I find preseason rankings dumb, but I admit they are fun to talk about for a couple minutes. I laugh when football preseason rankings for conferences try to predict a conference record for each team and the math does not add up. Everyone is going to go 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, and one team will go 0-9. It’s cool.
So, I did something different. From the time the conference schedule was announced, once a week I would go through the schedule and predict who would win based on different thought processes. Who has the most new comers, who has the most coming back, who has the best defense, who has the best offense, who just sucks on the road, and so on. I added up all the wins and losses and came up with rankings. It’s dumb, and crazy what you can do with your time when your wife spends 50 hours a week in a research lab on top of working on her PhD. It is more fun than Paul Finebaum telling you every SEC team will go undefeated except for two of them.
1. Fort Wayne
Win range: 12 to 13
Overview: It appears to be difficult to find a big glaring weakness in the Mastodons. They are athletic, and adaptable to play big or play in a small ball offense. They replaced what they graduated with experience and even more (on paper) athleticism. They are expected to have more depth this season to actually last through the entire Summit League Tournament at the end of the year, but hopefully they do not lose anyone to an academic issue.
- If Jon Coffman continues to have Bradley transfer Xzavier Taylor come off the bench, Taylor will win the Sixth Man of the Year for the Summit League.
- Fort Wayne will upset Arkansas in the first weekend of college basketball.
Win range: 11 to 14
Overview: So, this is my bad. At first, I thought IUPUI was the most stacked team in the Summit League and were incredibly under the radar, which is a bad combination for their opponents. Since I started doing this, the Jaguars had two key contributors just leave the team with no explanation, and an incoming graduate transfer just disappear.
The Jaguars are not going to be the scrappy defensive team that they were last year, but should be expected to be an actual fluid running offense. With the losses of Nick Osborne and Jordan Pickett from their bench, the Jaguars could be dropping to 4th or 5th already. None of this is all going to stay to form, but damn it this is the idiotic system I chose.
3. North Dakota State
Win range: 10 to 12
Overview: Kenpom gave the Bison the highest ranking in their preseason ratings. They are the only team in the Summit League that made the top 100.
It was announced that junior guard Malik Clements will miss the entire season with an injury, which could be a blow to the Bison. The team does have the depth to recover from this, but their bench is relatively young.
Junior forward AJ Jacobson is also out right now after having thumb surgery, but not expected to be out long-term.
- Deng Geu will win the Summit League Freshman of the year…he will give the Bison the much needed athleticism that they have needed at center for the last two seasons. Geu will serve as a large impact when the Jackrabbits face some of the best post players in the league like: Mike Daum, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and Matt O’Leary
- The Bison will win more than 20 games and end the season in the CBI.
Win range: 11 to 13
Overview: The Mavericks have put together a difficult non-conference schedule to figure things out about themselves early, for the money, and because they are confident in themselves…but probably mostly for the money.
If you heard anyone talk about the Mavericks, you would think they have 12 newcomers on the team. They lost two All-Conference players, but with Marcus Tyus coming back, the Mavericks will be contending with Fort Wayne for the best back court in the league.
With the loss of Jake White, the Mavericks have to figure out what do in their post. You could make an argument that Tre’Shawn Thurman is the best forward in the Summit League behind Mike Daum, but there will be nights Thurman gets into foul trouble and the Mavericks will need to find an answer those nights. Zach Pirog’s weight went from 200 to 220 according to the official roster. Let’s hope that is true and he can become an essential piece off the bench, along with Daniel Meyer.
Crazy prediction: When South Dakota State visits Omaha, the attendance reaches 4,000.
5. South Dakota State
Win range: 6 to 11
Overview: Mike Daum is obviously fantastic. The rest of his team is rather unproven and has a number of questions. Things could go really well for the Jackrabbits, or really bad in comparison to their expectations.
With the loss of three extremely valuable guards, and a few transfers, the Jacks appear to be asking their newcomers to be making up the most ground as compared to Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, and Omaha.
The Jacks landed two seniors as transfers to help make up for the loss. 6’7″ forward AJ Hess from Southern Utah, who ended 2015-2016 early with an injury and helped the Thunderbirds go 25-67 with him in the lineup. Michael Orris, from Northern Illinois, is not known as a huge offensive threat at point guard, but could give defensive problems to some of the best point guards in the league like Tra-Deon Hollins, Mo Evans, and Kellon Thomas. That is actually kind of scary.
The Jacks did not play two players expected to be contributors this season in their one exhibition game, Cole Gentry and Ian Theisen. Not sure what is going on there. I wish Omaha had exhibition games. I get why they don’t, but it would be nice.
- South Dakota State will lose AT Denver
- Mike Daum will not win Player of the Year, this year
6. South Dakota
Win range: 4 to 7
Overview: This team reminds me of when the Mavericks had a relatively new roster with just CJ Carter and Mike Rostampour as the main characters returning. The Coyotes have more talent than they did last year, but bringing together and finding chemistry on the court could be a large issue for this team.
Everyone in the Summit plays each other twice, but the roughest part of the Coyotes schedule is three away games in a row against Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne. Ouch.
- Nebraska fans will add South Dakota point guard Triston Simpson to the list of Nebraska natives that they are angry about that the Huskers did not recruit. It gets worse since he is from Lincoln.
- South Dakota will defeat North Dakota State in Vermillion
Win range: 3 to 6
Overview: The Pioneers have some talent, but Rodney Billups is trying to change their entire culture. They are also quite young, which can be a huge issue for a first year coach trying to change everything.
Not so crazy prediction: LetsGoDU will write eight different pieces during the season on how the Pioneers should join a new conference.
Crazy prediction: The Pioneers will go 0-8 on the road in the Summit League
8. Western Illinois
Win range: 1 to 4
Having a coach with the charisma and inspiration of a terrible avocado, the Leathernecks could have another long season. They are going to pick up some stupid win and maybe even two where some team overlooks them. Let’s just hope Omaha takes them, and everyone, seriously this season.
Crazy prediction: Freshmen Jeremiah Usiosefe will become the second leading scorer for Western Illinois and be the Leathernecks’ hope for the future. He will make the All Newcomer team.
9. Oral Roberts
Win range: 2 to 4
This team appears as if they will be horrendous on defense, and will struggle to score the ball as well. All good things.
Crazy prediction: Like usual, the Golden Eagles have put together a difficult non-conference schedule…with this, they will not win 10 game this season overall.