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Summit League Power Rankings: Bison take over the top spot

A new team made its way to the top in this week’s rankings.

NCAA Basketball: Summit Conference Tournament-North Dakota State vs South Dakota State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of Summit League play did not disappoint. It featured high-scoring outputs, games decided by a single possession, and even a game-winner in the closing seconds.

If the first week of play was an indicator of how the league will play out, we’re in for a season that could come down to the wire. Here’s how the teams stack up at the start of the calendar year.

Last week’s rankings can be found here.

Power Rankings

1. North Dakota State (10-5, 2-0, Previous: 2)

Last Week: 80-69 W at SDSU, 82-70 W vs. Nebraska Omaha

The Bison couldn’t have asked for a better start to the conference season. After trailing South Dakota State by 16 in the second half, the Bison rallied back to snap the Jacks’ 34-game home winning streak. They followed it up with a hard-fought win against Nebraska Omaha, and Paul Miller took home some hardware with the Player of the Week Award.

This Week: 1/5 vs. IUPUI

2. Fort Wayne (11-4, 1-1, Previous: 1)

Last Week: 93-91 L vs. Western Illinois, 102-91 vs. Oral Roberts

A loss on their home floor to Western Illinois was completely unexpected, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a bigger Summit League upset all year. The Mastodons’ offense did its thing, averaging 96.5 points over two games, but the team also gave up an average of 92.0 per game. It’s a given that the Dons are going to put up points, but their ability to contain opponents on the other end will determine their fate this season.

This Week: 1/4 at Nebraska Omaha, 1/7 vs. Denver

3. Denver (9-5, 1-0, Previous: 5)

Last Week: 77-73 W vs. Oral Roberts

The Pioneers continue to quietly do their thing. They picked up their sixth consecutive win last week, and have been stifling teams on defense during that time. In those games, Denver has only allowed 61.0 points per game, and scored at least 70 points in five times. Their matchup at Fort Wayne this week is a great opportunity to cement themselves as a contender in the league.

This Week: 1/4 vs. South Dakota, 1/7 at Fort Wayne

4. IUPUI (7-8, 1-0, Previous: 6)

Last Week: 81-60 W vs. Marian, 89-71 W vs. Western Illinois

The Jaguars continue to take care of business on their home court. After picking up two wins last week, Jason Gardner and Co. improved to 5-0 on their home hardwood. Darell Combs poured in 28 points against Western Illinois, and is averaging 30 points per game in his last three conference games dating back to last season. A tough two games in three days awaits as IUPUI makes a road trip to the Dakotas later this week.

This Week: 1/5 at North Dakota State, 1/7 at South Dakota

5. South Dakota State (8-9, 1-1, Previous: 4)

Last Week: 80-69 L vs. North Dakota State, 73-72 W vs. South Dakota

As mentioned above, the Jackrabbits blew a double-digit lead that cost them their home win streak. They followed it up with another tight contest against their in-state rival. Trailing by one in the final seconds, Mike Daum delivered a tough bucket to pick up a victory against South Dakota.

This Week: 1/4 at Western Illinois, 1/7 vs. Nebraska Omaha

6. South Dakota (10-7, 1-1, Previous: 7)

Last Week: 86-69 W vs. Nebraska Omaha, 73-73 L vs. South Dakota State

A 2-0 start to conference play would have been a dream scenario for Craig Smith and the Coyotes. A last-second loss to South Dakota State hurts, but a convincing win over Nebraska Omaha provides reason for optimism. The Coyotes have a tough stretch ahead of them, as they face each of the top four teams in these rankings within the next two weeks.

This Week: 1/4 at Denver, 1/7 vs. IUPUI

7. Western Illinois (4-9, 1-1, Previous: 9)

Last Week: 93-91 W at Fort Wayne, 89-71 L at IUPUI

It’ll be hard for the Leathernecks to get a better win than on the road against Fort Wayne. They used a barrage from the perimeter to send the Mastodons to extinction, hitting 18-37 shots from beyond the arc. Mike Miklusak is having a career year for Billy Wright as he’s increased his scoring average from 5.3 per game last year to 16.4 this year.

This Week: 1/4 vs. South Dakota State, 1/7 vs. Oral Roberts

8. Nebraska Omaha (7-8, 0-2, Previous: 3)

Last Week: 86-69 L at South Dakota, 82-70 L at South Dakota State

As we’ve said all season, the Mavericks have to get stops if they’re going to win games. In their first two games, Omaha’s shots weren’t falling, and its inability to defend was ultimately its undoing. An upcoming three-game stretch against Fort Wayne, South Dakota State, and IUPUI has the Mavericks in danger of starting conference play 0-5.

This Week: 1/4 vs. Fort Wayne, 1/7 at South Dakota State

9. Oral Roberts (4-12, 0-2, Previous: 8)

Last Week: 77-73 L at Denver, 102-91 L at Fort Wayne

Nobody had a tougher opening week than Oral Roberts. Road games against Denver and Fort Wayne in a four-day stretch is as tough of a week as there is in the Summit League. They’ll only have one game this week — a road contest with Western Illinois — which should provide a great opportunity to pick up that first conference win.

This Week: 1/7 at Western Illinois