Speak up now if you picked Western Illinois to be playing for the conference title in the Summit with just a few games remaining on the schedule.
Yeah, we didn't think so.
But that is exactly what will be the case after Western Illinois took out North Dakota State on Thursday night and set up a showdown Saturday against South Dakota State. The winner this weekend will have the inside track to the regular season conference title and the top seed in the conference tournament.
The loser, well, they get the consolation prize of the probable semifinal match-up against North Dakota State. That is not exactly what either team wants despite the results Thursday night.
The Leathernecks moved to 19-5, and 11-2 in the Summit. Meanwhile, North Dakota State slipped back into third place, and a half of a game back of the leaders.
So it will come down to Nate Wolters against the Leathernecks. Yeah, it is safe to say that no one saw this coming, not even the most die-hard of Summit basketball fans.
Thursday night this was about ... well this is really about the missing presence of Taylor Braun. The Bison haven't really been the same since he was taken off the court by a foot injury. That is the real difference in this conference.
Just when you thought the Bison might walk away with it, and in the process deprive the nation of watching Naters Gonna Nate in the NCAA Tournament, tragedy strikes. *sigh*
So Western Illinois, do you have what it takes to take down the leader in the race for the Cousy Award for the top point guard in the nation? Do you have what it takes to turn him into the singular point in the offense for South Dakota State, and still win? Many have tried to isolate the Nater, and yet, they have still come away with losses. Will you be any different?
It will take more than 45 percent shooting from the floor. It will take a heck of a lot more than 58 percent shooting at the free throw line.
Will it require perfection? No, but it will require a level of play that you tried to give last time out against the Jackrabbits and then failed to hold on.
Good luck making it last 40 minutes.