The Summit League’s No. 1 seed won’t have to travel far for the conference tournament.
South Dakota’s win at IUPUI, coupled with North Dakota State’s loss at Omaha, made the Coyotes the outright league champions. This is the program’s first Summit title in its sixth year in the league, and eighth year in Division I.
USD will travel the 63 miles from Vermillion to Sioux Fall’s Sanford Center with plenty of momentum. The Coyotes have won six straight games, and beat their opening round opponent (No. 8 Western Illinois) on the road less than a week ago.
It wasn’t that long ago that NDSU seemed primed for the top spot.
The Bison ran out to a 7-1 league start, but went 4-4 over the past month to sink to second place. This included a high-scoring loss Saturday at Omaha, despite 32 points from junior guard Paul Miller. NDSU’s defense has lagged over the stretch, punctuated by allowing the Mavericks to hit 15 of their 29 three-point attempts.
For its part, Omaha is a somewhat surprising No. 3 seed. Just a month ago, the up-tempo Mavericks sat at 7-9 after losing three-straight to start league play. But a 5-2 stretch to close the season flipped their season.
A talented-yet-underachieving Fort Wayne team, as well as South Dakota State field-goal-factory Mike Daum, are among the other story lines that we’ll have more on before the tournament starts on March 4.
Oral Roberts, which finished in last place at 4-12, did not qualify.
The final day of the regular season also featured something that has been a fixture throughout league play: points. Seven of the eight teams in action scored at least 85 points, fitting for a conference that has the highest aggregate field goal percentage (54.2) and three-point percentage (39.6) in the country.
That should make for some fun, high-octane games in Sioux Falls.
The full bracket can be seen here.