Summit League predictions: Jan 11-14

I was 6-2 last week, and 5-3 the week before.  That’s 11-5.  I’m good enough for a 3 seed in the conference tournament.

January 11th

Omaha (1-3) @ IUPUI (1-3) on ESPN3

The Jaguars are 5-0 at home so far this season, and last time at home they defeated Western Illinois by 18.  Last year in Indianapolis, the Mavericks couldn’t do anything to stop the Jaguars offense, and let them shoot 56 percent in that loss.  Expect the same this time, as the Mavericks have been bad on defense lately and IUPUI has shot at least in the high 40s in every home game.

Derrin Hansen made a point that a key to the game is that the Mavericks can rebound and not give IUPUI second chance opportunities.  In the last 3 games, the Jaguars averaged a +6.7 rebound margin.  The Mavericks in the last 4 games, averaged a -4 rebound margin.

North Dakota State (3-0) @ South Dakota (3-1) on ESPN3

This game is going to be all defense.  While it is early in the conference season, these two teams have the best defensive field goal percentage in conference games.  They also average the least amount of turnovers overall on the year among Summit League teams.

The Coyotes will be without one of their best post players, Tyler Flack, until February, but Norfolk native Tyler Hagedorn helped fill the void on Saturday with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a win over IUPUI.

The Coyotes will be able to defend the Bison guards and cause frustrations in the Bison offense enough to guide South Dakota to another home win.  The Coyotes are 8-0 at home this season.

The Bison lost by 14 in Vermillion last season, and that wasn’t your older cousin’s South Dakota team.  The Bison were also playing without their leading scorer at the time, Paul Miller.

Western Illinois (3-1) @ Denver (1-2)

Western Illinois was able to win in Denver last season, who was playing without Joe Rosga at the time and CJ Bobbitt was limited to just 8 minutes in that game.  Expect Denver to be out for some revenge, and not to take Western Illinois lightly.

January 12th 

South Dakota State (1-3) @ Oral Roberts (0-3) on ESPN3

Oral Roberts just almost prevented the Jackrabbits from making the NCAA Tournament last season, just almost.  South Dakota State was able to escape the upset with every Jackrabbit playing poorly, except for Mike Daum.  Daum averaged 20.3 points and 7 rebounds against the Golden Eagles and can still have a huge game in Tulsa again this season.

The Jackrabbits mixed things up with their lineups and were able to get things going toward the end of the game against Omaha.  Oral Roberts has actually not been that bad for a 4-13 team.  They won each of their last two non-conference games, only lost to Creighton by 1, and had a rough start to conference play with three straight road games.  That home court is going to feel nice to Oral Roberts.

I went back and forth on who should win this game.  This game should be close throughout the entire duration of the game, with the winner escaping by winning on free throws toward the end of the game.  Both teams shoot above 70 percent at the free throw line.

January 14

Fort Wayne (3-1) @ South Dakota (3-1)

It’s almost a crime that this game wont have an ESPN3 broadcast.

Fort Wayne, one of the better three point shooting teams in the nation is going to go up against a team that allows teams to shoot more than 20 threes per game.  South Dakota is good at actually getting a hand in the face of shooters, but Fort Wayne can really move the ball around for the open shot.

Coming off of a defensive battle against North Dakota State, and having one of the best players out, South Dakota may not be able to last against Fort Wayne who will have an entire week of rest.  Fort Wayne leads the nation in three point field goal percentage, but South Dakota has the third best defensive three point field goal percentage in the conference.  The Coyotes have had the best defensive three point field goal percentage over the last 4 games.

With Tyler Flack out, the Mastodons should have a decent enough advantage in the post with Brent Calhoun, Xzavier Taylor, and John Konchar to take control of the game.  As good of a three point shooting team as the ‘Dons are, they aren’t too shabby at getting the ball down low.  The ‘Dons are also 16th in D1 in 2 point field goal percentage.

IUPUI (1-3) @ Oral Roberts (0-2) on ESPN3

IUPUI has a good enough defense to keep the inconsistent players of Oral Roberts off their game.

Alberts Owens is not quick enough to defend Matt O’Leary who is capable of scoring anywhere on the court, and none of the guards for Oral Roberts are great enough defensive players to slow down Darell Combs who is averaging 22.7 points per game so far in conference play so far.

As good as playing at home again might be for Oral Roberts, they don’t have the depth to win 2 games in three days.

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

Denver on the road is a bad match up for the Bison, but this is not the same type of game that it was a year ago when both team’s offenses worked down the shot clock on every possession to get the best shot.

Western Illinois (3-1) @ Omaha (1-3)

It’s a good thing the Leathernecks are one of the worst teams in the conference at taking the ball away and creating possessions for themselves, since the Mavericks have averaged 15 turnovers (ouch) to 11 assists (ouch) a game since entering Summit League play.

Still, the Leathernecks have started out conference play hot, and the Mavericks have not.  Derrin Hansen did mention that the Mavericks have been practicing better lately, and offensively they did look pretty good in the last two games.  The hope is that the Mavericks are still bitter about their loss to the Leathernecks last season, which helped prevent them from getting a top two spot in the conference tournament, so hopefully they can come out playing at a high level and build up a lead.

Travel this week could be an issue for the Leathernecks who will be coming to Omaha after a road game at Denver.

It’s always the random guys that show up for Western Illinois to beat the Mavericks.

Last year, Mike Miklusak was averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds a game, but beat up the Mavericks 14 points and 11 rebounds in the Mavericks’ loss in Macomb.

Tate Stensgaard was basically playing with no one defending him when he scored 26 on 13-of-15 shooting and had 7 rebounds in Baxter Arena.  He ended up averaging 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.  Stensgaard The Mavericks had to come back from a 16 point lead to win that game.

In a loss to the Leathernecks 2 years ago, Jabari Sanidfer averaged 7.4 points on the season, but had 20 against the Mavericks.  Jamie Batish had 15 off the bench for the Leathernecks and averaged 6.4 points that year.

  • Also, a random note about Western Illinois.  Since losing Jabari Sandifer to a season ending injury, who is one of the most inconsistent players the Summit League has ever seen (or at least since Mav fans have paid attention), the Leathernecks have gone 3-1 and are 4-1 overall without him this season.

What I’m saying here is while the Mavericks are planning for Garret Covington, who is averaging 21.3 points, and Mike Miklusak, who is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds a game this season, they should really be worried most about this De’Angelo Bruster kid who averages 6 points a game.  He might have 30 points in Baxter Arena.

Thanks for reading.  I know low major weekly basketball predictions might not be super entertaining, but this time of year after college football has ended, it’s this or you have the Mel Kiper Season of just analyzing the 2025 NFL Draft.

 

Summit League Predictions: Jan 28-31

I went 6-2 at this last week, losing on a dumb gamble with Western Illinois over North Dakota State and a IUPUI 2 point win over their instate rival IPFW.

By the way, IPFW versus IUPUI had a crowd of 1500.  Both are decent basketball teams, and it is an instate rivalry.  Imagine that UNK was division one (heaven forbid) and they played in the Summit League and played at Omaha as two of the better teams in the league.  The attendance in Omaha would get up around 4,000 people…just as the South Dakota State at South Dakota game was.

January 28

Omaha (6-1) @ South Dakota State (5-2) on ESPN3

More on this later…

IPFW (5-2) @ Oral Roberts (3-5) on ESPN3

Max Landis, who is a great shooter and great player, is averaging 39 minutes per game since Mo Evans was declared ineligible to play.  He only really went to the bench against Omaha when he was in foul trouble.  Can he play (and more importantly shoot) at a high level every game playing that many minutes?  He shot 30% from the field in the last two games, and both were in Fort Wayne…granted it was North Dakota State and IUPUI who are both sound defensive teams, but the point still remains.  Oral Roberts is a deeper team than IPFW and can give him and John Konchar a few different looks.

I tried to look up the last time Oral Roberts dropped 3 in a row at home, and it took too long so I gave up.  Oral Roberts does have the 2nd worst defensive field goal percentage in the league in front of Denver…and boring note: Oral Roberts is the only team to play every team in the league at least once so far.  They also average more turnovers than any other team in the league…okay I may have just sold myself out of Oral Roberts in this game.

South Dakota (2-5) @ Denver (2-5)

How did Root Sports not pick up this game?

Fun fact:  Both of these teams got their wins are against Western Illinois and Oral Roberts, and both teams beat Oral Roberts when Obi Emegano was out.

South Dakota did a really good job guarding Nate Engesser last season, but can an incredibly inconsistent team go to Denver and pick up a win?  Actually, they probably can.  You have to shoot efficiently against Denver in order to keep up with their Princeton Offense, and South Dakota is 7th in league games so far in field goal percentage.

A scary thing about Denver actually, they are 7th in turnovers in the Summit with 13 turnovers per game…which given how slow they play, is a lot like averaging 20 turnovers a game for most teams.  Crap, I may have just sold myself out of Denver in this game.

January 29

Western Illinois (0-7) @ IUPUI (5-2)

IUPUI did win at Western Illinois a few weeks ago.  Garret Covington shot 6-of-16 from the field and 2-of-9 from three against the Jaguars while Jabari Sandifer was 1-of-8 from the floor.  The Western Illinois offense comes down the court and appears to have no plan, and they have to go up against one of the best defenses in the league…so that should be gross.

There is just not a lot of confidence to put on the Leathernecks right now.

January 30

South Dakota State (5-2) @ Denver (2-5)

The Jackrabbits did lose in Denver last season, but the most experienced team against the least experienced team this year?

South Dakota (2-5) @ Omaha (6-1)

This might be the least comfortable I have ever been as a Mavs fan.  South Dakota is one of three teams that have averaged more assists than turnovers in Summit League play, they have to be the biggest wild card in the league, and their ability to keep teams on the outside scares me as a fan of team that is last in the Summit in three point field goal percentage.  South Dakota also held the Mavericks to just 4 fast break points in Vermillion, which is actually really impressive.

Omaha also has not played as well at home as they have on the road, and they needed a 21 point comeback to beat the Coyotes.  There always seems to be a few Coyote fans that come to their games in Omaha; I am not sure if it is because it is an easy travel; or South Dakota has a decent amount of alums in the Omaha area; or because living in Vermillion must be awful and you need any excuse to get out.  Probably all of the above.

In conference play, the Coyotes have averaged the most fouls per game in the league, and Omaha shot 35 free throws against them in Vermillion a few weeks ago…which is mostly why I am not selling myself out of Omaha in this game.

The Coyotes can be trouble if Tyler Flack is back and healthy finally.

January 31

North Dakota State (4-3) @ IUPUI (5-2) on ESPN3

IUPUI is really trying to go all out to advertise fans to come out to their games this weekend…so maybe the Jaguars will have a home court advantage for once.

Let me tell you something interesting!  I was really going for Jim Carrey’s Fire Marshall Bill character screaming “Let me show you something!” but I probably failed to really capture it with just an exclamation point…IUPUI is 2nd in conference games so far in field goal percentage, and North Dakota State is 1st in defensive field goal percentage…on the reverse of that, North Dakota State is 6th in field goal percentage and IUPUI is 3rd in defensive field goal percentage…

IUPUI is 2nd in league play in steals per game, which being behind Omaha in that category is not too bad; and these teams are about even in turnovers.  So two of the best defensive teams can make for a low scoring frustrating game.  The Jaguars appear to have better defenders equipped to go against the Bison’s best players…Marcellus Barksdale, or Nick Osborne, or Mason Archie against AJ Jacobson (who has been struggling lately), Paul Miller, or Kory Brown.  NDSU’s true freshman Khy Kabellis is going to have to be matched up against Darrell Combs who averages 16 points per game, or Jordan Pickett who has averaged 11.6 points per game over the last 6 games.  Kabellis has shot 29% from the field when playing outside the state of North Dakota.

Western Illinois (0-7) @ IPFW (5-2)

Western Illinois had the best three point field goal percentage as a team in non-conference play, partially because they played just the dumbest non-conference schedule ever.  In league play, the Leathernecks are 8th in the conference in three point field goal percentage, and they are 8th in points per game in front of Denver…and IPFW is tied in first with Omaha in scoring.  The Leathernecks are also 8th in field goal percentage and IPFW leads the league in rebounding.  IPFW might be able to renovate their arena with all the bricks they’ll be able to pick up.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 25

1. Omaha, 6-1

Last week: 2nd

Before the beginning of the season, the Mavericks had never won in Denver, Fargo, or Tulsa; and now they have won at all three.  They also have not won at Western Illinois since transitioning to D1…so help me God…  The Mavericks have also only had conference season sweeps over UMKC and IUPUI in the past.  According to the ESPN3 commentators during the South Dakota State-IUPUI game a few weeks ago: you want to go undefeated at home and split your road games.  That math puts you at 12-4 to (most likely) win the conference.  The Mavs lost at home, so I guess they’ll just go undefeated on the road.

Jake White is currently the only player that is in the top 5 in the Summit League in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage.  His three point field goal percentage is high enough to be in 3rd in the conference, but he does not attempt enough threes to qualify for that category.  He is also 8th in the conference in free throw percentage, which puts at the highest free throw percentage for any player 6’6″ or taller in the league.

Tra-Deon Hollins is getting better and better offensively, which should just scare the hell out of other teams.  He’s knocking down threes finally…and they are clutch threes, which Omaha desperately needed as the worst three point shooting team in the Summit.  JT Gibson should be soon to add to the team’s three point shooting, right?

2. South Dakota State, 5-2

Last week: 3rd

The Jackrabbits got Jake Bittle back in time to beat Oral Roberts and South Dakota.  Mike Daum continues to get better and better.  Things could get real on Thursday…

The Jackrabbits still hold an RPI in the top 50.

3. IPFW, 5-2

Last week: 1st

Since the loss of Mo Evans, Max Landis has averaged 39.3 minutes per game.  He only sat out a few minutes against Omaha because he got into foul trouble.  Can he continue the hot shooting and carrying the team playing that many minutes?  He’s shot 30% in the last two games at home, so maybe he is losing his powers.

4. North Dakota State, 4-3

Last week: 4th

In the last 5 games, AJ Jacobson is shooting 33% from the field and 28% on threes.  It’s possible that Jacobson wont be on the Summit League 1st Team like it was predicted, I can think of a couple guys who can take his place… Curious if this team inserts Chris Kading back into the starting lineup when the team gets closer to the conference tournament.

5. IUPUI, 5-2

Last week: 6th

The Jags were able to knock off IPFW in Fort Wayne, so Mav fans should take a minute to thank IUPUI for this.  The Jaguars have become a better team overall this season with the added offense from their transfers and newcomers.  By the way, they only had 5 turnovers as a team against IPFW.  Amazingly, for not being known as an offensive show, the Jaguars are 2nd in the conference in Summit League in field goal percentage behind Omaha.

6. Oral Roberts, 3-5

Last week: 5th

The Golden Eagles started the conference schedule with a on the road for a game, then home, then back on the road for one game, then back home for a game, then going on the road for two games, to come back home for South Dakota State and Omaha at home.  They probably cannot wait for their three game home stretch against IUPUI, Denver, and Western Illinois.

I didn’t get to watch the Omaha-Oral Roberts game.  I planned on watching it on ESPN3 on Sunday, and I got the first 10 minutes of the game, but then ESPN3 just decided that enough for me.  I saw that AJ Owens did not play, I do not know why, but I watched the Golden Eagles’ game against South Dakota State and I wrote down “AJ Owens has a really quick release on his jump shot, but why?  Why does a 6’9″ 260 pound guy need a quick release on his jump shot?  Seriously?”

7. South Dakota, 2-5

Last week: 8th

The Coyotes were right there to defeat their instate rival, but couldn’t pull it off.  They have two games on the road this week at Denver and Omaha.  This is still a difficult team to figure out, and will be a tough out in the conference tournament for the 1st or 2nd seed.  Tyler Flack appeared to be healthy again against South Dakota State.  He had 10 points and 6 rebounds with a monstrous dunk at one point.  If they can get him at 100%, the Coyotes are going to be annoying.

8. Denver, 2-5

Last week: 7th

The Pioneers only had one game last week which was a 14 point loss to Omaha.  They get two games at home this week against the South Dakota schools, a split this week would be pretty reasonable.

9. Western Illinois

Last week: 9th

The Leathernecks are 0-7 and their next 5 out of their 6 games are on the road, and the one home game is against Omaha.  The end of their loss to North Dakota State was phenomenal to watch.  JC Fuller missed two easy shots, Jabari Sandifer missed a couple easy shots and refused to pass to a wide open Garret Covington, and it looked as if the team were not even paying attention to the coaching staff.

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

It was stressful, but the Mavericks are 2-0

A 2 point win after being down with 16 points with 9 minutes to go and a 5 point win in an always close game is a pretty stressful way to pick up your first two conference wins, but the Mavs are 2-0 and that is all that matters (to me).  It was as stressful as being a Kansas City Royals fan and watching them be down 0-1 going into the 7th inning.  Both IUPUI and Western Illinois are going to be tough to beat on the road later in the season, and Omaha plays IUPUI after a fun filled weekend of North Dakota State and South Dakota State.  Also, the Mavs are currently on their longest winning streak over division one teams…so eat that up.

Last year, the worst thing about the Mavs was their perimeter defense.  Wing players consistently had great games against their perimeter defense.  Now, after 2 games, the Mavs held Garret Covington of Western Illinois to 4-13 from the floor and Darell Combs of IUPUI to 8 points on 3-11 shooting.  IUPUI was just 1 of 15 from three point range, but they really are not that great of a three point shooting team to begin with…they are 8th in the Summit League and Omaha is 9th.  JC Fuller of Western Illinois had 10 points for Western Illinois in the first 8 minutes of the game, and the Mavs were able to contain him to just 7 points for the rest of the game.

The three point shooting for the Mavs is still a concern, but Tim Smallwood was able to hit some big time shots against Western Illinois to help fuel the comeback.  Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins were both in foul trouble for a good portion of the Western Illinois win.  Hollins was really able to help spark the comeback in the final 9 minutes of the game with his stealing and passing abilities, he might not be the best player for the Mavericks, but he could be the most important player for the Mavericks this season.  If you’re a complete dork, you should remember the old Marvel trading cards that had ratings on the back for each characters abilities of strength and shooting lasers out their eyes abilities.  Hollins would have the highest rating for passing and stealing.  You can make a highlight film of guards thinking they can pass around or above Hollins, and he just jumps up in the air and takes the ball.

My wife and I could see that Jalen Morgan of Western Illinois was a complete head case for the Leathernecks, I look forward to the hockey style fight he gets in at some point with his own teammate.  I watched JC Fuller get away twice in the game with putting his elbow on the chest of a Maverick and pushing them off of him.  I am also 90% sure that I saw Jabari Sandifer kiss his own bicep after making a three point shot, which is something only cool dudes do.  I did feel bad for Mike Miklusak hurting himself toward the end of the first half, he was in the shoot around at half time, but he has had a career filled with injuries.  He did miss the Leathernecks’ game against South Dakota State, I could look up to see if there is any specific injury, but I hate typing “Western Illinois” into the Google Machine.

The win over IUPUI has to shake your brain that Devin Patterson and Tre’Shawn Thurman were not selected any preseason Summit League teams.  The Jaguars are a gritty team, they had more steals than the Mavericks.  Yeah, that is weird, isn’t it?  Evan Hall is going to be a great player in the Summit, and you have to like the future of the Jaguars.  Maybe even a top 3 team in the conference next season.

A random note to mention:  Tra-Deon Hollins has 64 steals on the season, which is already the most steals by any Maverick in a season since transition.  Granted, it has not been that long of a history since transition, but we’re only half way through the season so far…

The Mavs are off to as good of a start that you could ask for in the Summit League at 2-0, but a two game road trip at North Dakota State and South Dakota is going to be difficult.  The Mavericks have been a better three point shooting team on the road for some reason, so hopefully that can help because they are going to need it against those two teams that force you to shoot from the outside.

 

The New Year’s Day Leatherneck-Maverick Bowl

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

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

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

What is there to know about the Western Illinois Leathernecks?

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

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

The Summit League RPI rankings as of December 31st…

37. South Dakota State

77. Oral Roberts

91. IPFW

120. South Dakota

153. North Dakota State

172. Omaha

212. Western Illinois

227. IUPUI

241. Denver


 

But hey, if you like Kenpom more…

57. South Dakota State

144. Omaha

160. North Dakota State

176. IPFW

181. Oral Roberts

193. Western Illinois

201. South Dakota

219. Denver

 

Notes: Mavs rebounded really well against the Roos

It was one of the most stressful games I have seen in a while, but the Mavericks got the win, so I cannot complain.  There were some teaching moments, and there was also some great aggressive plays from the Mavericks.  I was kind of upset in the first game that the score board did not tell you how many points and fouls the players had.  I am super glad this got fixed.  The battery on my phone was getting pissed at me for having to look it up every couple minutes.

Basketball was fun last night.
The worst picture ever, but basketball was fun last night.
  • The Shock Top stand is not open on weeknight games I guess.  I just wanted Twisted Pretzel.
  • Kareem Richardson just always looks like he is ready to leave as quickly as possible.  He’s done a great job at UMKC though.  I doubt he is in Kansas City too much longer.
  • The first time I saw Shayok Shayok, he is was 6’6″, and now he is listed at 6’9″.  Why can’t I grow like that?
  • My favorite thing about the MavX ap is that it tells you the menus of all the concession stands in the Baxter Arena.  My wife is an extremely healthy eater, so usually when we go to sporting events we spend a half hour walking around the entire arena finding her something healthy to eat.  The ap cuts down on this time, and that has pretty much made my year.
  • Tra-Deon Hollins court awareness is just unreal.  I feel like he is in training to be The Flash.  In the Flash, they just shoot arrows and other objects at him to see if he can catch everything.  Hollins has a way of making it appear as if the opposing team is just throwing the ball at him to see if he can catch it.
  • Jake White appeared that he had something to prove against UMKC.   Not that it ever looks like he’s ready to put on an open mic stand up comedy routine, but he looked like he knew he had a task to stay out on the court and to not let UMKC get any offensive boards.  He was fighting out there.  The Mavs let up a few key offensive boards, but it is going to happen no matter what you do sometimes.  The Mavs only gave up 9 offensive rebounds this game, and Jake White had a big role in keeping the ‘Roos off the glass.
  • LaVell Boyd and Martez Harrison might one of the three best back courts the Mavs play this year.
  • Another guy who looks as serious as the Terminator trying to hunt down Sarah Connor is Tim Smallwood.  He’s the Timinator.  He’s constantly ready put up a three, and he chases after his misses, and he’s hustled his ass off the last two games after not getting much time against Santa Barbara.  That is exactly what you want out of a senior guard.  His near coast to coast drive was something we did not see much out of him last season.
  • I know that UMKC made quite a bit a threes in the game, the Kangaroos did find some wide open looks from the perimeter, but the Mavs did contest a lot of those shots.  Just being that the Mavs are forcing so many threes, you can tell that teams are maybe a bit nervous about having to get through Devin Patterson and Tra-Deon Hollins…The Devil’s Gate.  The ‘Roos had some threes from big guys, there are not many bigs in The Summit that can hit multiple threes a game.
  • I felt like I was watching the pre-LeBron James Miami Heat play the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals in the second half.  The Heat that year just put the ball in Dwayne Wade’s hands and kept having him drive to the basket because of the all the fouls.  Why do I feel like this?  The ‘Roos had 37 fouls in the game.  The Mavericks were 36-48 from the free throw line.  When the Mavs came down the court down 83-80, I was thinking it would almost be dumb to shoot a three.  It seemed like the Mavericks were stuck at 5 of 18 on threes for the past 15 minutes, and I was looking at the fouls and just saying that: I would bet money here that UMKC will make a dumb foul here.
  • We need to keep getting more excited for Zach Jackson.  Out of the three freshmen on this year’s team, he had the least known about him coming into the year.  He makes a few odd decisions, but for the most part he plays great, and what college freshman doesn’t make a couple questionable decision in his first three college basketball games.  There are seniors out there making poor decisions on the court.  Near the end of the game, there was an overthrown pass to him that went out of bounce and some guy near me was pissed that he didn’t try and save the ball.  Really, had he thrown the ball back it could have gone to an opposing player and UMKC would have been off to the races at the end of the game and anything could have happened.  Jackson is a high IQ player, the Mavs need that for a guy that is filling in.  I made this point earlier, the Mavs are asking less out of their newcomers compared to other Summit League teams.  Others are asking newcomers to be stars right away, the Mavs are asking the newcomers to be role players…this has to be something that will pay off.
  • Growing increasingly nervous about this team’s three point shooting as we head to The Summit League, but the Mavericks advantage is going to be Patterson and Hollins breaking down the defense and getting into the lane.  The Summit does not have a bunch of post players, White and Thurman could be 2 of the top 5 post players in the Summit League.
  • This game needed a little cowbell toward the end of the game.
  • Tre’Shawn Thurman literally wiped the floor tonight.  He was playing like he was in a video game, and his player rating kept rising because of his great play.  He’s added some moves, he was feeling it, and was incredibly focused.  He just looked more relaxed at the free throw line tonight, which I thought showed with 7 of 9 from the line.  Thurman has the highest ceiling of any Maverick that we have seen in a while.  When people walk into the Baxter Arena, they immediately take notice of the muscle he put on.
  • Kelley Wollak did a great job as the MC in timeouts.  I feel bad with her being on crutches out there though.  I was a little bummed that Mikaela Shaw could not be in Omaha and Grand Forks at the same time.  It feels like it could have been a Bill Brasky level of story that Mav fans could have screamed at a bar in the future.  ONE TIME MIKAELA SHAW RAN FROM GRAND FORKS TO OMAHA SO SHE COULD GIVE OUT A FREE OIL CHANGE AND THEN SHE RAN BACK TO GRAND FORKS TO DROP 19 ON NORTH DAKOTA….TO MIKAELA SHAW!!!!
  • Every win is needed, but this was a much needed win for the Mavericks.  UMKC is an improved team, and going on a three game road swing after going 1-2 would have been…I think my brain just tried to escape my head.
  • Who else sat there entire time asking: Why is UMKC in the WAC?

Elsewhere in The Summit

Western Illinois beat Illinois-Chicago 84-57.  Jabari Sandifer had 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.  JC Fuller had 19 points and 9 rebounds.  Garret Covington had 17 points and 3 rebounds.  The Leathernecks are making us all look like idiots.

 

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.

Who has the best Big 3 in the Summit League?

Basketball, meh, mainly the NBA has entered into an era of looking at teams by asking the question: Who has the best Big 3?  Having a Big 3 certainly is key, but really I think it’s just as important to follow up with who has better role players to back up Big 3?  Could the 2008 Boston Celtics have won an NBA championship without their young starters Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, and older bench players of PJ Brown, Sam Cassell, and James Posey?  But while we are on the subject, that I brought up, let’s take a look at who could have the best Big 3 in the Summit League in the 2015-2016 season.


 

SDSU:

Jake Bittle, George Marshall, Deondre Parks

There is little doubt that the Jackrabbits will have the best guard trio in the league.  Each averaged double figures in scoring, and all three can defend the perimeter.  Each averaged double figure scoring, and Bittle has the highest field goal percentage of any returning player to the Summit league at 53.4 %.  The Jackrabbits also have 3 of the top 5 returning players in 3 point field goals made, Marshall made 64 threes in 2014-2015 and he did not even play the entire season.  The big question mark is; with Cody Larson graduating, who is going to rebound and defend in the post for them?

The Jackrabbits are returning 74% of their scoring from 2014-2015.
The Jackrabbits are returning 74% of their scoring from 2014-2015.

Role Players:

Reed Tellinghuisen, 6-6 SO:  If you look at the Jackrabbits fan forum, someone posted pictures of Tellinghuisen lifting weights, which is not weird at all.  He does appear as if he has added some weight onto his frame, which is great as he will be used more at the 4 position in his second year as a Jackrabbit.  The Summit League has Tellinghuisen, AJ Jacobson, and Tre’Shawn Thurman all in the same class at the forward position.  How excited are you for 2017-2018?

Connor Devine/Ian Theisen:  These two split time and basically taking turns of who was backing up All Conference player Cody Larson.  These two combined for for almost 5 points and 4 rebounds per game.  With a young front court, these two will be counted on more in the 2015-2016 season to step up.

Skyler Flatten, 6-6 SO: Flatten was actually getting a decent amount of minutes, but then something happened.  George Marshall happened.

Keaton Moffitt, 6-5 SR:  Keaton Moffitt also happened.  The transfer, from Division 2 Sioux Falls, made quite the impact on his team with his leadership and hustle, routinely making big plays when it was needed most.


 

Omaha:

Devin Patterson, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Marcus Tyus, (Jake White)

The Mavericks could have a Big 4 if Jake White is healthy, with as many injuries as he had in his junior season, it is going to be like getting an entirely new player in the line up.  It seemed as if the entire team faced injuries issues last season, so if the Mavs can stay healthy, they can be a very dangerous team in the Summit League with their senior back court of Patterson and Tyus to go along with their rising sophomore star Tre’Shawn Thurman.

Random stat:  The Mavericks have the most experienced roster with the average eligible player being 2/3 of the way through their sophomore season, but they have the smallest roster with an average height of 6’4″.  If Zach Jackson, Ben Kositizke, and Zach Pirog all redshirt, the roster gets even smaller, but more experienced.  It is still up for debate if this is one of the meaningless things I have ever posted here.

The Mavericks are looking to make a big jump with a new arena and new era.
The Mavericks are looking to make a big jump with a new arena and new era.

Role Players:

Tra-Deon Hollins, 6-2 JR:  Averaged 17 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 5.3 apg his freshman season of junior college, he appears to be a little bit of everything, and can really help the Mavericks improve their perimeter defense.

Daniel Meyer, 6-9 SO:  Only averaged four and a half minutes a game in 2014-2015, but he is likely to see an increased role with the graduation of Mike Rostampour and the departure of fellow redshirt freshman Rylan Murry.  Meyer appeared to play with a lot of activity on the team’s trip to Italy.

Randy Reed, 6-6 SR:  I’d like to see Reed’s shot chart, I cannot think of many jump shots Reed made, or took.  He really can slash and get to the basket though.  When Marcus Tyus missed the last 6 games of the season, Reed really did a decent job of bringing energy off the bench.  There were many instances in the Mavericks’ home game against Oral Roberts that he made a play to keep Omaha in the game.  I would think with not a ton of post players around the Summit League that Reed will be used as a backup 4.


 

NDSU:

Kory Brown, Carlin Dupree, AJ Jacobson

After losing the Summit League player of the year, Lawrence Alexander, the Bison will look to replace that offense in their back court.  AJ Jacobson said in a Q&A that the Bison are all about a team effort, and know that there is a next one up to take Alexander’s place.  It will probably actually be two up with Kory Brown and Carlin Dupree to take the load on offense over.  Seriously, this team is starting to become the HYDRA of the Summit League.

While this team is still relatively young, they seem to have completely bought into Dave Richman’s schemes.  A Big 3 probably does not really matter to the Bison, they appear to be ready for anything.  Looking at their roster, they probably have the most complete roster in the Summit League.  It is also probably worth nothing; that while the Bison are a young team, their roster has the most division one starts on the active roster for 2015-2016 with 197 starts.  Kory Brown is after all a 4 year starter…assuming he is going to start this season.

The Bison will continue to work as a team after the loss of Lawrence Alexander.
The Bison will continue to work as a team after the loss of Lawrence Alexander.

Role Players:

Chris Kading, 6-8 SR:  Kading averaged 5.3 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game in 2014-2015.  He is not much of a threat on offense, but he does rarely make mistakes.  Actually the Bison rarely make mistakes as a team.  Kading led the Summit League in blocks per game.

Paul Miller, 6’4 SO:  Miller averaged 6.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game, while making 37 threes in his freshman campaign, which is all impressive considering he was sharing the back court with the likes of Lawrence Alexander, Kory Brown, and Carlin Dupree.  He also had 10 games in which he scored in double figures.

Dexter Werner, 6-6 JR:  Had a massive jump from his sophomore to his junior season going from 2.8 points per game to 8.4 points per game.  He also only averaged under 20 minutes per game in 2014-2015.  With Werner coming off the bench, he and Jacobson allow the Bison to be extremely tough at the 4 position for 40 minutes.  It also allows Jacobson to move over to the 3 and play more outside, which is not a bad thing for them.  Werner was second on the team in blocks per game, and is tied with Omaha’s Tre’Shawn Thurman as the 2nd leading shot blocker returning to the league.


 

IUPUI:

Marcellus Barksdale, Darrell Combs, Nick Osborne

A bunch of new faces for IUPUI, which is not a terrible thing.  Marcellus Barksdale is the team’s returning leading scorer, but he can easily fall to the team’s 2nd or 3rd best scorer on the team.  Eastern Michigan transfer Darrell Combs is ready to go and has shown he can get buckets.  I cannot wait for the “combing the court” puns from terrible ESPN3 commentators.  Loyola-Illinois transfer Nick Osborne is expected to make a big impact on this team as well, and will more than likely serve as the team’s primary post presence, as he and other Loyola-Illinois transfer Matt O’Leary are the only upperclassmen post players on the team.  Osborne was known for getting into lots of foul trouble when he was a post player for Loyola.  The Jaguars are going to look entirely different this season.

The Jaguars exceeded expectations in 2014-2015, what can they do with a group of new and improved players?
The Jaguars exceeded expectations in 2014-2015, what can they do with a group of new and improved players?

Role Players:

Seriously, how many 6’5″ guards do the Jaguars need?

Aaron Brennan, 6-6 SO:  Averaged 6.4 points per game in 2014-15 and started in 24 games, but could be moved to the bench with the additions of Osborne and O’Leary.  Not a bad thing for your team to have a guy on your bench with 24 career starts as a freshman.

DJ McCall, 6-5 SO:  Averaged a shade under 5 points per game and had 15 starts on the year.  Could also see an increase of minutes with the graduations of Elijah Ray and Khufu Najee.

The further I get into this, I realize that the entire team is a group of role players.

 


 

South Dakota

Tre Burnette, Tyler Flack, Casey Kasperbauer

I admit that throwing Flack’s name into the mix is a risk.  Due to an injury, he has yet to play under Craig Smith, but Craig is probably going to like using a 6’7″ guy who shot 45% on threes in his sophomore season.  Combine that with Casey Kasperbauer ranking 95th in the nation last season in threes made, and South Dakota will rely on the three ball a lot this season, again.  The trio can really make up for the losses of Tyler Larson and Brandon Bos from last season.

Tre Burnette is the Summit League’s leading returning rebounder from 2014-2015, and Kasperbauer has the most three point field goals made of any returning player to the League, he also has the 3rd highest three point field goal percentage of any returning player.

South Dakota lost 56% of their scoring, that is the most in the Summit League.
South Dakota lost 56% of their scoring, that is the most in the Summit League.

Role Players:

Trey Norris, 6-0 Sr:  Came off the bench in his junior year after being a starter in his sophomore season, but will compete for the starting point guard position with incoming JuCo player, Shy McClelland.  Norris had a drop off in production from his sophomore season under coach Smith, but he can still be a capable part of the offense for the Coyotes.

Eric Robertson, 6-8 Sr:  He made the game winning shot over the Mavericks in Omaha, right?  I just remember the beard, and being incredibly angry.  I do not completely blame him for the Mavericks’ loss, it is just the final image I have in my mind of that game.  Perhaps an increased role in his senior season with the departure of James Hunter, but Craig Smith did a decent job recruiting two 6’9″ freshman (Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech) that he may be intrigued to get to the top of the rotation immediately.


 

IPFW

Mo Evans, Max Landis, Joe Reed

I continuously forget about the existence of Max Landis, but he is on the team, I swear it, and he was 4th on the team in scoring last season.  The ‘Dons lost a lot of their post game, and they do not appear to have much replacing what they lost, so the team could rely a lot on Mo Evans to be a star.  Landis will be there to shoot the three, and Joe Reed will need to be counted on even more to be a stretch 4 than he has before.  Seriously, this is the first time we have seen the ‘Dons without a serious threat of a stretch 4.  Yep, first time in 5 years?  Reed did shoot 36% from behind the line last year, but did not take many as he only made ten on the year.  The team will be counting on two junior college transfers to fill the void of what they lost from last season, and will need them to adjust and contribute quickly.

Side note:  The ‘Dons will have transfers from Louisiana Tech, Purdue, and Bradley all eligible to play in 2016-2017.

The 'Dons have the fewest number of Division 1 starts by players on their roster.
The ‘Dons have the fewest number of Division 1 starts by players on their roster.

Role Players:

Andrew Poulter, 6-11 JR: Played in seven games his redshirt freshman year at Arkansas-Little Rock before transferring to Western Texas for his sophomore season, where he averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds per game.

DeAngelo Stewart, 6-6 JR:  Played his freshman season at Alabama State before transferring to Northwest Tech in Kansas for his sophomore season.  Averaged 16 ppg, 6 rpg, and shot 47% from the field in his sophomore season.  A few people have already tabbed Stewart as the Newcomer of the Year in the Summit League.

 


 

Western Illinois:

Garret Covington, JC Fuller, and Jabari Sandifer

It is hard to determine who the Leathernecks’ third best player is behind Covington and Fuller.  Sandifer was the third leading scorer on the team with 7.4 points per game, and he also led the Summit League in assists with 4.3 per game.  He even had a great opening weekend in the Summit with 22 points and 4 assists against IPFW and 20 points and 6 assists against Omaha, but then he was basically never heard from again only scoring in double figures one more time through the season.

Western Illinois actually has a lot of experience on their team, but how much faith can you put in a team that has gone 1-27 on the road in the last two seasons.  The last time they won a road game was January 30th, 2014 against IPFW.

The Leathernecks return 89% of their scoring, can they see improvement if they stay healthy?
The Leathernecks return 89% of their scoring, can they see improvement if they stay healthy?

Role Players:

Mike Miklusak, 6-6 JR:  Played in 15 games because of a season ending injury  He had 21 points and 7 rebounds against Omaha.  I am putting my head down right now.

Jamie Batish, 6-4, SR:  A bit of an inconsistent guard, but gives the Leathernecks an option on offense after averaging 6.4 points per game in his first season with the team.  He had 15 points in a win against Omaha.  Seriously, I am going to punch myself in the face right now.

Tate Stensgaard, 6-8 SR:  Played in 20 games before facing a season ending injury.  Has shot over 56% on his career as a Leatherneck.


 

Denver:

Marcus Byrd, Nate Engesser, Bryant Rucker

Honestly it is pretty difficult to analyze a team’s Big 3 when they run the Princeton offense.  Excuse me, I have to take a break, I just had a random memory of Barry Collier being a terrible basketball coach.

Okay, I am back… With their offense you need guys that take high percentage shots.  These three seniors-to-be had a combined shooting percentage of nearly 50% from the field and 42% on threes.  Marcus Byrd has the highest three point field goal percentage for any player returning to the Summit League.  The Summit League has been more difficult for Joe Scott and the Pioneers than it was for them against the Sun Belt and WAC, which hopefully is not all that surprising.  The Pioneers have gotten worse each of the last three seasons going from 22 wins to 16 wins to 12 wins, can they go for 10 this year?  With their high shooting percentage, the Pioneers can always be in a game, but with the Summit League having so many good shooters, teams have been able to take over games down the stretch.  It is pretty difficult to beat at home as they are 32-13 at home over the last 3 years, and last year they lost 7 games at home by a combined total of 39 points…one of those games was a 16 point loss to IPFW as an outlier.

Denver does not care about a Big 3.
Denver does not care about a Big 3.

Role Players:

Daniel Amigo, 6-10 SO:  5.7 ppg, 46 FG%

Jake Pemberton, 6-3 SO: Likely to see an increased role with the graduation of Brett Olson and Cam Griffin.


 

Oral Roberts:

Obi Emegano, Brandon Conley, Scott Sutton

With Korey Billbury and Bobby Word departing from the team, I really cannot come up with who is going to make up a Big 3 for the Golden Eagles.  On paper, it looks kind of rough for Oral Roberts and coach Sutton, but Sutton is probably one of the top coaches in the Summit League and entering his 17th season as the head coach of the Golden Eagles, so they cannot really be counted out, especially if they arguably the best player in the conference.  You want to talk about new faces?  Oral Roberts is going to be like trying to figure out who is joining the cast of another Expendables film.

Obi Emegano is a popular choice of Preseason Player of the Year.
Obi Emegano is a popular choice of Preseason Player of the Year.

Role Players:

Seriously have no idea what will be happening with this team.  Perhaps this is what happens to a team when they change conferences so often…naw what I mean Denver?  Brandon Conley is probably the only for sure thing on the team, everyone else seems to be the mystery man with his trigger on the finger.  The Golden Eagles can probably get above .500 in the conference with Emegano and Sutton though.