Move over, Missouri Valley Conference. The Summit League is verging on the same territory as the Missouri Valley Conference enjoyed during the high-flying years of Creighton basketball -- before it upgraded to the Big East Conference.
Of course, having Mike Daum and South Dakota State has helped the league’s profile throughout the last several years.
Another boon has been the Summit League’s propensity to come up with a non-conference upset every November and December in recent memory -- most notably Purdue Fort Wayne over Indiana and South Dakota State over Mississippi last year.
1. South Dakota State (28-7, 13-1 Summit League, Lost to Ohio State in first round of NCAA Tournament)
Everyone knows about Mike Daum to this point. All he did last season was lead the Summit League in scoring (23.9 points per game), while snatching enough rebounds to rank 16th in the nation.
But there’s more to the Jackrabbits. Coach T.J. Otzelberger will be a name bandied about when coaching vacancies come about.
Then there’s David Jenkins Jr., a sophomore this season who could become a household name alongside Daum before things are said and done. And don’t sleep on Tevin King, a senior guard who can score and defend.
2. Purdue Fort Wayne (18-15, 7-7 Summit League, Lost to Central Michigan in first round of CIT)
Perhaps the most overlooked player in the nation is John Konchar, a scoring and rebounding machine for the Mastodons. All he’s done is score 1,423 points and haul in 867 rebounds in three seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne.
Bryson Scott graduated from last season’s team, so now Kason Harrell gets a chance to showcase his scoring prowess. Harrell scored 10.3 points per game last season while connecting on 40.6 percent of his 3-point attempts.
3. North Dakota State (15-17, 5-9 Summit League)
Paul Miller was the front man last year, but now the torch has been passed to Tyson Ward. The 6-foot-6 junior guard can fill it up, and same goes for sophomore guard Cameron Hunter.
The Bison will have to fill voids inside. Junior forward Deng Geu returns, while newcomers, Rocky Kreuser and Jordan Meidinger, could be thrust into duty in the paint.
4. Denver (15-15, 8-6 Summit League)
Hockey is the mainstay at Magness Arena, but basketball could become a worthwhile tenant with what coach Rodney Billups is putting together. Joe Rosga will again be running the show at point guard, and he just as good as distributing the ball as he is shooting it.
The Pioneers also went all out on the transfer wire during the offseason, landing Tory Stewart-Miller from Colorado and Ronnie Harrell Jr. from Creighton.
5. South Dakota (26-9, 11-3 Summit League, Lost to North Texas in first round of CBI)
Coach Craig Smith left for Utah State, and the Coyotes then lost Matt Mooney who graduated and headed to Texas Tech. Now South Dakota will lean on forwards, Tyler Hagedorn and Trey Burch-Manning.
It’ll be Tyler Peterson and Triston Simpson taking the reins in the backcourt to pick up where Mooney left off.
6. Oral Roberts (11-21, 5-9 Summit League)
Paul Mills’ first season as the coach showed some promising developments, but ultimately the Golden Eagles couldn’t overcome defensive issues throughout league play. Emmanuel Nzekwesi and Sam Kearns return as the team’s top scorers, while Kerwin Smith transferred in from Grand Canyon and will anchor the Golden Eagles’ rebounding efforts.
As far as potential success, ORU will rely heavily on a pair of promising freshmen, Kennedy Milton and D.J. Weaver -- both from Texas. Another Texas native, Kevin Obanor, could be another big body to play big minutes for the Golden Eagles.
7. Western Illinois (12-16, 3-11 Summit League)
Looking for one of the nation’s top shot blockers? Look no further than Macomb, Illinois, where Brandon Gilbeck resides. Gilbeck is also an underrated scorer when Kobe Webster isn’t filling it up after his stellar freshman campaign last season. Another solid scoring option for the Leathernecks is junior guard C.J. Duff,
8. North Dakota (12-20, 6-11 Big Sky)
The Fighting Hawks being in the Summit League just makes sense. Now, can North Dakota return to its 2016-2017 form that saw it reach the NCAA Tournament before running into the Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier led Arizona Wildcats?
Back for North Dakota this season will be a trio of double-digit scorers last season: seniors Conner Avants, Cortez Seales and junior Marlon Stewart.
9. Omaha (9-22, 4-10 Summit League)
The Mavericks were a high-flying scoring machine a few years back when Tra Deon-Hollins was suiting up. Since he left, it’s been a struggle for the Mavericks to win games.
Seniors Zach Jackson and Mitch Hahn return as an inside-out combination, and whether the Mavericks can fill in pieces around them remains to be seen.