South Dakota State versus Denver preview

So who is officially the 4 seed in this game?  Who is officially the 5 seed?  Does any of that matter?  This isn’t really a David versus Goliath match up.  It’s more of a David versus Glenn match up.

Pssh, freaking Glenn.

Does it just feel weirdly obvious who is going to win this game?  I hope that is not just me.  If anything, being over confident in the outcome of basketball games has not steered me in the right direction this season.

Clearly, anything can happen after the official throws that ball up for the opening tip, but one of these teams appears to already have the edge and it’s only Wednesday.

South Dakota State is playing in a game that they might as well be playing at home.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of that blue in the arena during the Summit League tournament is from Jackrabbit fans and not from Mastodon fans.  The Jackrabbits are also coming into this game with on a 3 game winning streak, while Denver will be arriving in Sioux Falls while they are suffering through a 3 game losing streak.  The Pioneers also only one 1 of their last 5, with the one win against the 8th seeded Leathernecks.

These two also just faced each other last weekend in what was supposed to be an evenly contested game, and the two centers Daniel Amigo and Mike Daum were going to battle it out all night like Arnold Swarzenegger battling the world for a Turboman doll.  Daum had 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting in that game.  Amigo had 8 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

If you’re looking for a breakdown on Daum’s stats on the year, or his stats heading into the conference tournament, they can simply be summed up with: they’re better than yours.

The Jackrabbits also have their second leading scorer AJ Hess back in the lineup, as well as competent backup center Ian Theisen.  South Dakota State is actually healthy, something I don’t feel used to saying.  These teams may have similar characteristics, but the Jackrabbits are a man or two deeper than the Pioneers.

Theisen in my opinion seems like the biggest x-factor for the Jackrabbits, or really just how much TJ Otzelberger decides to play him.  Theisen in the lineup with Daum, allows Daum to play out of the post and play as a stretch 4, where he appears most comfortable.  The backup center can also make surprise shots from the perimeter, give Amigo another big man to go up against.  He also as a significant size advantage over Denver’s backup center Christian Mackey.

Still, weird things happen in college athletics.  It’s still two first year head coaches heading into the opening round of a conference tournament.  One that had his team fall well below expectations, and the other that had his team rise up above the expectations.  Neither of these coaches created the expectations, they just dealt with them.

Who would have thought that a 4 versus 5 would have been so evenly matched?  Both of these teams are fast paced offenses that have had their troubles on the defensive end.  Aside from the crowd advantage, someone may think South Dakota State has the edge as their roster hosts more experience.  Another person might think Denver’s roster is a better unit as a bulk of their players have played with each other longer.

The Pioneers are also coming in with a major sense of revenge factor.  They were just demolished by 22 points a week ago in Brookings on a Senior Day that was for two Jackrabbits that have only been in the program for 30 games each.  Denver was also two free throws away from playing North Dakota State for the conference championship and a NCAA Tournament birth last season before falling to the Jackrabbits in 2016.

Mind games are a heavy thing in college sports.  If the first year coaches are not preparing for this game the right way, they could get the early out Sunday night.  The South Dakota State players could be playing with big egos because of the home court advantage and before of the lopsided win last week.  Denver could be extremely focused to overcome such a disastrous week.  Sometimes, losing can be the best thing for you.

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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.

 

 

The Jackrabbits are going to have that new basketball team smell in 2017

With a new coach, five players graduating, two players transferring out, and a new coach; it is definitely going to be difficult for people to just pencil in the Jackrabbits as the best team in the Summit League again in 2017.

Iowa State Assistant, TJ Otzelberger, who I may refer to Taco John Ostrich Burger at some point, will be taking over as the head coach of the Jackrabbits.  I’m sorry about making fun of someone’s name, I was forced to watch an episode of One Tree Hill last night, so I’m just in a mood.  Former Coach Scott Nagy left the program for Wright State, which seems like an odd move to most outsiders.

Seriously, the basketball writing in One Tree Hill is awful.  For starters, two brothers for some reason get super excited to go see a Charlotte Bobcats game.  Later on at one point, the team captain walks into the coaches office and the coach tells him he’s going to run the triangle offense this season just for him.  I love that some writer in LA just turned on a 2002 Lakers game and heard the words “triangle offense” and just rolled with it because they didn’t know what else to do.  Then the whole team gets in a fight right as being introduced to the crowd, which just turned into a dog pile fight for literally no reason.  The captain started a fight with his brother, then all the players just reacted to fighting each other with absolutely no build up to fighting each other.  Then in the post game the coach lets the captain remain captain and makes his brother co-captain so they “can figure it out together.”  What a terrible show.  One Tree Hill just makes me worry about…everything on this planet.

Wait, what happend?  I blacked out.

Otzelberger had two separate stints at Iowa State, recently one under Fred Hoiberg and a few more years under Greg McDermott.  He spent a few years at Washington under Lorenzo Romar, who is an idiot, and he has been a part of recruiting some top nationally ranked classes at Iowa State and Washington.  That’s great.  Recruiting classes are everything, especially when you get a bunch of overrated chubs that don’t do a bunch and you cannot even reach the top 25 with that class during the regular season.  I’m mostly referring to Washington’s teams…and no one can talk me out of Craig Brackins being incredibly over hyped at Iowa State.  I believe I saw that at one time in high school he was rated over Blake Griffin.  That worked out.  Don’t take this as me bashing Otzelberger being an overrated recruiter or something, it takes an entire coaching staff to recruit and actually develop their players and team…not just one assistant; and I have no idea how much of a role he had in actually recruiting those players…but if it’s going to be bragged up on the internet by South Dakota State on how great of a recruiter and developer of post players coach that Otzelberger is, we should discuss how worthless of a college basketball player Shawn Kemp Jr was in the process.

Otzelberger’s scheme does not sound all that much different than Nagy’s, he wants the team to get out and run at a fast pace, which is similar to just about what everyone in the conference seems to be moving to.  He basically wants the Jackrabbits to be Omaha, but with defense.  I will say, it appears Otzelberger is incredibly excited for this opportunity with South Dakota State and he sees big things for his new basketball program.

There is a problem with the Jackrabbits as of right now in time.  They currently only have 8 scholarship players returning, and have one junior conference guard committed for next season.  Two of those eight returners redshirted last season.  It’s tough to count out South Dakota State already since North Dakota State almost had the exact same situation in 2014-2015 and they ended up winning the Summit League tournament.

Unless the Jackrabbits get a graduate transfer with one of their remaining scholarships, the team will have no seniors on their roster…which is usually not good, but the Summit League is not going to be filled with seniors in 2017.  Otzelberger may not be going for those transfers as he stated he wanted to go for 4 year players he can develop, but coaches say a lot of things, and coaches have a tendency of going after transfers to load their new teams with some needed experience in their first year when there is a lot of turnover from the year before.  Do you not remember Dana Altman’s CBI run at Oregon in his first season?

The Jackrabbits will return Summit League First Teamer and 6th Man of the Year, Mike Daum, who is a great player.  He is going to go from almost always being the 3rd or 4th option on the court to always being the first option.  Some player do not adjust to that very well, especially as sophomores, and Daum seems like a pretty well mature guy; but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on at how well he adjusts to this.  Denver, Omaha, IUPUI, and South Dakota have quicker forwards that can get out and bother Daum a little; so maybe Jackrabbit fans wont see Daum take a quick jump his sophomore season, as much as they expect.

Another core player returning to the Jackrabbits will be Reed Tellinghuisen, who I really thought took a step back his sophomore season.  His freshman season he appeared to be up there with AJ Jacobson and Tre’Shawn Thurman as one of the top three freshmen in the Summit.  He put on some muscle going into his sophomore season but dropped in field goal percentage from 45% to 40%, dropped in three point field goal percentage from 41% to 37% and dropped in free throw percentage from 66% to 61%.  He was still 7-of-9 from three in Omaha, though.

In most situations this season Tellinghuisen was playing at the 4 with the Jackrabbits, and it was maybe a mistake on the part of the Jackrabbits staff, even if they did have limited options on where to play Tellinghuisen.  I sit with a perfect few of the baseline in Baxter Arena, and Tellinghuisen looked great on offense; but  you could literally see the fear on Tellinghuisen’s face when Tre’Shawn Thurman got the ball on the baseline and Tellinghuisen had to play defense in the post.  He had nothing he could do to Thurman other than just foul him.  Tellinghuisen played best when he was on the court at the same time with Mike Daum and center Ian Theisen in the front court.

That front court has the potential of being the best front court in the Summit League next season.  Theisen has a little bit of Cody Larson with his post game, but needs a little jump shot to really be an all conference player.  Since Otzelberger is apparently such a great developer of post players, perhaps he can make Theisen into an incredibly scary post player for the Jackrabbits.  Or he might just look sweet since the Jackrabbits don’t have many other post players (as of yet) and he will get 35 minutes a game.  Who knows, it’s a crazy world and it’s the Jackrabbits league…we’re just living in it.  The team will be adding Nebraska-native Adam Dykman to the front court, who redshirted his freshman season…and I know a number of people that watch a lot of Nebraska high school basketball that really felt the bigger schools really made a mistake by not recruiting Dykman.

The Jackrabbits went into the 2016 season with having what was expected to be the top back court in the Summit League, and let’s just be happy that the Tra-Deon Hollins & Devin Patterson back court challenged them for that top spot.  The Jackrabbits back court will be relatively unproven going into 2017.  Tevin King will be the only returning player in the back court, and he saw limited action really since he was playing behind three seniors in his freshman season…which sounds great from a development standpoint.  King only shot 4-of-14 on threes in his freshman season, which would worry me as a Jackrabbit fan, and he only shot 59% from the free throw line.

The team recently added 6’1″ guard Andre Wallace from Iowa Western, who could really be a great player in the Summit League for the next two seasons.  He was a 40% three point shooter for the Reivers and had 4 games of scoring 20 or more points in his sophomore season.  He wasn’t known for being a great defender at Iowa Western, which could suck for the Jackrabbits in a guard dominated league.  The Jacks will also have Cole Gentry, a point guard out of Chicago, who redshirted his freshman season.  The redshirt freshmen in the Summit League have been exceptional the last few years: AJ Jacobson, Mike Daum, John Konchar just to name a few…so who knows if Gentry can be a great player right away or not.

With what is going to be an entirely new look for the Jackrabbits, to their roster and their coaching staff, there are going to be a large amount of questions for South Dakota State at the start of the season.  Usually those teams with a lot questions get rated low in preseason rankings, but it’s South Dakota State so they will probably get tabbed as the preseason favorite just because.