A look at who the Summit League is losing

College sports graduates teams every year, players transfer, and teams are affected by that from year to year…duh.  Some top teams get worse because of what they are losing, and other teams get better with what they have coming back.

Here is who Summit League men’s basketball is losing this year, and the list is in order of what teams will be affected most by their losses.


South Dakota

It feels uncommon to see the team that finished 8th in a conference to be losing so many players.  Seems like these teams are typically youthful and at least have a lot to look forward to in the future as they develop their team.  South Dakota will graduate 4 players on scholarship and one walk on player; as well as lose three players to transfer.

The Yotes will have a new look with three transfers coming aboard, and could potentially have the deepest core of post players as most of their post players this season were freshmen and sophomores.

From 2014-2015 to 2015-2016, the Coyotes were losing the most scoring off their team at 57% and they fell from 4th in the conference to 8th.  Going into next season, they will again be the team that loses the most scoring at nearly 80 freaking percent of their scoring.

Graduates

Tre Burnette, 6’5″ guard/forward

Played in 32 games and started 23 in 2015-2016.  Averaged 13.2 points; 6.6 rebounds (4th in the Summit League), shot 44% from the field; 51% from the free throw line; and, 32% on threes.  Finished his senior season with 8 double-doubles.

Burnette played the 2, 3, and 4 for the Coyotes at different times.  His production and hustle will be missed by the Coyotes, but he could be being replaced by more efficient players.

Casey Kasperbauer, 6’1″ guard

Started in all 32 games for the Yotes in his senior season.  Averaged 12.1 points; 2.5 rebounds; 2.1 assists; and 1 steal per game.  Shot 41% from the field; 95% (led the Summit) from the free throw line; and 41% on threes.

Craig Smith once called Kasperbauer the best shooter that he had ever coached, and that will be missed by the Coyotes.  The transfer guards coming in for South Dakota appear to be slightly more versatile than Kasperbauer and be more productive over the 34 minutes a game that Kasperbauer was playing.

Trey Norris, 6’0″ guard

Played in all 32 games for the Yotes, and was moved into the starting rotation after Shy McClelland left the team, which was weird because Norris seemed to be the better point guard on the court for the team.  Ended the year averaging 7.5 points and 4.3 assists per game, but was averaging 12 points 5.4 assists in February and March.

Eric Robertson, 6’8″ forward/center

Started in all 32 games for South Dakota as a senior.  Not much of a rebounder for a big man averaging 3.2 per game.  Robertson scored 8.3 points per game on 47% from the floor.

I thought that Tyler Hagedorn or Dan Jech should have been playing more time than Robertson, and I may be more bias for Hagedorn being that he is from Nebraska, but both true freshmen seemed that they could have been more productive over Robertson.

Duol Mayot, 6’5″ guard/foward

Played in 17 games in his senior season as a walk on.

Departures

Dejon Davis, 6’4″ sophomore – Transferred to Indianapolis (D2)

Considered to be one of the most improved players in the Summit League after seeing his scoring go from 1.9 points per game in his freshman season to 9.3 as a sophomore.  Davis’ playing time was increased as well going from a seldom used guard his freshman season at 9.3 minutes per game to starting in 31 of 32 games in his sophomore season and averaging nearly 30 minutes per game.  He was 6th in the Summit League in field goal percentage shooting 55.1% from the field.  He was likely to see a reduction in minutes with Matt Mooney and Carlton Hurst becoming eligible, but Davis still would have been a contributor to the team.

Shy McClelland, 6’0″ junior – Left team in early February

McClelland averaged 11.5 points on 49% from the field in his time with South Dakota, but he shot 51% from the free throw line attempting over 4 free throws a game.  He was pretty inconsistent in his time on the team, but could have been a contributor to the Coyotes in 2016-2017.

Zach Dickerson, 6’4″ sophomore – Left team in early February

A transfer from Eastern Illinois that was not seeing much playing time for South Dakota, and probably was not going to see much of an increase in minutes in 2016-2017.


South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits are losing nearly half of their scoring, and they will working with a new head coach in 2016-2017.  Teams in the Summit League may not have the same fear that they’ve had going up against the Jackrabbits that they have had over the last few years.

Graduates

George Marshall, 6’0″ guard

Marshall ended the year struggling when it mattered most.  The Jacks had to survive through his 15% shooting in the conference tournament to move on to face Maryland in the big dance.  Marshall ended the regular season as a 1st Team All Summit League player with his 14.9 points per game, which was 10th in the league.

Marshall has potential to play basketball overseas or in the new NBLA.

Deondre Parks, 6’1″ guard

Parks played in 33 of the team’s 34 games and also averaged 14.9 points per game, and he was a good rebounder at his size with 4.6 per game.  He was shockingly pushed down to the Honorable Mention Team for the Summit after being named to the preseason 1st team.

Like his back court teammate, Parks also has potential to play basketball overseas or in the new NBLA.

Jake Bittle, 6’4″ guard

Bittle did not receive any post season awards after being named to the preseason 1st Team for the Summit League.  He was forced out and also played through some injuries, which may have led to some slightly inconsistent play for himself and the Jackrabbits.  Bittle led the Jackrabbits with 25 points in their win at Minnesota.

Losing Bittle as the guy to actually run the Jackrabbits offense is what could hurt the team the most.

Cory Jacobsen, 6’1″ guard

Never really saw much playing time as a walk on for the Coyotes.  Scored 2 points his senior season.

Departures

Connor Devine, 6’10” junior – Transferred to Alaska-Anchorage (D2)

Never truly broke into the rotation at South Dakota State playing behind a number of quality post players in three years.  Devine did average 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds as a junior, and shot 64% from the field in 8 minutes per game.  Could have been potentially a starter or the 1st post player off the bench in 2016-2017 with the Jacks currently with a lack of big men.

Logan Doyle, 6’8″ sophomore – Transferred to Northern State (D2)

Basically the exact same situation as Devine.  Only played in 7 games as a sophomore, but could have been one of the first guys off the bench in 2016-2017.


Omaha

Graduating four contributors is really hard to make up in college basketball, but the Mavericks will get to reload some of their roster with transfers and players returning from injuries.  The Mavericks will also literally be blessed with a 6th year of eligibility to Kyler Erickson.

Graduates

Devin Patterson, 5’11” guard

Patterson was the fastest player in the league, and that speed is what kept the Mavericks in a few games and gave the team a few victories.  Making up 18 points per game (3rd in the Summit) will be difficult, making up for his speed and his ability to get to the free throw line with be more difficult to overcome.

Patterson has potential to play basketball overseas or in the NBLA.

Jake White, 6’8″ forward

Even though White seemed to constantly be in foul trouble, he finished his senior season 5th in scoring in the conference with 17.3 points per game; as well as 6th in the Summit in rebounding at 6.2 rebounds per game.  It is hard to find a big man like White that can score from anywhere on the court as well draw as many fouls as he did.  As much as White did commit fouls, he was also able to tie for 3rd in the Summit for free throws attempted per game behind Obi Emegano and Devin Patterson.  White also shot 81% from the free throw line as a senior, which was 2nd in the league among forwards.

White has potential to play basketball overseas or in the NBLA.

Randy Reed, 6’6″ forward

Reed may have only averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds per game in his senior season, but the energy and hustle that he brought off the bench for the Mavericks was priceless and will be incredibly difficult to replace.  His 21 points and 5 rebounds off the bench on senior night was one of the most fun performances by a Mav to watch in person since the Mavericks made the transition to division one.

Tim Smallwood, 6’2″ guard

Smallwood was a little inconsistent, but he was able to improve on his shooting from his junior season to his senior season.  As a junior he shot 26% on threes, and he ended up shooting 37% on threes in his senior season.  I personally thought Smallwood was an underrated one-on-one defender.

Departure

Devin Newsome, 5’9″ sophomore

This appears to be unofficial at the moment.  Per the Omaha World Herald, Newsome is looking for a school to transfer to, but there has not been an official statement from anyone.  Newsome was rarely used in his freshman and sophomore seasons, and was unlikely to see an increase in minutes with the guards expected to be on the 2016-2017 roster.


IPFW

Graduates

Max Landis, 6’2″ guard

The ‘Dons are losing the Summit League player of the year that averaged 10 points a game on just three point field goals.  This is not something that is just easy to make up, but it can be done with a few players taking over the load of scoring and shooting.  After Mo Evans was forced off the team in the second semester, Landis stepped up as a passer and averaged over 4 assists without Evans on the roster.  IPFW has Purdue transfer, Bryson Scott to help take over the scoring load but he shot 29% in his two years on threes at Purdue while Landis just shot 45.6% on threes as a senior, which was 30th in division one.

Landis has recently had workouts with the Indiana Pacers and has potential to play in the NBDL.

Joe Reed, 6’8″ forward

The ‘Dons may end up missing Joe Reed more than they think.  He averaged 10.5 points and nearly 5 rebounds a game, but he was always ready to take a clutch shot.  The ‘Dons loved their small ball style in 2015-2016, and Reed was perfect to play at the 5 for that style.  Their core of post players in 2016-2017 may not be the best players for that type of system the coaching staff seemed to fall in love with.

Michael Calder, 6’2″ guard

Calder was fantastic making up for the loss of Mo Evans in the second half of the season.  He was a bit of a one dimensional guard in his junior season when he averaged 4.7 points, and he was able to step that up to 10 points per game overall as a senior.  Calder averaged 14.4 points in Summit League games after Evans was forced out for the 2nd half of the season.

Departure

Andrew Poulter, 6’11” junior

When Poulter signed with the ‘Dons, I was under the impression that Jon Coffman was going to start and play Poulter at the 5.  Poulter was overweight, shot terribly in junior college, was quite slow, and the ‘Dons wanted to go to a new small ball style.  I thought we were going to have to get Coffman checked into some sort of rehab, but instead Poulter hardly got any playing time at IPFW and decided to leave.  Just didn’t seem like the right fit from the beginning.


Oral Roberts

Graduates

Obi Emegano, 6’3″ guard

So I read somewhere that NBA scouts thought that Emegano was a junior and they were not taking his stock into the draft very seriously.  This seems like a really bitter end for the conference scoring champion after a bulk of his teammates leaving Oral Roberts over the last few years, a shoulder injury in the summer, a mid-season concussion, and being surrounded by an incredibly inconsistent youthful squad with zero chemistry.  Though a year from now we could be talking about how the 2016-2017 Summit League scoring champion, Garret Covington, was only a part of 40 wins in his entire collegiate basketball career.

Emegano has potential to be in the NBDL as he appears to be too short to play the shooting guard position in the NBA, nor really enough speed to be in the NBA…but people said the exact same things about Steph Curry.  The loss of Emegano is obviously huge for the Golden Eagles, and they may be classically bad in 2017.

Brandon Conley, 6’6″ forward

The undersized big man suffered through little injuries his entire senior year at Oral Roberts, which led to inconsistent play.  Conley did shoot 56.2% from the field, which was 4th in the Summit League.  His averages of 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds are something that can be easily made up with Oral Roberts’ youth.  They seem to routinely have a guy that goes from averaging 2 points a game to getting 8 to 10 points each game the following year.

Departures

DaQuan Jeffries, 6’5 freshman

Jeffries looked like a guard that loved playing against faster paced teams like Omaha and IPFW, and he even looked pretty good for what Oral Roberts liked to do…yet he transferred away from the team.  His versatility as being a 6’5″ guard who was actually probably better as a forward made it difficult to figure out where to play him in each and every game.  His 6.7 points per game was going to be 4th among returning players to the team.

Tre Vance, 6’9″ junior

Vance averaged less than one point and one rebound in his time at Oral Roberts.  Not really sure what to say here…  I’ve lost 17 pounds in the last 2 months…I’ve been working out a lot and eating really well.  It’s cool and all, but I have to buy a bunch of new clothes because I look like a little kid wearing a bunch of hand me downs from his big brother.


Western Illinois

I want to say it really couldn’t get any worse for the Leathernecks, but it doesn’t seem like it will get much better.

Graduates

JC Fuller, 6’3″ guard

Fuller started the year off pretty hot, and then his shooting dropped off toward the end of the conference season.  Fuller averaged 12.7 points a game, but I doubt Billy Wright will miss his shot selection.  The Leathernecks won two games in a row over Omaha and Denver when they decided to play freshman De’Angelo Bruster more than Fuller…then they went back to giving more minutes to Fuller and lost 4 of their last 5.

I will still remember Fuller as the guy that was absolutely on fire in the first half at Baxter Arena and talking shit to the Maverick bench, then put his forearm into Kyler Erickson’s chest right in front of a referee to push off to miss a 30 foot jump shot.  Then Fuller went missing the second half and the Mavericks came back from a big deficit to win the game.

Tate Stensgaard 6’9″ forward

I feel like Stensgaard was injured throughout his entire career.  He always appeared as if he was playing with a pulled hamstring.  Stensgaard could hit 15 foot jump shots consistently, and could put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket and draw fouls, he shot 60% from the field and averaged 8.6 points as a senior.  Western Illinois just boggles my mind.

Jalen Chapman, 6’8″ forward

Chapman started at center for the Leathernecks and averaged 17 minutes a game in each of his 2 seasons at Western Illinois.  I’m not really sure where else in the Summit League that he would have averaged 17 minutes a game.

Jamie Batish, 6’4″ guard

Batish was a really good shooter that had his career affected by nagging injuries.  The Leathernecks may have picked up a few more wins with the shooter being able to play more as a senior.


North Dakota State

Graduates

Kory Brown, 6’4″ guard

Brown is going to be hard to make up for the Bison, but they pride themselves on their Next One Up philosophy.  It’s not easy to lose a guy that was a part of 2 NCAA tournament teams and went to the conference championship every year he was a member of the team.  He was second on the team in rebounds and was arguably their best perimeter defender.  Brown was also that guy that you forgot was in the game when they’re down by 10 and then all of a sudden he makes a handful of defensive stops and scores on 4 straight possessions to get the Bison right back in the game.  They may not have that guy that can just create a 10 point swing in 2 minutes completely by himself next season.

Chris Kading, 6’9″ center

Normally, you wouldn’t think the loss of a guy that averaged 3 points and 3 rebounds is a big deal, but it is actually a little bit of a big deal for the Bison to lose Kading.  His senior year was slowed down with surgeries before the start of the season, which is what led to a reduction in playing time, but he was still effective for the Bison on the court with his smart play and defense.

In the game at Baxter Arena, AJ Jacobson couldn’t guard Jake White or Tre’Shawn Thurman and Jacobson got into foul trouble so David Richman called on Kading.  Kading grabbed some big boards, drew some fouls on Jake White, hit a big three in the first half, and helped spark a little run to keep the game close.  Thurman and Randy Reed were both bothered by Kading and couldn’t really score on him.  The second half, Jacobson got more playing time before ultimately fouling out, and the Bison probably could have won that game if Kading was fully healthy and could have gotten 35 minutes.

Departures

Trey Miller, 6’7″ freshman

Miller played 5 minutes for the Bison and just decided to say “eff this” and left the team.

Brian Ishola, 6’5″ sophomore

I’m not sure who Ishola was.  I think he was just a player that EA Sports made up when there weren’t enough players in the game anymore.


IUPUI

The Jaguars are graduating two seniors, but they are going to have the most returning to their roster in 2016.  They also added two senior transfers that will be eligible immediately and could have the most depth in the Summit League in 2016-2017.

Marcellus Barksdale, 6’5″ guard

One of the best perimeter defenders in the Summit League, and Barksdale had to play every position at some point in his career with the Jaguars as they just about didn’t have anyone else on the team in his first 3 years in the program.  If James Gardner had not come along for IUPUI and brought in a bunch of transfers with him, Barksdale may have been a part of 8 wins in his entire year with the IUPUI.

The stats for Barksdale won’t be hard to make up for the Jaguars, but his defensive presence that allowed the Jaguars to start most of their fast breaks may hurt them to a degree.  They really didn’t win games with their amazing offensive efficiency, they won 9 conference games with their scrappy defense that Barksdale was a major catalyst for.

Mason Archie, 6’5″ guard

The Jaguars considered Archie to be their best perimeter defender, yet that seemed like a ploy to have teams forget about Barksdale somehow.  His length may have bothered some of the smaller shooting guards in the league a bit, but it’s not like that is something teams couldn’t overcome.

The Jaguars are going to be the most experienced team in 2016-2017, if that wasn’t the case, I may have said the losses of Barksdale and Archie were more detrimental to the team.  They return 80% of their scoring from their 9-7 team, and are adding two graduate transfers and a transfer from Syracuse to the roster.  They’ll be fine.

 

 

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The Jaguars could run the Summit in 2017

It’s hard to believe that the Jaguars finished in the top half of the Summit League this season, especially if you can remember that this program won a total of 12 basketball games over the course of two seasons when the Mavericks were just joining the Summit League.  They continue to get better season after season, and 2016-2017 should be much of the same.  If you watched their Summit League tournament game against North Dakota State, and that was all you saw of them, you would think they were back to being the worst team in the league.

The Jaguars only lose two seniors going into 2016-2017, though those players were both significant contributors, but the team should be even better in next season, on paper.  Jason Gardner’s teams won 6 Summit League games in 2015 and 9 in 2016, it is not inconceivable to imagine that they can win 12 conference games in 2017.  This is assuming the whole team doesn’t just quit or something.

This season was somewhat of a transition season for the Jaguars as they introduced introduced 7 new players to the basketball court.  They tried to introduce all of these new players to their system by only playing two non-conference home games.  This just sounds like an uphill battle.  You could tell by the end of their non-conference season that the team had run out of steam.  The Jaguars lost their final 5 non-conference road games by an average of 25 points.  One of those losses was a 35 point loss to Creighton.  Good for you Creighton.  I’m glad you could find those games in your schedule that can benefit you.

What was most impressive to me about the Jaguars was how mature their players were on the basketball court.  They got the luxury of having almost every freaking game on ESPN3, so they actually had one of the biggest spotlights on their players so it was a little more visible to see their maturity as opposed to a team like Denver, who was hardly on anything for Mav fans to watch.  Their players hardly ever argued with the officials, they just played.  Their players didn’t try and do things they were incapable of doing, you hardly saw them taking 30 footers or driving into the lane with three dudes on them.  Their players handled post game interviews well, and you could tell how important basketball was to them.  Everyone on their team also appeared as if they were 30 years old.

The Jaguars are going to have the most coming back to their roster in 2016.  They lose Marcellus Barksdale, so their defense may not be as scrappy next season, but their offense shouldn’t miss much of a beat.  Their offense may actually be better adding Syracuse transfer Ron Patterson to the lineup.  Patterson was seldom used at Syracuse, and he shot a rather low percentage of 31% from the field in 14 minutes a game in his sophomore season at Syracuse.  But believe me, if the Mavericks had a Syracuse transfer, you would be pumped…no matter how terrible his stats were at Syracuse.

This season the Jaguars had 4 players that were transfers that finally got to play.  Darell Combs was a transfer from Eastern Michigan, he averaged 7.4 points per game in his sophomore season at EMU and then 16.3 points for the Jaguars in his junior season – which was 6th in the Summit League and will be the 2nd highest for any players returning to the league next season.  The team also introduced three players from Loyola, where Gardner used to be an assistant coach.

Matt O’Leary became one of the most consistent post players in the league, he averaged 10.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists a game in the Summit – after averaging 4.2 points and 2 rebounds his sophomore season at Loyola.  Nick Osborne added 8 points and 6 rebounds per game after averaging 5 and 4 in his sophomore season at Loyola.  Osborne and O’Leary really have the potential to be the best forward combo down low in the league next year. Sophomore Jordan Pickett was hardly ever used at Loyola in his freshman season because of injuries, but he was able to score 9.4 points per game primarily off the bench for the Jaguars this season.

With a bulk of their lineup coming back, the Jaguars have the most they can throw at teams.  They seem to already have 8 guys that build up a solid rotation.  In addition to this, they have three freshman that are committed, yet they all seem like they are redshirt candidates at this point.  Having your starting lineup established in April is never a bad thing for a team.  Unless you’re the Huskers apparently…

Their roster is set, as long as no one transfers, so there is no room for a wave of incoming transfers going into next season.  Aside from the mentioned players, the Jaguars have a good core of young guys to fill in the rest of their team.  Sophomore Aaron Brennan was used as a smaller power forward, and really was the last post player that they used, but he filled in well for injured players this season.  He had 10 points and 6 rebounds in the Jaguars’ win against the Mavericks.  Freshman Evan Hall showed some promise, but missed 9 games this season with injuries.  Hall was able to pull off four double digit scoring performances in his first season with the Jaguars.  TJ Henderson was another freshman who showed some promise with 5 double digit scoring performances, he scored 16 points against the Mavericks in the absence of Jordan Pickett.  DJ McCall did not get to play this season, but he averaged nearly 5 points per game in his freshman season with the Jaguars.  He will be back next season, and at 6’5″ he may be able to make up for the loss of Barksdale.

This team will have chemistry, versatility, speed, and they will be able to throw several different combinations of lineups at teams next season.  They did have to deal with a number of injuries this season, so that can be an issue for them.  The Jaguars may have to face another difficult non-conference season next year, but they should be the Summit League favorite in 2016-2017; even though I am sure IPFW will be the team that everyone just pencils in as the preseason number one.  The Jaguars swept the Mastodons in 2016.

 

 

 

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.

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

Summit League Predictions: Jan 6-9

So for my preseason rankings, I went through the Summit League schedule and applied wins and losses to each game, and I did it several times looking at different angles and added up all the records to come out with some standings.  So what the hell, why not provide some updated predictions as teams actually physically play?

January 6th

South Dakota @ IPFW

The home team lost each game in this series last season.  I admit to being a jerk toward IPFW all year, and I have little faith in this team’s post game and overall depth.  I also was not too huge on South Dakota going into the season, so this is a bit difficult of a game to pick.  The ‘Dons were never really tested in the non-conference, but they were able to pick up a win at home against Oral Roberts…which is something I originally thought would happen given Oral Roberts back and forth schedule to start Summit League play after playing an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule.

South Dakota forces more teams to take more threes than any other team in the league, and the ‘Dons make 10 threes per game and are 2nd in the conference in three point field goal percentage, which is why I am taking IPFW in this game…with a low amount of confidence.

Match up of the game could be: John Konchar (11.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 57 fg%) versus Tre Burnette (15.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 48fg%).  Both are undersized at the 4 position, but are both very essential for their teams.

Oral Roberts @ Denver

I really wanted to say Oral Roberts here, and really just on the basis of Oral Roberts Cannot Drop Seven Games in a Row.  That thinking is how you lose 500 dollars in roulette.  How could it possibly land on red 6 times in a row?  Clearly, the smart decision here is to put all my money on black!  Green double zero!  Where is that hospital that gives you money for a kidney?

The key to this game is if Obi Emegano will be in the game or not.  Emegano missed Oral Roberts’ game against South Dakota and the Golden Eagles ended up losing by 10.  The team made up of mostly newcomers had 22 turnovers against the Coyotes.  You cannot turn the ball over against Denver who is going to make the most out of every possession on you, especially when Denver is traditionally a very good home team.

Assuming Emegano is not playing…the match up of the game could be Jalen Bradley (10.1 ppg, 24 made threes, 38 3pt fg%) versus Nate Engesser (13.1 ppg, 33 made threes, 56 fg%).


January 7th

South Dakota State @ IUPUI

This is another game that is coming down to a key injury.  Jake Bittle has missed the last 6 games, and the Jackrabbits have acknowledged that they have a number of little nagging injuries to a number of players.  The Jacks have dropped 2 of their last 5, which really is not all that terrible, but all the last 5 games have been close with or without Bittle…the scrappy defense of the Jaguars could really get to the Jackrabbits if they do not have Bittle.  Seriously though, if Bittle plays you can change my prediction to South Dakota State winning the game.  I discussed how the Summit League is so close that an injury to any team could affect their standings in conference play.  Granted, I said teams 2 to 8, but Rob, you were there!

The key match up in this game could be Matt O’Leary (10.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 46 fg%) versus Mike Daum (11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 52 fg%).  I realize I look like a total clown picking this as the match up, but Daum could be the only chance the Jackrabbits have at stopping O’Leary.  O’Leary has really been consistent all year and he kept getting wide open looks and getting to the basket against Omaha, but just couldn’t convert as he went 4-of-12 from the field…he could be able to find the bottom of the basket if he gets the same type of looks at home.  Yes, I know defensively the Jackrabbits are different team than Omaha, but ride this out with me.  O’Leary also leads all players 6’7″ or taller in assists in the league, so there is that as well.

Omaha @ North Dakota State

See, I am not a completely biased loon!  The Mavericks have yet to beat North Dakota State since transitioning to D1.  They are going to have to overcome the fact that almost no player on their current active roster has really had a good game against the Bison.  In 4 career games, Devin Patterson has averaged 7.8 points and shot 22% from the field against the Bison.  Ouch.  Tre’Shawn Thurman did have 18 and 8 in his first game against the Bison last season, but only had 2 points later in the season when they moved him to the bench to bring in Jake White.

The Mavs need Thurman, Jake White (who combined for 2-of-13 in two games against the Bison last season), Daniel Meyer, and Randy Reed to play big against the defensively sound post of Chris Kading, Dexter Werner, and AJ Jacobson.

The fun match up will be Thurman against Jacobson after Thurman had his 18 and 8 in their first meeting and Jacobson had 17 and 8 in their first career game against each other.  The key match up will be if Tra-Deon Hollins who leads the nation in steals can keep the ball away from Paul Miller who is scoring 16.6 points per game and shooting 43% from the field and from behind the arch.


January 9th

IUPUI @ Western Illinois

I fully believe IUPUI is the better team of the two, but IUPUI has not won in Macomb since 2011…and the Leathernecks are a completely different team at home.  This game is on ESPN3, but it could be as difficult to watch as someone trying to decide between rebooting Weekend at Bernie’s or trying to come out with a good plot line for Weekend at Bernie’s 3.  Watching Marcellus Barksdale defend Garret Covington could be worth the watch, but I have come to terms that Covington for as good of a scorer that Covington is, is incredibly boring to watch.

Omaha @ South Dakota

Alright good, I am back to being a homer.  Both games between these two teams were exciting last year, even if Omaha did play with a hobbled Devin Patterson in Vermillion.  The Mavs will have to hit some threes against South Dakota and/or get to the free throw line as much as possible.  Omaha MIGHT have JT Gibson back by this one for some three point shooting.

IPFW @ Denver

The Dons were absolutely unphased by the Pioneers last season beating them by 16 points in both contests.  Does this not seem like the least interesting match up of all Summit League teams?  This is the Rachel Weisz film of the Summit League.  Seriously, find a serious actor or actress with a lineup of less interesting films.  It gets shaky after “The Mummy.”

North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts should have Obi Emegano back, which I think would add plenty enough emotion to give them confidence after losing so many games recently.  I would like to say the Bison have the best defensive guards in the Summit League to handle Emegano, but he had 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting against the Bison last season in Tulsa.  The Mabee Center is not an easy place for teams to come in and pick up wins, unless you are South Dakota…then it is a little easy somehow.

 

 

 

 

A few surprises in The Summit League so far

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.

 

 

 

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.