The Leathernecks beat Wisconsin to open up the season, and I am pretty sure it is the most forgettable big time win by a Summit League team of all time. It is almost immediately discredited with: well, Wisconsin wasn’t together at that point…or something along those lines. There were people that believed in Western Illinois after that, and hopefully those people that did use that belief to discuss how good the Summit League was as a whole for the season. They probably more so had an attitude of: Well Western Illinois sucks, so who cares.
Western Illinois finished the season as 9th in the Summit League, which meant they had to sit out the Summit League tournament. At least they got to really bulk up Creighton’s non-conference schedule. It was not pretty after the Wisconsin win for the Leathernecks. The team picked up some lopsided wins against the likes of some division 2 schools in addition to Illinois-Chicago and Eastern Illinois before going on an 11 game losing streak. Then they hurt my brain when they broke their losing streak at home against the Mavericks. The Leathernecks did expose a large weakness of that Mavs that Omaha was not a great defensive team in the post. Once a team can get the ball past the quick hands of Tra-Deon Hollins and Devin Patterson, Omaha may not have the bodies to deal with guys down low. Denver saw this and they just kept throwing the ball into Christian Mackey and CJ Bobbitt to just ruin the Mavericks. Ehhh.
Much of the season for the Leathernecks was about as hard to watch as when your brother brings home some train wreck of a girl to meet your parents; and you hold a large amount of embarrassment that you know your brother.
The Leathernecks are going to be losing JC Fuller’s 12.7 points per game, which is probably a good thing as he thought he could have the green light to shoot like Steph Curry, but Curry actually makes the crazy shots he takes. Western Illinois only played Fuller for 8 minutes when they beat the Mavericks and instead gave most of the back court minutes to freshman De’Angelo Bruster, who might be the new fastest player in the Summit League. His speed created so many opportunities for other players in that game against the Mavericks, he may have actually won that game for the Leathernecks even though he scored 0 points. Bruster only scored 2 points per game, but the Leathernecks were 2-0 in games he played more than 20 minutes, so hell, they might as well at least make an attempt to give him more minutes in 2017…but Billy Wright seems like the least creative coach in the League; so who knows.
Garret Covington will be the Summit League’s top returning scorer, and that is fun, I guess. Covington has been known as being one of the league’s most threatening scorers over during the first three years of collegiate careers, but watch a Western Illinois game. No one else knows how to get open, the coaching staff doesn’t have a great list of plays to really get players open, and Covington never really scores when the game is on the line and he can push the Leathernecks over their opponent. Granted, they don’t have too many moments when the game is close for Covington can do that, but the point still remains…probably, I think, I may have gone in and out of points there.
The idea here is, who else on the team can actually score consistently? Jabari Sandifer would go 8-of-12 from the floor one game and then go 2-of-13 the next game, and most of shots were Aw Crap, When Did the Shot Clock Change to 30 Seconds shots. We like to ask these hypothetical questions of: Would Tre’Shawn Thurman put up the same numbers at a Creighton or a Nebraska? The simple answer is no because he would be on a different team with a different depth and a different offense than what he is currently on, but it does not mean he is a worse player.
Anyway, if you took Garret Covington and threw him on any other team in the Summit League would he still be known as one of the most prolific scorers in the league? Covington took 13 shots a game in 2016 and attempted almost 7 free throws a game to guide him to 18 points per game. You put him on South Dakota State, pretend you’re trading him for Reed Tellinghuisen… Covington isn’t such a dominant of a scorer that he would have taken shot attempts from their three seniors and Mike Daum…Covington would score less than 10 points a game with the Jackrabbits. Put him on Omaha’s roster, he’d score more than 10 points a game because of the offense, but he would have been the 3rd or 4th option on offense in most situations, and the Mavericks would have been freaking sweet…I think my general point here is that Covington should not have been a Summit League 2nd Team player. Didn’t Lawrence Alexander finish as North Dakota State’s winningest player with over 100 wins? It’s kind of a weird thing to say since basketball is a team sport, but Covington has only been a part of 27 wins in his three years at Western Illinois.
You know what, I hate talking about Western Illinois this long. They at best will finish with 5 conference wins next season. I am still salty at their men’s soccer team; they flopped so much against Omaha that I thought maybe Manu Ginobli, Vlade Divac, and Derek Fisher took up coaching college soccer.
My wife is out of town for a conference and I heavily debated of traveling (alone) to Tulsa to see the Mavericks take on Oral Roberts; or to Macomb to see UNO Softball play Western Illinois, but I unfortunately decided to be responsible and to save money. Damn it, I brought up Western Illinois again. UNO softball at Western Illinois is actually on the radio this weekend…sayyyyy whaaaaat? 88.3 FM is apparently a station?
I was worried about the softball team for UNO this season because of the depth of the pitching, but they are staying alive so far thanks to the bats. Not saying the pitching has been awful between Laura Roecker and Abbie Clanton, but there are not a ton of options if the two of them are having a bad game or were to get hurt. Nine players hitting above .250 right now…Nine! That’s how many times Ferris Bueller unofficially missed class his senior year. Three players are in the top 10 in the Summit League in batting average. Oh and this team just beat Iowa State in Ames! The Mavs are also 159 in RPI right now which is 2nd in the Summit behind North Dakota State.
With just one conference loss, the Mavs are currently 2nd in the conference standings behind 6-0 North Dakota State. The Mavericks will end the regular season at North Dakota State and also still play 3rd place team South Dakota at home next weekend, so there is still a lot on the line for the Mavs as the two top seeds get byes in the conference tournament in Fargo.
Oh and per twitter, Caroline Hogue has left the women’s basketball team. Someone may need to let Jon Green cry on their shoulder for a while.
So did you think the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team overachieved or underachieved in 2015-2016? They finished 5th in the Summit League (after being picked 2nd by most people), but they had a fair amount of injuries (maybe even most in the Summit), and they were able to make it to the Summit League championship again.
The Bison are only graduating Kory Brown (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) and Chris Kading (3.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg), so they will be returning 4 starters to their lineup. On top of that they will be returning their top bench player, Dexter Werner, so on paper so far it sounds as if they can be at least good enough to return to the top half of the Summit League.
With three shooting guards committed, the Bison have one scholarship still open; and they are not a basketball program that really seeks out a lot of transfers from bigger schools or junior colleges. After losing Lawrence Alexander, the team really prided themselves on replacing his 19 points per game with the guys they already had on their team. Next Guy Up: I believe was their slogan. Paul Miller boosted himself from 6.7 points per game his freshman season to 15.3 points per game into his second season. Brown increased his scoring by 2 points, AJ Jacobson by 1 point, and the team did add sophomore Malik Clements (okay, I lied he came from a junior college) who averaged 6.3 points per game…so they were able to make up the scoring lost by Alexander.
The team can replace the 13.6 points per game that they are losing easier than they can make up the 19 points per game they lost from the year before. It’s not really about just replacing x amount of points…you cannot just replace Val Kilmer (an average Batman) with George Clooney (terrible Batman) and expect to make a good movie. Not that Batman Forever wasgreat, but it wasn’t Kilmer’s fault. Point is, I think, Brown and Kading did more than just score points. They brought smart play when they needed it. Losing smart players who bring defense and make big shots right when you need them can be a big loss for a team. But…next guy up, I suppose. When the Bison were at Omaha without Paul Miller, and AJ Jacobson was in foul trouble; Chris Kading and Kory Brown took the moment to just do more than scoring.
Chris Kading’s defense was really bothering Tre’Shawn Thurman for a stretch in that game. Kading ended that game with 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks; but also every shot he made were instrumental to mounting a comeback for the Bison. In the second half of the game, Jacobson was brought back in, as was Jake White for Omaha, and Jacobson couldn’t guard White or Thurman. He couldn’t defend anyone driving to the basket, which is what helped Omaha from letting the Bison get the comeback win. For a Bison fan, it was probably as sad as I was watching Batman & Robin.
It sounds as if the Bison are going to attempt to replace Kading’s production with their redshirt freshman Deng Geu. Geu (it’s pronounced GOO) is 6’8″ with a lot of hop. He said that the Bison wanted to add an outside shot to his game, so they are hoping to making him a shot blocking-jump shooting center who can get 2nd chance opportunities on the offensive end, so they want him to be Kading. That’s what is odd, or special, or whatever, about Dave Richman, is that he is going to try and do the exact same thing offensively every single game. Just run this stupid weave offense with the exact same pieces of the puzzle game after game. Okay, it’s a successful plan obviously, but I would think it would get figured out after a few runs through the Summit League.
I thought the Bison were the anomaly of the Summit League this year. Lots of injuries in the off season and regular season. They are a pretty undersized basketball team, and also pretty slow for an undersized basketball team. Malik Clements was listed at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, but he looked more like an unhealthy 230 pounds. Players left the team at semester. Carlin Dupree leaves the team in January over a dispute in playing time, and then comes back a month later just suddenly accepting that Khy Kabellis is better for the team as a starter. They had just a completely unwatchable game against IUPUI in the first round of the Summit League tournament, the way they played, anyone else in the Summit could have beaten them that day. Paul Miller, the team’s leading scorer, was suspended for breaking team rules and could not play in their 2nd round game of the Summit League tournament. Carlin Dupree, the same guy who was pissy about playing time two months ago, got the start to replace Miller against IPFW and scored 22 and 6 rebounds and hits timely shot after timely shot to lead the Bison over the top team in the Summit. Dupree really bothered Max Landis in that game as well, if Paul Miller would have played more minutes in that game over Dupree, the ‘Dons may have actually won that game. They then lost by 8 to South Dakota State, who maybe should not have been in the championship game the way they played against Denver and Oral Roberts, but damn it the Jackrabbits did it and played a really good game against Maryland in the NCAA tournament. After this, the Bison didn’t get a trip the CIT, and I assume turned down a trip to the Vegas Mistaketeen.
All of this is why the Bison will probably be picked in the top 3 in the preseason rankings for the Summit. These weird series of events, and the fact that they will be led next season by Dexter Werner and AJ Jacobson, who are the two most consistent players in the Summit League…though like stated, everything that the Bison do is based on doing the same thing over and over. I’m sure if you played Texas Hold em with Dave Richman, he would be the guy that only bets to get in a hand if he has a pocket pair.
They’re getting healthier, and their core is back and playing well together. Good for them… Mike Daum has emerged as one of the top post players in the league, and could really be the presence this team needs to win the Summit League.
The Jacks have not been as good on the road, and they still have to play at IPFW and at Omaha this season. That game in Omaha could really be the biggest crowd the Mavericks get all season, maybe around 4,000 or so. There is a part of me hoping that the Coyotes end at 8th in the Summit, as they would really give the Jacks problems in the first round of the Summit League tournament.
2. IPFW, 7-2
Last week: 3rd
Max Landis is averaging 5.3 assists per game since Mo Evans was declared ineligible. He is averaging nearly 40 minutes a game as well. Could the ‘Dons start to losing games if Landis’ legs are getting too tired to shoot and play basketball? They have a tough road week at South Dakota (who IPFW beat by 20) and at North Dakota State (who IPFW beat by 5).
3. Omaha, 7-2
Last week: 1st
Clearly, I love the Mavericks, but their two losses are to South Dakota State and IPFW. Tim Smallwood just averaged 12.5 points last week, and Randy Reed averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds…how good could the Mavs be with that production from them every game?
4. IUPUI, 7-2
Last week 5th
The Jaguars have 7 games left this season, and have already surpassed how many conference wins they had last season (as did Omaha). This is the only team in the league with a win over South Dakota State and IPFW, the home loss to Oral Roberts is still a little shaky.
They won 2 games last week by a total of 3 points. Matt O’Leary had to go 9-of-9 from the field to beat Western Illinois, and IUPUI needed a three pointer from Jordan Pickett at the end of the game to beat the Bison…and Paul Miller just barely missed a full court shot to win the game. To win against North Dakota State in the final minute, their defense was able to force the inbound pass to Dexter Werner, who is a 61% free throw shooter…and he went 1-of-2 from the line (2-of-6 overall).
This team has some offensive deficiencies to really beat down any teams, but they defense can really give everyone problems, and they can keep any game close. The Jaguars have their next 4 of 5 on the road, so they could begin to fall from the other teams at 7-2.
Jordan Pickett looks good after hitting a game winning shot against North Dakota State, but he continues to get better and better. He is also an incredibly mature player if you listen to him talk. He was one of the transfers from Loyola, and Pickett could become a top three point guard in the Summit over the next two seasons…and he could be a big help as to why the Jaguars will be competing for the regular season title next year.
5. North Dakota State, 4-4
Last week: 4th
Kory Brown is turning into the scorer, averaging 16.4 points over the last 5 games, that the Bison wanted him to be with the departure of Lawrence Alexander. Their offense is really difficult to watch when Paul Miller goes to the bench, surprisingly, Paul Miller is the best on the team at driving to the basket. The Bison have a winnable home schedule remaining with: IPFW, Western Illinois, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts. Their remaining road schedule though is: South Dakota, South Dakota State, Omaha, and Denver.
6. Denver, 3-6
Last week: 8th
Denver beat South Dakota, and was pretty close with South Dakota State pretty late in the game on Saturday. The Pioneers are still not a very good road team, and they have a three straight games on the road in a row in a few weeks.
7. South Dakota, 2-7
Last week: 7th
The Coyotes lost to Denver by 14 last week, which is pretty much a beat down. Still the number one seed will not at all want to play the Coyotes in Sioux Falls. Tyler Flack had 14 points and 6 rebounds against Omaha on Saturday. Flack missed all of the 2014-2015 season with a back injury, if Flack can be fully healthy and effective, the Coyotes could be deeper and deadlier with him back in the lineup.
Vermillion is a difficult place for away teams to play, so maybe the Coyotes can get going on a little run now with three home games in a row. But seriously South Dakota, just seed yourself to play South Dakota State in Sioux Falls.
8. Oral Roberts, 3-6
Last week: 6th
All that the Golden Eagles had last week was IPFW, and Oral Roberts gave up a lead to lose the game in the final minutes. Oral Roberts is on a three game losing streak, but those three losses are to South Dakota State, Omaha, and IPFW; and now they are going into a week at North Dakota State and South Dakota, two games that Oral Roberts should not be favored in.
This team is athletic, but young and they haven’t played too many games together. In the last few minutes of their game against IPFW, players held onto the ball too long, didn’t even pay attention to the shot clock, and played as if the season did not even matter. It doesn’t matter how good of a coach Scott Sutton is if his players do not listen to him.
9. Western Illinois, 0-9
Last week: 9th
I think instead of talking about the Leathernecks, it would be more useful and more productive if I told you about a yogurt fruit mix my wife and I make. It’s vanilla Greek fit yogurt mixed with apples, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, and sunflower kernels. It’s pretty freaking tasty, and really good as a breakfast. I got the plain Greek fit yogurt, instead of vanilla, and I got to tell you…it was pretty awful. So get vanilla. It wasn’t my fault, HyVee was out of Vanilla because of so many people stocking up for Snowmagedon. Really, why do people stalk up for something that might force them home for one and maybe two days?
I will add this about Western Illinois…ah hell, never mind.
The coaches were not kidding when they said that The Summit League is a conference on the rise. Every team has an identity, and every team thinks they have a legitimate chance at winning The Summit League. Western Illinois with a win over Wisconsin and being 5-1 at the moment has definitely been the biggest surprise so far. The season is still young, but we are done with the first calendar month.
I was going to come up with something looking at who the 1st and 2nd All Summit League teams were up to the end of November, but then I realized there is still a ton of basketball to be played out, so what is the point? Instead, why not look at who and what have been some of the biggest surprises so far around the Summit?
Western Illinois with a win over Wisconsin is clearly what sticks out the most. J.C. Fuller’s scoring going up is not that big of a surprise as he was getting better and better as the season went on for the Leathernecks last season, but shooting 72% from threes so far is big surprise. He is not going to finish the year at 72% but he should continue to give the Leathernecks a second option after Garret Covington.
Obi Emegano being a scoring machine is not a surprise, but he has already made 21 threes on the year after making 29 all of last season.
We knew North Dakota State had to find someone to make up for the loss of scoring from Lawrence Alexander, but Paul Miller averaging 19.6 points per game, after scoring 6.7 per game last season, has been quite the jump through 5 games.
Jake White being healthy for the Mavericks has been like getting an entirely new player. He is 5th in the Summit League in scoring right now at 16.3 points per game through 6 games, while only averaging 21.5 minutes per game.
Marcellus Barksdale did not get a double digit scoring performance until his 7th game. He does not have a history of being a prolific scorer, but you would think the senior leader would be scoring a little more.
Tre’Shawn Thurman and Reed Tellinghuisen have caught up to AJ Jacobson. It is not a huge surprise really. Thurman was expected to get an increased role for the Mavericks as they lost Mike Rostampour, was Jacobson supposed to get more shots from the departure of Lawrence Alexander and the addition of a couple more post players? Tellinghuisen is still not expected to be the main option for the Jackrabbits, but he is an efficient scorer that has added on some muscle. The class of 2018 is a big time class for the Summit League, and there are still some junior college players and transfers that could be huge additions to the class.
John Konchar is what IPFW had been advertising. Jon Coffman stated that Konchar would have been worth 5 more wins for the ‘Dons had he not redshirted last season. He is averaging 11.6 points and 8.1 points per game so far. Watch an IPFW game too, he looks like the most mature player the team has. Coffman was also pretty big on the improvement of Brent Calhoun, but he is only averaging 1.8 points per game and shooting 31% from the field.
Nate Engesser is not starting for Denver. He is leading the Pioneers in scoring with 16.2 points per game, but he has yet to start a game, and he is only playing 22.5 minutes per game. Also Denver, who was thought to be the worst team in the league by many is 5-1 so far. Many had it between Denver and Western Illinois as the two worst teams in the league, and they are both 5-1.
There are 4 freshmen averaging more than 10 points per game so far: Konchar (IPFW), Mike Daum (South Dakota State), Dan Jech (South Dakota), and Joe Rosga (Denver).
Tra-Deon Hollins currently leads all Summit League players in assists and steals. He leads the nation in steals as of right now. He reminds of what it was like to play with Eddie Jones in NBA Live 99…on rookie mode.
I was pretty down on AJ Owens of Oral Roberts before the start of the season, but he is proving me wrong with 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he even leads the conference in blocks so far. My bad.
If you look up the scores on ESPN before any games are played, and you see South Dakota, ESPN lists Eric Robertson has their must see player. Every time.
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.
I realize I look like a total homer placing them this high.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Joe Scott knows his team is young and the Pioneers are a work in progress, but he is preaching maturity to his team.
Jon Coffman is pretty damn excited about college basketball and his team.
Redshirt Freshman John Konchar has apparently put on a ton of muscle, and the ‘Dons are really excited about him and are more prepared to go small ball this year in the Summit
Brent Calhoun is expected to make a big jump for the ‘Dons, he has lost a bunch of weight and is in the best shape of his life.
I have realized that after an entire season that I have been spelling “Mastodons” incorrectly.
Jason Gardner is excited about this program, and thinks his staff will be more comfortable working together this year. He has gained a large amount of respect for the Summit League.
In his opinion, Mason Archie is his team’s best defender and wants to defend the other team’s best player.
Marcellus Barksdale had to play four different positions in just about every single game for the Jaguars, he will not have to do that this year and expects Barksdale to benefit from not having to playing too many different roles.
Barksdale and Archie have both graduated already, and set a great example for the team.
His 4 transfers are really going to help this team.
The new arena has really helped the Jaguars in recruiting.
Dave Richman acknowledges that his team has 11 of his 15 guys as freshman and sophomores, but they are a deeper and more talented team than last year.
Chris Kading had 3 surgeries in the off season, will probably miss the first couple games of the regular season.
Lawrence Alexander carried the Bison on his back, he was the winningst most player in Bison history, it is not going to be easy to replace him. They will have to replace him by committee.
The Bison ended up 12-4 in the league, but many of their games were won by just a possession.
Derrin Hansen (and Brittany Lange) is excited about the new arena, it has been a huge asset to the program, and they know it will help them catch up to the rest of the league in the next few years. Not to mention it is extremely huge for the community.
Hansen is expecting more productivity from Tim Smallwood, Hansen is unclear if Smallwood will start or come off the bench yet. Smallwood has a much better feel for the game right now. He was a huge help when Marcus Tyus missed the last 6 games of the season.
Devin Patterson has become better in his leadership role.
Marcus Tyus is coming off his knee injury very well.
Jake White was only healthy for 2 or 3 games last year, he can have a big year if he is healthy.
Randy Reed is going to have a big role this year.
The players UNO has brought in bring in a winning culture, with all of them playing in their state championship games. Zach Jackson’s team won the state championship.
Hansen thinks his new guys can be immediate impacts for his program, but it sounds like minutes may be an issue at this point.
Scott Sutton says he is excited and optimistic, but he also sounds like he wants to skip the morning and get straight to lunch. He likes his new players, he knows there will be growing pains, but it is a tough group of guys that should be ready by the conference schedule. Their non-conference schedule should really help prepare the Golden Eagles for the Summit League.
Obi Emegano and Brandon Conley have both been injured throughout the summer and had shoulder surgeries, but are doing very well at this point. The staff is doing the best that they can to protect them.
Sutton thinks the rule changes in college basketball are going to benefit a guy like Emegano the most. He already led the league last year in free throws attempted per game and he should get even more attempts at the line this season. Sutton also likes how his team plays with a 30 second shot clock.
Sutton really really likes Jalen Bradley, and will have a hard time keeping him out of the lineup. Bradley got to play a lot on the team’s summer trip, where the team got to play with a 24 second shot clock.
Sutton could have a year where he is starting a couple freshmen. AJ Owens is their post player, but not as consistent as they would like him to be. Owens could have the biggest jump this year in the league.
Craig Smith sounds like he came to party. He thinks it is going to be a heck of a year for the Summit League, and his team will be a work in progress. He is glad that his team set a foundation and a culture last year. They lost a lot of scoring, so they have to figure out a way to score the ball.
Smith really does not know who is going to help take on the scoring yet, but Tre Burnette really caught on toward the end of the season. Casey Kasperbauer is one of the best three point shooters he has ever coached.
The Coyotes have had a lot of injuries. They have 17 players on the roster, but ended a practice with only 10 players recently. It has been hard to get going and figure out lineups and who plays well together.
Dan Jech can score in a lot of different ways and is a great rebounder. Smith sounds really excited about Jech.
Tyler Hagedorn has a great feel for the game and can do a lot of different things.
Tyler Borchers has been a great surprise for the Coyotes, he doesn’t look pretty with everything that he does, but he does great things.
Scott Nagy says his team has taken their time getting ready because of the great experience that they have at the guard position. He thinks the Jackrabbits have a lot of depth, which is going to be needed in college basketball with the rule changes.
He points out that preseason awards mean nothing. No one expected Deondre Parks and George Marshall to be all league picks last year. Some transfers from IUPUI or on other teams could be big time players, and no one knows anything about them yet.
Jake Bittle and George Marshall both have nagging injuries, nothing that would keep them out, but they will be hurting after games.
Nagy thinks his team is smaller than he would like it to be. They could even go very small with no true post player in some games.
Adam Dykman works extremely hard, and down the road will be a tremendous 4 man in the future.
The biggest question mark for the Jackrabbits is: how will they replace Cody Larson? They are looking at 3 guys to replace him…Connor Devine, Ian Theisen, and Mike Daum. He has no idea who will be their starting center at this point.
Nagy just seems displeased by rule changes, doesn’t see the need for them, but they have to play with them. He doesn’t think the rule changes will affect how they play though.
Billy Wright feels his program is headed in the right direction. His team has set a philosophy in how they want to recruit and compete.
Western Illinois returns 85% of their scoring.
His freshman are working hard to compete for starting spots and playing time.
Garret Covington has really worked hard to improve his rebounding
JC Fuller is one of the most underrated players in the league.
De’Angelo Brewster and Brandon Gilbeck will have big breakout years as freshmen.
The Summit League is close in talent, you are an injury or two away from going from the top to the bottom, or a recruit away from going from the bottom to the middle of the pack.
So the Summit League is stacked with guards and wing players this season. College Sports Madness recently came out with a All Summit League 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th team and 16 of the 20 players were guards, 17 if you count South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen as a guard. The Summit League came out with their preseason 1st and 2nd teams yesterday, and 8 or the 10 players were guards. The teams they selected are fair for the most part, though I do not agree with leaving Tre’Shawn Thurman off the list, but I get that I am biased.
Anyway, there are so many guards on this list, and that is because the Summit League is going to be a very guard heavy league this year. So could one come up with a conclusion that who ever has the best post game is going to set themselves apart from the rest of the conference? So who has the best post players in the conference?
For the sake of argument, I am going to reduce each team’s list to their top 4 post players, because realistically teams hardly ever use more than 4 post players in the Summit League. Hell some players do not use more than two post players.
North Dakota State
Chris Kading, Dexter Werner, AJ Jacobson, and one of the other 3 players that will mix in.
I have kind of had North Dakota State as my team to win the conference this year, but I am growing more and more uncomfortable with that recently the more I am looking things up. Not that I think they are in trouble or anything. Anyway, it is pretty hard to argue that they do not have the best core of post players in the Summit League. I know someone might look at Chris Kading and say he’s only a 5 points and 4 rebounds guy, but he takes smart shots, he led the Summit League in blocks per game, and he would routinely hold the other team’s best post player to a bad game.
Dexter Werner was the Sixth Man of the Year in the Summit League last year, and he completely deserved it. He was a big time force that brought immediate energy to the Bison post game off of the bench, and he shot 51% from the field. He was playing undersized most of the time, but he was still able to get 1 block per game, which is tied with the 2nd most for returning players to the league.
Then the Bison have AJ Jacobson, and while there is no official Summit League Freshman of the Year Award, I am pretty sure it would have been him last season. He appears to be a popular choice for 1st Team All Summit this upcoming year, after coming off averaging 11.6 points per game and 4.2 rebounds, and many people think he is going to take a large load of the shots that Lawrence Alexander was taking. He is probably more of a traditional 3, but he did quite well for the Bison at the 4 position, and the Bison can bring in Werner off the bench and slide Jacobson over to the 3, making for a big lineup.
It is kind of unclear who the 4th post player will be at this point for the Bison. They had Nebraska-native, Spencer Eliason redshirting last season, and they are bringing in two 6’8″ freshmen that they appear to be pretty excited about. With Kading and Werner, you kind of expect one of the two true freshman to redshirt though, right?
Eric Robertson, Tyler Flack, Tyler Hagedorn, Dan Jech
I admit that is pretty difficult to go on from here, so how about South Dakota? The Coyotes might actually have the most talented post players, but there are some questions to it. Can Tyler Flack bounce back from sitting out all of 2014-2015 with an injury, and does Craig Smith even like him? Flack was averaging 8.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg, and shooting 55% from the field as a sophomore in 21 minutes on a pretty bad South Dakota team.
Can Eric Robertson survive as a starter if Smith doesn’t feel comfortable with starting a true freshman? Then there is two freshman, Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech. Jech gives the Coyotes a post player and Hagedorn gives the team a stretch four. The Coyotes were able to survive last season with 6’3″ Tyler Larson and 6’5″ Tre Burnette as their primary options in the post last season, so what is going to happen when Smith adds some height to their post game. Oh yeah, and there is also Tre Burnette, who had the highest rebounding average of any player returning to the Summit League.
Jake White, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Daniel Meyer, Zach Pirog (or Randy Reed)
It is kind of a bold move picking the Mavericks that high here. Consider this though, no player 6’7″ or taller that is returning to the league averaged more points per game than Tre’Shawn Thurman last season. Jake White is healthy apparently, while I cannot 100% verify this, but I am pretty sure he had limited minutes in his junior season due to injuries. Even with as many injuries that he had in his junior season, he was probably the fastest post player in the league. So you have to assume he will go from 20 minutes per game to 25-30, his field goal percentage should rise above 40% while he’s healthy, he can probably be a 10 and 8 guy. 10 and 8 should get you Honorable Mention in the Summit.
Daniel Meyer should be getting a minutes increase as well. Statistically, he had about the same statistics that Dexter Werner had in his freshman season at North Dakota State, and he should receive an increased role (maybe even a Werner like role) with Mike Rostampour and Rylan Murry no longer on the team. One game last year, I was sitting near Matt Hagerbaumer, you seriously need to take the opportunity to sit next to Hagerbaumer if you ever get that chance. He’s constantly yelling support to younger players, and he was so excited about Thurman and Meyer as freshman. He at one point said that they needed Meyer to be a banger down low and be the dirty work guy. Basically, the Mavs need him to be Matt Hagerbaumer 2.0, and he is capable of being that. Meyer apparently played very well on the team’s trip to Italy as well.
I am still unsure if Zach Pirog will redshirt. Hansen kind of has a history of redshirting big players, and the team already has White, Thurman, and Meyer; but maybe Pirog is even better than advertised? He should add immediate rim protection to the team, which would be extremely helpful, but how many minutes would be able to get this season? Not to mention, there will probably be a lot teams playing 6’5″ guys at the 4 position for a decent chunk of minutes this season, so wouldn’t you want to play Randy Reed more at the 4 position this season; leaving a lot of the minutes at the 5 to White, Meyer, and even Thurman. Just seems like minutes wise it would be a good idea to redshirt Pirog, but he is someone that can immediately help this team.
South Dakota State
Connor Devine, Ian Theisen, Michael Daum, Adam Dykman
There is a big gaping hole to make up in the loss of Cody Larson for the Jackrabbits, and it is unclear who will fill that role. The Jackrabbits also grew comfortable playing Reed Tellinguisen at the 4 last season, as the team’s 5th best offensive player, they really couldn’t keep him off the floor, even if he was playing undersized at times.
You look at Devine and Theisen and you think two guys that don’t even combine for 5 points per game, but really they were playing behind Cody Larson and sharing that role of backup post player. Then you realize that they both shot over 50 percent from the field, and they both had stretches over the season where they were making big plays. It’s also not like Scott Nagy cannot develop guys at all. Devine as a 40% free throw shooter might get left off the court down the stretch of the few close conference games the Jackrabbits will have.
The Jackrabbits also had Nebraska-native Michael Daum redshirting last season, who seemed like a pretty attractive recruit coming out of high school, so who knows how much he developed under the Jackrabbits staff. The basketball fan in me says “oh wow this guy averaged 25 and 13 as a senior in high school,” but the Nebraskan in me says “I have never even heard of Kimball, how could anyone be good at basketball from there.” The Mavericks offered him a scholarship though, he also held offers from South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota, and others, so non-Nebraskans see something in him.
Then there is even another Nebraska-native on the team, 6’7″ Adam Dykman. I am pretty nervous about Dykman, I constantly saw his name in the paper for big games, and I know a few guys hugely into Nebraska high school basketball that were upset that UNO or Nebraska did not give an offer to this kid. I am afraid he’s psycho angry about that.
With such a strong group of starting guards, I don’t think it’s going to come down to the post players for the Jackrabbits. The show Scrubs had a great core of cast with JD, Turk, Kelso, Elliot, and Dr. Cox, would the show have been successful if they threw in a bunch of episodes centered around Ted and made a three episode story arch about Ted? Many people would have turned away. I actually would have watched the crap out of that. So how many times are you going to hear a ESPN3 commentator say: The Jackrabbits are having a great night with Marshall, Bittle, Parks, and Tellinghuisen knocking down all these outside shots and beating their defenders to the rim; but I really think they need to get the ball into Devine to work his magic on Dexter Werner? Probably never.
Nick Osborne, Matt O’Leary, Evan Hall, and Noah Thomas
Nick Osborne and Matt O’Leary were decent players at Loyola and will now have increased roles with the Jaguars. Evan Hall and Noah Thomas are both true freshman, so the hard part for the Jags is throwing in an entirely new core of post players into their lineup. Hall is a 6’7″ freshman that was rated as a 3 star recruit and had offers from Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Lipscomb out of high school. Hall is a 6’9 and 235 post from the state of Indiana that averaged a double-double in his senior season. The Jaguars also survived last year on having guards playing as post players, so it’s not like they cannot win without a post game at all. Essentially, the team decided that they didn’t like the cast of the last season of the Power Rangers and went with entirely new ranger squad, and they feel pretty comfortable about how the new cast will go. How many other places are you going to find a Power Rangers reference talking about sports? Actually, I don’t think this my first time on here.
Joe Reed, Brent Calhoun, Andrew Poulter, Racine Talla
You’ve got to feel confident in a 6’8″ guy like Joe Reed that has shot about 55% for his career. Like Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman getting more shots because of departures, you’ve got to think that Reed’s shot attempts will go up with the loss of Steve Forbes. Reed is another guy with potential to be a 10 and 8 guy. His other three front court teammates are kind of question marks.
I’ve seen people bragging up Andrew Poulter, and I do not get it. He was a 7 and 5 guy as a sophomore at a junior college, and he also shot 47% from the field. I watched a video of him in high school working on some 1 on 1 moves, he was looking like an All American but he’s 6’11” and 275 going up 1 on 1 against some 6’5″ 175 pound guy. Granted, it is high school and I doubt there were too many guys near his size to work out with, but still, I don’t see how his 1 on 1 skills will ever come into play from the Summit. Then there is sophomore Racine Talla who is 6’9″ but hasn’t played a game of basketball in 3 years. It just seems like a gamble to take them seriously at this point. Maybe Jon Coffman realizes how to use them appropriately though, we will clearly have to wait and see. And many people have them picked as the 4th best team in the conference, so maybe I am just a moron. 95% chance that I am a moron.
Brandon Conley, Tre Vance, AJ Owens, and Darian Harris
Did you know this team led the Summit League in blocks per game last season? They essentially did not need production offensively from their post players as they had Obi Emegano, Kory Billbury, and Bobby Word to take on a bulk of the scoring, so they really just needed their post players to play defense and make great outlet passes. I don’t think people are realizing how important Denell Henderson was to this team. None of these players are huge scoring threats, and a lot of people are high on Owens even though he basically only got minutes when the Golden Eagles were getting killed last season. He shot 40% from the field, and he was basically playing against other teams’ 3rd string most of the time. Darian Harris also seems like he should be a shooting guard, but the ORU had to use him at the 4 position several times last season due to lack of a post.
I am nervous for Scott Sutton this season, but not in a way that I think he’s going to get fired or anything. I really do not think he has a great roster this season, but it is Sutton and Obi Emegano. I love hearing rumors every off season about schools looking at Sutton as a head coaching hire, but we may not get that this April and May. If Sutton can come in top three of the league this season, I really think he deserves coach of the year, but I don’t think he’ll get it.
Marcus Byrd, Daniel Amigo, Christian Mackey, and 1 of 2 freshman.
I am scared for Denver this season. A few have selected them to finish in last this season, CBS Sports rated them as the 3rd best team in the Summit League but it was pointless. It is really hard to look at Denver and say they have the best players in anything, not because of a lack of talent, but because of the offense that Joe Scott runs. Marcus Byrd averaged 8.5 points per game as a junior, 8.5 at Denver is like averaging 13 any place else. Byrd can also step out and take the three, he actually has the highest three point field goal percentage of any player returning to the Summit League this season, and he makes nearly 2 threes a game.
Daniel Amigo was also giving the Pioneers pretty good minutes as a freshman, but his season ended early due to injury. The Pioneers also have a 6’7″ freshman named Abiola Akintola from Australia, who was not widely recruited, but he averaged 17.8 ppg and 6 rebounds per game in the U18 Australian Junior Championships, whatever the heck that is. I know there are a lot of question marks for international players, and it could be difficult to figure out if he is even the right fit for Denver, but it could be something amazing watching him develop.
Tate Stensgaard, Jalen Chapman, Mike Miklusak, and the mystery man
All are average guys that on any other team in the Summit League would be role players, and really they are just role players for Western Illinois, but they give a lot of minutes to the Leathernecks when they are available. They many lost the last 13 of 14 games of the season because they had no Stensgaard or Chapman for that time, but still, could they have made the difference. The team has 4 freshman post players that will mix in. I wonder how they will work out.