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Summit League Power Rankings: Conference play is upon us

Here’s how the Summit League stacks up as conference play begins

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, the non-conference schedule has concluded. No more buy games, no more getting blown out by top-25 teams, and no more speculating on how teams really stack up against each other.

Now that the Summit League teams are set to start conference play, we will finally get a chance to find out who the top teams really are.

The league as a whole went 61-59 (.508) in the non-conference slate, and has held steady as KenPom’s No. 14 overall conference in its rankings. Here are some of the best things to happen in non-conference slate:

  • Fort Wayne upsetting then-No. 3 Indiana in overtime
  • Nebraska Omaha stealing a win from Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena
  • Mike Daum getting buckets on anyone and everyone
  • Oral Roberts coming thiiiiiiiiis close to knocking off No. 10 Creighton

Week 6 Rankings can be found here.

Power Rankings

1. Fort Wayne (10-3, Previous: 1)

Last Week: Win at Detroit

The Mastodons have been at the top of every edition of these rankings, and for good reason. They have been the most consistent team in the league, and look poised to make a run at their second straight regular season title. They’ll have a great opportunity to get off to a 2-0 start in league play as they get Oral Roberts and Western Illinois before the calendar turns to 2017.

This Week: 12/29 vs. Western Illinois, 12/31 vs. Oral Roberts

2. North Dakota State (8-5, Previous: 3)

Last Week: Loss at Arkansas

North Dakota State is traditionally a contender to win the league, and this year isn’t any different. The Bison have a stingy defense that is ranked in the top 100 of the KenPom rankings, play the slowest tempo in the league to grind games out, and should score just enough points to pick up wins.

This Week: 12/28 at South Dakota State, 12/31 vs. Nebraska Omaha

3. Nebraska Omaha (7-6, Previous: 2)

Last Week: Loss at Pittsburgh

The Mavericks are basically the exact opposite of North Dakota State. They play fast, score a ton of points, but give up more than they score. If they hope to be a contender in the league, they’ll have to make vast improvements on the defensive end. They’re currently 339th in the country in opponent PPG, allowing an average of 83.9.

This Week: 12/29 at South Dakota, 12/31 at North Dakota State

4. South Dakota State (7-8, Previous: 5)

Last Week: Win at Drake, Loss at Wichita State

One of the reasons that the Jackrabbits are perennial contenders is because of their play at home. They have the second-longest home win streak in the country with 34 straight, trailing only Kansas at 49. This team isn’t as good as last year’s team that made the NCAA Tournament, but it’ll have a good chance of being in the mix at the end.

This Week: 12/28 vs. North Dakota State, 12/31 vs. South Dakota

5. Denver (8-5, Previous: 7)

Last Week: Wins vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff, UC Riverside

The Pioneers hold the league’s longest current win streak at five games. Rodney Billups and Co. look like they’re finally finding a rhythm, which bodes well for a program that hasn’t finished above .500 in league play in three years.

This Week: 12/28 vs. Oral Roberts

6. IUPUI (5-8, Previous: 4)

Last Week: Loss at Northwestern

IUPUI was one of the bigger surprises last year when the Jaguars finished fourth in the league at 9-7. They played a tough non-conference schedule, which should have them prepared for conference play. Darell Combs and Matt O’Leary are one of the best 1-2 punches in the conference, and are averaging a combined 31.4 points per game.

This Week: 12/28 vs. Marian (NAIA), 12/31 vs. Western Illinois

7. South Dakota (9-6, Previous: 6)

Last Week: Loss at No. 7 Gonzaga

The Coyotes started the year with five straight wins, but went 4-6 in their final 10 games of non-conference play. They’ll need to shoot the ball better in conference play if they want to compete. This season they’re shooting 46.6 percent (281 of 351) from the floor, and an abysmal 30.9 percent (305 of 351) from behind the arc.

This Week: 12/29 vs. Nebraska Omaha, 12/31 at South Dakota State

8. Oral Roberts (4-10, Previous: 9)

Last Week: Wins vs. Little Rock, vs. Richmond

The Golden Eagles picked up two nice wins over Little Rock and Richmond heading into conference play. It’ll be tough to maintain that momentum though, as they start with two tough road games at Denver and then Fort Wayne.

This Week: 12/28 at Denver, 12/31 at Fort Wayne

9. Western Illinois (3-8, Previous: 8)

Last Week: Loss at No. 15 Purdue

Things aren’t looking good for Billy Wright and Western Illinois. The Leathernecks have struggled all year, and aren’t favored in any conference games. Facing Fort Wayne, IUPUI, and South Dakota State is as tough a start as any, and it may be difficult for them to match their 3-13 conference record of the last two seasons.

This Week: 12/29 at Fort Wayne, 12/31 at IUPUI