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Summit League Power Rankings: Down to a two-horse race

Can the Bison hold onto their lead?

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

Before we get into things, take a look at this wild shot from North Dakota State’s Khy Kabellis:

The middle of the Summit League is just as congested as it has been all season, but two teams have created separation up top: North Dakota State and South Dakota.

Summit Standings 2/13

The two teams have split their two meetings this year, so it will come down to their remaining games. North Dakota State has four games left, while South Dakota has just three remaining. It should be a fun finish.

Last week’s rankings can be found here.

Power Rankings

1. South Dakota (18-10, 9-4, Previous: 2)

Last Week: 93-82 Win at Fort Wayne, 91-89 Win vs South Dakota State

The Coyotes are peaking at the perfect time. Their three-game win streak that includes road wins against North Dakota State and Fort Wayne has kept them in the race for first place. Their remaining schedule consists of games against Western Illinois, Oral Roberts, and IUPUI. Taking care of business could push the Coyotes into first place heading down the stretch.

This Week: 2/18 vs. Oral Roberts

2. North Dakota State (17-8, 9-3, Previous: 3)

Last Week: 82-65 Win vs. South Dakota State, 81-63 Win vs. Denver

After a brief two-game skid, the Bison got back to their winning ways with two convincing home wins. The pair of victories started on the defensive end, where the Bison held both opponents under 1.00 points per possession while owning the glass. Their remaining schedule sends them on the road for three of their last four, and they haven’t had the same success away from Fargo. The Bison are 10-2 on their home court, but only 6-5 on the road. Gut check time.

This Week: 2/15 at Fort Wayne, 2/18 vs. Western Illinois

3. Denver (15-10, 7-5, Previous: 1)

Last Week: 81-63 Loss at North Dakota State

The potent Pioneer offense left its prowess at home on their trip to Fargo. They struggled from the outside, going only 5-25 from distance, and Daniel Amigo couldn’t build a rhythm on the interior. KenPom projects Denver to win each of its remaining four games, but it might need some help from the teams above in order to capture a share of the regular season title.

This Week: 2/14 at Western Illinois, 2/19 vs. IUPUI

4. Fort Wayne (17-9, 6-6, Previous: 6)

Last Week: 93-82 Loss vs. South Dakota, 108-101 OT Win vs. Nebraska Omaha

Death, taxes, the Mastodons putting up a ton of points. Last week’s games captured the Fort Wayne experience with two high-scoring games and minimal defense. John Konchar stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis, and the advanced stats show it. Konchar is ranked fourth in the country in KenPom’s efficiency rating, and the Mastodons will need him to continue his stellar play if they hope to go dancing.

This Week: 2/15 vs. North Dakota State, 2/18 vs. South Dakota State

5. IUPUI (11-15, 5-7, Previous: 7)

Last Week: 89-78 Win at Nebraska Omaha, 74-68 vs. Oral Roberts

Jason Gardner and Co. carried the momentum of a big win over North Dakota State on the road as they picked up a win over the Mavericks. That momentum sputtered when they returned to Indianapolis, as a cold shooting night was their downfall against Oral Roberts. Their remaining schedule will test them, and they’ll likely need to win at least one to solidify their spot in the Summit League tournament.

This Week: 2/15 at South Dakota State, 2/19 at Denver

6. Nebraska Omaha (13-13, 6-6, Previous: 4)

Last Week: 89-78 Loss vs. IUPUI, 108-101 OT Loss at Fort Wayne

The Mavericks are another team that failed to take advantage of their chance to climb in the standings. The Indiana schools scored at will against them in their two losses, and the Mavs’ offense couldn’t keep up. Their defense has struggled when they aren’t able to force turnovers, as their opponents’ eFG percentage of 54.7 percent is 320th out of 351 teams nationally.

This Week: 2/16 vs. Oral Roberts

7. Western Illinois (8-15, 5-7, Previous: 8)

Last Week: 63-60 Win at Oral Roberts

It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win no matter how it comes or who it’s against. The Leathernecks almost blew a 60-47 lead with just over five minutes to play, but they held on to keep themselves out of the league’s basement. They get the pleasure of facing the top four teams in the standings and these rankings to close out the season. Ouch.

This Week: 2/14 vs. Denver, 2/18 at North Dakota State

8. South Dakota State (12-16, 5-8, Previous: 5)

Last Week: 82-65 Loss at North Dakota State, 91-89 Loss at South Dakota

Hitting the road to face their fellow Dakota schools was just a harsh week for the Jackrabbits. Despite big efforts from Mike Daum and Reed Tellinghuisen, the Jacks came away with a pair of losses. After making the NCAA Tournament last year, the Jackrabbits are in danger of missing the Summit League tournament completely. They need wins, and they need them now.

This Week: 2/15 vs. IUPUI, 2/18 at Fort Wayne

9. Oral Roberts (8-19, 4-9, Previous: 9)

Last Week: 63-60 Loss vs. Western Illinois, 74-68 Win at IUPUI

A 1-1 week keeps the Golden Eagles in contention for the Summit League tournament, but the road there is daunting. Two road games and a home game against NDSU is a tall task for a team with little margin for error. They’ll need to win one — possibly two — if they don’t want to be the odd man out, and even that might not get the job done.

This Week: 2/16 at Nebraska Omaha, 2/18 at South Dakota