Through the first couple of weeks, the Summit League has been somewhat underwhelming. There are only three teams with winning records. Only one game can be categorized as a close game on Kenpom (<4 points or OT). South Dakota State is the only team with win streak of more than one game.
That doesn’t mean that can’t change. With each passing week, it becomes more and more clear that South Dakota State is the team to beat, which means they’re going to get everybody’s best shot on a nightly basis. That can make for an interesting dynamic the rest of the way.
You can find last week’s rankings here.
Also, if you’ll allow me a little self promotion, I wrote a piece for SB Nation’s hub site on Mike Daum. I think it’s okay, hopefully you do too.
1. South Dakota State (16-5, 4-0, Previous: 1)
There’s not much more to say here that hasn’t already been said. This offense is an absolute buzzsaw. The Jackrabbits are putting up 90 points per game through four conference games. They’re shooting over 40 percent from three so far. Mike Daum is averaging 30 and 10 in conference play! David Jenkins Jr. and Reed Tellinghuisen are both scoring in the high teens. Other teams simply cannot match their firepower.
This Week: 1/20 at Western Illinois
2. South Dakota (15-5, 3-1, Previous: 3)
The Coyotes bounced back from tough loss at home by picking up a road win against Fort Wayne. They got back to doing what makes them such a tough matchup, which is locking down on defense. They held a potent Mastodon offense to a measly 0.76 points per possession, and they still have the the league’s best defense by a significant margin. The Coyotes are a perfect foil to their in-state adversary, and their matchup next Wednesday will be fascinating to watch.
This Week: 1/17 vs Oral Roberts, 1/20 at Omaha
3. North Dakota State (10-8, 2-2, Previous: 2)
North Dakota State had a weird week, to say the least. They started off by losing on their home court to a Denver team that has struggled all season, but bounced back by handling Oral Roberts with ease. One bright spot for the Bison lately has been the play of freshman point guard Cameron Hunter. They’re 5-2 with Hunter in the starting lineup since he took over the role seven games ago, and he’s given Dave Richman a nice scoring punch.
This Week: 1/16 vs North Dakota, 1/20 at Fort Wayne
4. Fort Wayne (13-8, 2-2, Previous: 5)
Fort Wayne is another team that’s been hard to peg early on. At 2-2, they’ve alternated between wins and losses through their first four. Surprisingly though, the Mastodons have the league’s second defense. In league play, Fort Wayne is holding opponents to under a point per possession, and are holding teams to just a 27.3 clip from distance. If the defense holds up and the offense can return to non-conference form, the Mastodons will be a tough out.
This Week: 1/17 at Western Illinois, 1/20 vs North Dakota State
5. Oral Roberts (7-13, 3-2, Previous: 4)
There’s no shame in losing both games of the Dakota road trip. The Golden Eagles gave a South Dakota State a scare, and looked gassed against North Dakota State two days later. It happens. What’s been the most impressive part about Oral Roberts so far is their balance. Four players are averaging in double figures, and Albert Owens is knocking on the door too. They’re also third in both offensive and defensive efficiency in league play. The early returns continue to be promising from Paul Mills.
This Week: 1/17 at South Dakota, 1/20 vs Denver
6. Denver (7-11, 1-3, Previous: 6)
The Pioneers picked up the most surprising win last week when they got a victory in Fargo. Denver turned in their best defensive performance of conference play, and as a result finally got into the win column. Following it up with a blowout loss to South Dakota kind of halts the momentum, but that’s essentially been the nature of Denver’s season.
This Week: 1/18 at Omaha, 1/20 at Oral Roberts
7. Omaha (6-14, 1-3, Previous: 8)
Another team that finally got into the win column last week! Omaha got their first win by waxing Western Illinois, and came close to knocking off Fort Wayne on the road. The Mavericks had a couple of good showings on offense last week, and have been generally pretty good on that end so far in conference play. Despite playing at a breakneck pace, Omaha is only turning the ball over on 13.3 of their possessions, which is significantly lower than it was in non-conference.
This Week: 1/18 vs Denver, 1/20 vs South Dakota
8. Western Illinois (9-7, 0-3, Previous: 7)
The slide continues for Western Illinois. They beat a Non-D1 last week, but haven’t actually beaten a Division I opponent since December 9. The Leathernecks have just been brutal on offense, and it’s hard to see them getting much better on that end. They’ll need to score to get wins this week.
This Week: 1/17 vs Fort Wayne, 1/20 vs South Dakota State