Just a few potential random schools to list off to join the Summit League

 

After it was announced that New Mexico State football would be leaving the Sun Belt Conference, their administration has mentioned that they would form a committee to research a move looking into a new conference for their Olympic sports.  Their administration mentioned The Big Sky as a conference that they have been in contact with, and one other unnamed conference.  The move would more than likely break up the WAC, which is just the worst anyway, so how about we open up a topic of: Could the Summit League be growing anytime soon.

Here are some potential schools that could join the Summit League as a 10th member from the WAC or just something at random I felt like bringing up.


New Mexico State 

Geographically there are conferences that would work out better for New Mexico State for their non-football sports.  The SWAC, Southland, Big West, Big Sky, and the West Coast Conference all come to mind as suitors for New Mexico State to join.  The Mountain West would too if the conference wanted to take on a 13th football member.  Have you heard Wichita State has thought of adding football and joining the Mountain West?  Oh wait, anyway…

You might be thinking that New Mexico State could be a travel partner with Denver, but really New Mexico State is a 9 hour drive from Denver.  This is a school that is currently in a conference with programs in Kansas City, Chicago, and Seattle; so Denver may not be all that far away really in their minds.  And Denver dream every week of joining a new conference.  They’re probably somewhere right now discussing about how moving to the Big West would be better than the Summit League.

The school is open to the possibility of moving to FCS in football and maybe the Missouri Valley would be the most competitive conference for them to move into than the Big Sky.  I have a friend who was a quarterback at Montana, and he said he would be against New Mexico State joining the Big Sky because it would put them at 15 teams with Idaho also joining the conference in 2018…and that is just too many damn teams.  Though, the back up quarterback for Montana in the early 2000s does not decide who joins or leaves the conference.  Or could he?  It could be like that terrible Swing Vote movie with Kevin Costner that only Kevin Costner and whatever family member he forced to go with saw.

Again, the Aggies joining the Summit is a long shot, but the school could really help improve baseball for the Summit League.  It would put the league at 7 baseball programs, and it is never bad for your conference to get more South and more West for baseball and softball recruiting.  Aggies Baseball is coached by Brian (not Austin) Green, who is a former assistant of Kentucky and UCLA.  He helped take the Aggies from a 10 win team to a 34 win team in baseball.


Northern Colorado

So maybe New Mexico State does join the The Big Sky and the conference does annoyingly have too many teams.  If that happens, some school may want to get out of the conference.  Maybe that school is Northern Colorado.  It would make sense.  Their football team could move to the Missouri Valley for football, wrestling would still be in the Big 12 with North Dakota State, and Denver would have a travel partner.  Again, Denver is apparently a wild card in remaining in the Summit League.

The Bears may not be the most competitive athletic program, but it works out as far as what sports they have to offer.  It would be hard for me to turn down a weekend trip to Colorado for the Mavericks versus the Pioneers and Bears.  A weekend of college basketball, and possibly NBA basketball, hiking, Illegal Pete’s breakfast burritos, breweries, and maybe some hockey.


UMKC

Really, why did they leave the Summit League?  I was a little pumped to get to Kansas City to see the Kangaroos and Mavericks play year after year.  There was a decent number of Maverick fans that made the drive when I went in 2013.  I don’t think I can turn down a short drive to see the Mavericks and the prospect of eating at Oklahoma Joe’s.  Now, I’ve got a shorter drive to look forward to get to Vermillion and eat at…Chick Fil-A is probably pretty exciting I guess.  I just crave their cups of expired fruit.

If the WAC did end up breaking up, I really do not see where else the Kangaroos could go.  Hold on, I just tried to think of how to compare the ridiculousness of UMKC asking to get back into the Summit League to my Trump loving uncle asking me for portions of spaghetti noodles in the 2020 American Civil War.

UMKC has very fan support.  The Kangaroos have under performed in basketball the last few years under Kareem Richardson.  Men’s soccer has a losing record in WAC games.  They have no baseball and no football.  Their main bargaining chip is that Kansas City is a pretty fun place, and I think we’re actually all okay with that.


Drake

Honestly, I just really think that the Summit League needs to go all in to get Drake to join the conference.  I have no idea what I mean “go all in” because I don’t know what the official conversations consist of when a conference invites a school to join.  Maybe we wave some fees?  Give them a post season tournament?  Buy them a steak?  Squeak a cute dog toy in their direction and say “cooooooommmmeeee onnnnn.”

I have never really heard of Drake being consistently competitive in anything in the Missouri Valley, and for some reason their football team plays in the Pioneer League?  Their women’s basketball, volleyball, and softball team have been okay the last few years, but nothing great.  Drake could consistently be in the top half of every sport in the Summit League.

The Bulldogs in the Summit could help recruit some more Iowa kids to the conference, and open up another place like Des Moines for Summit League championships.  I’m told that Des Moines is a great place by every boring person on the planet.


Central Arkansas

The Bears men’s basketball have not been eligible for post season play for the past two seasons due to APR penalties, so they may not be the most ideal program to add to the Summit League.  Russ Pennell actually seems like he could turn their basketball program around with a little time.  Other men’s teams are really not all that competitive, but their women’s teams are all pretty competitive in the Southland.  The women’s basketball team finished the season at 28-4 with a trip to the NCAA tournament; and tennis; softball; and volleyball all finished with winning records as well.

Central Arkansas may actually benefit from joining the Summit League than the Summit League would benefit from Central Arkansas joining the conference.  They could join the conference as a travel partner with Oral Roberts as they are only 3 hours away from Tulsa.  The closest Southland school to Conway, Arkansas is a 5 hour drive.  My initial feeling if Central Arkansas were to join the Summit League would be that the Denver fans would want out of the conference, but they find a new reason to get out of the Summit League every week.

By the way, they call their women’s teams the “Sugar Bears.”

 

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Summit League Predictions: Jan 20-23

I went 4-3 last week…technically 5-2…I did say South Dakota State would win on the status of Jake Bittle playing…he did not play…neither did Mo Evans for IPFW…I would have picked South Dakota State had I known Mo Evans was not going to play…hell we’ll call it like I did originally…I lost that game…now you can proceed onto breaking my thumbs.

January 20

Western Illinois @ South Dakota

Western Illinois has not won a conference road game since January 2014 when they beat IUPUI.  IUPUI was 6-26 overall that season.  Does Western Illinois really look like they have a squad that can end this conference road losing streak in Vermillon?  Actually, maybe…they lost on the road to Omaha by 2 and to South Dakota State by 4.  Simple math would tell you that Western Illinois will lose this game by 6 or 8, but math is hard…

Maybe this is a battle for the 8th seed in the Summit League tournament?  Western Illinois was in a Battle For 8th game last week and was down 18 at half time to Denver in Macomb.  But hey, Western Illinois is 1-0 when they don’t have any votes in the Mid Major Top 25 poll.

January 21

North Dakota State @ IPFW

Something that slipped by everyone is that junior point guard Carlin Dupree left the Bison last week after a dispute in playing time.  Dupree was averaging 4 minutes less per game in his junior season than he was last year in his sophomore season and was moved to come off the bench recently.  David Richman said that Dupree was totally fine with this, but clearly Dupree pulled a fast one on Richman.  The Bison are 2-0 without Dupree with wins over both South Dakota schools.  He was a quality defender, but was not known for his shooting ability, shooting less than 40% from the field over the last year and a half and around 20% on threes.  The Bison will now be counting on true freshman Khy Kabellis to run the team.  Losing Dupree really cuts down on NDSU’s depth and Kabellis will have to play over 30 minutes per game due to this.  Kabellis has shot 28% from the field in games out of the great state of North Dakota…it’s fine, I forgot my lunch and just wanted to lose my appetite by saying “great state of North Dakota.”

South Dakota State @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

Weird stat:  The only games that Oral Roberts has ever lost at home with Obi Emegano in the line up were to both South Dakota schools.

Other than Obi Emegano, the Golden Eagles appear to be outmatched at every single position.  Emegano is going to need a monster performance for Oral Roberts to have a shot at beating the Jackrabbits…but maybe we see a case where Jake Bittle finally gets back into the line up and he has a bad flow getting back into things and it leads to a number of other problems.  We’ll see.

The Jackrabbits are 0-2 on the road so far in the Summit League, and Scott Nagy has called out his team for not having any toughness on the road.  They know they are going to a tough place to play, and they have something to prove to themselves in this game.

Omaha @ Denver

A contrast in styles: Omaha wants to run the ball and take quick shots and Denver wants to move as slow as the DMV to work for the absolute best shot possible.  Which I am convinced that the DMV is doing the same thing: just sitting back there googling the best ways possible to ruin your day.  Omaha was 0-5 since transitioning to division one playing in the Mountain Time Zone against a D-1 team…this season they are 2-2 (or 3-2 if you count Phoenix in the Mountain Time zone), so the Mavs may not have the issues of adapting to the altitude as they have already played in it a few times this season.

Denver may have a problem making as many passes as they are used to against an Omaha team that loves to play the passing lanes, and Tra-Deon Hollins having jedi mind tricks to get teams to pass in his general direction for him to take the ball.

Two road teams pick up wins on a Thursday?  I think last year, the road team only won about 33% of the conference games played Monday to Thursday.  I could be making that up, but I know it was not a great percentage and North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Oral Roberts had most of the weeknight road wins.

January 23

North Dakota State @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Okay.  Alright.  Um.  What?  All common sense says to take North Dakota State in this game.  They have been one of the two best teams in the Summit for the past 3 seasons and Western Illinois has been one of the two worst teams in the Summit the last 3 seasons.  Don’t look at any stats or anything here, just look at the narrative.  I feel that last sentence made me sound like your Tea Party uncle that keeps telling you to read between the lines when analyzing the Obama administration.

North Dakota State plays on the road this week against IPFW and Western Illinois, currently the best team and the worst team in the Summit.  North Dakota State versus IPFW is going to be a greatly contested game, and the Bison may not have enough pieces on their roster to play a competitive fast paced IPFW team on the road AND a Western Illinois team in Macomb.   North Dakota State also only beat Western Illinois by 2 last year in Macomb.

I’m sure that North Dakota State will win by 35 now that I have thrown this out there.

South Dakota State @ South Dakota on ESPN3

Normally I would like to take the home team in a instate rivalry like this, but I think I would just be saying that to trick Creighton into scheduling UNO.  South Dakota is a tough team to figure out.  They lose at home, they play tough on the road, and they are a group of people that decided to at least temporarily reside in Vermillion, South Dakota.  Every time I say a game is a great match up for Tre Burnette, he ends up having a bad game.  He will have to go against either 6’9″ Ian Theisen, 6’9″ Mike Daum, or 6’6″ Reed Tellinghuisen (who has been struggling lately).  Perhaps if Burnette is not doing well the Coyotes can go with their 2 big true freshman against Daum and Theisen… who have gone missing in league play.

Did you know that South Dakota picks up the most fouls in the Summit League?  So they are going to send the Jackrabbits to the line, who shoot 72% on free throws.  South Dakota is also 2nd to last in the Summit in rebounds, in front of Denver, but Denver is an outlier in all statistical categories; so it’s just best to not count Denver most of the time.  Consider Denver to be the middle child of the league.

IUPUI @ IPFW

The Acronym Bowl!  The road team won each game in this series last season.  I should like IUPUI’s chances with no other game this week, and IPFW has North Dakota State at home on Thursday.  After watching Max Landis hit every possible shot with a hand in his face in Omaha, IUPUI’s scrappy defense does not appear to become a factor in this game.  Seriously, my basketball passport profile ranked Landis’ performance against UNO on Saturday as the best college basketball performance that I have witnessed in person.  Konchar’s performance that game ranked number 2, and Hollins’ ranked number 3… it’s also not like I’ve only ever gone to 3 college basketball games in my life.  Okay, I admit, Landis and Konchar have rattled my brain.  Brent Calhoun scoring 6 points in overtime with left handed hook shots over a surprised Jake White has also been making my stomach hurt.  Calhoun hadn’t had a game of scoring in double figures all season and he already has 3 double digit scoring performances in Summit League play.  How did Jon Coffman trick us like this?  He’s using cheat codes or a game genie, I swear.

Omaha @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

At first, I thought Oral Roberts is too good at home.  Then I remember hearing Tra-Deon Hollins say that one of his favorite things to do is to go on the road and give the home team a scare and take away a game, and Omaha’s performances on the road should support this.  Oral Roberts also averages more turnovers than any other team in conference play so far…which is great because Omaha forces more turnovers than any other team.

These two teams also get to the line more than any other team in the league.  This could be a problem for Omaha as Oral Roberts appears to be a (slightly) deeper team in terms of having more capable dudes to go if fouls become an issue.  Also Jalen Bradley’s cross over to his left into a baseline mid-range jumper should give you a mini stroke.

I won’t be able to watch this game live, unless the random bar I saddle up at has a way to stream ESPN3.  Sunday is my birthday, and my wife forces me to celebrate my birthday…so I’m going to have to watch the replay on my actual birthday.  By the way, UNO beat Denver last season on my birthday.

This is the toughest stretch of Omaha’s conference schedule of @ Denver, @ Oral Roberts, @ South Dakota State.  They need to win at least one of these games…or all of them…that sounds better.

 

Omaha and IPFW might not be so different

I made some precarious preseason rankings for the Summit League in October, and I placed IPFW at 7th in the league with a range of 5 to 7 conference wins.  I am beginning to feel pretty dumb about this.

The Mastadons are currently 14-5 and are being regarded as one of the teams to currently beat in the conference.  I somehow held just an incredible amount of bias and unjustified hatred for the ‘Dons.   I am not even sure where it came from.  I would like to throw this out in there air though.  The ‘Dons are beating the teams that they need to beat, but they have yet to really have a win to brag about or even a We Were So Close to an Upset loss.

The ‘Dons have lost by 14 at Valparaiso; by 22 versus Navy; by 17 at Utah; and by 25 at Indiana.  Denver is the only team with a winning record (over Division One opponents) that IPFW has beaten at this point.  Preseason, I predicted that IPFW would start off 3-0 in the Summit League and drop the next three against South Dakota State, Omaha, and North Dakota State.  I sit here and point out the negatives of their non-conference schedule, but their strength of schedule RPI is 227 to Omaha’s 232…so I should shut my mouth on that.  Regardless of their schedule, they are still winning these games.

I gave some flack to Jon Coffman, but he sounds like a super excited man when he discusses IPFW and the Summit League, and he loves his job.  Almost as excited as Tommy Callahan Jr got when he discussed really cool brake pads.  He and his staff pride themselves on recruiting to their system and getting players who play their brand of unselfish basketball.

I was mainly giving flack to Coffman on how excited he was for his newcomers and the improvement of some of his returning players.  He was pretty ecstatic about freshman John Konchar, and that appears to be validated.  Coffman and the ‘Dons were touting the improvement of forward Brent Calhoun for losing almost 60 pounds since last season.  The first stretch of the season, Calhoun was constantly in foul trouble and could not keep up with team’s fast pace and looked as if he would be a practice player at more than half of the Summit League schools.  Calhoun did have a stretch of three games to start off 2016 with 12.7 ppg and 4.3 rpg and shot 17-of-18 from the floor.  Those three games were against Purdue-University North Central, South Dakota, and Denver.  I have no idea who that Purdue school is, but South Dakota and Denver are not quick teams like South Dakota State and Omaha.  Calhoun had 4 points and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes against the Jackrabbits last night, and is not expected to be a huge factor against Omaha.

A core of newcomers the ‘Dons were salivating over were Andrew Poulter, Racine Talla, and DeAngelo Stewart.  Poulter is a 6’11” junior who came to IPFW via junior college and started his career at Arkansas-Little Rock.  I don’t want to go back and look up Poulter’s numbers in junior college, but I remember laughing at his field goal and free throw percentages.    Poulter has played in 9 games in garbage time and shot 44% from the field.  Talla is a 6’9″ and 195 pound post player who transferred from USC Upstate, but also was at a junior college when being deemed ineligible to play there.  Talla has shot 25% from the field so far on the year, which maybe is not bad for a guy who did not play competitive basketball for 2 years.  Stewart is a 6’6″ wing player who also came from a junior college, but started his career at Alabama State.  There were several people that thought Stewart was going to be the Newcomer of the Year in the Summit League.  Stewart, like many junior college transfers, has had an inconsistent year averaging 5.6 ppg and shooting 38% from the field, but the ‘Dons are 5-0 when Stewart scores in double figures.


 

The match ups between Omaha for their crunch time line ups really sound comparable on paper…

Joe Reed, 6’8″, Sr – 10.6 ppg/4.4 rpg/1.3 apg/53 fg%/53 ft%/27 3pt%

John Konchar, 6’5″, Fr – 11.9 /7.9 /2.3   /57/72/42

Michael Calder, 6’2″, Sr – 7.1/3.4/2.0/   36/57/34

Max Landis, 6’2″, Sr – 15.4/2.6/3.1   45/78/47

Mo Evans, 6’0″, Jr – 16.9/3.7/5.1   48/85/43*

vs

Jake White, 6’8″ Sr – 16.0/6.2/0.4   57/82/42

Tre’Shawn Thurman, 6’7″, So – 14.4/7.4/1.3   52/68/22

Tim Smallwood, 6’2″, Sr – 5.7/2.4/0.6   39/64/32

Tra-Deon Hollins, 6’2″ Jr – 10.7/4.1/5.6   43/73/21

Devin Patterson, 5’11, Sr – 17.7/2.4/2.8   46/78/35

*I typed all of this, and found out that Evans will be out for the year due to an academic issue.


 

As even as these teams appear to be, the match up could really come down to what “other guys” can step up in the game on Saturday.  As mentioned, IPFW is 5-0 when Stewart scores in double figures.  Omaha, though, is 5-1 when Tim Smallwood scores in double figures, and that one loss is to Colorado.  Omaha is also 2-0 when Zach Jackson scores in double figures.

As even as these teams appear, they differ noticeably in two areas.  IPFW is 14th in the country in three point field goal percentage with 40.3% from three, and 16th in the country in three point field goals made per game with 10 per game.  Almost half of the team’s points comes from three point field goals.  Omaha is last in the Summit League in three point field goal percentage with 30.1% and they have made the least three point field goals in the league…which makes sense.  Omaha is 4th in the league overall in defensive three point field goal percentage, which is great because last year they were in 8th in that category.

Omaha is currently 39th in the country in free throw percentage at 73.7%, and the Mavericks have made the 4th most in the country per game with a touch over 20 per game.  IPFW is last in the Summit in free throw percentage, and they finished 9th in the Summit in 2014-2015.  The ‘Dons do however only pick up 16 fouls per game, which is 2nd in the Summit League behind North Dakota State, who had 23 fouls against Omaha.

This game should be a really fun game to watch, but it would be extremely difficult to come back from 15 down on the ‘Dons with their 3 point shooting and as many weapons that they have (in comparison to Western Illinois and South Dakota).  As I type this, I see that Mo Evans is out for the year, which is clearly a blow to the ‘Dons.  Evans was on pace to be a 1st Team All Summit League player, and possibly the Summit League Preseason Player of the Year in 2016-2017.  I hate it when it when your favorite teams pick up wins when the best player of the opposing team is out (not that this guarantees Omaha the win).  It is difficult to drop 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists a game and make that up quickly.  IPFW lost by 16 in a game to South Dakota State last night without Evans.  The ‘Dons still have Joe Reed, John Konchar, and Max Landis as a Big 3, which is better than some other teams’ Big 3 in the Summit.  Landis has made the 7th most three point field goals in D-1.

 

Summit League Predictions: Jan 13-16

I went 4-2 last week missing on IUPUI @ Western Illinois and Omaha @ North Dakota State.  Who else would have picked IUPUI over South Dakota State or Denver over Oral Roberts?  I’m pretty damn happy missing on North Dakota State.  I feel like Western Illinois just keeps lying to us though.  They beat Wisconsin and people thought they would be a dangerous team, they still have votes in the Mid-Major 25, they returned a bunch of experience, but their shooting percentage keeps plummeting.  They’re the girlfriend that keeps cheating on your buddy, and she continues telling him this is the last time, so you have to keep getting drunk and playing Rock Band with him until 4 in the morning every Saturday night to help him keeping his mind off of stuff…and really you need to tell him to just move on.  Not talking from experience or anything.

January 13

South Dakota @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

The home team won each game in this series last year, which is partly why I am taking the Bison here…but mostly because the Bison are an overall better team.  The Bison won in Fargo by 24 the last time these two teams played.  One scary thing, (and I know I have mentioned this before) no team in the Summit League forces teams to take more threes than the Coyotes, and the Bison shoot the 2nd most threes in the league while being 7th in the league in 3 point field goal percentage.  The Bison were 8-of-12 from 3 at home against Denver and 8-of-21 at home against Omaha.  There are really not a lot of knock down three point shooters for the Bison, only Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson shoot higher than 30% from three.  The Bison have also gone with a few different lineup changes over the last few games, which has been a little confusing, but David Richman says his players are completely fine with this.

The fun match up of the game to watch could be the forward position between Tre Burnette (14.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 47fg%) versus AJ Jacobson (13.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 46fg%).  But the real match up to see is whoever Craig Smith decides to try and stop Paul Miller.

January 14

Oral Roberts @ IUPUI on ESPN3

I picked IUPUI to win this game before the start of the season.  I thought Oral Roberts would be favored because it was Oral Roberts and it is IUPUI, then the Jaguars would surprise the Golden Eagles, but instead Oral Roberts is 1-3 and IUPUI is 3-1.

Oral Roberts really has too many newcomers to face a defensive team like the Jaguars.  So far, in 4 Summit League games, the Jaguars are 2nd in the Summit in defensive field goal percentage and 1st in defensive three point field goal percentage.  In 3 games against the Jaguars last season, Obi Emegano shot 10-of-33 from the field and 2-of-9 from three.  The Golden Eagles have shown that they struggle without the preseason player of the year by losing to South Dakota and Denver, each team’s only conference win so far, so how could they do when he is being contained by Marcellus Barksdale?

Denver @ Western Illinois

Denver won in Macomb last season, but this was when Western Illinois basically did not have a roster anymore due to injuries late in the year.  This basketball game could be classically ugly.  There will be one team does not get into the Summit League tournament, and this is looking like the two worst teams in the Summit League, so the last tournament spot could be on the line.

In 4 conference games so far, Denver has the worst defensive field goal percentage in the league, and Western Illinois has shown they can shoot well against poor defenses.  I don’t want to think about this game anymore.

IPFWSouth Dakota State

Both teams are going to have difficult schedules on the week, and this should be a really fun game.  Fort Wayne lost by 29 the last time they played in Brookings, a game that the ‘Dons had 24 turnovers in.  Now, the ‘Dons are coming into this game on a 6 game winning streak.

This is a match up for two of the best back courts in the Summit, and there should be close to 20 three point field goals made.  A serious question for the Jackrabbits is: is Jake Bittle playing?  Without Bittle, I am taking IPFW.  The ‘Dons are a slightly better defensive team than the Jackrabbits, which could make a big difference in a game between two of the best teams.  In their first three conference games, the Jackrabbits have shot 38% from the field against IUPUI, Western Illinois, and Denver.  All of these games have been without Jake Bittle.  They cannot shoot 38% from the floor and beat the ‘Dons.

I don’t know how far back you can go and replay games on ESPN3, but if you can, go watch South Dakota State @ IUPUI.  South Dakota State, who is supposed to be the best coached team in the Summit, would go 5 minute stretches with 4 players not even attempting to move without the ball on every single play.  There is no one on the team that will force their teammates to move without Jake Bittle.

January 16

Denver @ IUPUI on ESPN3

See above about the South Dakota State not moving the ball on IUPUI.  Can IUPUI keep Denver from moving the ball around and getting shots off in their Princeton offense?  IUPUI swept Denver last season by a combined 4 points.  This game will be close, it will be low scoring, and it will be as frustrating as a 14 year old boy dealing with dial up internet when his parents are not home.  Hey, it takes a while to do homework when you’re 14.  Especially with a poor internet connection.

IPFW @ Omaha

The two highest scoring teams in the Summit will be facing off.  I would like to think the Omaha crowd will be larger than normal.  Their team is on their longest winning streak since transitioning to division one, Devin Patterson has won the conference player of the week award twice in a row, Tra-Deon Hollins leads the nation in steals, Omaha is coming off one of their best weeks in division one beating North Dakota State and South Dakota on the road, there will be no competing Creighton or NFL game, and the brand of Omaha basketball is getting some recognition right now.

This is the only game of the week for Omaha, while IPFW has to go on the road against South Dakota State and Omaha.  South Dakota State is ranked 15th in the Mid-Major Poll, IPFW is 20th, and Omaha is 10 votes away from being 25th.

Patterson against Mo Evans should be a really fun match up to watch in this game.  In 4 games against each other; Patterson has averaged 9.3 ppg, 2.3 apg, 1.3 spg, and shot 52% from the field; Evans has averaged 12.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, and shot 42% from the field.  In IPFW’s current 6 game winning steak (not counting Purdue North Central), Evans has averaged 17.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, and shot 49% from the field.  In Omaha’s current 6 game winning streak, Patterson has averaged 21.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2 spg, and shot 53% from the field.

Maybe Patterson and Evans cancel each other out, I don’t know.  Another interesting match up should be the battle in the post with IPFW’s Joe Reed (10.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 55 fg%) and John Konchar (11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 58fg%) against Jake White (16 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 57fg%) and Tre’Shawn Thurman (14.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 52fg%).  IPFW could start Brent Calhoun at the center spot, but Jon Coffman regularly takes him out pretty quickly and plays small ball with the 6’4″ Konchar at the 4 position.  Calhoun has gone from basically just being a tree in the middle of the lane to being effective in the last couple of games for the ‘Dons.  Last week against South Dakota and Denver, Calhoun averaged 13 & 5 and shot 11-of-12 from the floor.

These teams actually sound pretty close to each other on paper.  Now I feel bad for dogging on the ‘Dons all year.  Okay, how about this.  At the 2 guard position, Tra-Deon Hollins and Max Landis are almost opposite.  Hollins is not a great three point shooter, Landis leads the Summit in three point field goals made (Evans is 2nd in three point field goals made).  Landis is not known for being a great defender, Hollins leads the nation in steals.  Who is going to get the better of the two here?

This game has a recipe for a lot of drama.  Maybe another game Omaha is down by double digits and has to fight back, but the ‘Dons have several offensive weapons so it might be as easy as coming back on the Leathernecks or Coyotes.

South Dakota State @ North Dakota State on ESPN 3

I admit it.  I am for the most part only taking the Bison because they are the home team in this rivalry.  Last week, I took NDSU against the Mavericks mainly because they were the home team and because almost no Maverick ever had a quality game against the Bison…and I was very happy to be wrong.

Oral Roberts @ Western Illinois

Obi Emegano should hopefully be fully recovered from his concussion at this point.  I also don’t think Obi Emegano would let his team fall to his former school.  Against Western Illinois last season, Emegano averaged 23.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and shot 52% from the field.  Western Illinois’ best player, Garret Covington had 13.5 ppg, 6 rpg, and shot 26% from the field.  Emegano has the ability to fully put his team on his back and win a basketball game similar to North Dakota State’s Lawrence Alexander last season.

Western Illinois also recently stopped using Jamie Batish off the bench, who was leading the conference in three point field goal percentage at one point.  Mike Miklusak was giving the Leathernecks’ good minutes off the bench, but was injured against Omaha, and hasn’t been seen since.  Miklusak missed the last 13 games of 2014-2015 and Western Illinois went 1-12 with him out.  WIU’s top three players: Garret Covington, JC Fuller, and Jabari Sandifer are far too consistent to go up against a guy like Emegano.


Summit League RPI Rankings as of January 12th

51. South Dakota State

78. IPFW

107. Oral Roberts

139. Omaha

152. South Dakota

163. IUPUI

170. North Dakota State

234. Denver

252. Western Illinois


Summit League Kenpom Rankings as of January 12th

83. South Dakota State

133. Omaha

155. North Dakota State

160. IPFW

188. IUPUI

189. Western Illinois

193. Oral Roberts

209. South Dakota

243. Denver

Summit League Predictions: Jan 6-9

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

January 6th

South Dakota @ IPFW

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

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

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

Oral Roberts @ Denver

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

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

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


January 7th

South Dakota State @ IUPUI

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

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

Omaha @ North Dakota State

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

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

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


January 9th

IUPUI @ Western Illinois

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

Omaha @ South Dakota

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

IPFW @ Denver

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

North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts

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

 

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League Rankings – Jan 5

Why not do some “power rankings” for the Summit League?  It’s a top 10 conference right now, and it probably still will not get enough respect from the tournament committee to get two teams into the big dance.  If you’re really impressed by Joe Lunardi’s fake bracket in July, then you might actually love something like this…but please, don’t even talk to me.  Power rankings are kind of like a movie that has a pretty good story going up until the end and you find out it was all really just a dream and you realize the story sucked all along and Blake Lively has a really short range even if she was great in “The Town”…but here we go.

1. South Dakota State

  • A 9 point win and a 4 point win over who many think to be the two worst teams in the Summit was not the best way to start off conference play for numero uno, but they still came out 2-0.
  • The Jackrabbits look different without Jake Bittle.  He may not be their flashiest player, but he is by far their smartest player that runs their offense and makes a low amount of decisions.  His injury was only listed as 2-3 weeks, but they may not be favored in a road game against IUPUI without Bittle.
  • The big question mark for the Jacks was: who were they going to play at the center position?  Redshirt frosh, and Nebraska native, Mike Daum has been the answer for SDSU and has been averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds per game in 17 minutes a contest.  Sophomore Ian Theisen has been putting up nearly 7 points and 4 rebounds per game, and both players can knock down threes.

2. North Dakota State

  • The Bison put up a 10-4 record in non-conference play even while battling with injuries to two of their top players: Chris Kading and Kory Brown.
  • NDSU recently moved Carlin Dupree to the bench and he scored 16 in 28 minutes.
  • Head Coach David Richman acknowledges that they are a young team, but they still have a target on their backs and everyone in the conference is going to give them their best.  Don’t worry about Globo Gym, they’ll be fine.
  • Curious who was going to make up the scoring for the loss of Lawrence Alexander?  Did you think it would be sophomore Paul Miller?  Miller is scoring 16.6 points per game and he is making 2.7 threes per game at 43%.

3. Omaha

  • Clearly it looks like I have issues putting them here, but you shouldn’t be surprised.  The Mavericks have won 4 games in a row and that is the longest streak they have had over division one teams.
  • In the year of the foul, they get to the line more than anyone else in the Summit League.  The Mavericks have shot 52 more free throws than South Dakota State, who has the second most free throw attempts on the season.  If you’re not a deep team, especially at the wing, you could really run into foul trouble on the Mavs.  They are also second in free throw percentage in the Summit League behind Denver.
  • Tra-Deon Hollins is still leading the country in steals.  Back courts have had issues getting the by Hollins and Devin Patterson.

4. IPFW

  • They are 12-4, but I challenge you to find a meaningful win.  Oral Roberts is their best win.
  • Head Coach Jon Coffman wanted to play more small ball this season and shoot more threes to match the rest of the Summit League, and they currently have the second highest three point shooting percentage in the league behind Western Illinois.  They are even second in scoring behind Omaha.
  • Mo Evans could be the most difficult player in the Summit League to defend, after Obi Emegano, Evans is tied for second in the conference in scoring (17.3) and he is third in assists (5.1).
  • The Dons were really excited about redshirt freshman John Konchar, who Coffman said would have been worth 5 wins last season.  Konchar is averaging 11.2 points and a league leading 7.7 rebounds per game.  He’s also 5th in field goal percentage in the Summit League.  He has been playing mostly the 4 position, so he will soon have to go up against AJ Jacobson, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and Tre Burnette.
  • Max Landis has made more threes than any other player in the League with 3.3 threes per game.

5. South Dakota

  • The Coyotes lost at home to IUPUI, but then beat Oral Roberts on the road.  They had similar situations like this last year.  Losing at home to Omaha, beating Omaha on the road.  Losing to Oral Roberts at home, beating Oral Roberts on the road.  Losing to Denver at home, beating Denver on the road.  They are a hard team to predict for.  This season they have beat Minnesota, lost to CSU Bakersfield, seriously, a hard team to figure out.
  • Last year, their defense forced teams to take the more threes than any other team in the Summit League and they have done the same thing so far this season.  So teams have to be able to knock down threes against the Coyotes.  **Looks at UNO’s three point field goal percentage…hits head on table**

6. Oral Roberts

  • Oral Roberts had a very difficult non-conference schedule, but they now have lost 6 games in a row…5 of those 6 games were on the road.
  • The Golden Eagles have the best player in the league with Obi Emegano, but after that they are an incredibly young and inexperienced team.  They are going to have a few “Seriously!” losses.
  • ORU lost to South Dakota at home without Obi Emegano, who was out with concussion symptoms.

7. IUPUI

  • Another team with an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule, the Jaguars are currently 5-12, but they did manage to beat South Dakota on the road.  They are a gritty team and head the Coyotes to 2 of 15 on threes in that game.
  • The Jaguars are playing with a large portion of their team as newcomers, so they could have some “Seriously” wins.

8. Western Illinois

  • They gave up a 16 point lead to Omaha and only lost by 4 to (a Jake Bittle-less) South Dakota State.
  • The Leathernecks are a deep team in the sense that they have a ton of players on the roster, but there is a significant talent drop off after their top 4 players.  They were an injury filled team last season, and there have been a few little injuries so far this season…but they have had the same starting lineup in every game.
  • They are an inconsistent team, in the sense that everyone on their team is incredibly inconsistent.
  • The Leathernecks do have the best three point field goal percentage in the league, but they played an incredibly weak non-conference schedule.  Yes, yes, we all know they beat Wisconsin…cool.

9. Denver

  • Starting the conference season against North Dakota State and South Dakota State was not fun for them…and now they have Oral Roberts coming to Denver.  Denver has been a good home team the last 3 seasons, but can Oral Roberts really drop 7 in a row?  Yes, it is possible.
  • The Pioneers also played a weak non-conference schedule facing no power conference teams, but they may have done this to get their basically new roster some much needed experience.

Seriously, Blake Lively was only really given 15 minutes of actual screen time in the “The Town.”

 

It was stressful, but the Mavericks are 2-0

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.