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Summit League update: South Dakota State leads a shaky conference into league play

The Jackrabbits are coming off a tough loss to Montana.

South Dakota State v Nevada Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

There’s limping into conference play, and then there’s whatever the Summit League did in the final week of non-conference action leading up to Christmas.

It was not a banner week for Summit League clubs, especially with South Dakota State getting upended by Montana at home. That coincided with Southern Miss. winning at South Dakota, Northern Iowa sneaking past North Dakota, Gonzaga hammering Denver (by 61 points!) and Oral Roberts evaporating down the stretch in a cross-town showdown with rival Tulsa.

But enough about the past. It’s time for Summit League teams to enter the scrum and see who emerges as the league’s regular season champion.

What’s on tap this week:

Dec. 28

South Dakota State at Western Illinois
Purdue Fort Wayne at North Dakota
Denver at Omaha
South Dakota at North Dakota State

Dec. 30

Purdue Fort Wayne at North Dakota State
Denver at Western Illinois
Oral Roberts at Omaha

Game of the week: Purdue Fort Wayne at North Dakota, Friday at 7 p.m. (Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota)

Not gonna to lie, I can’t imagine many thought North Dakota would be featured in a Summit League Game of the Week spotlight this season. But now it’s time to see if the Fighting Hawks’ 6-7 record (made up mostly of wins over non-Division I opponents) is worthy of any significance.

And this one will be a contrast of styles with North Dakota last in the Summit League in three-pointers attempted (264) and Purdue Fort Wayne (or the artists formally known as IPFW) leading the conference — and ranking second in the nation — with 430 attempts.

North Dakota will also get a full dose of 6’5 senior guard John Konchar, who leads the league in assists per game (4.7), field goal percentage (58.5 percent), and offensive rebounds per game (3.1). He’s also second in the conference in a bunch of other categories, but none more notable than rebounds per game (9.3).

And remember, Konchar is a GUARD — and perhaps the best rebounding guard in the country.

Talk about a handful for Cortez Seales, Conner Avants and the rest of the North Dakota crew.

News and notes:

  • Both Konchar and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum eclipsed the 1,000-rebound mark for their careers last week. In doing so, they get to share Player of the Week honors in the Summit League. For Daum, it’s a conference-record 16th time to claim the honor.
  • Gonzaga’s 61-point victory over Denver was a program record, thanks to the Bulldogs’ shooting 84.5 percent from the field in the opening half.
  • Oral Roberts, despite leading by eight midway through the second half, fell 69-59 to Tulsa in the 54th installment of the Mayor’s Cup on Dec. 22. It was ORU’s third straight setback against Tulsa in the annual intracity clash.
  • South Dakota State (139), Omaha (177), and North Dakota State (198) are the only Summit League teams ranked inside the top 200 in the newest NCAA Net rankings.

Some notable statistical rankings so far this season…

  • South Dakota State is fourth in the country with 251 free throws made. The Jackrabbits also rank sixth in three-point percentage (42.4) and second in total rebounds (591).
  • North Dakota State’s 78.3 percent at the free throw line ranks sixth nationally.
  • Purdue Fort Wayne has dished out 246 assists, good for third among all Division I teams.
  • Western Illinois’ Brandon Gilbeck is averaging 3.92 blocks per game, which is second in the country.
  • Daum is the nation’s top double-double recorder with 10. He is also No. 1 in free throws made (96) and second in free throw attempts (133). His 25.3 points per game is fifth in the country, and 10.9 rebounds is seventh.
  • South Dakota State’s Skyler Flatten has played the most minutes (552:18) of anyone in the nation.

Power rankings

1. South Dakota State (10-5): In years past, the Jackrabbits would have dispatched of a solid — but not great — Montana team last week. But South Dakota State had only two points off the bench against the Grizzlies.

2. Purdue Fort Wayne (8-7): An up-and-down non-conference schedule ended with back-to-back wins for the Mastodons. Konchar was three assists shy of a triple-double (20 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) in a win over Siena Heights on Dec. 20.

3. South Dakota (6-7): The Coyotes lead the Summit League in scoring defense, allowing only 65 points per game.

4. Western Illinois (5-8): The Leathernecks are good at not fouling, committing only 15.5 infractions per contest, which is tops in the Summit League.

5. North Dakota (6-7): The Fighting Hawks force 14.4 turnovers a game, and that leads all other Summit League teams.

6. Omaha (6-7): The Mavericks have three quality wins (Idaho, UC Santa Barbara and Rice) headed into league play. Zach Jackson is fourth in the Summit League at 18.4 points per game.

7. North Dakota State (5-8): The Bison collected wins over Eastern Washington and Missouri State while winning three of four games to close out non-conference play.

8. Oral Roberts (4-11): Emmanuel Nzekwesi averages 7.5 rebounds per game, which is fourth in the league. The Golden Eagles also lead the conference with 10.3 offensive rebounds per game.

9. Denver (5-9): Joe Rosga had seven points against Gonzaga and moved up to seventh on the Pioneers’ all-time scoring list with 1,423 points.