Another week, another mix up in the power rankings.
This past week, only three teams escaped unscathed. The league-wide losses speak to its parity, and the standings show how close of a race it’s going to be for the league crown. Last week we wondered if anybody could gain ground on North Dakota State. The answer was “yes.”
The standings shuffle also results in a shuffle of this week’s power rankings. Last week’s edition can be found here.
1. Denver (15-9, 7-4, Previous: 4)
Last Week: 93-69 Win at Oral Roberts, 76-73 OT Win vs Fort Wayne
The Pioneers are rolling, having won four of their last five games. After blowing out Oral Roberts in Tulsa, they returned home to pick up a win over Fort Wayne. Denver is firing on all cylinders offensively, as they’ve taken over the top spot in offensive efficiency in conference play, and have crept up to No. 75 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency nationwide.
This Week: 2/11 at North Dakota State
2. South Dakota (16-10, 7-4, Previous: 2)
Last Week: 91-83 Loss at Nebraska Omaha, 76-66 Win at North Dakota State
A 1-1 split for the week isn’t anything to write home about, but the Coyotes picked up arguably the best win of any team in league play. South Dakota handed NDSU its first home loss since early December, and held the Bison to just 0.99 points per possession in the win. Matt Mooney has now scored at least 20 points in three straight games, and has hit that mark in five of his last six.
This Week: 2/8 at Fort Wayne, 2/11 vs South Dakota State
3. North Dakota State (15-8, 7-3, Previous: 1)
Last Week: 86-81 OT Loss at IUPUI, 76-66 Loss vs South Dakota
Going into last week, it appeared that the Bison were on the verge of running away with the league. However, that quickly changed after losing two straight for the first time since November. Their defense struggled to defend a hot shooting night by IUPUI, and the offense struggled just as much against South Dakota. They still remain in the driver’s seat for the time being, and two home games this week provides an opportunity to get back on track.
This Week: 2/8 vs South Dakota State, 2/11 vs Denver
4. Nebraska Omaha (13-11, 6-5, Previous: 6)
Last Week: 91-83 Win vs South Dakota, 79-67 Win at Western Illinois
A pair of nice wins has the Mavericks back above .500 both overall and in league play. Per usual, the Mavericks were at their best playing up-tempo and forcing turnovers, and forced opponents to turn it over on at least 20 percent of possessions in both wins. Tra-Deon Hollins picked up eight steals last week, and is currently third in the country in steals per game at 3.2.
This Week: 2/8 vs IUPUI, 2/11 at Fort Wayne
5. South Dakota State (12-14, 5-6, Previous: 7)
Last Week: 98-65 Win vs Western Illinois, 74-67 Win vs Oral Roberts
Just two weeks ago, it appeared that South Dakota State was on its way to a season in the cellar. Fast forward, and the Jackrabbits have now won three straight and find themselves on the verge of bursting into the top half of the standings. Mike Daum took home Player of the Week honors, and his 38-point, 14-rebound performance over the weekend makes him the frontrunner for Summit Player of the Year.
This Week: 2/8 at North Dakota State, 2/11 at South Dakota
6. Fort Wayne (16-8, 5-5, Previous: 3)
Last Week: 76-73 Loss at Denver
Despite holding a .500 record in conference, the Mastodons have not played to their potential since the opening weeks of conference play. Since January 9, Fort Wayne has gone 2-4, with wins over IUPUI and Oral Roberts. They go as their jump shooting goes, and their free throw rate (ranked 349th in the country) leaves little room for cold shooting. Fortunately, the Dons have four straight home games where they’re 11-1 on the season, so look for them to make their move soon.
This Week: 2/8 vs South Dakota, 2/11 vs Nebraska Omaha
7. IUPUI (10-14, 4-6, Previous: 8)
Last Week: 86-81 OT Win vs North Dakota State
Only one game for the Jaguars last week, but they came away with arguably their best win of the season against NDSU. A 14-of-24 performance from the three-point line showed how potent the Jags’ offense can be when shots are falling. With so much congestion in the standings, a strong finish to the season could put the Jags in a good spot heading into the conference tournament.
This Week: 2/8 at Nebraska Omaha, 2/11 vs Oral Roberts
8. Western Illinois (7-15, 4-7, Previous: 5)
Last Week: 98-65 Loss at South Dakota State, 79-67 Loss vs Nebraska Omaha
A fast 3-1 start to league play provided optimism for the Leathernecks, but losing six of their last seven has all but eroded that goodwill. They have the lowest offensive efficiency in the league, scoring only 1.00 point per possession. To make matters worse, opponents are shooting 43.3 percent from three-point range against them. That’s dead last in the country.
This Week: 2/8 at Oral Roberts
9. Oral Roberts (7-18, 3-8, Previous: 9)
Last Week: 93-69 Loss vs Denver, 74-67 Loss at South Dakota State
The only team struggling more than Western Illinois is Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles have the league’s longest losing streak at four games, and KenPom projects them to win only one game (vs Western Illinois) the rest of the way. This season is on track to be the worst of Scott Sutton’s tenure at ORU, and could be the first time he fails to hit double digit wins since taking over in 2002.
This Week: 2/8 vs Western Illinois, 2/11 at IUPUI