois went 1-12 with him out.  WIU’s top three players: Garret Covington, JC Fuller, and Jabari Sandifer are far too consistent to go up against a guy like Emegano.


Summit League RPI Rankings as of January 12th

51. South Dakota State

78. IPFW

107. Oral Roberts

139. Omaha

152. South Dakota

163. IUPUI

170. North Dakota State

234. Denver

252. Western Illinois


Summit League Kenpom Rankings as of January 12th

83. South Dakota State

133. Omaha

155. North Dakota State

160. IPFW

188. IUPUI

189. Western Illinois

193. Oral Roberts

209. South Dakota

243. 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.