To be quite honest, I don’t have the slightest clue who the best team in the league is at this point in the season.
North Dakota State got off to a hot start, but just lost to Denver by over 20 points. Fort Wayne might have the highest ceiling and best offense, but is prone to cold shooting nights. South Dakota probably has the best collection of wins, but the Coyotes are ranked last in offensive efficiency in conference play.
All three of those teams are projected to go 10-6 in conference play, per KenPom, and two others are projected to go 9-7. That makes it incredibly hard to pinpoint who the best team is at this point. It would almost be easier to pull the teams out of a hat and go from there.
Alas, here’s how the Summit League maybe/kind of/sort of stacks up this week. Last week’s rankings can be found here.
1. South Dakota (13-8, 4-2, Previous: 3)
Last Week: 70-69 Loss vs North Dakota State, 66-63 Win vs Fort Wayne
As mentioned above, the Coyotes probably have the best collection of wins. They have three solid home wins against Nebraska Omaha, IUPUI and Fort Wayne, and a really nice win at Denver. Also, if it weren’t for a late foul call against North Dakota State, Craig Smith would be 5-1 in his first year of Summit League play. What the Coyotes lack in offensive firepower, they make up for in defensive fortitude with the league’s best defensive efficiency ranking.
This Week: 1/18 at Oral Roberts
2. North Dakota State (12-6, 4-1, Previous: 1)
Last Week: 70-69 Win at South Dakota, 79-55 Loss at Denver
Picking up a road victory at South Dakota is great, but following it up with a 24-point loss to Denver? Not so much! The Bison’s weaknesses on both sides of the glass were exposed as the Pioneers out-rebounded them 49-27. They’ve lost the battle on the boards in every league game thus far, except their opener against South Dakota State. A huge game awaits this week as Fort Wayne comes to town, and it could end up being what swings a tiebreaker in the end.
This Week: 1/19 vs Fort Wayne, 1/21 at Western Illinois
3. Fort Wayne (14-5, 3-2, Previous: 2)
Last Week: 115-60 Win vs Olivet (NAIA), 66-63 Loss at South Dakota
When the Mastodons are hitting shots, they’re incredibly tough to beat. When they have an off-shooting night - like they did against South Dakota - they are incredibly vulnerable. It’s that simple. They have too many weapons offensively, and shooting 43 percent from three in conference play on nearly 30 attempts per game is a recipe for success. A road trip to the Dakotas this week provides a huge opportunity for the Dons.
This Week: 1/19 at North Dakota State, 1/21 at South Dakota State
4. Denver (11-7, 3-2, Previous: 6)
Last Week: 84-70 Win vs Western Illinois, 79-55 Win vs North Dakota State
It’s been mentioned already, but the Pioneers absolutely took it to North Dakota State last week. Daniel Amigo had 28 points in that game, and has been one of the best stories of the year. After missing 11 games to injury during his freshman year and only getting off the bench in two league games last year, the junior big man is finally flourishing. He’s averaging 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game to give Rodney Billups a bonafide force in the middle.
This Week: 1/18 at Nebraska Omaha, 1/21 at IUPUI
5. Nebraska Omaha (10-9, 3-3, Previous: 7)
Last Week: 79-71 Win at IUPUI, 86-72 Win vs Western Illinois
An 0-3 start to conference play was less than ideal, but the Mavericks have quickly remedied their woes with three straight wins. A 3-3 record is fitting considering they’re scoring 80.5 points per game while giving up 80.7 in conference play. So, what better place to put them than right in the middle of these rankings? Marcus Tyus been getting it done on both ends in league play. He’s averaging 20.7 points per game, and leads the league with 2.7 steals per game.
This Week: 1/18 vs Denver, 1/21 at Oral Roberts
6. IUPUI (8-11, 2-3, Previous: 5)
Last Week: 79-71 Loss vs Nebraska Omaha, 91-85 Win at Oral Roberts
A three-game skid has left the Jaguars with some work to do to get back in the mix, and a win at Oral Roberts is a good place to start. The victory was their first in Tulsa since 2004, and snapped a 10-game losing streak overall to the Golden Eagles. The Jaguars have been in every game, but haven’t been able to close them all out. With home games this week against South Dakota State and Denver, a pair of wins would put them right back in the thick of the conference race.
This Week: 1/18 vs South Dakota State, 1/21 vs Denver
7. Western Illinois (6-11, 3-3, Previous: 4)
Last Week: 84-70 at Denver, 86-72 at Nebraska Omaha
Live by the three, die by the three. When the Leathernecks hit their shots from deep, they can hang with anyone like they did against Fort Wayne. When the shots aren’t falling, their chances are slim. They’re dead last in the country in forcing turnovers, and are in the bottom-six in defending the three point line. A 3-1 record with wins over South Dakota State and Oral Roberts looks nice on paper, but two convincing losses last week might show some regression to the mean for the Leathernecks.
This Week: 1/21 vs North Dakota State
8. Oral Roberts (5-14, 1-4, Previous: 9)
Last Week: 94-88 Win vs South Dakota State, 91-85 Loss vs IUPUI
The Golden Eagles were the last winless team in the league, but finally got into the win column against the struggling Jackrabbits. They’re second in the league in offensive efficiency, but last in defensive efficiency. They still don’t shoot the three well, and still struggle to defend the arc on the other end. However, they take care of the ball and shoot free throws well, a recipe that can usually translate into wins moving forward.
This Week: 1/18 vs South Dakota, 1/21 vs Nebraska Omaha
9. South Dakota State (8-12, 1-4, Previous: 8)
Last Week: 94-88 Loss at Oral Roberts
T.J. Otzelberger’s first season as head coach could not be further from expectations. The Jackrabbits were pegged by many to be one of the teams to beat in the Summit League, but find themselves at the bottom of the standings with a tough schedule coming up. Mike Daum continued to dazzle with another 30-point outing against Oral Roberts, but a last-place finish might keep him from living up to the Player of the Year hype that was bestowed upon him in the preseason.
This Week: 1/18 at IUPUI, 1/21 vs Fort Wayne