Another week, another disappointing showing from the Summit League.
Last week’s action decreased the total of teams with winning records in conference play from three to two. Only 3 of 23 games are classified as close games (<4 points or OT) on Kenpom, which is the second lowest rate in the country. It’s damn near impossible to figure out these rankings after the top two teams.
Luckily, this week features a matchup between those top teams. South Dakota State travels to Vermillion to defend their undefeated record against South Dakota. It’s the league’s best offense against the league’s best defense. The two teams split last season’s regular season matchups, but the Jackrabbits got the last laugh in the conference tournament semifinals. It’s going to be extremely good.
1. South Dakota State (17-5, 5-0, Previous: 1)
There isn’t an offense in the country that’s been more efficient in conference play than South Dakota State. Per Kenpom, the Jackrabbits are averaging 1.271 points per possession in Summit League play, which nudges Villanova’s 1.269 mark for tops in the country. The offense is up to No. 23 in Kenpom, and there’s no signs of slowing down. Power 5 coaches absolutely do not want to see the Jackrabbits get the Summit League’s bid.
This Week: 1/24 at South Dakota, 1/27 vs Fort Wayne
2. South Dakota (17-5, 5-1, Previous: 2)
A pair of convincing wins last week puts the Coyotes right back into the thick of the race. As mentioned above, this week’s matchup against SDSU will be the biggest game of their season. South Dakota has only lost twice (both to NDSU) in two seasons since opening the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, and they’ll need to protect their home court to stay in contention. It could turn into an up-and-down game, so the Coyotes will need all hands on deck to handle the Jackrabbits’ offense.
This Week: 1/24 vs South Dakota State, 1/27 at Denver
3. Fort Wayne (14-9, 3-3, Previous: 4)
Losing in overtime to Western Illinois and following it up with a win against North Dakota State pretty much sums up this Fort Wayne team. When they’re firing on all cylinders, their offense is potent and extremely difficult to stop. But they’e prone to lapses, as they showed in their second half collapse against the Leathernecks. Their matchup with South Dakota State this weekend could be one of the highest scoring games in college basketball this year.
This Week: 1/27 at South Dakota State
4. Denver (8-12, 2-4, Previous: 6)
Denver is starting to show some signs of life. The Pioneers dropped a tough one on the road at Omaha in double OT, but bounced back with a strong win at Oral Roberts. The Pioneers have struggled with turnovers all season, but only turned it over 10 times against the Golden Eagles en route to the win. The recipe for success has been clear for Denver this year: take care of the ball and the wins will follow.
This Week: 1/25 vs Western Illinois, 1/27 vs South Dakota
5. North Dakota State (10-10, 2-3, Previous: 3)
It’s weird to see the Bison with the worst defense in the Summit League. Last week, they dropped back-to-back games to North Dakota - who joins the Summit League next year - and then lost a high-scoring bout to Fort Wayne. The Bison rank No. 350 in opponent turnover rate, and don’t have great rim protection. There’s talent on the roster, but their performance on the defensive side of the ball this year is holding them back.
This Week: 1/25 vs Omaha, 1/27 vs Western Illinois
6. Oral Roberts (7-15, 3-4, Previous: 5)
The schedule was not kind to Oral Roberts after a 3-0 start. Road games against SDSU, South Dakota and NDSU is as tough of a stretch as there is, and the record shows for it. The Golden Eagles still remain one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and their offense is ranked third in the league in conference play. A pair of games against Non-D1’s will be a nice break after the rough stretch.
This Week: 1/23 vs East Texas Baptist, 1/27 vs Nebraska Christian
7. Omaha (7-15, 2-4, Previous: 7)
The Mavericks are weird. They’ve been alternating wins and losses for nearly a month, and it’s hard to peg them. On some nights, the offense clicks behind Zach Jackson, but on others they can’t stop hemorrhaging points. In conference play, Omaha is allowing opponents to shoot nearly 41 percent from behind the arc. For a league that contains some of the best shooting teams in the country, it’s hard for the Mavericks to keep up at that clip.
This Week: 1/25 at North Dakota State
8. Western Illinois (10-8, 1-4, Previous: 8)
The Leathernecks finally got into the win column after beating Fort Wayne in overtime. The win came courtesy of some late-game heroics from freshman guard Kobe Webster:
Webster has been a bright spot for Billy Wright this season. The guard is averaging nearly 16 points per game as well as four assists and over three rebounds. He comes from the same high school that produced Yogi Ferrell and Trevon Blueitt, and he’s shown that he’s going to be a force in the league for years to come.
This Week: 1/25 at Denver, 1/27 at North Dakota State