My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 17

1. South Dakota

Last week’s ranking : 3rd

It’s okay, I have a difficult time believing it as well.  I’m not wild about it either. Like I said earlier, there is not a huge difference from the best team in the conference to the 7th team in the conference this season.  I could just as well be drawing these team names out of a hat and seeing how it goes.

Without Tyler Flack, the Coyotes were able to split the week with North Dakota State and Fort Wayne.  They came pretty close to beating the Bison as well.  The Coyote defense is something that should be taken seriously.  They held the Mavericks to 69, the Jaguars to 74, the Pioneers to 69, and now the Mastodons to 63.  All known for scoring this season, and all below their average for points.

In the same week last week, they held North Dakota State’s AJ Jacobson to 2-of-9 shooting in 37 minutes and Fort Wayne’s John Konchar to 4-of-12 from the floor in 36 minutes.

Still, the big test for the Coyotes will be in the first two weeks of February when they play three straight road games at Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  Then come home to play their nemesis South Dakota State.

2. Fort Wayne

Last week’s ranking:  2nd 

They’ve lost two conference games by a total of 5 points.  Two of their three conference wins are by a total of 6 points.  Their next four of five games will be on the road.  While the Mastodons’ shooting is exceptional, their defense is average.

The next five games is a crucial part of the season for their positioning in the Summit League tournament.  Because of their depth, the top two seeds in the conference tournament are the most important for the ‘Dons  in comparison to the other top teams in the conference.  Daily RPI predicts the ‘Dons going 3-2 over the next 5 games, and then win the rest of the regular season.  There, you don’t need to watch basketball anymore.

By the way, if you watch the ‘Dons get in foul trouble you’re going to spend much of your time trying to figure out if freshman Jax Levitch could turn out to be the real deal.  Some of your other time will be spent debating if Jax Levitch is a bad ass name, or just a really weird name.  It’s interesting.   I think it’s the name of the world’s least trust worthy Financial Advisor, but we’ll keep track of him for his entire life to see what happens.  Not weird or anything.

3. North Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 1st

What happened last week?  In the last three halves, the Bison have been outscored by 36 points.  Denver out rebounded the Bison by 22 rebounds.  Didn’t Denver have like one and a half post players last season?

Here is something that should be a concern to Bison fan:  AJ Jacobson is 2 of his last 14 on threes.

4. Omaha

Last weeks’s ranking: 5th

The Mavericks are on a roll right now winning three in a row.  It should also be worth noting that they will not have back-to-back road games for the rest of the season.

Also, in the last 4 games, Mitch Hahn has shot 56 percent on threes.

5. Denver

Last week’s ranking: 8th

Honestly, I have not had the chance to watch Denver.  I don’t have Altitude so I don’t feel that bad about it.  They did sweep the week against “a hot” Western Illinois and embarrassed North Dakota State who has the best RPI in the Summit League.

Rodney Billups said that Daniel Amigo was going to have a huge break out year, and I thought he was trying to be funny.  He was completely serious.  Look at his jump from last season.

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6. IUPUI

Last week’s ranking: 6th

The schedule has not been kind to the Jaguars, but at least they did not lose at Oral Roberts.

This was supposed to be the year for the Jaguars but they lost three key players with no real explanation, and also with the graduation of Marcellus Barksdale they lost their scrappyness on defense.  The Jaguars do still have a fair amount of depth to go to the wire with any team in the Summit.  However, if they do get a game down to the wire, they’re 8th in the conference in free throw shooting.  Hopefully they don’t get into too many battles at the line with teams, even though they are likely to.

7. Western Illinois 

Last week’s ranking: 4th

I love how the argument for this team for being good by every commentator is that “they are a weird match up.”

When are we just going to admit that this team completely relies on Garret Covington playing efficient on top of him having a second guy to be competent on a nightly basis?

In the Leathernecks’ only 4 wins over D1 teams this season, Covington shot 57 percent from the field.  In just their last 4 losses, Covington has shot 28 percent from the floor.  He’s only shot better than 50 percent in one of their losses.

Covington was apparently slowed with an injury against Omaha.  It’s cool, I’m sure Billy Wright has something up his sleeve.  Like putting all of his chips on switching to a zone defense and then never going away from it.

8. Oral Roberts

Last week’s ranking: 9th

They picked up their first conference win, and they may not be having that great of a year but at least they are staying in most of their games.  With their next four of five games at home, they may be able to sneak in a few wins to help give them enough distance to not be the team left out of the conference tournament.

9. South Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 8th

Hold on.  I am taking a minute to reflect on something.

Remember when TJ Otzelberger was hired and the Jackrabbit fans were thinking that the new system was going “to be like Omaha, but with actual defense.”

At least Mike Daum is balling.

 

 

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My trivial Summit League rankings – Nov 16

1. Fort Wayne

A road loss to Arkansas should not raise any concern to Fort Wayne fans.  I hope no one is getting too crazy about Fort Wayne beating Division 3 Kenyon 117-60.

The biggest issue with the ‘Dons last year was their lack of depth.  They were able to play 9 players at least 10 minutes in the loss, and 8 of those guys scored.

Sophomore guard John Konchar had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists in Fayetteville.  This may be the guy better than Mike Daum.

2. North Dakota State

2-0 is a good start, duh, but the schedule may be the weakest out of all Summit League teams so far.  The lack of a post game could hurt the Bison down the road.  The Bison had 6 blocks against Arkansas State, who only had two players in their rotation that are taller than 6’6″.

3. South Dakota

It seemed like there were two ways for South Dakota.  Either somewhat okay, or really bad.  Starting off 2-0 is better than somewhat okay.  The Coyotes did beat a Missouri Valley team and  MAC team, but neither of them have been overly competitive in recent years…still, they won two games that could have been considered toss up games.

The newcomers on this team are improvements over what the Coyotes lost…which was just about everything.  If the Coyotes can get everyone on the same page, they may end up being far more competitive in the Summit than people thought.

Guy to watch:  Trey Burch-Manning.  He averages a 1 double-double per game right now.

4. Omaha

With a difficult schedule so far, the Mavericks could have just worn themselves out with 3 games in 4 days.  They should hopefully get some much needed rest before the fast paced Rice comes to Baxter Arena.

The improvement of Zach Jackson has been a nice lift for the Mavericks.  If Jackson can be a regular 10 point and 6 rebound guy, the Mavericks could compete with Fort Wayne this season.

5. South Dakota State

A tough schedule with two road games at Cal and UC Irvine shouldn’t have the faithful Jackrabbit fans mapping out the tallest buildings in Brookings.  The Jackrabbits shooting 29 percent over two games as a team should be a cause for concern, especially with their two biggest shot takers, Reed Tellinghuisen and Mike Daum, both shooting 32 percent from the field.

Another contributor who was expected to be an impact player went 0-for-10 in the Jacks’ two games.  There is still time to fix this, but the Jackrabbits have two more games on the road this weekend against Wyoming (2-0) and Idaho (1-0).

6. IUPUI

The Jaguars did have a tough schedule with two road games against Eastern Kentucky and Michigan, but Eastern Kentucky is a young team this season.  The Jaguars were competitive in the Summit League last year, partially, because of their scrappy defense, but they may not have that edge this season.

The Jaguars have showed little interest in caring about getting home games in the non-conference schedule, which makes sense when they can barely get 1,000 people to their home games.  The Jaguars have a home game against Howard on Friday, and then 6 straight road games.  They may only win three non-conference games.

7. Western Illinois

Some of their guys looked good against a NCCAA team.

8. Denver

The Pioneers are in the middle of changing their program’s culture.  Rodney Billups has some of the right pieces to transition into his new run-and-gun offense, but this team will have to learn to play a face paced defense.  They let Jacksonville score 92 points in Denver.

Billups did claim before the beginning of the year that Daniel Amigo could have a break out year this season, and he did have 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists against Jacksonville.

9. Oral Roberts

A 15 point loss to a Big 12 team and an 11 point win against a D2 team sounds weird.  Get ready for the most inconsistent team in the Summit League.

My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

I find preseason rankings dumb, but I admit they are fun to talk about for a couple minutes.  I laugh when football preseason rankings for conferences try to predict a conference record for each team and the math does not add up.  Everyone is going to go 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, and one team will go 0-9.  It’s cool.

So, I did something different.  From the time the conference schedule was announced, once a week I would go through the schedule and predict who would win based on different thought processes.  Who has the most new comers, who has the most coming back, who has the best defense, who has the best offense, who just sucks on the road, and so on.  I added up all the wins and losses and came up with rankings.  It’s dumb, and crazy what you can do with your time when your wife spends 50 hours a week in a research lab on top of working on her PhD.  It is more fun than Paul Finebaum telling you every SEC team will go undefeated except for two of them.

1. Fort Wayne

Win range: 12 to 13

Overview:  It appears to be difficult to find a big glaring weakness in the Mastodons.  They are athletic, and adaptable to play big or play in a small ball offense.  They replaced what they graduated with experience and even more (on paper) athleticism.  They are expected to have more depth this season to actually last through the entire Summit League Tournament at the end of the year, but hopefully they do not lose anyone to an academic issue.

Crazy Predictions:

  • If Jon Coffman continues to have Bradley transfer Xzavier Taylor come off the bench, Taylor will win the Sixth Man of the Year for the Summit League.
  • Fort Wayne will upset Arkansas in the first weekend of college basketball.

2. IUPUI

Win range:  11 to 14

Overview:  So, this is my bad.  At first, I thought IUPUI was the most stacked team in the Summit League and were incredibly under the radar, which is a bad combination for their opponents.  Since I started doing this, the Jaguars had two key contributors just leave the team with no explanation, and an incoming graduate transfer just disappear.

The Jaguars are not going to be the scrappy defensive team that they were last year, but should be expected to be an actual fluid running offense.  With the losses of Nick Osborne and Jordan Pickett from their bench, the Jaguars could be dropping to 4th or 5th already.  None of this is all going to stay to form, but damn it this is the idiotic system I chose.

3. North Dakota State

Win range:  10 to 12

Overview:  Kenpom gave the Bison the highest ranking in their preseason ratings.  They are the only team in the Summit League that made the top 100.

It was announced that junior guard Malik Clements will miss the entire season with an injury, which could be a blow to the Bison.  The team does have the depth to recover from this, but their bench is relatively young.

Junior forward AJ Jacobson is also out right now after having thumb surgery, but not expected to be out long-term.

Crazy predictions:

  • Deng Geu will win the Summit League Freshman of the year…he will give the Bison the much needed athleticism that they have needed at center for the last two seasons.  Geu will serve as a large impact when the Jackrabbits face some of the best post players in the league like: Mike Daum, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and Matt O’Leary
  • The Bison will win more than 20 games and end the season in the CBI.

4. Omaha

Win range:  11 to 13

Overview:  The Mavericks have put together a difficult non-conference schedule to figure things out about themselves early, for the money, and because they are confident in themselves…but probably mostly for the money.

If you heard anyone talk about the Mavericks, you would think they have 12 newcomers on the team.  They lost two All-Conference players, but with Marcus Tyus coming back, the Mavericks will be contending with Fort Wayne for the best back court in the league.

With the loss of Jake White, the Mavericks have to figure out what do in their post.  You could make an argument that Tre’Shawn Thurman is the best forward in the Summit League behind Mike Daum, but there will be nights Thurman gets into foul trouble and the Mavericks will need to find an answer those nights.  Zach Pirog’s weight went from 200 to 220 according to the official roster.  Let’s hope that is true and he can become an essential piece off the bench, along with Daniel Meyer.

Crazy prediction:  When South Dakota State visits Omaha, the attendance reaches 4,000.

5. South Dakota State

Win range:  6 to 11

Overview:  Mike Daum is obviously fantastic.  The rest of his team is rather unproven and has a number of questions.  Things could go really well for the Jackrabbits, or really bad in comparison to their expectations.

With the loss of three extremely valuable guards, and a few transfers, the Jacks appear to be asking their newcomers to be making up the most ground as compared to Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, and Omaha.

The Jacks landed two seniors as transfers to help make up for the loss.  6’7″ forward AJ Hess from Southern Utah, who ended 2015-2016 early with an injury and helped the Thunderbirds go 25-67 with him in the lineup.  Michael Orris, from Northern Illinois, is not known as a huge offensive threat at point guard, but could give defensive problems to some of the best point guards in the league like Tra-Deon Hollins, Mo Evans, and Kellon Thomas.  That is actually kind of scary.

The Jacks did not play two players expected to be contributors this season in their one exhibition game, Cole Gentry and Ian Theisen.  Not sure what is going on there.  I wish Omaha had exhibition games.  I get why they don’t, but it would be nice.

Crazy predictions:

  • South Dakota State will lose AT Denver
  • Mike Daum will not win Player of the Year, this year

6. South Dakota

Win range:  4 to 7

Overview:  This team reminds me of when the Mavericks had a relatively new roster with just CJ Carter and Mike Rostampour as the main characters returning.  The Coyotes have more talent than they did last year, but bringing together and finding chemistry on the court could be a large issue for this team.

Everyone in the Summit plays each other twice, but the roughest part of the Coyotes schedule is three away games in a row against Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  Ouch.

Crazy predictions:

  • Nebraska fans will add South Dakota point guard Triston Simpson to the list of Nebraska natives that they are angry about that the Huskers did not recruit.  It gets worse since he is from Lincoln.
  • South Dakota will defeat North Dakota State in Vermillion

7. Denver

Win range:  3 to 6

Overview:  The Pioneers have some talent, but Rodney Billups is trying to change their entire culture.  They are also quite young, which can be a huge issue for a first year coach trying to change everything.

Not so crazy prediction:  LetsGoDU will write eight different pieces during the season on how the Pioneers should join a new conference.

Crazy prediction:  The Pioneers will go 0-8 on the road in the Summit League

8. Western Illinois

Win range:  1 to 4

Having a coach with the charisma and inspiration of a terrible avocado, the Leathernecks could have another long season.  They are going to pick up some stupid win and maybe even two where some team overlooks them.  Let’s just hope Omaha takes them, and everyone, seriously this season.

Crazy prediction:  Freshmen Jeremiah Usiosefe will become the second leading scorer for Western Illinois and be the Leathernecks’ hope for the future.  He will make the All Newcomer team.

9. Oral Roberts

Win range: 2 to 4

 This team appears as if they will be horrendous on defense, and will struggle to score the ball as well.  All good things.

Crazy prediction:  Like usual, the Golden Eagles have put together a difficult non-conference schedule…with this, they will not win 10 game this season overall.

The Pioneers will have to migrate on

The Denver Pioneers were a missed free throw away from playing North Dakota State in the Summit League Championship, and Joe Scott was also maybe that close to not being let go by the Pioneers.

The Joe Scott firing was a little shocking, but it kind of makes sense.  With Denver Lacrosse, Hockey, and Soccer all being very extremely competitive programs; it makes sense that the expectations for the private university would be higher on the men’s basketball team.  It’s sort of like how I had incredibly low expectations for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because it was directed by the guy who made 300 and written by the guy that wrote all three Blade films…I guess it’s the same…  I know a few people that have migrated to Denver, and I’ve asked them if they ever go to Pioneer basketball games and usually the reason they don’t go is because the Pioneers were pretty boring to watch.

Rodney Billups, who you will always refer to as “Chauncey Billups’ brother” is offering a more up-tempo style of basketball in comparison to the Princeton offense that Joe Scott ran.  One has to wonder how long it will take for this to turn out to be successful for the Pioneers.

Billups has a great young core of players who appear like they could work out well for an up-tempo style of play.  By the way, it will be okay for Mav fans to accuse the Pioneers for being trendy in picking an up-tempo style.  It’s fine.  Freshman guard Joe Rosga finished the season averaging 12.7 points per game; freshman forward CJ Bobbitt finished with 8.4 points per game; and freshman guard Thomas Neff finished 6.0 points per game.  All three freshmen shot above 43% from the field.

The Princeton offense is all about taking the best shot available, so their players usually shoot high percentages.  The best shot isn’t always the most important thing in an up-tempo style of play, so soon the Pioneers as a whole may actually not lead the conference in field goal percentage for once.

The Pioneers are going to have a couple roster changes for Billups to move forward with this new brand of basketball.  They are losing two guys, Nate Engesser and Marcus Byrd, who averaged double digit scoring, but we’ve routinely seen this to not be a problem for Denver.  Both players were efficient scorers, and seemed to find themselves open quite a bit while playing in the Baxter Arena… I thought Byrd was one of the more underrated players in the Summit in 2016, he averaged 16.7 points over the last 8 games of the season.  He was probably the biggest reason the Pioneers did not finish 8th in the conference.

Denver will also lose their point guard, Bryant Rucker.  It is weird to call someone a point guard when they average 1.5 assists per game, but the Princeton offense is not an offense for point guards to rack up assists.  No one seems to know what is going on with the sophomore center Daniel Amigo who only played in 13 games this season for Denver, but he showed some promise in his freshman season.  It’s okay, the Pioneers have 6’6″ sophomore center Christian Mackey to haunt our dreams.  I swear that kid was allowed 15 fouls in the first round of the Summit League tournament.

The Pioneers have two high school seniors that have signed letters of intent: a 6’0″ and 145lb point guard from Arvada, Colorado…and a 6’6″ wing player from the state of Texas.  These players could change their minds and go elsewhere with Denver going a new route in coaching, but as of right now the Pioneers only have room for one more player to sign for next season.

Their roster is filled with wing players, so one would think they would love a junior college post player or point guard; or a 5th year transfer at either position.  Denver is not really known for landing transfers, but maybe the new style will call for it.

Drake’s Kale Abrahamson is leaving the Bulldogs and will be eligible immediately.  Abrahamson is originally from Des Moines, so it is not like he would be transferring back home.  He started his college career at Northwestern, so he clearly likes academics…Denver just seems like the perfect place for the 6’8″ player that could help Chauncey’s brother jump start his culture change in year one.  He shot a pretty low percentage from the field (39.1) in his one year at Drake, but Drake basketball seems like a cluster of poor choices right now.  I say this like it’s a mean thing, but I am all about the Summit League going all in on trying to steal Drake away from the Missouri Valley.  Just think about it…

It is hard for most coaches to see a high level of success in year one, especially when changing everything; but the Pioneers have the pieces to move forward.  They are most likely not going to end up winning the regular season, but by could have things figured out as a team by the time they start the conference tournament, again.  They will probably finish the regular season standings in 2016-2017 somewhere between 4th and 8th in the Summit League.  Now if only they would actually play someone in their non-conference schedule.