North Dakota State versus IUPUI preview

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.

Advertisements

My trivial Summit League rankings: Feb 14th

We’re getting closer to the end of the season, and we still have no idea what the Summit League bracket will look like.  Might as well just do something like this, I guess.

1. South Dakota

Somehow, the team of mostly newcomers is the best defensive team and the most efficient offensive team in the Summit League.  Their roster also only has one senior on the team.

The Coyotes are also more dimensional than they appear.  Unlike most the other teams in the conference, they can survive stretches without their stars on the court.  Bench players are starting to come around and find their roles, and the entire team is filled with confidence at the right time of the season.

This team reminds me of old NBA and NCAA video games, actually NBA games may still have this, I wouldn’t know because I don’t play a lot of video games… but, where you can just hit a button and put in your best defensive 5, your three point shooting 5, you big lineup, your small lineup, and whatever.

I think it was generally agreed upon that the most difficult stretch of the conference season for the Coyotes was going to be their three game home stretch at Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne and they would really prove themselves if they could get through that tough stretch.  They went 2-1 on that stretch.  We were taking the Coyotes seriously before, now it’s time to take them even more seriously.

2. North Dakota State

Right there with the Coyotes, just not quite as consistent as South Dakota, but still more consistent than the rest of the Summit League.

3. Fort Wayne

Top 3 team in the Summit League in offensive efficiency, bottom 3 in defense.

If the ‘Dons are in the first round against Denver or Omaha, they probably have the greatest chance to make it to the 2nd round.  Getting to the Summit League championship game though, seems like a challenge…but it’s going to be a challenge for everyone.

4. Denver

You take the young players of an efficient system from the old Pioneers and combine it with the fast run-and-gun type of offense like Fort Wayne, and it turns out to be pretty solid.

Like South Dakota, their roster only has one senior.  Denver’s lone senior has played 5 minutes this entire season.

I think I figured out the two teams that will be at the top of the 2017-2018 preseason rankings.

5. Omaha

I have never left or turned off a UNO basketball game before the end of regulation.  I came close and debated it when the Mavs played IUPUI in the Baxter Arena.

The Jaguars embarrassed the Mavericks, and IUPUI wasn’t doing anything special except for not being completely dysfunctional as they have been for a majority of the season.

The mindset of this team is questionable right now.  They have confidence with the base that you need to win the conference tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament, so it’s not like it’s a big deal if they don’t win all the conference games.  It’s going to be difficult to win three games in three days if your team is averaging 15 turnovers, and 12 of those turnovers are completely unforced.

6. IUPUI

It’s February and transfers Ron Patterson and Kellon Thomas seem to be finally gelling in a back court with Darell Combs

Without a doubt, the Jaguars appear to be the biggest I Wonder Which Team of Theirs Will Actually Show Up Tonight team.

7. South Dakota State

Through injuries, lack of talent, and a transfer, the Jackrabbits have a serious depth problem.  A struggling Reed Tellinghuisen was finally able to break out of a slump on Saturday with 28 points on 8-of-13 threes but while playing 38 minutes against a tough South Dakota defense, Tellinghuisen became noticeably tired and couldn’t hit clutch shots.

If Tellinghuisen can be consistently good, and Ian Theisen and AJ Hess can come back healthy and ready to go, the Jackrabbits can be a tough out in Sioux Falls…but could that be asking for a lot?

8. Western Illinois

Out of all the teams that should make the Summit League tournament, you would be the absolute most shocked if it was Western Illinois who got on a hot streak and won the tournament, right?  I think we all understand that it’s not impossible, but in the last 6 games the Leathernecks have not even reached 70 points in a game.  They’re going to need some offense to surprise anyone in the Summit League tournament, especially North Dakota State or South Dakota.

9. Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles are not out of it yet, but they are currently sitting in 9th and their remaining games are: @ Omaha, @ South Dakota, and versus North Dakota State.

IUPUI’s remaining schedule: @ South Dakota State, @ Denver, vs. Fort Wayne, vs. South Dakota

South Dakota State’s remaining schedule: vs. IUPUI, @ Fort Wayne, vs. Denver

Western Illinois’ remaining schedule: @ North Dakota State, vs. South Dakota, vs. Fort Wayne.

After putting that out there, I actually don’t feel great for IUPUI.  Don’t feel great for anyone, actually.  Not even super confident about Omaha.

Summit League predictions: Jan 18-21

January 18

South Dakota State (1-4) @ IUPUI (2-3) on ESPN3

It’s good that South Dakota State’s game plan this season has been MIKE FREAKING DAUM, and that Mike Daum went a combined 13-of-17 in his two games against the Jaguars last season, but South Dakota State’s defense is pretty terrible.  They are ranked in the 300s in many defensive categories, especially any based on perimeter defense.

Darell Combs and Kellon Thomas could combine for 50 tonight, which doesn’t automatically equate to a win, but it wont hurt.

Denver (3-2) @ Omaha (3-3)

There are a load of mismatches in this game, and it really could come down to which team gets into more foul trouble and all that fun non frustrating stuff that we all love.

Omaha has made it as public as they can that they are bitter about their loss to Denver in the Summit League tournament last season.  They also were also pretty upset with themselves losing in Baxter Arena last season to the Pioneers.  Some guys like Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins may have a bit to prove to themselves.

South Dakota (4-2) @ Oral Roberts (1-4) on ESPN3

Somehow, South Dakota versus Oral Roberts always turns out to be a fun game.  I don’t get it.

Seems like it would take more things to go right for Oral Roberts than South Dakota would need to go right.  Maybe we’ll see South Dakota starting to be affected by their post depth with Tyler Flack out when they go up against Albert Owens and Emmanuel Nzekwesi?  While Nzekwesi is a future star in the Summit League, he has not been totally consistent in his freshman season, which is completely understandable, but needing to rely on him against a team that has been consistently good and defending post players this season can be an issue.

January 19

Fort Wayne (3-2) @ North Dakota State (4-1) on ESPN3

This was expected to be a huge game before the start of the season, and should still be a huge conference game.  These two team currently have the two best RPIs in the Summit League with North Dakota State at 99 and Fort Wayne at 120.  Omaha is at 123.

Fort Wayne shot 28 percent in Fargo last season.  The Bison weave offense is a style that frustrates the teams like Fort Wayne and Omaha, but Denver didn’t have a problem with it last week.  Damn it, I’m so conflicted.

Here is something weird to think about.  Paul Miller only played in one of the three games against Fort Wayne last season, and the Bison won the two games he didn’t play in.

What I’m trying to allude to here is that I am seriously only picking North Dakota State because they are the home team.

January 21

Denver (3-2) @ IUPUI (2-3) on ESPN3

IUPUI is at home for the week and Denver is on the road for the week.  I really don’t want to go into this any further.

Denver is not bad on the road though.  The game should be close, but Jaguars by less than 5.

North Dakota State (4-1) @ Western Illinois (3-3) on ESPN3

Can you believe I picked North Dakota State losing at Western Illinois last season?  Clearly, I was too young and naive at the time.  North Dakota State has not lost to Western Illinois since 2013.  I THOUGHT THE LEATHERNECKS WERE DUE!!!

The Leathernecks did end a 9 year losing streak to the Jackrabbits this season, so maybe?

If Garret Covington is injured, and the Leathernecks heavily rely on him to win games, who knows what Billy Wright will do.  He might just give up and play Sudoku on the bench.  The Bison will be coming off a heavily contested game against Fort Wayne, and the Leathernecks will be on a full week of rest.

Look, I’ve tried to talk myself into Western Illinois in the past and it has burnt me every single time, so I’m going to stop.

Omaha (3-3) @ Oral Roberts (1-4) on ESPN3

Omaha had the sweep of Oral Roberts last season.  Defending Albert Owens could be an issue, but the same goes on the opposite end for the Golden Eagles guarding Tre’Shawn Thurman and Mitch Hahn.

Omaha is deeper and has better overall guard play to beat Oral Roberts, but Omaha has got to keep the turnovers down.  Oral Roberts loves to get out and run, so the Mavericks don’t want to give the Golden Eagles more possessions and confidence at home.

Fort Wayne (3-2) @ South Dakota State (1-4) on ESPN3

Remember talking about how abysmal South Dakota State’s perimeter defense is?

The Mastodons are throwing a party right now.