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.

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My trivial Summit League Rankings – Feb 8

What a weird week.  IUPUI and Omaha both lost to Denver, and most likely feel out of the race to hold first place in the Summit League.

1. South Dakota State

Last week: 1st

The Jackrabbits are really rolling right now with Jake Bittle back in the lineup, now winning 5 games in a row.  The Jacks do have the next 3 of 4 on the road, with their home game against their instate rival South Dakota.  Their crunch time lineup of Mike Daum-Reed Tellinghuisen-Jake Bittle-Deondre Parks-George Marshall could really go up against anyone in the country.

I have a serious question.  The Jacks are going to lose three double digit scorers, who should all at least make the Summit League 2nd team, and they will more than likely not be favored to win the conference next season…so should Scott Nagy finally move onto a job elsewhere if the opportunity rises?

2. IPFW

Last week: 2nd

Hey my theory of Max Landis’ legs getting tired as the season goes on looked to be true against North Dakota State on Saturday.  Landis came back down to earth going 2-of-10 from the floor.  Actually, the ‘Dons shot 28% from the field and only had 46 points against North Dakota State.  Without Mo Evans, and not really a bunch of depth off the bench, could the ‘Dons even legitimately play 3 straight games in Sioux Falls in the Summit League tournament?

3. North Dakota State

Last week: 5th

The Bison are only a half game behind Omaha and IUPUI in the standings.  They have won the last 3 of their 4, and the one loss was on the road to IUPUI from a last second shot to Jordan Pickett.  With Carlin Dupree back, the Bison could really get going now, but they do have 4 of their last 6 games on the road.

4. Omaha

Last week: 3rd

Last week was rough.  Western Illinois wanted that win in Macomb more than Omaha.  I mean, they had lost the last 11, so of course the Leathernecks badly needed a win.  The loss to Denver was like taking a bunch of No Xplode and then trying to watch a Jason Bourne film, but having your girlfriend constantly trying to switch the channel over to Pretty Little Liars all while she is arguing with you over who’s turn it is to do the laundry.  Then you’re forced to go shopping with her, and not getting to watch Jason Bourne watch Clive Owen die.  Wait, why were you taking No Xplode, you didn’t even work out, bro?

Omaha not having Randy Reed really hurt the Mavericks against Denver, and it even looked like Tim Smallwood was playing with a little bit of pain.  The fans around really wanted to blame the referees for that loss.  I actually probably would have blamed Omaha’s 3 missed dunks, a number of missed layups, lack of boxing out, and a few bonehead turnovers (although only having a total of 9 was good).  Is it possible that Omaha was looking ahead to the next week against South Dakota State and North Dakota State?

Western Illinois really tried to push the ball inside against the Mavericks, and the Pioneers did the same thing without Jake White on the court.  Clearly the Pioneers had a plan for a stretch of the game where the idea was to get the ball inside to Christian Mackey and let him do post moves for baskets…which is what IPFW did in overtime against Omaha with Brent Calhoun.  This is the first time I put in a: Hey, the Mavericks should have put in Zach Pirog.  His length could have really bothered Mackey, who is 6’6″.

Is JT Gibson still on the team?  It didn’t look like he was on the road with the team in Western Illinois, and he wasn’t on the bench for the Denver game.  I know he’s injured, but he should still be on the bench, right?

5. IUPUI

Last week: 4th

Their losses to Denver and South Dakota State showed that while the Jags are a sound defensive team, but they can struggle in just deciding who is going to take a shot.  It’s not a method like Denver’s offense either, where they are trying to find the best shot.  It’s just that finding an open look for them is as difficult as trying to get your girlfriend to pick a restaurant…after shopping…after you were forced to watch Pretty Little Liars…all while you’re pumped on No Xplode.

6. Denver

Last week: 6th

Before the start of the season, head coach Joe Scott admitted that it would be difficult for his young team to figure out the offense, but he had a group of mature freshman that once they figured it out, they could make a run and win some games.  His team just beat the two scrappiest teams in the League: Omaha and IUPUI.  Still, is this the one team that the 1 to 3 seeds would most likely rather see in Sioux Falls?  This team has 3 of their last 5 on the road.  If this team has Joe Rosga, CJ Bobbitt, and Thomas Neff for the next four years, they could be a really scary team to face over time.

7. South Dakota

Last week: 7th

Like Omaha, the Coyotes have North Dakota State and South Dakota State this week.  Typically a weekly schedule that never fares well for teams, but the Coyotes looked good at home against Oral Roberts.

8. Oral Roberts

Last week: 8th

Wasn’t this team looking like rated 3rd in the preseason poll?  They have no identity, players seem to not have any roles, and Sutton constantly looks as frustrated as your dad when he’s on the phone with Cox Cable trying to figure out why the internet doesn’t work.  The Golden Eagles really look like the team in the Summit that has actually gotten worse as the season has gone on, and this team loses Obi Emegano after this year.

9. Western Illinois

Last week: 9th

Other than their loss on the road to IPFW and the home loss to North Dakota State, the Leathernecks have really been in every conference game this season.  That should actually say a lot about how hard it is to play in the Summit this season.  The Leathernecks could even still make the league tournament, yet they have three straight road games coming up.

I had some time, so I came up with a Summit League Super Team

The Summit League preseason team came out last week, and it was pretty fair.  It is actually really difficult to come up with a 1st and 2nd Team list of picks, especially in a guard heavy league and you are a fan that wants to see the first team be a traditional line up with 2 post players, a wing player, and 2 guards.

I was listening to the recordings from the Summit League Media Day yesterday and was happy that Scott Nagy basically called preseason teams pointless.  Last year no one predicted that his players Deondre Parks and George Marshall would be all league picks, and it is basically because no one knows how the newcomers are going to do at this point.  Or if someone like Tyler Larson is going to see a huge improvement in play.

IUPUI’s transfers Nick Osborne and Darell Combs could be better than AJ Jacobson and Garett Covington for all we know.  Or IPFWs redshirt freshman John Konchar could be a better player than Jake Bittle.  We have to wait and find out.  Preseason picks are basically made to make us even more excited for the college basketball season.

So I wanted to do something (that I thought) that would be fun and create a Summit League Super Team…  This was nothing more than merely fun and to verify my lunacy…maybe to show how much time I have on my hands with my wife busy studying and working toward her PhD.

Imagine there is a tournament with the best players from each conference each year at the end of every season.  There can be a power conference tournament and a mid-major tournament if you are really scared about this, but it is make believe, so get over it.  So, each conference has to put together a 12 man roster of their best players from the conference, and you can have three players that can be reserves in case any of the 12 get injured.  They can be in any year of eligibility, but they must have been eligible in the 2015-2016 season in this case.  One wrinkle in the roster is that you have to have at least one player from each team on the 15 man roster.

So let’s pick someone from each team.


Denver – Nate Engesser – 6’3″ Sr

  • 2nd best field goal percentage (51.4%), free throw percentage (82.9%) of any player returning to the Summit
  • 4th highest amount of 3 point field goal percentage (42.9%) of any player returning

IPFW – Mo Evans – 6’0″ Jr

  • Ranks 3rd in Assists Per Game (3.3) of returning players

IUPUI – Marcellus Barksdale – 6’5″ Sr

  • Tied for 2nd highest steals per game average (1.7) of any player returning to the Summit League
  • Played 4 different positions for the Jaguars in 2014-2015
  • Ranks 4th in free throws attempted per game for any returning player

NDSU – AJ Jacobson – 6’6″ So

  • 4th highest free throw percentage (82%) for any player returning
  • 18 games of scoring in double figures

Omaha – Devin Patterson – 5’11” Sr

  • One magazine voted him as preseason defensive player of the year
  • Summit League leader in steals per game for last 2 years
  • 2nd highest Assists Per Game (3.9) of any returning player
  • Ranks 3rd in free throws attempted per game for any returning player

ORU – Obi Emegano – 6’3″ Sr

  • Voted Preseason Player of the Year
  • Most points per game (18.3) of any returning player to the Summit League
  • Tied for 2nd highest steals per game average (1.7) of any player returning to the Summit League
  • Scored in double figures in 28 games in 2014-2015

USD – Tre Burnette – 6’5″ Sr

  • Leading rebounder (5.9/game) for returning Summit League players
  • Had 4 double doubles in 2014-2015
  • Averaged 12.3 points per game in the month of February 

SDSU – Deondre Parks – 6’1″ Sr

  • 3rd highest points per game average (14.1) for any returning Summit League player
  • 2nd most 3 point field goals made (69) of any returning player to the Summit League
  • Scored in double figures in 27 games in 2014-2015

WIU – Garret Govington – 6’5″ Jr

  • 2nd highest points per game average (15.5) for any returning player 
  • 4th highest amount of three point field goals made (63) for any returning player to the Summit League
  • 3rd highest free throw percentage (82.8%) for any returning player
  • 2nd most free throws attempted per game for any returning player

Okay…okay…the first thing I think when I look at this finished roster is that the team is small.  We are going to need some height on this roster to compete against the other conferences.  We cannot reasonably take this team to a tournament like this with Barksdale, Burnette, and Jacobson as our post game.  How about we throw in candidates to fill out the roster.

Denver – Marcus Byrd

IPFW – Joe Reed, DeAngelo Stewart

IUPUI – Mason Archie, Darell Combs, Nick Osborne

NDSU – Kory Brown, Carlin Dupree, Chris Kading, Dexter Werner

Omaha – Tre’Shawn Thurman, Marcus Tyus, Jake White

USD – Casey Kasperbauer, Trey Norris

SDSU – Jake Bittle, George Marshall, Reed Tellinghuisen

WIU – JC Fuller, Jabari Sandifer


So we have to pick six out of these twenty guys, which is not easy.  How about we address the post player void first and pick three post players from the list.  Am I too bias to throw in Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman right off the bat?  Are Byrd or Kading better players than either of them?  The jury is out on Byrd since he plays in such a slow paced offense.  Kading apparently had 3 surgeries since the basketball season ended.  Osborne has yet to play a game in the Summit, and we are just going off of the He Played Alright in a Slightly Bigger Conference So He Has to be Pretty Good With a Year Off and Now Into a Smaller Conference card.

I like Reed though, he’s going to go from being the ‘Dons 5th option to being their 2nd or 3rd option.  He can step back and hit the three, even though he is not going to do it a lot.  He also played very well when Steve Forbes was hurt for a few games.  Okay, we are adding Reed and Thurman for sure.  So White or Kading…I know Kading did not score a bunch of points in 2014-2015, but he did not need to.  He led the Summit League in blocks per game season, and this team needs rim protection.  With Thurman and Burnette on the team, the team will have to the two leading returning rebounders in the Summit League, so we are somewhat covered there.  I think I got to take Kading on this one.  But crap, what about Dexter Werner?  He was probably actually the most important member of the Bison last season not named Alexander or Jacobson.  You look at Werner and you think he is just going to get rebounds and put backs, but that is not true.  He gets the ball at the top of the lane and drives it to the basket when he wants.  He also has some pretty spectacular spin moves that put a number of Summit League guards to shame.  I know he is undersized, but I think we have to go Werner, especially considering the injuries to Kading and White.

So we have Werner, Thurman, and Reed on the roster.  We are up to twelve.


G Marcellus Barksdale – 6’5″ Sr

G Tre Burnette – 6’5″ Sr

G Garrett Covington – 6’5″ Jr

G Obi Emegano – 6’3″ Sr

G Nate Engesser – 6’3″ Sr

G Mo Evans – 6’0″ Jr

F AJ Jacobson – 6’6″ So

G Devin Patterson – 5’11” Sr

G Deondre Parks – 6’1″ Sr

F Joe Reed – 6’8″ Sr

F Tre’Shawn Thurman – 6’7″ So

F Dexter Werner – 6’6″ Jr


This team has two very good point guards in Devin Patterson and Mo Evans, but they both can be a little fast.  We might need a guy to say “SLOW DOWN!!!”  The guy for that is Jake Bittle.  It is not like Bittle is slow, but if you ever watch a Jackrabbits game, Bittle is the man to run the half court offense.  He holds the ball at the top of the key and then Parks and Marshall work to get open.  He is the quarterback and they are the wide receivers.

I feel like we are one post player away.  I know I had Kading and White as the leading candidates before, but I want to go with IUPUI’s Nick Osborne on this one.  He is a transfer, sure, but there are high expectations around him for the Jags.  Maybe not as much as Cody Larson had when he transferred to South Dakota State from Florida, but there are high expectations for him.  I am not sure if he is going to be a great player in the Summit League, or better than White or Kading, but damn it I want to take the gamble here.

So this team has some rebounding and rim protection, ball handling and passing, three point shooting, and perimeter defense.  I think we might have to go with George Marshall here.  He is probably not the most important player on his team, but he is highly needed on what should be the best team in the Summit League in 2015-2016.

I don’t know how this team would do in a tournament like this, because I already wasted enough time make this, so it is not like I’m going to go waste even more by making an Super WAC Team.  It is probably not even the top 15 guys in the conference, but it would be an extremely competitive team.

supert


 

Here is a change of pace and the All Summit Get Ready for Terrible Puns and Poor Jokes Team

Thomas Neff – Denver

ex:  Thomas has had Eneff

Paul, Dylan, and Trey Miller – North Dakota State

ex: It’s Miller Time.

Expect this to get incredibly annoying.

Dan Jech – South Dakota

ex:  Dan with the ReJechtion!

Tyler Flack – South Dakota

ex:  Tyler takes no Flack!

Deondre Parks – South Dakota State

ex:  Deondre Parks himself on the bench.