My trivial Summit League rankings: Nov 12

The first week of college basketball passed on by, and now we no longer have to discuss basketball teams in terms of what they have coming back from last season.  We can gauge them on how they beat up on division three opponents and how they kind of came close against teams from better conferences.

1. South Dakota, 3-0

My preseason ranking: 1st

The Coyotes started their season undefeated in Hawaii as part of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic with 2 neutral games against Pacific and Florida A&M, as well as a game at Hawaii.

Even though Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver, it appears he’ll still be sitting out this season. The Coyotes were still able to prove they had plenty of depth with 5 players scoring in double figures over the weekend.

The Coyotes shot over 50% from the field and 50% from behind the three point line over the weekend. Three players averaged 17 points or more in Hawaii.

6’7″ true freshman Hunter Goodrick out of Australia showed off as a nice surprise averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds through the first three games.

2. Oral Roberts, 1-1

My preseason ranking: 2nd

Down by as many as 14 in the second half, Oral Roberts was able to come back and almost beat Oklahoma State. The Golden Eagles are now 2-0 against the spread this season.

With three seniors off the bench, the Golden Eagles will be a mature team and that teams will have to play a complete 40 minutes against.

Sophomore RJ Fuqua came back to the lineup after sitting out 2018-2019. Maybe it was rust, but Fuqua had 10 turnovers and shot 25% from the field through the first two games and may not be the appropriate point guard to lead this team who had the most turnovers in the Summit League this season. He almost seems to be too fast, if that’s possible.

Kevin Obanor hasn’t had a great start to the season. Coaches say the biggest jump for players can be from their freshman to their sophomore season, but sometimes a sophomore slump can occur. Obanor got in foul trouble in his first two games this season and has shot 2-of-12 on the year. He really didn’t use his large frame to get inside baskets and relied on the three just a bit much.

Still with Obanor and Fuqua struggling, the Golden Eagles took Oklahoma State to the wire and beat Houston Baptist by 14.

3. North Dakota State, 2-1

My preseason ranking: 3rd

The Bison haven’t started as hot as they would have hoped to, shooting 29% on threes, but it’s the North Dakota State Bison and they will come around.

4. Omaha, 2-1

My preseason ranking: 4th

The suspension of KJ Robinson has allowed for Ayo Akinwole to step up into a starring role, and allow Zach Thornhill and Wanjang Tut to showcase their talents as they’re being integrated into the starting lineup.

Without Robinson, the Mavericks are averaging nearly 15 turnovers a game.

Not having Robinson and UMKC transfer Marco Smith, the Mavericks are only playing with 7 players, which is depth that won’t get you too far in conference season.

5. South Dakota State, 3-0

My preseason ranking: 8th

The Jackrabbits are 3-0 with a team entirely made up of newcomers. We’ll have a little to compare them to as their first opponent, UT Rio Grande Valley will square off against North Dakota State this Friday.

Sophomore Matt Dentlinger was a huge surprise notching a double-double in their home opener.

Junior college transfer Douglas Wilson is on his way to being candidate for Newcomer of the Year, averaging 21 points and 8.7 rebounds through three games.

6. North Dakota, 1-0

My preseason ranking: 5th

The Fighting Hawks haven’t fought too hard, only playing one game so far against division three Crown College.

Paul Sather’s team will play the opposite of opponents tonight when they faces off against Gonzaga.

7. Fort Wayne, 1-2

My preseason ranking: 7th

The Mastodons only beat Division 3 Manchester by 11 points?

With not much of a point guard presence, the Mastodons look lost on offense and everything appears to be played in random.

8. Denver, 1-1

My preseason ranking: 9th 

The team everyone thought would get beat up by everyone this season actually has not looked bad to start the season.

With an 11 point loss to Colorado State and an 12 point win over Utah Valley, the young team can look to build on some confidence. They were able to beat Utah Valley with Ade Murkey scoring just 9 points, and people said the Pioneers would live and die with Murkey.

9. Western Illinois, 0-2

My preseason ranking: 6th

I don’t even want to talk about Western Illinois right now. They’re 0-2 with an understandable loss to Indiana and a 2 point loss at home to Stetson. They lost at home against Stetson only committing 5 turnovers in the game.

A biased Summit League preseason ranking preview: 5th place

North Dakota

Projected Conference Wins: 4 to 10

Projected Regular Season Finish: 4th to 7th

Key returning players: Billy Brown (Sr), Aenen Moody (So), Filip Rebraca (So), Marlon Stewart (Sr), Kienan Walter (Sr)


If so much of this stuff is based on what these teams have coming back versus what they have coming in and how they performed last season, why did the Fighting Hawks land themselves at 8th in the preseason rankings?

To be fair, I have a pretty big range for North Dakota between 4 and 10 wins, maybe because part of me felt so threatened by them in the first round of the Summit League tournament, and the guys who left the program weren’t even really factors in that game.

I actually don’t feel so good about this ranking.

spider

The biggest question for North Dakota is probably the fact that their coaching staff is brand new. Paul Sather takes over a team who finished 7th in the conference last season. He came from division 2 Northern State, where he was the NSIC Coach of the Year for the last 2 seasons, and was 85-19 over the last 2 seasons. If North Dakota were to finish 4th in the conference this season, I think Sather as Summit League Coach of the Year would be a safe bet.

Sather did mention how impressed he was by the team’s chemistry, something that the previous coaching staff was apparently trying to build. Sather also mentioned that his style of play won’t be much different from what North Dakota played last season, so there won’t be a huge adjustment on the court for players.

There was an awkward moment at the Summit League Media Day when he was asked if there was anyone on the roster he was impressed by when first meeting the team, and it took him a few seconds to come up with his answer: not really…

Sather did eventually mention he was impressed by redshirt freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens, and thought he was a future star in the conference.  Allen-Eikens is a 6’6″ 212lb guard, who had over 20 division one scholarship offers before committing to North Dakota.

Man, I really don’t know how I got so high on this team. Oh well, none of this matters anyway.

So what’s good?

There isn’t a ton of experience on the roster, but they are returning 69% (4th in the Summit League) of their scoring and 68% (4th) of their rebounding. Also, the team made 139 threes in the conference last season, and they’re returning 130 of those threes.  The Fighting Hawks do have the 4th highest amount of division one games played on their roster, but the 7th most division one starts on their roster.

Senior guard Marlon Stewart will be leading this team on the offensive end. He did have more assists last season in the Summit League, out of all returning players.  Stewart was also playing through injuries last season, and is the healthiest he has ever been, according to Sather.

Sather noted that the offense will be based on three point shots, and all I can remember right now is guard Aenen Moody hitting clutch threes on Omaha in Sioux Falls, and I get scared. Seriously, every time I thought the Mavericks had control of the game, Moody hit a damn three to upset me. Moody had the 3rd most threes made in the Summit League last season as a freshman. Billy Brown had the 5th highest three point field goal percentage in the conference last season.

In addition to Stewart, Moody, and Brown, the Fighting Hawks will round out their starting lineup with 6’9″ senior forward Kienan Walter and 6’9″ sophomore forward Filip Rebraca, who combined for 11 rebounds per game in the Summit League last season.

If you watched the Summit League media day, I highly doubt you did, every coach mentioned how important the three is in the conference. It might surprise you, but North Dakota was best at defending the three point line in the conference. However, they had the worst overall defensive field goal percentage in the league.  So that’s weird.

If they can actually improve their defense, they could potentially be a threat to anyone.

Actually, I after typing all of this out, I no longer feel good about North Dakota at 5th. Mentally, you should drop them down to 7th. That Summit League tournament game just warped my mind a bit.


My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

5th North Dakota

6th Western Illinois

7th Fort Wayne

8th South Dakota State

9th Denver

Some things to think about with basketball teams around the Summit League

College basketball is back in two weeks, so I’ll be coming out with some of my own Summit League preaseason rankings and obviously biased team previews over the next couple weeks.

How about we start you off with a little something to think about around the Summit League.

DENVER

The Pioneers had a disaster of a season in 2018-2019. Rodney Billups’ staff  had picked up two graduate transfers, Ronnie Harrell from Creighton and Tory Stewart-Miller from Colorado, to go along with a veteran team, and the preseason expectations were high. Some even thought the Pioneers were going to be able to compete with Mike Daum and South Dakota State for a conference championship.

Unfortunately, the team had injuries up and down the roster, and Pioneers season seemed to get worse and worse as time went on. There were only 3 players on the roster who played in every game for the Pioneers last season.

The injuries allowed for more playing time and development for freshmen David Nzekwesi and Jace Townsend, who are expected to be young leaders in 2019-2020.

As the least experienced team in the Summit League, most are expecting the Pioneers to miss the conference tournament again this season. In combination with being the youngest team in the conference, the coaching staff will also have 3 assistant coaches in their first year in their roles.

One thing helping the Pioneers is that they are one of three teams in the conference to never have 3 consecutive conference road games this season. Also, with only 6 returning players, it could be difficult to scout Denver.

NORTH DAKOTA

Did you know the Fighting Hawks had the best defensive three point field goal percentage in the Summit League last season, but the worst overall defensive field goal percentage?

Another weird stat: they were 3-0 playing at home on Saturdays, and 0-4 playing on the road on Saturdays in the Summit League.

North Dakota will be returning 68% of their scoring, and that’s the 4th most in the conference. One of their best players last season, Marlon Stewart, was slowed down with injuries last season, but is apparently the healthiest he has been in a while.

It’s hard to get a feel for North Dakota with a brand new coaching staff.

Head Coach Paul Sather appears to be quite excited about redshirt freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens, and thinks he’s a future star in the league.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE

The Bison were picked as the preseason favorite in the Summit League, with good reason.

They won the conference tournament last season, and they only lost Deng Geu who transferred to North Texas, so they do lose some height and energy off the bench. Dave Richman has a steady track record of finding replacements, so it’s not really something to worry about.

It’s hard not to like the Bison. One thing to think about is that Cameron Hunter was playing with an injury last season. Hunter averaged 9 points a game as a freshman and saw a drop in production his sophomore year, and he’s just going to be another weapon for the Bison if he comes back at 100%.

OMAHA

Everyone in Omaha is talking about the losses of Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson, and yeah it’s a lot to lose.

Something no one in Omaha seems to be discussing is the losses of 6’9″ Brett Barney, 6’8″ Logan Strom, and 6’11” Evan Tricker. With just 4 upperclassmen on the roster, the Mavericks will be younger, but they’re also going to lack some serious size, even with Matt Pile on the roster.

We’re going to discuss Omaha more at a later time. I think that’s obvious.

One thing to consider…The Mavericks and the Creighton Bluejays never have a home game on the same day this season. With some energy and attention brought on with a successful 2018-2019 season, the Mavericks home games could start seeing some larger crowds.

Also, did you know that last season was the first season the Mavericks have had a winning road record since joining division one?

ORAL ROBERTS

The Golden Eagles started the conference season in 2019 with three straight wins, and they eventually faced injury situations with Emmanuel Nzekwesi and struggled with consistency.

Though, they are the biggest team in the conference, the Golden Eagles struggle with taking care of the basketball. They had the most turnovers in the Summit League last season, and teams were able to outrun them.

The Golden Eagles were picked 3rd in the preseason poll, but they are intimidating on paper.

In addition to returning 83% of their scoring from last season, the Golden Eagles are adding experience to their roster. Paul Mills’ staff added two graduate transfers and will also have point guard R.J. Fuqua coming back to the roster, who redshirted his sophomore season.

Paul Mills has also stated that Nzekwesi is 100% healthy, and had the best summer that he has ever seen in all of his years of coaching.

If Oral Roberts can cut down on the turnovers and Nzekwesi is healthy, the Golden Eagles can beat anyone in the league.  Maybe even any team in the state of Nebraska.

Purdue Fort Wayne

I initially wasn’t feeling impressed with the Mastodons. John Konchar was one of the best players ever to play in the Summit League, and I’d argue that he was a better overall player than Mike Daum. Making up that loss seems like it’s too much.

I don’t think they’ll be better than the likes of North Dakota State or South Dakota, but they’ll be competitive, and they will frustrate anyone in the league.

The ‘Dons will be adding Brian Patrick, a 6’5″ transfer from Kansas State, who didn’t see the floor much for the Wildcats, but he does have experience in 4 NCAA Tournament games. In addition to losing Konchar, the ‘Dons also lost guard Matt Weir to transfer, and I thought Fort Wayne would be light at the point guard sport. Jon Coffman landed junior college transfer point guard DeMieere Black, who was made the Honorable Mention List on JUCOrecruiting.com’s Top 100 recruits list. The website also listed him at 6’3″ and Fort Wayne’s website lists him at 6’0″, so maybe just no one knows what they’re talking about.  Fellow incoming junior college transfer Jalin Wimberly also made the list. Wimberly scored 15 points on 73% from the field as a freshman. Yikes!

Fort Wayne might be the most sneaky good team in the conference, but maybe the Summit League will sabotage the Mastodons’ last Summit League season?

The Mastodons have never been particularly deep, at least since I started paying attention to them after Omaha joined the Summit League, and last year the Mastodons had 9 players play in all 33 games on the season. Can they be that lucky with health again?

That may sound like a threat of some kind after mentioning the Summit League might be out to sabotage their season, but it’s not. Welp, this is awkward.

South Dakota

With 5 seniors and 2 juniors, the Coyotes will be the most experienced team in the Summit League.

The roster has 11,455 division one minutes played on the active roster. That’s over 1000 more minutes over the North Dakota State with the second most.

According to Jeff Goodman, Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver to be immediately eligible to play this season for South Dakota. It is unclear if Heiman will still use his redshirt, but the 11,455 minutes does not include Heiman.

The Coyotes are another team we’re going to discuss more later.

South Dakota State

Who gave the Jackrabbits first place votes in the preseason poll? Seriously, who? Two people apparently did this.

I’d love to meet the two maniacs who went camping on the hottest day of the year, saw who could chug a bottle of Fireball the fastest, then had a candy corn eating contest, bumped each other in the head, and then rolled down a hill into a bee’s nest…then apparently came to and said: “Yeah, South Dakota State is definitely better than North Dakota State, South Dakota, and Oral Roberts.”

The Preseason Summit League Notes in the press release for the preseason rankings said something nice about all the teams in the conference except the Jackrabbits. They couldn’t even think of a positive note about this team, but two people thought they’d be the best team in the conference.

The Jackrabbits lost the Dauminator, their top 4 scorers, and their head coach.

Western Illinois

Riding the confidence of upsetting South Dakota State, and almost beating North Dakota State in the Summit League Tournament, this Leatherneck team could be the most talented and well rounded team Billy Wright has had at Western Illinois. I understand that isn’t saying much, but it’s true.

 

 

 

 

A short and apathetic list of schools for the Summit League to consider adding

IUPUI leaving the conference creates some problems, or really just brings some problems to light.  The Jaguars cited geography as their primary reason for wanting to leave the Summit league.

When you look at a map of the Summit League and compare it to other small conferences, yeah, it’s looks pretty rough.  The schools along I-29 don’t have it too bad, but travel costs look a little difficult for Denver, Oral Roberts, Fort Wayne, and Western Illinois.

The lack of travel partners made things difficult for teams in basketball.  Someone might luck out one week if they traveled to Vermillion on a Thursday and then play in Brookings on that Saturday, but for the most part teams would get to travel to Fort Wayne for a Wednesday night game and then head to Brookings for a Saturday night game.  The current President of the United States would call that a “total disaster.”

When North Dakota joins the league*, teams will consider it lucking out when they get to spend a half a week in the states of South Dakota or North Dakota, but someone like Fort Wayne could have to deal with flying to Omaha and then getting on a plane the following morning and flying to Tulsa for a Saturday game.

*Will the Summit League ever give us the ultimate North Dakota-Omaha weekend?

  • Thursday night: North Dakota vs Omaha women’s basketball
  • Friday night: North Dakota vs Omaha hockey
  • Saturday noon: North Dakota vs Omaha men’s basketball
  • Saturday night: North Dakota vs Omaha hockey

That might make this whole division one transition experiment worth it.

Can the Summit League also consider the traveling fans?  The South Dakota schools are pretty close to Omaha and it’s not too difficult for the fans to travel to away games in these match ups.  So why is South Dakota playing at Omaha on a Wednesday night?  South Dakota fans do not want to leave Vermillion or Sioux Falls to get to Omaha at 7 pm on a Wednesday night, and then get back in the car and get home late at night.  Games with that proximity should always be played on Saturdays if we’re going to have this wacky Wednesday and Saturday scheduling system.

Fort Wayne is in a weird place.  I assume they are trying to get all the Horizon League members together and frame UIC for murder to open up a spot for the Mastodons.  Let’s get the Farewell cards ready for their potential exit.  While the ‘Dons would be missed, we’d understand their situation.  I’ll also no longer have to debate that 10 hour drive or $500 flight to watch a sporting event.

Fort Wayne would also appear to be in a better situation if they got placed into the Ohio Valley.  They’d still be pretty far away from most of the schools in the OVC, but they would be closer than most of the schools in the Summit League.

Denver also creates a bit of a travel problem for schools.  The city has a major airport, but I can imagine it can be difficult for someone like Omaha or North Dakota State to drive to Vermillion and then cart their stuff to fly out of Sioux Falls to Denver, then fly from Denver back home.  This cuts me to the core to say, but you have to keep Denver happy and in the conference, right?  Their damn soccer team is just too good to let go.

Denver fans appear to hate that the conference is South Dakota based, so I’m sure their blood is boiling now considering that Augustana is considering making a jump to Division 1.

So are there any current D-1 schools to add to the Summit League to help out this geography problem?


Chicago State

Average distance to each WAC school:  ALL OF THE SOUTHWEST RAPID REWARD POINTS

Average distance to each Summit League school:  570 miles

Pros:  1) Travel partner for Fort Wayne (assuming the ‘Dons stay). 2) Chicago is neat. 3) They have all the sports that the Summit League has and wouldn’t have to find a league as an affiliate member for football, wrestling, men’s volleyball, or whatever.

Cons: Their basketball team won six games last year.  One of them was against Billy Wright and Western Illinois!  They also played at Creighton a few years ago.


Northern Colorado

Average distance to each Big Sky school: 817 miles

Average distance to each Summit League school: 698 miles

Pros:  1) The Bears could add a travel partner for Denver.  2) Could add a baseball team to the Summit League (they currently play in the WAC for baseball) 3) Weekend trip to Denver/Greeley!

Cons: Would they join the MVC for football, stay in the Big Sky for football?  What to do!


UMKC

Average distance to each WAC school: HAHAHAHAHAHA

Average distance to each Summit League school: 438 miles

Pros: 1) Travel partner for Omaha. 2) Big airport for the Pioneers to go to and not complain about it. 3) Another city that could compete to have the conference basketball tournaments in. 4) UMKC could actually see a spike in attendance when traveling fans from the South Dakota schools and Omaha travel to Kansas City.

Cons: 2) They might be okay in some sport some day, right?

11 random things to consider about IUPUI leaving the Summit League

IUPUI is heading for the Horizon League which is kind of sad because they were that program that was okay at everything and always felt like they were going to be solid in everything in 2 years.

Here are some random notes to consider about what to consider about this situation.

  1. You’ll get to watch 2 less games of your school going up against the Jaguars in basketball on ESPN3.  (Seriously, every single game of IUPUI’s was on ESPN3)
  2. Summit League fans will be a little confused if they should still count themselves as the “Conference that had George Hill.”  It’s as confusing as when the Big Ten Network brags up their relationship with the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
  3. Denver will probably complain just a little bit less about geography.  Not really, but maybe?
  4. Summit League fans can finally stop considering making a trip to Indianapolis to see their team play IUPUI (and by that we mean just make an excuse to go visit Indianapolis.)
  5. We have to decide who the new HOW IS THIS TEAM SOMEWHAT OKAY AND BEATING US AT HOME Summit League team is.  I nominate South Dakota.
  6. What school can we speculate will be the program the Summit League needs to add the most to keep Fort Wayne sane?  Someone in Kentucky, Illinois, or Indiana.  Actually, let’s just set the Fort Wayne to Another Conference Clock at 4 Minutes to Midnight.  The Denver version still needs to be reset from when the power went out.
  7. You’re going to miss Jason Gardner a whole lot more than you’re going to miss IUPUI.
  8. You might feel a little sorry for Fort Wayne right now.  The closest Summit League school to them is Western Illinois.  That’s a 6 hour drive.  All 25 sports of their sports fans are feeling this one today.  Also, the couple hundred people who pretended to be Mastodon fans after they beat Indiana should notice this in a couple years, too.
  9. You’re going to miss out on seeing the progress of that one freshman that was going to eventually transfer to a D2 school or disappear off the face of the Earth.
  10. There is going to be a Horizon League versus Summit League Challenge now, right?  Sign us up for Milwaukee versus Omaha!
  11. You’ll never really know who is better between North Dakota and IUPUI in sports stuff.  That will sting for a while.

Summit League predictions: Jan 25-28

4-4 each of the last two weeks.  The Summit League isn’t easy this year with the teams being so close.

January 25

IUPUI (3-4) @ Fort Wayne (3-4)

The Jaguars won both games over Fort Wayne last season by a total of 5 points.  The Mastodons are looking to turn their luck around after three straight losses in the last couple of weeks.  Whoever wins this game gets to go to 4-4 and the other will be 3-5.

I don’t feel good about this and do not have a huge amount of confidence for Fort Wayne in this game, but here I am thinking home teams have a heavier advantage on weeknights…which hasn’t been totally consistent this season.

Reasons to like Fort Wayne:

  • They’re the home team.
  • They probably want it more after getting swept last season?
  • John Konchar, Mo Evans, and Bryson Scott are all really freaking good.

Reasons to not like Fort Wayne

  • IUPUI has one of the best defensive three point field goal percentages in the league, and have allowed the least amount of three point field goals in conference play.
  • Fort Wayne really doesn’t do a great job at getting to the free throw line, and they really need to force the Jaguars into foul trouble.
  • The Jaguars’ post players Matt O’Leary, Aaron Brennan, and Evan Hall all have decent mid to long rang games on offense, and Fort Wayne’s Brent Calhoun and Xzavier Taylor are not the greatest at getting out and defending.
  • I love John Konchar, but I am not a fan of his current hair choice.  Who at Fort Wayne do we demand release of the stat splits based on the design of his hair?

I just want it known that out of all the Wednesday night games this week, I feel the least amount of confidence in this one.

Western Illinois (3-4) @ South Dakota (4-3)

The weakest offensive team in the Summit League playing at the strongest defensive team in the Summit League.  Should be fun.

Oral Roberts (3-4) @ North Dakota State (6-1) on ESPN3

The Bison are 3-0 at home and the Golden Eagles are 0-3 on the road.

I had been entering this yesterday, so now We know I can see the future, sort of:

Off topic:  North Dakota is the only team to beat the Bison in Fargo this season.  The Fighting…something are also second in the Big Sky so far.  It is possible they could win the Big Sky and the Bison could win the Summit.  Let’s open the floor for debate that if both make the NCAA Tournament, then the Summit should invite North Dakota to the league so we never have to face this possible catastrophe ever again.

South Dakota State (2-5) @ Denver (4-3)

Hold on, I’m sick to my stomach.  Who would have thought, before the season, that Mike Daum versus Daniel Amigo would have been one of the most anticipated match ups between centers?  Even their back ups Ian Theisen versus Christian Mackey seems a bit fun.

It’s actually an interesting match up overall.  Two teams with 1st year head coaches, both trying out new offenses, both not the most consistent teams on defense, and both have a couple of the best sophomores in the league.  Both teams probably thinking next year with be their year.

In such an evenly matched game, how can you not want to favor the home team with an altitude advantage and just a wee bit more depth?

January 28

Fort Wayne (3-4) @ Oral Roberts (3-4) on ESPN3

While Fort Wayne has been under performing on the road, their post players Brent Calhoun and Xzavier Taylor match up well to defend the Golden Eagles’ best player Albert Owens.

Oral Roberts has one of the worst perimeter defenses in the conference, which is music to the ears of the three point shooters of Fort Wayne.

Denver (4-3) @ South Dakota (4-3) on ESPN3

This might be the saddest Game of the Week the Summit League has had this year.

With Tyler Flack out, the Coyotes really do not have anyone to defend Daniel Amigo.  The Coyotes will be able to defend and disrupt the offense of Denver, but Amigo will still get touches on offense and shouldn’t be exerting too much of his energy on the defensive end.  Joe Rosga and Thomas Neff probably love the idea that South Dakota keeps teams out behind the three point line, since they both shoot higher than 43 percent in that area.

IUPUI (3-4) @ Western Illinois (3-4) on ESPN3

The Jaguars swept Western Illinois in two low scoring games last season.  Even though the Leathernecks have been playing poorly lately, the Jaguars no longer have the Garret Covington stopper we knew as Marcellus Barksdale.

In no way do I actually have confidence that Western Illinois will actually win this game, but they’re Western Illinois and they do weird things and have weird out of body experiences sometimes.  Saturday can be one of those days if Covington doesn’t have anyone to really bother him all day.

South Dakota State (2-5) @ Omaha (4-4) on ESPN3

The Mavericks will have an entire week of rest coming into this game, and South Dakota State will be on their second road game of the week after playing in Denver.

After that, you’re probably wondering why the Jackrabbits are in bold.  Omaha has a history of starting off games very slowly after having some rest.  After eight days of rest in December, they found themselves down 23-45 in Vermillion.  With more than a week of rest last year heading into the Summit League tournament, the Mavericks found themselves down by 15 at halftime against Denver.  On a week’s rest last season, they found themselves down by 13 at halftime in Fort Wayne, but were eventually able to force the game to overtime.

The Mavericks cannot have a slow start against the Jackrabbits.  They need to start off hot like they did in Brookings.  They cannot find themselves playing from behind to the Jackrabbits, who always have a good amount of fans at games in Omaha.

After being up big in Brookings, the Jackrabbits found daylight and almost came back to win that game.

Reed Tellinghuisen, who has been struggling this season, has shot 14-of-19 in his two career games in Omaha.  The Jackrabbits haven’t been that far off from any win this season, and if Tellinghuisen can get going and make the difference then the Jackrabbits could be going back to Brookings feeling like they may not be the team left out of the Summit League tournament.

Well, I want to cry.