Whereas people who talk about sports on TV are really smart, Midco Sports Network presents the Summit League Basketball Order of Who We Think is Good Right Now. Or, officially:
The Summit Strength Index.
Our Panel of Brilliance includes: Dr. Greg Stemen, Jay Elsen, Brian Shawn (out this week returning from Frisco, TX), Professor Brad Newitt, Kelly Stewart and Tom Nieman.
We rank the teams 1-8 and come up with a consensus presented here with semi-intelligent commentary.
For the Week of January 8.
Summit Strength Index – Men
1. South Dakota State
He’s got absolutely nothing against defense but SDSU head coach, T.J. Otzelberger, likes players that can score and the Jackrabbits are downright offensive so far this season.
They followed up a 87-80 road win at North Dakota State with a 101-88 victory at Omaha to open the Summit season. Mike Daum put up 37/15 and 27/11.
The Jacks shot 54% from the field and 44% on threes in the 2 games and Otzelberger believes those numbers are sustainable.
Freshman David Jenkins, Jr. has moved into the starting lineup and his ability to score has made SDSU a matchup nightmare with Daum surrounded by shooters. Tevin King has turned into a reliable point guard and if Reed Tellinghuisen continues to have a stellar senior season the Jacks are in great shape.
“Scoring 94 PPG so far, holy smokes!” – Newitt
“2 quality road wins to start league play.” – Stemen
“Quality road wins and scoring it well right now.” – Stewart
2. Oral Roberts
Our panel was split on this. It was either Oral Roberts #2 and North Dakota State #4 or the other way around. Some had NDSU at #2 and bumped ORU down to four.
The dilemma apparently stems from a great Bison win at South Dakota combined with a Bison loss at home to South Dakota State compared to the 3-0 start for Oral Roberts on their home floor.
ORU beat Omaha (93-74), Fort Wayne (76-70) and Western Illinois (81-66). ORU is giving up the fewest PPG (67) in the early league season and the Eagles are a gaudy +38 in rebounds in those first three wins.
“Undefeated in league but all at home. Still… 3-0.” – Stemen
“3-0 but all at home against lower half teams.” – Newitt
“3-0 but I’m not completely sold on their wins. We’ll see how they do Thursday. J” - Stewart
“Is 3-0 good or not?” – Nieman
3. South Dakota
The defending regular season champs opened the Summit season with moderately close wins at home against Denver and Western Illinois and then lost to North Dakota State in a runny, back and forth game in Vermillion.
USD started the game on a 15-3 spree. NDSU ended the half on a 21-5 streak. USD regained the lead with 5 minutes left. NDSU closed it out on a 13-7 run to win 84-79.
Bottom line = home loss. And the Yotes had injury added to insult. USD starting guard, Carlton Hurst, is out for the immediate future after suffering a hand injury in practice last week. That stinks, but we will see how the Yotes respond with two tough games coming up at Fort Wayne and at home against Oral Roberts.
“2-1 but have lost a home game. Ouch.” – Newitt
“2-1 all at home. Tough loss to team they’ll battle for seeding.” – Stemen
“Aren’t playing particularly well right now, but I feel they’ll figure it out soon. Losing Hurst hurts a lot, though.” – Stewart
4. North Dakota State
As mentioned above, the panel was split on the Bison. Either way, NDSU opened Summit play with a loss at home to South Dakota State in which the pace of play, I am told, was probably more to SDSU’s liking. That said, Paul Miller made 7 threes and scored 36 points and with him and Cam Hunter on the floor the Bison can run and gun when they want to.
Hunter put up 35 the next night out in that win at South Dakota in which NDSU shot lights out on the road.
There was talk that maybe NDSU lacked some star power this year, but Miller has been fantastic and the Bison will be in the hunt.
“Best win so far at USD. Lost to best team at home.” – Newitt
“Road win at USD trumps Fort Wayne’s road win at Denver.” – Stemen
5. Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne has been a little hard to figure so far. The Dons had that win at Indiana back in mid-December but then opened the Summit season with a lopsided loss at Oral Roberts in which a very good shooting team didn’t make much: 34% FG, 3/23 threes
Fort Wayne bounced back with a win at Denver and got back to being themselves. Bryson Scott and Kason Harrell scoring. John Konchar doing everything with 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 7 steals.
The Dons were 8-8 in the league last year. Maybe this is another .500 team but you get the feeling they are too talented to break even.
“Road win at Denver still big.” – Stemen
“Impressed with the road win at Denver. Also still impressed by the Indiana win. Haha.” – Stewart
Speaking of hard to figure: Denver.
Second season for head coach, Rodney Billups. Plenty of juniors and seniors who have put together three solid, but not special seasons. Time for Rosga and Amigo and Neff and Mackey and Pemberton to put it all together and make a Summit run.
The Pioneers, though, have stumbled out of the blocks with an 11-point loss at South Dakota and a 19-point loss at home to Fort Wayne.
Scoring is down. Shooting is down. Assists are down. Turnovers are up.
Still, this is a team of potential and promise. Like Fort Wayne, we think Denver is too talented to play poorly for long.
“What the heck is with these guys?” – Newitt
“Meh.” – Stewart
“One home loss. Healthier than Omaha.” – Stemen
“Not Stemen’s best analysis.” – Nieman
7. Western Illinois
They have had some great players in recent years with Garret Covington and Terell Parks and Ceola Clark but Western Illinois has not cracked the top half of the Summit League standings since 2013 when they tied for the regular season title.
They have been “competitive” in the last few years, but they are trying to figure out how to turn that into “winning more games”.
Head coach, Billy Wright, added a great point guard this year in Kobe Webster, a true freshman from Indianapolis who is leading the league in assists right now. Seven-foot center, Brandon Gilbeck, leads the league in FG% and blocked shots. Dalan Ancrum and Delo Bruster and C.J. Duff and Jeremiah Usiosefe are all proven Summit League vets.
Can the Leathernecks move up from competitor to contender is the question.
“Been the most competitive of the bottom 3.” – Newitt
“Even though the USD game was one of the ugliest/closest matchups I’m not overly impressed yet.” – Stewart
Omaha has always been the fun, free-wheeling men’s team in the league. Throw it out there and let’s see who can score more.
Tra-Deon Hollins and Tre’Shawn Thurman and Marcus Tyus and the Mavs ran all the way to the championship game in the Summit League tournament last year. But those guys are all gone and Omaha is just… different.
Not as much run and not as many guns, although Zach Jackson is a terrific scorer and the Mavs have 3 or 4 guys who can pop for 25 on a given night and besides, offense has never been the issue. Omaha will have to figure out how to D up because the Mavs are giving up 86 PPG on the season and 97 PPG in the first two league outings.
“Not stopping anyone. Not much offensive firepower.” - Newitt
“Work to do but time to do it.” – Stemen
“Ain’t no use in complaining when you got a job to do.” – Bryan Adams
HUGE GAME OF THE WEEK
Thursday, January 11 – Oral Roberts (3-0) at South Dakota State (2-0)
ORU 2-3 zone vs. SDSU shooters in a showdown for early supremacy in the league