My trivial Summit League rankings: Jan 6

How is it going? Has the New Year been pretty good to you? Do you have those 6 pack abs yet?  Nope, well that sucks.  At least there is basketball.

I wrote a post for an Oral Roberts at Omaha preview for Saturday, but forgot to hit the “publish” button, so here we are.  We’re going to do some rankings out of my genuine incompetence.

1st – Omaha, 9-8 (2-0)

Last week’s ranking: 3rd

The Mavericks have won three consecutive tough games in a row, however, they have all been at home.  Omaha will face a tough test with three straight road games.

Omaha has 4 veteran leaders who can help power them through tough moments in games, combining that with sophomore role players like Zach Thornhill, Wanjang Tut, and Marlon Ruffin will make the Mavericks a tough beat for anyone in the conference.

Also, it should be worth noting the Mavericks started 2020 with a three point field goal by Tut and two swishes at the free throw line by Matt Pile.

2nd – North Dakota State, 11-5, (2-0)

Last week’s ranking: 2nd

Why would Omaha jump over North Dakota State for the top ranking when they’re both 2-0 in the conference?  The Mavericks defeated Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, two teams who received 1st Place votes in the Summit League Preseason Coaches’ Poll.  North Dakota State defeated Denver and Western Illinois, two of the worst teams in the Summit League.

3rd – South Dakota State, 11-5 (2-1)

Last week’s ranking: 5th

After losing to Omaha, the Jackrabbits defeated Oral Roberts and then gave a full out beat down to Western Illinois.

This has been with a lack of depth due to injuries to Brandon Key and Tray Buchanan, and with only returning 15% of their scoring from last season.  I guess I’m impressed.

Luckily, for the Jackrabbits, they are loved by the Summit League office. This week will be their toughest week, travel wise, as they travel to Denver and then all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play the Mastodons.  Pretty cool it comes on winter break.

Aside from my psycho conspiracy theory, prior to the start of the season Eric Henderson said this team was going to have to play an unselfish brand of basketball and the team was going to have to make up their loss in scoring from last season as an entire unit.  They have done just that, and they have started the conference season off strong.

4th – North Dakota, 8-8, (2-0)

Last week’s ranking: 6th

When reviewing the Fighting What Are They Nows over the summer, I was impressed at how much they had returning and it appeared as if Paul Sather could be a great fit for what they had as a team.

North Dakota has won 3 of their last 4, one of those wins at Nebraska.  North Dakota might be real, and another team to showcase just how deep and even the Summit League is this year.

Also, Marlon Stewart is averaging 25.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists to start off the Summit League this season.  That’s okay.

5th – South Dakota, 10-7, (1-2)

Injuries plagued the Coyotes last season, and much of the same has happened this season.  Senior point guard Triston Simpson was able to return at the start of the Summit League season, but the Coyotes dropped road games to Western Illinois and Fort Wayne, as Simpson struggled.

They also defeated Denver by just 2 points at home.  The Coyotes’ next three games will be against Omaha, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State.  This could be another long season if the Coyotes do not find themselves at full strength soon.

You could argue that none of this really matters, as all that matters in this league is who wins the Summit League championship game.  This was supposed to be the Coyotes’ year, and Todd Lee’s expectations for this team was to win the regular season and to at least make the NIT.

6th – Oral Roberts, 7-8 (0-2)

Last week’s ranking: 4th

The Golden Eagles dropped their first two conference games, and will have two tough tests at home as both North Dakota schools make their way to Tulsa…also North Dakota schools traveling to Oklahoma in January has got to be like traveling to Phoenix for a normal person.

Oral Roberts really should have beat Omaha. They had the size advantage in a generally evenly called game by the referees, but poor shot selection and turnovers have been an issue for this team for two seasons.

7th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 8-9, (1-1)

Last week’s ranking: 7th

It’s nice Fort Wayne was able to take advantage of a hobbled South Dakota team, but as the only person in Omaha who has watched the Mastodons play this season, I can tell you this team has a real problem with execution and finishing.

8th – Western Illinois, 4-9, (1-2)

Last week’s ranking: 9th

Congratulations to the Leathernecks on winning their conference opener and starting off the conference season with less fear of not making the Summit League tournament, like past seasons.  Billy Wright must be very proud.

Western Illinois’ next three games will be at home against Fort Wayne, Denver, and Oral Roberts.  Oral Roberts has not won in Macomb since 2016.  I think Western Illinois treats Oral Roberts coming to Macomb like their Mega Bowl.

If the Leathernecks can win their next three games, you know what, I’m not going to draw any conclusions, if they win their next three games they will be 4-2 in the conference and that’s all I have to say about that.

9th – Denver, 4-13 (0-3)

Last week’s ranking: 8th

No one had high expectations for this team for a reason. David Nzekwesi hasn’t turned out the way anyone thought he would, and Rodney Billups calling out his work ethic in public probably didn’t help.

Freshmen Robert Jones and Roscoe Eastmond have showed potential as future stars in the league, though.

 

 

 

 

A biased and trivial Summit League preseason ranking preview: The top tier

Here it is. The top 3 teams in this exercise.

I mentioned there are 3 tiers to the Summit League. The bottom tier, which is just Denver. The middle tier which was 5 teams who’s seasons will depend on health and rest against each other, as they have some talent, but may not be that deep.

Then we have the top tier here. These three teams are stacked with talent, and will be able to survive health issues, should they arise. The top tier are the locks to finish in the top three. They’ll all be competing for a top 2 spot in the Summit League tournament for that extra day of rest.

All three teams should end up receiving Mid Major Top 25 votes at some point in the season.

alec


South Dakota

Projected Conference Wins: 11 to 13

Projected Regular Season finish: 1st to 3rd

Key returning players: Brandon Armstrong (Sr), Tyler Hagedorn (Sr), Cody Kelley (Sr), Tyler Peterson (Sr), Triston Simpson (Sr), Stanley Umude (Jr),

The Coyotes have one of the best teams the Summit League has seen on paper in a while. They’ve really got it all: size, depth, experience, athleticism, shooting, speed, defense.

In Todd Lee’s first year, South Dakota faced injuries up and down the roster, sometimes only playing 7 players on a given night. 6’10” Tyler Hagedorn faced an injury in the beginning of the year elected to use his redshirt for the 2018-2019 season.

Hagedorn was selected as a 2nd Team All Conference player in the preseason. He was actually healthy and practicing with the team half way though the season, but he didn’t want to play just half a season. Without Hagedorn in the lineup, South Dakota didn’t have a go to player in the post, and it obviously impacted the Coyotes’ season as they lost 11 games by 7 points or less, 6 games in the Summit League. With Hagedorn back in the lineup, the Coyotes can close those gaps and turn this season around.

According to Jeff Goodman, Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver and will be eligible to play this season. Heiman did not play in South Dakota’s exhibition game against Concordia St. Paul, so it’s still unclear if the 6’10” sophomore will play or still use a redshirt this season.

Lee claimed in order to be good at this level in college basketball, you have to be experienced, and the Coyotes certainly have experience.

The combined total of division one minutes on the Coyotes’ active roster is 11455 career minutes. That’s more than 1000 minutes over the next closest in the Summit League, North Dakota State. The 11455 minutes, does not include Heiman’s minutes at Nebraska.

If Heiman doesn’t play, he’ll be on the practice squad and scout team with Nebraska-Kearney transfer Kanon Koster and Augustana transfer A.J. Plitzuweit. They could have some competitive practices.

The Coyotes are returning 85% (2nd most) of their conference scoring from last season, 75% (2nd most) of their conference rebounding, and 82% (5th most) of their 3 point field goals made in conference play.  None of that is including Tyler Hagedorn.

If you recall, I said there might not be anyone in the league with 40 better minutes at point guard than Omaha with KJ Robinson and Ayo Akinwole, well, South Dakota will have 40 great minutes at point guard with seniors Triston Simpson and Cody Kelley. Simpson also did not play in the Coyotes’s exhibition game, so maybe the injuries are already starting to mount up. They will also have freshman Kruz Perrot-Hunt at point guard, who played for the same New Zealand basketball organization as Nebraska’s Tai Webster.

I don’t know how to pronounce Perrot-Hunt, but I hope it sounds Parrot Hunt.

Lee said with such an experienced roster, it takes a load off the shoulders of the coaches, and if his staff can’t see success, then that means he’s not that good of a coach. If he can’t finish in the top 3 with this team, it probably will be all of his fault and someone will point and laugh. Except for a Coyote fan, they’ll probably throw fruit at him.


Oral Roberts

Projected Conference Wins: 11 to 14

Projected Regular Season Finish: 1st to 3rd

Key returning players: RJ Fuqua (So), Sam Kearns (Sr), Emmanuel Nzekwesi (Sr), Kevin Obanor (So), DeShang Weaver (So),

The Golden Eagles were another team to face injury problems last year. One of the best players in the league, Emmanuel Nzekwesi missed 6 conference games last year, but thankfully he was healthy enough to play against Omaha both times… Head Coach Paul Mills stated that Nzekwesi is as healthy as he has ever been, and had one of the best summers he’s ever seen anyone have in all of years of coaching, so Nzekwesi has the potential to be the best player in the league.

You’ll hear the likes of Omaha, South Dakota State, and Fort Wayne talk about trying to replace what they lost from last season, but Oral Roberts doesn’t need to bring it up. The Golden Eagles are bringing back their top 4 scorers from last season to go along with Nzekwesi.

In addition to bringing back their main core, the Golden Eagles are adding experience for immediate impacts to the roster. They are adding two graduate transfers, Deondre Burns from Arkansas-Little Rock and Ty Lazenby from Oklahoma (don’t get super duper excited, he hardly played at Oklahoma, but still).

The team is also bringing back point guard R.J. Fuqua who redshirted his sophomore season, after averaging 8 points and 3 assists as a freshman. Fuqua once had 17 points and 8 assists in a 19 point win over Omaha, so that’s cool. The Golden Eagles committed the most turnovers in the Summit League last season, which led to them committing the most fouls in the conference. If Fuqua’s return can help with the turnovers, that could help Oral Roberts win more games this season. That sounds like that’s how basketball statistics work.

Mills has said that taking care of the basketball has been a major emphasis for the team. His staff has also required the team to carry basketballs with them everywhere on campus. You know, like in the middle school when you had to dress up 2-liter bottle and pretend you had a baby. He compared it to “Remember the Titans” when they made the players carry footballs around school, but I like my comparison better.

Oral Roberts has the biggest roster in the Summit League, which creates mismatches all over the place, but those mismatches aren’t incredibly beneficial if they’re turning over the ball and giving up so many fast break opportunities to the quicker teams in the conference.

Unlike other top teams like South Dakota and North Dakota State, Oral Roberts doesn’t have an instate conference rival to fluster them in some game. It doesn’t really seem like Oral Roberts really has a rivalry with anyone in the Summit League, being so far away from everyone.


North Dakota State

Projected Conference Wins: 9 to 13

Projected Regular Season Finish: 1st to 4th

Key returning players: Sam Griesel (So), Cameron Hunter (Jr), Rocky Krueser (Jr),  Jared Samuelson (Sr), Vinnie Shahid (Sr), Tyson Ward (Sr),

It makes perfect sense for everyone to pick the Bison as the preseason favorite. They won the conference tournament last season, and they return everything to their roster except for Deng Geu.

Please remember this is all based on the regular season might shake out, and the Bison are going to be a threat to anyone on any given day. Their style of play, however, can lead to games being played close, and they can still sometimes do things like lose to Denver like they did last season.

They won the conference tournament, but the Bison are a still a team that finished tied for 3rd last season. They’re returning 85% of their scoring from last season, but they don’t have anything to impact or change that 3rd place finish, like South Dakota has Hagedorn coming back, and Oral Roberts had 3 guys with experience coming in. The Bison are simply just still good.

Cameron Hunter did see a dip in production his sophomore season as compared to his freshman season, mostly due to a wrist injury, so if he can be healthy that can be a jump for the team.

Offensively, statistically the Bison weren’t anything spectacular last season, ranking in the bottom half of the league in most categories, yet defensively they were in the top half. This isn’t a knock at them being bad, it’s just more of a testament that they play games close and it sometimes can keep a team in the game and they can lose a head scratcher from time to time. The biggest thing on the side of the Bison is their team chemistry and experience, and that will go a long way, which is why they should finish in the top 3 in the conference.

A big obstacle of the Bison will be their schedule. Yes, everyone plays each other twice, but the Bison have a hard time with travel.

The Bison are playing at Oral Roberts, South Dakota State, Western Illinois, Omaha, and South Dakota all on weeknights; and each time they play their in-state rival North Dakota will be after tough contests with South Dakota. Last season, the Bison were 1-4 on conference road games played on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and they were 3-0 on conference Saturday away games.

A big key to winning those weeknight away games will be more consistent play from senior point guard Vinnie Shahid. Shahid struggled to adapt to the Summit League as a junior college transfer, but eventually found his stride. In a 5 game winning streak from January 26th to Valentine’s Day, Shahid scored 21.6 points per game, shot 50% on threes, and dished out 4.2 assists per game. After the streak, the Bison lost 3 of their last 4 with Shahid scoring 12.5 points per game, which includes a 19 point performance in a 1 point loss against South Dakota State.

I looked that up, because once I felt like most teams were bad on the road during weeknight games, and it wasn’t really everyone. The Bison have historically been bad playing on the road on weeknights. Other teams, not as bad.

Regardless of what happens, the Bison will be ready come March. Their style of play wears teams down, and the Bison will be able to play 12 men deep with their roster. They essentially have the best scenario for playing 3 games in 3 or 4 days.


My trivial Preseason Summit League rankings

1st  South Dakota

2nd  Oral Roberts

3rd  North Dakota State

4th  Omaha

5th  North Dakota

6th  Western Illinois

7th  Fort Wayne

8th  South Dakota State

9th  Denver