Summit League predictions: Feb 19-22

February 19th

South Dakota State @ North Dakota on ESPN+

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

North Dakota State @ South Dakota on ESPN3

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


February 20th

Omaha @ Fort Wayne

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

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

Oral Roberts @ Denver

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

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


February 21st

Omaha @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

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

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

North Dakota State @ North Dakota on ESPN3

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


February 22nd

South Dakota @ South Dakota State on ESPN+

You’re not reading this anymore, are you?

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

 

Summit League predictions: Feb 12-16

February 12th

Western Illinois @ South Dakota on ESPN+

I’ve got this idea for a movie.  It’s like a comedy version of “The Expendables.”  We round up them comedy Hollywood folk like: Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Steve Carell, Dave Chappelle, Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, and more and it’s just a movie about them playing themselves trying to come up with a parody to “The Expendables” but none of them can stay on track long enough to put together a movie, and they get in a bunch of craziness along the way.

Okay, was that a bigger waste of time to read about, or would it have been a bigger waste of time to hear about a basketball game we already know the outcome to?

Omaha @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

Think about how much the Mavericks had to overcome to defeat the Golden Eagles in Baxter Arena.  Now think of how bad JT Gibson has been struggling shooting the basketball, he’s shot 15% on threes over the last three games, and 23% overall from the field.  Also throw in the fact that Zach Thornhill stole the ball and sprinted down the court to throw down a monstrous dunk as time expired when the Mavericks were already up by 5, and how that must have upset the Golden Eagles.


February 14th

Denver @ South Dakota State

Fort Wayne @ North Dakota State on ESPN+

I’m going over these games together, as it’s fitting both of these match ups take place on Valentine’s Day.  South Dakota State and North Dakota State are the most beloved teams in the Summit League, so I find it ironic they both get home games on Valentine’s Day against the two teams with the least amount of love in the Summit.  Fort Wayne won’t even be in the conference next season, and Denver wishes they weren’t in the conference next season.

It’s so beautiful The Summit League honored Valentine’s Day with match ups that make you feel like you’re watching a bad relationship end, and another game that just plays out like an abusive relationship you want to see end, but the Pioneers think they cannot find anything better.


February 15th

North Dakota @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

The Summit League and ESPN3 invite you to take in a basketball production so low in quality you’ll question if the broadcasters are in an active pursuit to ruin your Saturday.  Yes, tune in to listen to two grown men get paid to mispronounce 19 year old kids’ last names, as they dribble the ball off their knees and miss contested driving floaters 18 feet away from the basket for some damn reason.  You’ll be so frustrated watching this game, you may even take up reading novels again.

Why take Western Illinois in this game, you ask? Just because they are the home team, and every team in this conference has been so bad on the road that it just seems like a safe bet? That, yeah sure, but also because these teams aren’t far enough away in talent, depth, or just about anything, but CJ Duff is a good enough defender to throw Marlon Stewart off on the road to give the Leathernecks an actual chance in a basketball game.  Also, Ben Pyle has a chance to outplay Kienan Walter on the perimeter and go off for a big day, and whenever Pyle plays big, the Leathernecks play big. I get that’s rare.

South Dakota @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

The Golden Eagles have already lost to one South Dakota team at home this season.  Emmanuel Nzekwesi and Kevin Obanor aren’t great at defending big guys on the perimeter like Tyler Hagedorn.


February 16

Fort Wayne @ South Dakota State on ESPN+

Things Fort Wayne would have to do to win this basketball game:

  • Be good at perimeter defense to slow down Douglas Wilson and Matt Dentlinger
  • Actually, be good at defense in general
  • Be good on the road
  • Not turn the ball over
  • Make free throws

Things South Dakota State has to do to win this game

  • Show up

Denver @ Omaha

Jace Townsend had to shoot 8-of-10 on threes to give the Pioneers a win in Denver, and that’s not likely to happen on the road at Omaha.  The Pioneers shot 55% overall from the field in that game, and they are capable of shooting well on the road, but the young Pioneers have a tough weekend on the road at South Dakota State and Omaha.

JT Gibson is going to have to get out of his current shooting slump for the Mavericks not to drop another game at home.  With the lack of depth of the Mavericks, they cannot afford one of their captains shooting 23% from the floor.  Not many teams could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summit League predictions: Jan 29-Feb 2

I actually got some games right last week.  Every home team won last week, but it likely won’t be the same thing this week.

January 29th

South Dakota State @ Oral Roberts

Both teams are undefeated at home this season. The size of Emmanuel Nzekwesi, Kevin Obanor, and Elijah Lufile should be able to contest South Dakota State’s Douglas Wilson and Matt Dentlinger, who both shoot 61% from the floor. If Oral Roberts can alter their shots, they should be able to pick up the win at home.


January 30th

North Dakota @ Fort Wayne

The Mastodons are one of the sloppiest teams I’ve seen in the Summit League in a while.  Though, I will maintain IUPUI had some pretty sloppy teams in their day.  Even with that, North Dakota turns the ball over too much and Fort Wayne is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the conference, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities at possessions.

North Dakota State @ Western Illinois

The Leathernecks have had success against the Bison in the past in Macomb, but it usually takes a lot of things to go Wright for the Leathernecks and a lot of things to go wrong for the Bison. Seems like a bit to much of something to ask for from a team who may have given up on their head coach.

Please, recognize that play on words with “Wright” for the Leathernecks.

South Dakota @ Denver

The Coyotes defeated the Pioneers by just 2 points in Vermillion, so maybe you think home court advantage will come through for the Pioneers.  Maybe, maybe not. That game was played three weeks ago, and South Dakota wasn’t a fully healthy basketball team.  That game started a streak of the Coyotes winning 5 of the last 6 games. The one loss was at North Dakota State, a game that ended with a few questionable play calls.


February 1st

North Dakota State @ Fort Wayne

The most disciplined team against the least disciplined team.

South Dakota State @ Western Illinois

Am I crazy? Was it crazy when Western Illinois beat the Jackrabbits in Sioux Falls last March?  Yes it was.

Denver @ Oral Roberts

Denver is 0-10 on the road this season, and there is no plausible argument for anyone to make that they pick up their first road at the larger and more experienced Oral Roberts.


February 2nd

South Dakota @ Omaha on ESPN3

South Dakota defeated Omaha in Vermillion by 10, and home court advantage usually isn’t worth 10 total points.  Omaha had opportunities to win that game, but came up short in the end.

Omaha may have a 16 game home winning streak, and I am going to pray they win this game, Omaha has experienced scoring droughts in 5 consecutive home games forcing them to fight their way back to hold on for wins.  South Dakota is too experienced of a team and one of the best shooting teams in the country for the Mavericks to fall behind to.  Omaha is going to have to start out hot and keep it rolling for 40 straight minutes to beat the Coyotes.

The Mavericks will be playing this game on more rest than their opponent, however, the last time Omaha had a week of rest, they ended up losing in Denver by 15 points.

Summit League predictions: Jan 8-11

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

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

January 8th

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 9th

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

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

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

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


January 11th

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

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

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

Does corn belong in guacamole?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Dec. 16

1st – South Dakota, 9-3

Last month’s ranking: 1st

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

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

2nd – North Dakota State, 7-4

Last month’s ranking: 3rd

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

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

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

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

3rd – Omaha, 6-7

Last month’s ranking: 4th

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

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

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

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

4th – South Dakota State, 7-6

Last month’s ranking: 5th

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

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

5th – Oral Roberts, 5-5

Last month’s ranking: 2nd

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

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

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

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

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

6th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 7-7

Last month’s ranking: 7th

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

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

7th – North Dakota, 4-7

Last month’s ranking: 6th

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

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

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

8th – Denver, 4-8

Last month’s ranking: 8th

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

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

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

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

9th – Western Illinois, 2-6

Last month’s ranking: 9th

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

alec


South Dakota

Projected Conference Wins: 11 to 13

Projected Regular Season finish: 1st to 3rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Oral Roberts

Projected Conference Wins: 11 to 14

Projected Regular Season Finish: 1st to 3rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


North Dakota State

Projected Conference Wins: 9 to 13

Projected Regular Season Finish: 1st to 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My trivial Preseason Summit League rankings

1st  South Dakota

2nd  Oral Roberts

3rd  North Dakota State

4th  Omaha

5th  North Dakota

6th  Western Illinois

7th  Fort Wayne

8th  South Dakota State

9th  Denver

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

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

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

DENVER

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

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

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

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

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

NORTH DAKOTA

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

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

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

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

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

NORTH DAKOTA STATE

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

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

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

OMAHA

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

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

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

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

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

ORAL ROBERTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purdue Fort Wayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Dakota

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

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

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

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

South Dakota State

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

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

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

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

Western Illinois

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