If you missed the news of North Dakota joining the Summit League, you can catch a recap of that here. The change will take place at the start of the 2018-19, and brings the league up to 10 teams, which means two teams will miss out on the conference tournament every year instead of one.
Last week’s edition of the power rankings handed out midseason awards, and that can be found here. Now, back to the regular programming.
1. North Dakota State (15-6, 7-1, Previous: 1)
Last Week: 81-71 Win vs Oral Roberts
The midseason awards were admittedly Bison-heavy, but it’s hard to make a case against the team that has clearly been the league’s best. Dave Richman is well on his way to his third straight 20-win season, and there’s every reason to believe they will be regular season champs. Three of their next four games are at home, which could give them a chance to lock up the title early. Currently, Joe Lunardi has them as a 15-seed in his most recent bracket.
This Week: 2/1 at IUPUI, 2/4 vs South Dakota
2. South Dakota (15-9, 6-3, Previous: 2)
Last Week: 62-55 Win vs Western Illinois, 88-83 Win vs Denver
Of South Dakota’s nine league games, seven have been within 10 points or less. The Coyotes have established a penchant for close games, and their ability to win the close ones is the difference between second place and seventh place. The Coyotes are in the best position to challenge NDSU for the league crown, but an upcoming stretch of three road games could make or break those aspirations. Their trip to Fargo this weekend will be as close to a must-win as possible for Craig Smith’s crew.
This Week: 2/1 at Nebraska Omaha, 2/4 at North Dakota State
3. Fort Wayne (16-7, 5-4, Previous: 5)
Last Week: 103-73 Win vs IUPUI, 87-83 Win at Oral Roberts
The entire league should take notice of the Dons’ win against IUPUI. Their 103-point outing showed just how lethal their offense can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. John Konchar has been playing his best basketball of the year, and fittingly took home Summit League Player of the Week honors. With a favorable schedule remaining, keep an eye on Fort Wayne to make a run.
This Week: 2/4 at Denver
4. Denver (13-9, 5-4, Previous: 3)
Last Week: 91-82 Win vs South Dakota State, 88-83 Loss at South Dakota
For the second week in a row, the Pioneers split their pair of games and continue to sit in the middle of the standings. They had an opportunity to close out what would have been a great road win at South Dakota, but going 6-for-17 from three-point range was ultimately their undoing. The Pioneers have beaten up on teams in the lower half of the standings, and are 1-3 against the top three.
This Week: 1/31 at Oral Roberts, 2/4 vs Fort Wayne
5. Western Illinois (7-13, 4-5, Previous: 8)
Last Week: 62-55 Loss at South Dakota, 78-69 Win vs IUPUI
In each of the last two seasons, the Leathernecks finished 3-13 in conference play. Just over halfway through this season, they’ve already surpassed that mark. Their performance in league play has been the biggest contrast compared to the non-con of any team in the league. However, they have the toughest schedule remaining, and KenPom doesn’t project them to win any of their remaining seven games.
This Week: 2/1 at South Dakota State, 2/4 vs Nebraska Omaha
6. Nebraska Omaha (11-11, 4-5, Previous: 4)
Last Week: 88-84 Loss vs South Dakota State
A two-game skid has the Mavericks back under .500 after a four-game win streak had them at 4-3 in league play. They continue to play at the fastest tempo in the league, but their opponents have been able to score with ease during the losing streak. In those two losses, the Mavericks gave up 103 and 88 points, respectively, which wasted some good offense. Getting a couple more stops each game could’ve turned those losses into wins.
This Week: 2/1 vs South Dakota, 2/4 at Western Illinois
7. South Dakota State (10-14, 3-6, Previous: 9)
Last Week: 91-82 Loss at Denver, 88-84 win at Nebraska Omaha
34.7 Points, 7.3 rebounds, 19-of-31 from three-point range. Those are Mike Daum’s gaudy numbers in the last three games, two of which resulted in Jackrabbit victories. His performance against Fort Wayne was the best of any Summit League player this year. Daum poured in 42 points, and hit 10(!!)-of-15 from distance. Their record might not show it, but the Jackrabbits will not be an easy matchup down the stretch.
This Week: 2/1 vs Western Illinois, 2/4 vs Oral Roberts
8. IUPUI (9-14, 3-6, Previous: 6)
Last Week: 103-73 Loss at Fort Wayne, 78-69 Loss at Western Illinois
Similar to South Dakota, IUPUI has played in their fair share of close games. Seven of the Jaguars’ contests have been decided by 11 points or less, but the Jags have come up short in five of those. Closing out games has been the biggest issue for IUPUI this year, and they’ll be hard-pressed to match their 9-7 mark in conference play from last season. A home game against NDSU is the perfect place to start though.
This Week: 2/1 vs North Dakota State
9. Oral Roberts (7-16, 3-6, Previous: 7)
Last Week: 81-71 Loss at North Dakota State, 87-83 Loss vs Fort Wayne
Having to face North Dakota State and Fort Wayne in the same week is brutal, and the Golden Eagles paid for it. A pair of losses dropped Oral Roberts to 3-6 in league play, and their remaining schedule doesn’t provide much hope. Four of their final seven are on the road, and two of their home games are against Denver and North Dakota State. Matching their 6-10 mark from last year seems like the most likely scenario at this point for the Golden Eagles.
This Week: 1/31 vs Denver, 2/4 at South Dakota State