I’m going to use this space to briefly discuss Fort Wayne’s win over Indiana because I think I can bring a unique perspective, so bear with me.
I grew up in Fort Wayne for 18 years, and still consider it home. I’ve also been an Indiana Hoosiers basketball fan my entire life. Born and bred a Hoosier. I have friends that I’ve known my whole life at both schools.
I was in attendance for last week’s match up between the two, and I knew immediately that Fort Wayne had a shot to pull the upset. I knew Fort Wayne was legit, and realized they were a bigger threat to Indiana than many of my fellow Hoosier fans cared to admit. There was an energy in the building that felt like trouble. By the end of the game, as much as I wanted my Hoosiers to win, I felt a sense of joy when the Mastodons led after the final buzzer. Witnessing history felt more important than fretting over a mid-November loss.
This was a win that put the program on the map. Some may argue that it’s the biggest upset in Indiana basketball history, which is entirely possible. The Mastodons made history that night, and I’m thankful I got to witness it. The Mastodons are legitimate, and should be considered the frontrunners in the conference to get their first NCAA tournament bid in program history.
Fort Wayne (4-2)
Last Week: W 71-68 (OT) vs No. 3 Indiana, W 79-54 vs Mississippi Valley State This Week: 11/28 vs Siena Heights, 11/30 at Austin Peay, 12/3 vs Miami (OH)
Not much more to say here that hasn’t been stated already. They have the best backcourt in the league, and look like a team on a mission.
North Dakota State (5-2)
Last Week: W 83-53 vs Waldorf, L 64-50 at Missouri State This Week: 11/29 at (7) Xavier, 12/2 at North Carolina A&T
The Bison are doing what they’ve always done under Dave Richman: slow the game down and play tough defense. They’re holding teams to 58.9 points per game, which is good for 14th in the country. They play at one of the slowest paces in the nation (319th per Kenpom), but operate efficiently enough to win games. I’m not predicting an upset against Xavier, but the Bison’s style could make it interesting.
South Dakota (6-2)
Last Week: W 80-77 n. Kent State, L 85-58 n. Houston, L 65-57 n. Hofstra, W 72-67 vs Montana This Week: 11/30 at UMKC, 12/3 at Nebraska
The Coyotes are off to the program’s best start since becoming a Division 1 program in 2010. They had a busy week in the Gulf Coast Showcase last week, and will have to recharge their batteries quick as they go on the road twice this week. Transfer guard Trey Dickerson and Matt Mooney have been solid in the backcourt, while Trey Burch-Manning and Tyler Flack have been holding down the frontcourt.
Last Week: L 104-79 at Marquette, L 61-58 at SIU-Edwardsville This Week: 11/30 at Illinois State, 12/3 at Ball State
The Jaguars have one of the strangest non-conference schedules in the Summit League. They hosted two games for a sub-regional of the 2K Classic, and every game from now on will be on the road until league play, save for two home games against Div. II opponents. IUPUI will be battle tested, and should have a chance to build on last season’s fourth place finish.
Nebraska Omaha (2-4)
Last Week: W 112-65 vs Buena Vista, L 94-77 at Eastern Michigan This Week: 11/30 at Cal State Fullerton, 12/3 at Iowa
The Mavericks are once again looking to push the tempo. After finishing last year fifth in adjusted tempo, they’re 22nd in that same Kenpom metric so far this year. They’re scoring 81.7 points per game, but have struggled on the defensive side of the ball by giving up 80.3 points per game. Tra-Deon Hollins is off to a solid start, averaging 9.7 points per game, 6.8 assists per game, and 2.8 steals per game.
Last Week: L 88-85 vs Utah Valley, L 85-80 (OT) at Eastern Washington, W 72-61 n. Sacramento State This Week: 11/30 at Wyoming, 12/3 at Weber State
Denver’s season didn’t pick up until this past week when the Pioneers played three games in five days. Their record might not show it, but Rodney Billups and his teamhave been competitive, and their loss margins total up to only 16 points. The Pioneers are shooting 42.3 percent from three, led by Joe Rosga’s 48.5 percent on nearly seven attempts per game.
South Dakota State (2-4)
Last Week: L 96-89 (OT) at Idaho, L 63-52 vs UC Irvine, L 71-59 vs East Tennessee State, W 81-58 vs Milwaukee This Week: 11/30 vs Minnesota Crookston, 12/3 vs UMKC
The Jackrabbits being this low is probably the league’s biggest surprise. First year coach T.J. Otzelberger’s team has not lived up to expectations. Mike Daum, however, has been as good as advertised by averaging 20.8 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game to open the year.
Western Illinois (2-4)
Last Week: W 91-53 vs Crown, L 81-72 at Miami (OH) This Week: 11/29 at American, 12/3 vs Chicago State
The Leathernecks’ defensive performance couldn’t be more night and day. They’re holding opponents to 36.4 percent from two-point range, which is good for third (!!) in the country. However, they’re getting torched from downtown, allowing teams to shoot 42 percent from distance. They’ve yet to pick up a win against a Div. 1 opponent, but should have a good chance when they host Chicago State this week.
Oral Roberts (1-4)
Last Week: L 68-47 n. Montana This Week: 11/28 vs Tulsa, 12/1 at Oakland, 12/3 at Michigan State
The Golden Eagles desperately miss Obi Emegano’s scoring. They’re averaging just 67.2 points per game, a number that is inflated by an 88-point performance against Mississippi. They struggle to defend the three-point line, giving up 44.2 percent on over 10 makes per game. It’s entirely possible that Oral Roberts goes through the non-conference slate without beating a Div. I opponent.