I have heard commentators say that if there was any year for a 7 or 8 seed to upset one of the top two seeds in the Summit League conference tournament that this would be the year. Not sure if anyone is feeling that great about it being Western Illinois coming in for the upset in the first round, but we will see.
It is not impossible for the Leathernecks to come take away South Dakota’s NCAA Tournament possibilities, but the Coyotes are riding a 6 game winning streak into the conference tournament which is a 1 hour drive away from their campus.
South Dakota probably has the deepest bench in the entire league, and Western Illinois has the least. You could make an argument that the one team not playing in the tournament, Oral Roberts, has more talent and depth than the Leathernecks. With Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak it’s like watching a movie with two up-and-coming stars while the rest of the cast is made up of personalities that made their debuts to entertainment in Tosh.0’s Web Redemption segment. The movie also has you wondering, sure the up-and-coming stars were good, but would they really be able to have an impact on a likable movie? Everything about this should remind you that someone once made a Smokey and the Bandit 3.
The Coyotes are the opposite of that. There is a plan, and every player on the team understands their role. South Dakota is more like a really good ensemble film that have you leaving the theater realizing that the whole thing worked because of the great ensemble. That is the usual typecasting that creates the Summit League favorite.
To pull off the upset, the Leathernecks are going to need their offense to show up. The Leathernecks are a decent defensive team, but much of the team seems instructed to not take a shot on offense unless you have to. They did struggle to score the ball for most of January and February, but they did end the season averaging 88 points over the last three games. Two of those last three games did go to overtime.
In their two match ups, Garret Covington combined for 10-of-30 from the field. I’m lucky enough to know enough math to not need a calculator to figure out that is 33 percent from the field. Mike Miklusak shot 9-of-24 in the two games against the Coyotes. So the two leading scorers for the Leathernecks both struggled against the top defense in the Summit League. They’re going to be going up against South Dakota in what is basically a home game for the Coyotes, so I can sum that up in three words: It’s not good.
While the Leathernecks are filled with inconsistent and players that not appear to have a load of confidence on offense, the Coyotes have players that appear confident and always ready to take a big shot. Trey Burch-Manning can match up well with Miklusak and battle him on the low block and defend him on the perimeter, and he is the perfect type of player to make every single hustle play a contender needs. Matt Mooney can also match up well against Covington, and watching Mooney as an opposing fan is incredibly difficult. He averages 18 points per game and it seems like he averages 12 points per game when the games are on the line. Mooney also comes off as a smug jerk, but that’s a conversation for another day. It’s the bands on both wrists. It’s a typical smug jerk look.
In conference play, Mooney was 3rd in the Summit League in scoring and Covington was 4th.
If there is one fault to South Dakota’s team, it is their free throw shooting. They finished the season 8th in the conference in free throw percentage, and the Leathernecks were not that much better at 7th. Still, there were several moments that Craig Smith had Trey Burch-Manning on the court in the final minutes and teams knew to foul the guy who shoots around 60 percent from the line, and it definitely got scary for the Coyotes.
Again, it’s not impossible for the Leathernecks to pull off an upset, but it will take a lot. They will need guys who have rarely shown up to rise to the occasion to make big shots on offense and big stops on defense. We have witnessed that the teams in this conference are incredibly close in competition.
Percentage wise, they are not an above average three point shooting team either. The Coyotes finished 8th in three point shooting in conference games, but players like Mooney, Tyler Flack, and Trey Dickerson can make the big threes when they matter the most.
The Leathernecks are essentially walking into the casino, going straight to the roulette table, and putting all their chips on double-zero green and closing their eyes.
A little better last week, but damn it this league is hard.
North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3
The Bison really had no answer for Albert Owens in Fargo as he went off for 28 points and 9 rebounds for the losing Golden Eagles. The Bison have lost their last 2 road games, and this will be Oral Roberts’ Mega Bowl as they are only playing for a good show and to send their seniors out the right way on their last game.
Omaha @ Denver
Denver shot 64 percent the last time these two teams played, and still lost. The Mavericks were able to pick up a win in Denver last season, but with 29 points from Jake White as the rest of the team struggled a bit.
Okay, I might be trying to reverse jinx the Mavericks here.
It costs $9.95 to view this game on the Pioneers’ website. I really don’t want to give them my money, but I might.
Fort Wayne @ IUPUI on ESPN3
Fort Wayne defeated the Jaguars by 30 a month ago. IUPUI had 20 turnovers in that game, and it’s probably a bad idea to give the fast paced team like Fort Wayne the ball 20 times at home.
The Jaguars will not turn the ball over that much at home, but their offense is not good enough, even against a sub par defense like Fort Wayne’s, to put up enough points to make up the difference against the Mastodons. I say that, and remember at one time Western Illinois once outscored Fort Wayne.
South Dakota @ Western Illinois on ESPN3
Western Illinois’ defense is capable of frustrating South Dakota, but South Dakota’s defense is also capable of frustrating the non-existent offense of Western Illinois.
South Dakota was without Tyler Flack and were able to beat Western Illinois in Vermillion. The Leathernecks’ post players are not very well built to stop a player like Flack.
Denver @ South Dakota State on ESPN3
After a 51 point and 15 rebound performance against a fast paced offensive Fort Wayne, Mike Daum gets a week of rest to play a fast paced offensive Denver.
Maybe this is Mike Daum’s last game in Brookings? Maybe not. Either way, good luck Denver.
South Dakota @ IUPUI on ESPN3
The Jaguars are completely unpredictable, who knows what they’ll do. They lost in Vermillion when the Coyotes were playing without Tyler Flack. The Jaguars will need to knock down threes against the South Dakota defense, but the match up of the day could come down to Tyler Flack versus Matt O’Leary.
North Dakota State @ Omaha
The Mavericks have shown that they are a tough team to beat when they come out with a high energy level, and they should definitely be playing with some energy on senior night for Marcus Tyus and Tra-Deon Hollins…and Kyler Erickson.
Are the Mavericks going to get a medical hardship for Erickson and make him a 7 year senior next season?
The game between these two last season in Omaha was one of the better games Maverick fans have seen at Baxter Arena or Ralston Arena. The energy for both teams was high. The Bison had to figure out how to play without AJ Jacobson, who was in foul trouble. Jake White had to sit a little bit with some foul trouble, but came back into the game and made huge shot after huge shot. The Bison were also without Paul Miller in that game, and he is capable of hitting big shots against the Mavericks defense. Hollins, Tyus, Zach Jackson, and Daniel Norl will need to play big defensive minutes and slow him down.
The Bison are also not the greatest team on the road. They have lost their last 3 of 4 on the road with the one win at Western Illinois.
Fort Wayne @ Western Illinois on ESPN3
Okay, so my take on their previous match up couldn’t have been more wrong as I just wrote:
Western Illinois somehow won that game.
Western Illinois was in a zone in that stretch of the season where they were hitting threes with consistency and putting up points. Other than a 91 point performance in a double overtime game last week, the Leathernecks have struggled to score over the last month and a half.
Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak could go off against the poor defense of Fort Wayne. That could be enough to top the Mastodons, maybe.
This could potentially be Billy Wright’s last game with Western Illinois. Maybe the Leathernecks will want to see what he can do next season with a core of Brandon Gilbeck, Dalan Ancrum, and CJ Duff. I don’t really know though, Western Illinois appears to care the least about athletics in the league. He’s only been at Western Illinois for 3 seasons, but the Leathernecks have still yet to earn 20 wins over D1 teams.
I was 6-2 last week, and 5-3 the week before. That’s 11-5. I’m good enough for a 3 seed in the conference tournament.
Omaha (1-3) @ IUPUI (1-3) on ESPN3
The Jaguars are 5-0 at home so far this season, and last time at home they defeated Western Illinois by 18. Last year in Indianapolis, the Mavericks couldn’t do anything to stop the Jaguars offense, and let them shoot 56 percent in that loss. Expect the same this time, as the Mavericks have been bad on defense lately and IUPUI has shot at least in the high 40s in every home game.
Derrin Hansen made a point that a key to the game is that the Mavericks can rebound and not give IUPUI second chance opportunities. In the last 3 games, the Jaguars averaged a +6.7 rebound margin. The Mavericks in the last 4 games, averaged a -4 rebound margin.
North Dakota State (3-0) @ South Dakota (3-1)on ESPN3
This game is going to be all defense. While it is early in the conference season, these two teams have the best defensive field goal percentage in conference games. They also average the least amount of turnovers overall on the year among Summit League teams.
The Coyotes will be without one of their best post players, Tyler Flack, until February, but Norfolk native Tyler Hagedorn helped fill the void on Saturday with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a win over IUPUI.
The Coyotes will be able to defend the Bison guards and cause frustrations in the Bison offense enough to guide South Dakota to another home win. The Coyotes are 8-0 at home this season.
The Bison lost by 14 in Vermillion last season, and that wasn’t your older cousin’s South Dakota team. The Bison were also playing without their leading scorer at the time, Paul Miller.
Western Illinois (3-1) @ Denver (1-2)
Western Illinois was able to win in Denver last season, who was playing without Joe Rosga at the time and CJ Bobbitt was limited to just 8 minutes in that game. Expect Denver to be out for some revenge, and not to take Western Illinois lightly.
South Dakota State (1-3) @ Oral Roberts (0-3) on ESPN3
Oral Roberts just almost prevented the Jackrabbits from making the NCAA Tournament last season, just almost. South Dakota State was able to escape the upset with every Jackrabbit playing poorly, except for Mike Daum. Daum averaged 20.3 points and 7 rebounds against the Golden Eagles and can still have a huge game in Tulsa again this season.
The Jackrabbits mixed things up with their lineups and were able to get things going toward the end of the game against Omaha. Oral Roberts has actually not been that bad for a 4-13 team. They won each of their last two non-conference games, only lost to Creighton by 1, and had a rough start to conference play with three straight road games. That home court is going to feel nice to Oral Roberts.
I went back and forth on who should win this game. This game should be close throughout the entire duration of the game, with the winner escaping by winning on free throws toward the end of the game. Both teams shoot above 70 percent at the free throw line.
Fort Wayne (3-1) @ South Dakota (3-1)
It’s almost a crime that this game wont have an ESPN3 broadcast.
Fort Wayne, one of the better three point shooting teams in the nation is going to go up against a team that allows teams to shoot more than 20 threes per game. South Dakota is good at actually getting a hand in the face of shooters, but Fort Wayne can really move the ball around for the open shot.
Coming off of a defensive battle against North Dakota State, and having one of the best players out, South Dakota may not be able to last against Fort Wayne who will have an entire week of rest. Fort Wayne leads the nation in three point field goal percentage, but South Dakota has the third best defensive three point field goal percentage in the conference. The Coyotes have had the best defensive three point field goal percentage over the last 4 games.
With Tyler Flack out, the Mastodons should have a decent enough advantage in the post with Brent Calhoun, Xzavier Taylor, and John Konchar to take control of the game. As good of a three point shooting team as the ‘Dons are, they aren’t too shabby at getting the ball down low. The ‘Dons are also 16th in D1 in 2 point field goal percentage.
IUPUI (1-3) @ Oral Roberts (0-2) on ESPN3
IUPUI has a good enough defense to keep the inconsistent players of Oral Roberts off their game.
Alberts Owens is not quick enough to defend Matt O’Leary who is capable of scoring anywhere on the court, and none of the guards for Oral Roberts are great enough defensive players to slow down Darell Combs who is averaging 22.7 points per game so far in conference play so far.
As good as playing at home again might be for Oral Roberts, they don’t have the depth to win 2 games in three days.
North Dakota State (3-0) @ Denver (1-2)
Denver on the road is a bad match up for the Bison, but this is not the same type of game that it was a year ago when both team’s offenses worked down the shot clock on every possession to get the best shot.
Western Illinois (3-1) @ Omaha (1-3)
It’s a good thing the Leathernecks are one of the worst teams in the conference at taking the ball away and creating possessions for themselves, since the Mavericks have averaged 15 turnovers (ouch) to 11 assists (ouch) a game since entering Summit League play.
Still, the Leathernecks have started out conference play hot, and the Mavericks have not. Derrin Hansen did mention that the Mavericks have been practicing better lately, and offensively they did look pretty good in the last two games. The hope is that the Mavericks are still bitter about their loss to the Leathernecks last season, which helped prevent them from getting a top two spot in the conference tournament, so hopefully they can come out playing at a high level and build up a lead.
Travel this week could be an issue for the Leathernecks who will be coming to Omaha after a road game at Denver.
It’s always the random guys that show up for Western Illinois to beat the Mavericks.
Last year, Mike Miklusak was averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds a game, but beat up the Mavericks 14 points and 11 rebounds in the Mavericks’ loss in Macomb.
Tate Stensgaard was basically playing with no one defending him when he scored 26 on 13-of-15 shooting and had 7 rebounds in Baxter Arena. He ended up averaging 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. Stensgaard The Mavericks had to come back from a 16 point lead to win that game.
In a loss to the Leathernecks 2 years ago, Jabari Sanidfer averaged 7.4 points on the season, but had 20 against the Mavericks. Jamie Batish had 15 off the bench for the Leathernecks and averaged 6.4 points that year.
Also, a random note about Western Illinois. Since losing Jabari Sandifer to a season ending injury, who is one of the most inconsistent players the Summit League has ever seen (or at least since Mav fans have paid attention), the Leathernecks have gone 3-1 and are 4-1 overall without him this season.
What I’m saying here is while the Mavericks are planning for Garret Covington, who is averaging 21.3 points, and Mike Miklusak, who is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds a game this season, they should really be worried most about this De’Angelo Bruster kid who averages 6 points a game. He might have 30 points in Baxter Arena.
Thanks for reading. I know low major weekly basketball predictions might not be super entertaining, but this time of year after college football has ended, it’s this or you have the Mel Kiper Season of just analyzing the 2025 NFL Draft.
I didn’t get to watch any Summit League games over the last couple of weeks because I was visiting my in-laws in Oregon, and well…the time change messed with me in a number of ways. Anyway, here are some observations that do not really mean a whole bunch this early on in the conference season.
1.North Dakota State
Did you know that AJ Jacobson had his first two consecutive games with more than 10 points over D1 opponents this season, in the Bison wins against Omaha and South Dakota State? If Jacobson can get back to where he once was, the Bison could potentially win 13 or 14 conference games. They have the maturity, depth, and coaching to last with anyone in the Summit League.
2. Fort Wayne
Scientists will be working for years trying to figure out how exactly the ‘Dons lost to Western Illinois. Sure, they could just someone who was at the game, but they will have to wait until Fort Wayne fans come out of their group coma.
3. South Dakota
The newcomers for South Dakota have been able to gel well together, which is exactly what they needed for a successful year. With their next three home games against IUPUI, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne, they may be able to pick up some wins against some of the top competition in the conference and really get some momentum going to be a top team in the league.
Over the last five games Matt Mooney has averaged – 18.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.2 spg
The Jaguars are going to have a tough week at North Dakota State and South Dakota. They have the depth to really make a run when they get to the Summit League tournament, and they have yet to deal with an actual injury. Matt O’Leary and Darell Combs are quietly one of the better forward-guard combinations in the Summit League. The two combined for 48 points against Western Illinois last week.
I don’t like Denver being good. They’ve had the 3rd easiest strength of schedule, per RPI, in the Summit League. So go them.
The Mavericks have had problems shooting the ball in a number of games this season. They are 0-4 when shooting under 40 percent from the field. They are also 1-5 when their opponents shoot better than 45 percent. That record shouldn’t be shocking, but that’s a lot of games of allowing teams to shoot high percentages.
Teams that throw zone at them are giving them problems. John Karhoff pointed out that in his day, the Mavericks were able be successful against the zone when their guards were able to penetrate and create opportunities.
It’s growing more important for Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, and KJ Robinson to attack and create these opportunities. Even though the Mavericks have more shooters this season, there is more standing around, especially off the bench, and not enough guys attacking the basket.
7. South Dakota State
Mike Daum needed to score a lay up in the final seconds to give the Jackrabbits a win over the Coyotes on New Year’s Eve. The team has minor issues, but nothing they cant figure out by the time of the Summit League tournament. They’re at the point where they are just going to give the ball to Daum and let him do whatever he wants, and hope to God some random guy can have a good night to help out. It’s worked out a few times.
The Jackrabbits are 3-0 if Andre Wallace scores more than 10, who I feel like is the perfect guard off the bench to make Omaha cry. Wallace played at Iowa Western, just putting that out there.
8. Western Illinois
It’s possible that they used their One Upset a Year card against Fort Wayne.
Mike Miklusak has been healthy for the last 8 games, and given the Leathernecks a second weapon, as he averages 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Miklusak has dealt with injury issues since he was a sophomore. He got hurt last year in a game at Omaha and then had 14 points and 11 rebounds to upset the Mavericks in Macomb. So that’s great. If Miklusak can remain healthy, maybe the Leathernecks can rise in the standings a bit and secure a spot in the Summit League tournament this season.
9. Oral Roberts
The Golden Eagles didn’t pick up a win against a D1 team until December 19th, but they beat a Little Rock by 15, team that is currently 10-5. They also went on to beat an Atlantic 10 team. Then started Summit League play with two road games, and didn’t do too bad. Even though they be having a bad year, you’re scared of them.
They may not be a super talented team, but they have some guys that could provide the ingredients for an upset if they get a little hot.
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.
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.
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.
IPFW @ South 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.
Denver @ IUPUIon 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.
A 2 point win after being down with 16 points with 9 minutes to go and a 5 point win in an always close game is a pretty stressful way to pick up your first two conference wins, but the Mavs are 2-0 and that is all that matters (to me). It was as stressful as being a Kansas City Royals fan and watching them be down 0-1 going into the 7th inning. Both IUPUI and Western Illinois are going to be tough to beat on the road later in the season, and Omaha plays IUPUI after a fun filled weekend of North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Also, the Mavs are currently on their longest winning streak over division one teams…so eat that up.
Last year, the worst thing about the Mavs was their perimeter defense. Wing players consistently had great games against their perimeter defense. Now, after 2 games, the Mavs held Garret Covington of Western Illinois to 4-13 from the floor and Darell Combs of IUPUI to 8 points on 3-11 shooting. IUPUI was just 1 of 15 from three point range, but they really are not that great of a three point shooting team to begin with…they are 8th in the Summit League and Omaha is 9th. JC Fuller of Western Illinois had 10 points for Western Illinois in the first 8 minutes of the game, and the Mavs were able to contain him to just 7 points for the rest of the game.
The three point shooting for the Mavs is still a concern, but Tim Smallwood was able to hit some big time shots against Western Illinois to help fuel the comeback. Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins were both in foul trouble for a good portion of the Western Illinois win. Hollins was really able to help spark the comeback in the final 9 minutes of the game with his stealing and passing abilities, he might not be the best player for the Mavericks, but he could be the most important player for the Mavericks this season. If you’re a complete dork, you should remember the old Marvel trading cards that had ratings on the back for each characters abilities of strength and shooting lasers out their eyes abilities. Hollins would have the highest rating for passing and stealing. You can make a highlight film of guards thinking they can pass around or above Hollins, and he just jumps up in the air and takes the ball.
My wife and I could see that Jalen Morgan of Western Illinois was a complete head case for the Leathernecks, I look forward to the hockey style fight he gets in at some point with his own teammate. I watched JC Fuller get away twice in the game with putting his elbow on the chest of a Maverick and pushing them off of him. I am also 90% sure that I saw Jabari Sandifer kiss his own bicep after making a three point shot, which is something only cool dudes do. I did feel bad for Mike Miklusak hurting himself toward the end of the first half, he was in the shoot around at half time, but he has had a career filled with injuries. He did miss the Leathernecks’ game against South Dakota State, I could look up to see if there is any specific injury, but I hate typing “Western Illinois” into the Google Machine.
The win over IUPUI has to shake your brain that Devin Patterson and Tre’Shawn Thurman were not selected any preseason Summit League teams. The Jaguars are a gritty team, they had more steals than the Mavericks. Yeah, that is weird, isn’t it? Evan Hall is going to be a great player in the Summit, and you have to like the future of the Jaguars. Maybe even a top 3 team in the conference next season.
A random note to mention: Tra-Deon Hollins has 64 steals on the season, which is already the most steals by any Maverick in a season since transition. Granted, it has not been that long of a history since transition, but we’re only half way through the season so far…
The Mavs are off to as good of a start that you could ask for in the Summit League at 2-0, but a two game road trip at North Dakota State and South Dakota is going to be difficult. The Mavericks have been a better three point shooting team on the road for some reason, so hopefully that can help because they are going to need it against those two teams that force you to shoot from the outside.
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.