It may not be so likely for Western Illinois to score a Saturday upset in the Summit League tournament, but it may be possible for IUPUI to live some March Madness glory.
Ever since the Jaguars became serious, every game between IUPUI and North Dakota State has come down to wire except for their meeting in the conference tournament last season, a game that IUPUI’s leading scorer over the last two years Darell Combs did not play in.
Seven teams in this conference have a legitimate argument for winning this tournament, and you got to like IUPUI’s chances in this one…just a little. This is like watching two of your friends going after the affection of the same girl, but one of your friends has a good job and his life pretty much together, while the other cannot hold down a job, barely showers, and is one bad financial decision away from moving back in with his parents. This pal doesn’t really do anything great, but he just kind of exists and keeps chugging along in life. While you’re watching this play out, you like the second friend’s chances and you really don’t have that great of a reason.
The Bison have a systematic offense designed to find the best shot. Their coaches preach quality decision making. They showed last year that they live for moments like the Summit League Tournament. North Dakota State is your friend that shows up to the party in a dress shirt and a pair of khakis.
The Jaguars play more chaotic. Players are taking ill-advised shots. A majority of the players appear lost on defense at times. IUPUI is your pal that shows up to the party in a shirt that says Slacker across the chest and jeans with holes they have owned since they were in high school. It’s possible they were hand me downs.
Your unorganized pal appears to have something up his sleeve. Sure, he isn’t going to win the affection of the girl talking about how he just wreaked havoc on 200 zombies in some video game with a Mature rating earlier that day, but he is going to win on his personality and heart. As much of his life appears to be in disarray, this pal is still the life of the party. That’s not to say your organized friend doesn’t have any heart, but your unorganized pal is willing to lay everything on the table for a shot at this.
The Jaguars lost to the Bison last year in the first round of the tournament without their leading scorer Darell Combs. They struggled to find any offense in that game, and ended up only scoring 45 points. It was one of the toughest Summit League games to watch all of last year. Now, as far as we can tell, Combs will be in the lineup and he will be with his back court teammate Kellon Thomas, who averaged over 11 points per game in the Summit League this year. The Jaguars have to have a sour taste in their mouth over their early exit from the tournament last season, so it must be a nice feeling to have the same team that ousted them last season.
IUPUI is not going to shoot 29 percent again in the tournament this season. They have a senior point guard, they have a senior shooting guard, they have a senior post player that can stretch the defense, and they have high energy guys off the bench. The Jaguars were playing like a team that needed to build chemistry all year, and it was coming together more and more all season.
I’m not saying that IUPUI is a lock in this game, just pointing out that they actually have a chance. There is not separation from the 2 seed to the 7 seed in this conference. The 7-9 record for the Jaguars is the best winning percentage for a 7 seed in the Summit League since 2011. The Jaguars match up well with the Bison, and it shows as biggest point differential in their regular season meetings was a 5 point overtime win for IUPUI earlier this season.
Even with Combs in the lineup, he has struggled against the Bison in his 2 years at IUPUI. Combs has averaged 15 points per game against the Bison, which isn’t too far off his career average at IUPUI, but he has shot 36 percent from the field versus North Dakota State against his 42 percent career average. He has averaged 3.5 turnovers against the Bison in 2 years, but had 10 turnovers in 2 games this season against NDSU.
On the other end, North Dakota State is the best in the conference at taking care of the basketball. They only averaged 10 turnovers a game against the Summit League, and only turned the ball over 18 times total in two games against IUPUI.
A key match up could be the two benches for the teams. There was a total of 50 fouls called in their first meeting with each other this season, which is going to happen when the game is so close and someone is trying to put the other on the foul line to get back into the game late.
Evan Hall and Dexter Werner is a great match up off the bench. Werner has made his career of being the best post player to come off the bench and create instant energy for his team. Hall can muscle Werner out of the post and bother him just enough to counter that energy. In addition to Hall, the Jaguars have Ron Patterson to come off the bench and make big plays on offense, and the Bison do not really have a guard to match off the bench, but Paul Miller will be fine if he can stay out of foul trouble.
The Bison are going to have to play their well disciplined style of basketball, and not let IUPUI’s chaos take over the game. Otherwise the pal with holes in his jeans is going to get the girl’s gamer tag and be killing zombies online.
It’s hard to believe that the Jaguars finished in the top half of the Summit League this season, especially if you can remember that this program won a total of 12 basketball games over the course of two seasons when the Mavericks were just joining the Summit League. They continue to get better season after season, and 2016-2017 should be much of the same. If you watched their Summit League tournament game against North Dakota State, and that was all you saw of them, you would think they were back to being the worst team in the league.
The Jaguars only lose two seniors going into 2016-2017, though those players were both significant contributors, but the team should be even better in next season, on paper. Jason Gardner’s teams won 6 Summit League games in 2015 and 9 in 2016, it is not inconceivable to imagine that they can win 12 conference games in 2017. This is assuming the whole team doesn’t just quit or something.
This season was somewhat of a transition season for the Jaguars as they introduced introduced 7 new players to the basketball court. They tried to introduce all of these new players to their system by only playing two non-conference home games. This just sounds like an uphill battle. You could tell by the end of their non-conference season that the team had run out of steam. The Jaguars lost their final 5 non-conference road games by an average of 25 points. One of those losses was a 35 point loss to Creighton. Good for you Creighton. I’m glad you could find those games in your schedule that can benefit you.
What was most impressive to me about the Jaguars was how mature their players were on the basketball court. They got the luxury of having almost every freaking game on ESPN3, so they actually had one of the biggest spotlights on their players so it was a little more visible to see their maturity as opposed to a team like Denver, who was hardly on anything for Mav fans to watch. Their players hardly ever argued with the officials, they just played. Their players didn’t try and do things they were incapable of doing, you hardly saw them taking 30 footers or driving into the lane with three dudes on them. Their players handled post game interviews well, and you could tell how important basketball was to them. Everyone on their team also appeared as if they were 30 years old.
The Jaguars are going to have the most coming back to their roster in 2016. They lose Marcellus Barksdale, so their defense may not be as scrappy next season, but their offense shouldn’t miss much of a beat. Their offense may actually be better adding Syracuse transfer Ron Patterson to the lineup. Patterson was seldom used at Syracuse, and he shot a rather low percentage of 31% from the field in 14 minutes a game in his sophomore season at Syracuse. But believe me, if the Mavericks had a Syracuse transfer, you would be pumped…no matter how terrible his stats were at Syracuse.
This season the Jaguars had 4 players that were transfers that finally got to play. Darell Combs was a transfer from Eastern Michigan, he averaged 7.4 points per game in his sophomore season at EMU and then 16.3 points for the Jaguars in his junior season – which was 6th in the Summit League and will be the 2nd highest for any players returning to the league next season. The team also introduced three players from Loyola, where Gardner used to be an assistant coach.
Matt O’Leary became one of the most consistent post players in the league, he averaged 10.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists a game in the Summit – after averaging 4.2 points and 2 rebounds his sophomore season at Loyola. Nick Osborne added 8 points and 6 rebounds per game after averaging 5 and 4 in his sophomore season at Loyola. Osborne and O’Leary really have the potential to be the best forward combo down low in the league next year. Sophomore Jordan Pickett was hardly ever used at Loyola in his freshman season because of injuries, but he was able to score 9.4 points per game primarily off the bench for the Jaguars this season.
With a bulk of their lineup coming back, the Jaguars have the most they can throw at teams. They seem to already have 8 guys that build up a solid rotation. In addition to this, they have three freshman that are committed, yet they all seem like they are redshirt candidates at this point. Having your starting lineup established in April is never a bad thing for a team. Unless you’re the Huskers apparently…
Their roster is set, as long as no one transfers, so there is no room for a wave of incoming transfers going into next season. Aside from the mentioned players, the Jaguars have a good core of young guys to fill in the rest of their team. Sophomore Aaron Brennan was used as a smaller power forward, and really was the last post player that they used, but he filled in well for injured players this season. He had 10 points and 6 rebounds in the Jaguars’ win against the Mavericks. Freshman Evan Hall showed some promise, but missed 9 games this season with injuries. Hall was able to pull off four double digit scoring performances in his first season with the Jaguars. TJ Henderson was another freshman who showed some promise with 5 double digit scoring performances, he scored 16 points against the Mavericks in the absence of Jordan Pickett. DJ McCall did not get to play this season, but he averaged nearly 5 points per game in his freshman season with the Jaguars. He will be back next season, and at 6’5″ he may be able to make up for the loss of Barksdale.
This team will have chemistry, versatility, speed, and they will be able to throw several different combinations of lineups at teams next season. They did have to deal with a number of injuries this season, so that can be an issue for them. The Jaguars may have to face another difficult non-conference season next year, but they should be the Summit League favorite in 2016-2017; even though I am sure IPFW will be the team that everyone just pencils in as the preseason number one. The Jaguars swept the Mastodons in 2016.
IUPUI and North Dakota State make for the most even match up for the first round, and it may not even be an entertaining game. Well, it will be entertaining from the aspect of it probably being a close game for 39 straight minutes, but not so entertaining that there will be a load of missed shots, probably some pretty bad calls by the referees. Really, what else do you expect out of a 4 versus 5 game? It’s like watching a movie where there is a good story and plot line in place, but all of the protagonists keep doing dumb mistakes to have you screaming “DON’T SHOOT THAT GUY, IT’S GOING TO CAUSE A LOT OF PROBLEMS…WHY DID YOU SHOOT THAT GUY!!!”
Both of these teams faced some injury issues in the last month. The Bison were without their leading scorer, Paul Miller*, for 6 straight games in February. The Bison lost 4 of their last 6 games, and Miller made it back for the last game of the season against Denver and went 1-of-9 from the floor in an 11 point loss.
*Miller averaged 15.9 ppg (8th in SL), 42 FG%, 41.8 3ptFG% (9th in SL), and 4.9 rpg)
The Jaguars were without their starting forward, Evan Hall**, for 7 straight games from late January to mid February. They were also missing their top guard off the bench, Jordan Pickett***, for two games against Omaha and North Dakota State in February. Pickett scored 20 points off the bench for the Jaguars and hit the game winning shot against the Bison the first time these two teams played. IUPUI lost 5 of the last 7 games, with the injuries, and the early success in conference for both of these teams, makes them both tough outs in the conference tournament.
Both of these teams appear to have all of their major players back for this game, and both of these teams were healthy enough to have all of their key players in their first game; and that game ended in a three point made field goal by Pickett, and then a 75 footer that just missed by Paul Miller.
The teams seem just about even, but IUPUI should have the slight edge on North Dakota State. The Jaguars are slightly deeper, have a slightly better core of post players, and are slightly better at defense. IUPUI is 2nd in the conference in steals and are capable of disrupting the North Dakota State weave offense.
The Bison also have the worst free throw shooting in the conference, so in a close game when fouling becomes prominent at the end of the game, the Bison can lose their edge in a close game. In their first game, IUPUI’s defense was able to force North Dakota State’s inbound passes to all of the worst free throw shooters for the Bison; and then the Jaguars were able to knock down shots to make the small comeback.
North Dakota State really cannot reasonably win this game if Paul Miller is back but not actually healthy. If he’s in the game, but going 1-of-9, and not able to keep up with IUPUI’s transition offense; why wouldn’t it be better to just go with guards Kory Brown and Malik Clements more than Miller? Brown averaged 12 points 7.2 rebounds in 6 games without Miller. Clements, though, started the year off well and then really seemed to struggle as the year went on…which seems common for newcomers. Seeing him in person in Omaha, made me feel like he was either injured or just not in great shape. He appeared to struggle whenever Omaha would get out and run, and IUPUI likes to steal the ball and get out and run…maybe not as much as Omaha, but they like to play that way. It actually made me kind of happy that he never committed to the Mavericks.
Anyway, the winner of this game will face the winner of IPFW & South Dakota…which will more than likely be IPFW, but obviously not guaranteed. Both teams provide for a bad match up for IPFW in the second round, as they combined to go 3-1 over the regular season champion. North Dakota State held IPFW to 46 points in Fargo, a team that averaged a shade over 80 points per game; and IUPUI swept the ‘Dons by a total of 5 points, but they were able to keep up offensively with IPFW by scoring 84 points in the first game and 80 in the second game.
5-3 last week, but I love it when Omaha proves me wrong. I don’t like it when Western Illinois proves me wrong. This is a big week for seeding in the conference tournament. IPFW meets South Dakota State and Omaha, who are all in a fight for 1st (and 2nd) place. Denver has match ups against Oral Roberts and South Dakota, who are all in a fight for 6th, 7th, and 8th. North Dakota State and IUPUI will also meet on Saturday, which should be a preview of the 4 versus 5 match up in the conference tournament.
So with all of the intensity in these last 2 weeks, I have absolute confidence of picking at 1-7 this week.
Omaha (9-4) @ IUPUI (7-5) on ESPN3
Something that scares me is that road teams in the Summit League games are now 0-6 on Wednesday nights in conference play…this includes the Mavericks losing at Western Illinois on a Wednesday. The Jaguars are also 4-1 in conference play at home. I think I said that they were undefeated at home in conference play on Monday…my bad. It’s actually kind of amazing that IUPUI is better at home, it’s not like they have a huge home court advantage with a hopping crowd when averaging an attendance of about 1,000 people.
The Mavs won the earlier match up in Omaha, but it was not exactly a dominating performance. IUPUI’s size is scary for UNO that they should be able to out rebound and crash the offensive boards and not let UNO run out in transition and get a number of easy baskets. I say that somewhat blindly as IUPUI is 7th in the Summit in rebounds per game, but the Jaguars did have 15 offensive rebounds in Omaha.
The Mavs have to really watch out for Matt O’Leary. He’s second on the roster for IUPUI in scoring and tied to lead the team in assists. He plays efficiently, and at 6’8″, he might be the best big man in the Summit League at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. He can also step out and hit the three. Matt Osborne’s game seems a little similar to Mike Rostampour as well, and the Jaguars have him coming off the bench; Mavs may have trouble crashing the boards with both Osborne and O’Leary on the court at the same time so Daniel Meyer and Randy Reed need to play smart in this game.
There is a part of me that is just going with the Jags in hopes to reverse jinx the Mavericks into a win. I’m not sure if that is how jinxes work, but damn it, the science is not all there on jinxes.
I’m not sure if IUPUI’s Evan Hall will play or not. He’s a 6’7″ freshman that averages 5 points and 4 rebounds, and he has missed the last 6 games. I heard he was out with concussion symptoms, but that was from ESPN3 commentators who routinely get stuff wrong. Anyway, the Jaguars are 3-3 in the last 6 games without him, and their three wins were by a total of 5 points. They also lost earlier in the season to Missouri and Creighton when he missed two games.
Western Illinois (2-10) @ North Dakota State (6-6)
North Dakota State won by 13 in Macomb, and Western Illinois is not greatly equipped to stop the weave offense of North Dakota State; but this game could be closer than the 13 that the Leathernecks lost by earlier in the year. The Leathernecks should actually have a shot in this game if NDSU’s leading scorer, Paul Miller, misses his fourth straight game. Another sort of scary thing for the Bison is that they are in Oh Crap, Let’s Just Make it to March Without Anymore Injuries mode and Western Illinois is in Playoff Mode. Western Illinois could be playing for a lot more right now.
Oh yeah, Summit League road teams are 0-6 on Wednesday nights in conference. This is the last Wednesday night in the Summit League.
This Bison are pretty much a lock to finish in 4th or 5th and facing up against IUPUI in the first round of the conference tournament, which is a really even match up.
York @ South Dakota (4-9)
South Dakota State (9-3) @ IPFW (9-3)
This could be really big. The Mastodons really have no one to stop Mike Daum. Brent Calhoun is not fast enough to guard him. John Konchar is too small to guard him. Joe Reed is also someone who is too slow to stop him, but probably has the best shot out of all the ‘Dons to do it. Daum could really big the big difference in this game. You could tell Omaha was deeply concerned with not letting Daum get the ball in the 2nd half last week. The ‘Dons are going to need another 30+ point performance from Max Landis to come out on top in this game, but does he have enough steam left in him after all the minutes he has played?
Landis has averaged 39 minutes a game in the last 10 games; and while he has had a few awesome performances in that stretch, he has had some duds in those 10 games. He did come out as the player of the week the last time IPFW faced South Dakota State and Omaha in the same week; but this reminds me of when Greg McDermott played the crap out of Antoine Young in his junior year because they had no back up point guard, and Young could barely finish the season.
Denver (5-8) @Oral Roberts (5-8)on ESPN3
Did you know Denver made 20 threes in a loss against IPFW on Saturday? They are not likely to repeat that sort of production, but Oral Roberts is not a great defensive team to play up against Denver’s constantly moving offense. Oral Roberts is a team that can really take advantage of all of Denver’s turnovers…and by Oral Roberts, I mean Obi Emegano. Denver leads the league with the most turnovers, which is actually kind of sad given how they have the fewest possessions in the conference.
Denver won the first meeting between these two teams by one point in Denver, but Obi Emegano was not playing in the game.
South Dakota State (9-3) @ Western Illinois (2-10) on ESPN3
Oh, Western Illinois is the team to have North Dakota State and South Dakota State in the same week.
Amazingly, South Dakota State only won by 2 points in Macomb last season; and SDSU is not as good of a road team this season…Western Illinois has something to ride into this game. Western Illinois also only lost by 4 to South Dakota State in Brookings at the beginning of the conference season. Wait, this doesn’t sound like the mismatch that it should be.
The Jackrabbits have won 11 straight meetings against the Leathernecks. Oh, there it is. South Dakota State could be in a tough game on Thursday night with IPFW, so maybe they might not have enough left in them to go up against Western Illinois this week. I thought the same thing when North Dakota State were traveling to IPFW and Western Illinois in the same week, so I don’t want to get burned on Western Illinois again…this is what it landing on red 12 times in a row in roulette does to a man.
IUPUI (7-5) @ North Dakota State (6-6) on ESPN3
The last meeting between these two teams was fun to watch. IUPUI has really struggled to score on the road since then. The Jaguars could really have the edge again if Paul Miller misses this game again.
Omaha (9-4) @ IPFW (9-3)
If it was not for a huge mistake on offense at the end of regulation in Omaha, the Mavericks would have had the comeback win against the Mastodons. The dream is that IPFW will get into a long drawn out exhausting game with South Dakota State on Thursday and really tire out the legs of Max Landis, and then have to face the Mavericks who will have an extra day of rest.
Landis was almost impossible to stop in Omaha, going for 37 points. Someone like Devin Patterson has responded well to defending someone after they’ve had a huge game like that against the Mavericks. The Mavericks also appear to play better under pressure…I feel like all the double digit comebacks should be enough to explain that.
Anyway, IPFW has one of their biggest weeks of the season. They could take control of 1st place in the conference, or they could lock them selves into 3rd, or they could keep it at a three way tie at the top of the Summit League. Man, I dislike IPFW. Jon Coffman really loves this basketball program, and seems like a guy to not let his team drop 2 games at home in the same week. He reminds of me of the guy that parks his 88 Toyota Celica in the back of the mall parking lot so no one door dings it, even though the bumper is covered in rust.
Denver (5-8) @ South Dakota (4-8)
South Dakota’s back court is not deep enough or quick enough to match up against all the guards of Denver. Denver embarrassed South Dakota a few weeks ago in Denver, and the Pioneers have shown that they can play in Vermillion by beating the Coyotes by 18 last season there.
So the Summit League is stacked with guards and wing players this season. College Sports Madness recently came out with a All Summit League 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th team and 16 of the 20 players were guards, 17 if you count South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen as a guard. The Summit League came out with their preseason 1st and 2nd teams yesterday, and 8 or the 10 players were guards. The teams they selected are fair for the most part, though I do not agree with leaving Tre’Shawn Thurman off the list, but I get that I am biased.
Anyway, there are so many guards on this list, and that is because the Summit League is going to be a very guard heavy league this year. So could one come up with a conclusion that who ever has the best post game is going to set themselves apart from the rest of the conference? So who has the best post players in the conference?
For the sake of argument, I am going to reduce each team’s list to their top 4 post players, because realistically teams hardly ever use more than 4 post players in the Summit League. Hell some players do not use more than two post players.
North Dakota State
Chris Kading, Dexter Werner, AJ Jacobson, and one of the other 3 players that will mix in.
I have kind of had North Dakota State as my team to win the conference this year, but I am growing more and more uncomfortable with that recently the more I am looking things up. Not that I think they are in trouble or anything. Anyway, it is pretty hard to argue that they do not have the best core of post players in the Summit League. I know someone might look at Chris Kading and say he’s only a 5 points and 4 rebounds guy, but he takes smart shots, he led the Summit League in blocks per game, and he would routinely hold the other team’s best post player to a bad game.
Dexter Werner was the Sixth Man of the Year in the Summit League last year, and he completely deserved it. He was a big time force that brought immediate energy to the Bison post game off of the bench, and he shot 51% from the field. He was playing undersized most of the time, but he was still able to get 1 block per game, which is tied with the 2nd most for returning players to the league.
Then the Bison have AJ Jacobson, and while there is no official Summit League Freshman of the Year Award, I am pretty sure it would have been him last season. He appears to be a popular choice for 1st Team All Summit this upcoming year, after coming off averaging 11.6 points per game and 4.2 rebounds, and many people think he is going to take a large load of the shots that Lawrence Alexander was taking. He is probably more of a traditional 3, but he did quite well for the Bison at the 4 position, and the Bison can bring in Werner off the bench and slide Jacobson over to the 3, making for a big lineup.
It is kind of unclear who the 4th post player will be at this point for the Bison. They had Nebraska-native, Spencer Eliason redshirting last season, and they are bringing in two 6’8″ freshmen that they appear to be pretty excited about. With Kading and Werner, you kind of expect one of the two true freshman to redshirt though, right?
Eric Robertson, Tyler Flack, Tyler Hagedorn, Dan Jech
I admit that is pretty difficult to go on from here, so how about South Dakota? The Coyotes might actually have the most talented post players, but there are some questions to it. Can Tyler Flack bounce back from sitting out all of 2014-2015 with an injury, and does Craig Smith even like him? Flack was averaging 8.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg, and shooting 55% from the field as a sophomore in 21 minutes on a pretty bad South Dakota team.
Can Eric Robertson survive as a starter if Smith doesn’t feel comfortable with starting a true freshman? Then there is two freshman, Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech. Jech gives the Coyotes a post player and Hagedorn gives the team a stretch four. The Coyotes were able to survive last season with 6’3″ Tyler Larson and 6’5″ Tre Burnette as their primary options in the post last season, so what is going to happen when Smith adds some height to their post game. Oh yeah, and there is also Tre Burnette, who had the highest rebounding average of any player returning to the Summit League.
Jake White, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Daniel Meyer, Zach Pirog (or Randy Reed)
It is kind of a bold move picking the Mavericks that high here. Consider this though, no player 6’7″ or taller that is returning to the league averaged more points per game than Tre’Shawn Thurman last season. Jake White is healthy apparently, while I cannot 100% verify this, but I am pretty sure he had limited minutes in his junior season due to injuries. Even with as many injuries that he had in his junior season, he was probably the fastest post player in the league. So you have to assume he will go from 20 minutes per game to 25-30, his field goal percentage should rise above 40% while he’s healthy, he can probably be a 10 and 8 guy. 10 and 8 should get you Honorable Mention in the Summit.
Daniel Meyer should be getting a minutes increase as well. Statistically, he had about the same statistics that Dexter Werner had in his freshman season at North Dakota State, and he should receive an increased role (maybe even a Werner like role) with Mike Rostampour and Rylan Murry no longer on the team. One game last year, I was sitting near Matt Hagerbaumer, you seriously need to take the opportunity to sit next to Hagerbaumer if you ever get that chance. He’s constantly yelling support to younger players, and he was so excited about Thurman and Meyer as freshman. He at one point said that they needed Meyer to be a banger down low and be the dirty work guy. Basically, the Mavs need him to be Matt Hagerbaumer 2.0, and he is capable of being that. Meyer apparently played very well on the team’s trip to Italy as well.
I am still unsure if Zach Pirog will redshirt. Hansen kind of has a history of redshirting big players, and the team already has White, Thurman, and Meyer; but maybe Pirog is even better than advertised? He should add immediate rim protection to the team, which would be extremely helpful, but how many minutes would be able to get this season? Not to mention, there will probably be a lot teams playing 6’5″ guys at the 4 position for a decent chunk of minutes this season, so wouldn’t you want to play Randy Reed more at the 4 position this season; leaving a lot of the minutes at the 5 to White, Meyer, and even Thurman. Just seems like minutes wise it would be a good idea to redshirt Pirog, but he is someone that can immediately help this team.
South Dakota State
Connor Devine, Ian Theisen, Michael Daum, Adam Dykman
There is a big gaping hole to make up in the loss of Cody Larson for the Jackrabbits, and it is unclear who will fill that role. The Jackrabbits also grew comfortable playing Reed Tellinguisen at the 4 last season, as the team’s 5th best offensive player, they really couldn’t keep him off the floor, even if he was playing undersized at times.
You look at Devine and Theisen and you think two guys that don’t even combine for 5 points per game, but really they were playing behind Cody Larson and sharing that role of backup post player. Then you realize that they both shot over 50 percent from the field, and they both had stretches over the season where they were making big plays. It’s also not like Scott Nagy cannot develop guys at all. Devine as a 40% free throw shooter might get left off the court down the stretch of the few close conference games the Jackrabbits will have.
The Jackrabbits also had Nebraska-native Michael Daum redshirting last season, who seemed like a pretty attractive recruit coming out of high school, so who knows how much he developed under the Jackrabbits staff. The basketball fan in me says “oh wow this guy averaged 25 and 13 as a senior in high school,” but the Nebraskan in me says “I have never even heard of Kimball, how could anyone be good at basketball from there.” The Mavericks offered him a scholarship though, he also held offers from South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota, and others, so non-Nebraskans see something in him.
Then there is even another Nebraska-native on the team, 6’7″ Adam Dykman. I am pretty nervous about Dykman, I constantly saw his name in the paper for big games, and I know a few guys hugely into Nebraska high school basketball that were upset that UNO or Nebraska did not give an offer to this kid. I am afraid he’s psycho angry about that.
With such a strong group of starting guards, I don’t think it’s going to come down to the post players for the Jackrabbits. The show Scrubs had a great core of cast with JD, Turk, Kelso, Elliot, and Dr. Cox, would the show have been successful if they threw in a bunch of episodes centered around Ted and made a three episode story arch about Ted? Many people would have turned away. I actually would have watched the crap out of that. So how many times are you going to hear a ESPN3 commentator say: The Jackrabbits are having a great night with Marshall, Bittle, Parks, and Tellinghuisen knocking down all these outside shots and beating their defenders to the rim; but I really think they need to get the ball into Devine to work his magic on Dexter Werner? Probably never.
Nick Osborne, Matt O’Leary, Evan Hall, and Noah Thomas
Nick Osborne and Matt O’Leary were decent players at Loyola and will now have increased roles with the Jaguars. Evan Hall and Noah Thomas are both true freshman, so the hard part for the Jags is throwing in an entirely new core of post players into their lineup. Hall is a 6’7″ freshman that was rated as a 3 star recruit and had offers from Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Lipscomb out of high school. Hall is a 6’9 and 235 post from the state of Indiana that averaged a double-double in his senior season. The Jaguars also survived last year on having guards playing as post players, so it’s not like they cannot win without a post game at all. Essentially, the team decided that they didn’t like the cast of the last season of the Power Rangers and went with entirely new ranger squad, and they feel pretty comfortable about how the new cast will go. How many other places are you going to find a Power Rangers reference talking about sports? Actually, I don’t think this my first time on here.
Joe Reed, Brent Calhoun, Andrew Poulter, Racine Talla
You’ve got to feel confident in a 6’8″ guy like Joe Reed that has shot about 55% for his career. Like Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman getting more shots because of departures, you’ve got to think that Reed’s shot attempts will go up with the loss of Steve Forbes. Reed is another guy with potential to be a 10 and 8 guy. His other three front court teammates are kind of question marks.
I’ve seen people bragging up Andrew Poulter, and I do not get it. He was a 7 and 5 guy as a sophomore at a junior college, and he also shot 47% from the field. I watched a video of him in high school working on some 1 on 1 moves, he was looking like an All American but he’s 6’11” and 275 going up 1 on 1 against some 6’5″ 175 pound guy. Granted, it is high school and I doubt there were too many guys near his size to work out with, but still, I don’t see how his 1 on 1 skills will ever come into play from the Summit. Then there is sophomore Racine Talla who is 6’9″ but hasn’t played a game of basketball in 3 years. It just seems like a gamble to take them seriously at this point. Maybe Jon Coffman realizes how to use them appropriately though, we will clearly have to wait and see. And many people have them picked as the 4th best team in the conference, so maybe I am just a moron. 95% chance that I am a moron.
Brandon Conley, Tre Vance, AJ Owens, and Darian Harris
Did you know this team led the Summit League in blocks per game last season? They essentially did not need production offensively from their post players as they had Obi Emegano, Kory Billbury, and Bobby Word to take on a bulk of the scoring, so they really just needed their post players to play defense and make great outlet passes. I don’t think people are realizing how important Denell Henderson was to this team. None of these players are huge scoring threats, and a lot of people are high on Owens even though he basically only got minutes when the Golden Eagles were getting killed last season. He shot 40% from the field, and he was basically playing against other teams’ 3rd string most of the time. Darian Harris also seems like he should be a shooting guard, but the ORU had to use him at the 4 position several times last season due to lack of a post.
I am nervous for Scott Sutton this season, but not in a way that I think he’s going to get fired or anything. I really do not think he has a great roster this season, but it is Sutton and Obi Emegano. I love hearing rumors every off season about schools looking at Sutton as a head coaching hire, but we may not get that this April and May. If Sutton can come in top three of the league this season, I really think he deserves coach of the year, but I don’t think he’ll get it.
Marcus Byrd, Daniel Amigo, Christian Mackey, and 1 of 2 freshman.
I am scared for Denver this season. A few have selected them to finish in last this season, CBS Sports rated them as the 3rd best team in the Summit League but it was pointless. It is really hard to look at Denver and say they have the best players in anything, not because of a lack of talent, but because of the offense that Joe Scott runs. Marcus Byrd averaged 8.5 points per game as a junior, 8.5 at Denver is like averaging 13 any place else. Byrd can also step out and take the three, he actually has the highest three point field goal percentage of any player returning to the Summit League this season, and he makes nearly 2 threes a game.
Daniel Amigo was also giving the Pioneers pretty good minutes as a freshman, but his season ended early due to injury. The Pioneers also have a 6’7″ freshman named Abiola Akintola from Australia, who was not widely recruited, but he averaged 17.8 ppg and 6 rebounds per game in the U18 Australian Junior Championships, whatever the heck that is. I know there are a lot of question marks for international players, and it could be difficult to figure out if he is even the right fit for Denver, but it could be something amazing watching him develop.
Tate Stensgaard, Jalen Chapman, Mike Miklusak, and the mystery man
All are average guys that on any other team in the Summit League would be role players, and really they are just role players for Western Illinois, but they give a lot of minutes to the Leathernecks when they are available. They many lost the last 13 of 14 games of the season because they had no Stensgaard or Chapman for that time, but still, could they have made the difference. The team has 4 freshman post players that will mix in. I wonder how they will work out.