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 – Women
1. South Dakota State
The league favorites won twice at home and overcame slow starts against Omaha and North Dakota State.
The Jacks outscored the Mavs and the Bison by a combined 97-53 in the second half.
SDSU had 37 assists and just 20 turnovers in the 2 games.
Madison Guebert led the Jacks in scoring both nights and made 7/11 threes. She is averaging 21.5 PPG in the first two.
“Quality non-conference wins + great wins at home and so much depth.” - Stewart
“Taking care of business at home in convincing fashion.” – Stemen
“We all knew Guebert would snap out of her slump. If she stays dialed in, look out.” - Elsen
2. South Dakota
The Coyotes are on a 5-game win streak. They opened Summit League play with a win at home against Denver and then two on the road at NDSU (82-67) and at Western Illinois (82-58).
USD was 15/38 on 3FG at Western and outscored the Leathernecks 31-11 in the 3rd quarter.
Coyote sophomore, Ciara Duffy, put up 24, 16 and 21 in the 3 wins. Two panelists had USD as the top team.
“Convincing road wins at Western and NDSU earn them the early #1.” – Stemen
“Best road win and by a huge margin at WIU.” – Newitt
“The win at WIU was phenomenal, but I need to see more out of them.” – Stewart
“Top six players are playing well, but they need more help.” - Elsen
3. Western Illinois
The high-flying Leathernecks scored a hundo in a win at Fort Wayne, were stunned at home in the loss to South Dakota (82-58) and then came back with a very good win against Oral Roberts in another low-scoring contest (56-49).
Reigning league Player of the Year, Emily Clemens, was limited (for her) to 13 points and 6 assists in the USD loss and then 7 and 3 (both season lows) in the win against Oral Roberts. Taylor Higginbotham took up the slack with 19/14 vs ORU.
“Home loss to USD makes their road to regular season title more difficult.” – Stemen
“No kidding.” – Nieman
“They will get the confidence back that they had last year and be back to their ways.” – Stewart
“The loss to USD told me more about the Coyotes than it did the Leathernecks. They’re going to be fine.” - Elsen
4. Oral Roberts
ORU played its first 3 league games on the road. (They will play the next 6 at home and then 4 more away.)
ORU won by 29 at Omaha, won by 25 at Fort Wayne and then lost by 7 at Western Illinois.
The Golden Eagles are only giving up 52 PPG thru 3 and the M&Ms are giving ORU a great 1-2 combo. Maya Mayberry and Maria Martianez are putting together 28 points and 8 boards per game in league play.
“Close with Western for #3.” – Stemen
“Athletic + their defense can cause teams some problems.” – Stewart
“Eager to see how they perform in back-to-back home games against SDSU (Jan. 11) and USD (Jan. 13).” – Elsen
Denver is 10-7 overall (already 4 more wins than last season) and 1-1 in the Summit under first-year head coach, Paul Turgeon. The Pioneers lost by 28 at South Dakota but won by 18 at Fort Wayne.
Claire Gritt is making an early case for Summit League Freshman of the Year and leads DU in scoring at 9.4 PPG.
Denver leads the league in Substitutions Per Game with 12 players getting at least 7 minutes per game.
“Early road split puts them on top of last 4.” – Stemen
“I just think they are better than NDSU. Alt needs to step up.” – Stewart
“Eight of their top 10 scorers are either freshmen or sophomores.” - Elsen
6. North Dakota State
The Bison are trying to put it all together now in their 4th season under head coach, Maren Walseth. She says they have played well in short stretches but still have to learn to play at top speed without the wheels coming off.
NDSU got the daunting USD/SDSU road trip out of the way in the first week of the Summit season but lost at South Dakota (82-67) and at South Dakota State (83-63).
Their only senior, Taylor Thunstedt, is always solid and sophomore Sarah Jacobson is an emerging star but the Bison are still trying to grow up and move up the Summit ladder.
“Much improved from last season, but how much? Time will tell.” – Stemen
“Tough start to Summit League schedule (vs. USD, at SDSU, at Oral Roberts).” - Elsen
The Mavericks graduated a ton, including Mikaela Shaw who was top 5 in the league in scoring and rebounding so Omaha has ZERO seniors this season.
However, they do have some good young talent. Courtney Vaccher is a force on the block. Amber Vidal is a poised point guard. Jay Bridgeman is great off the bench.
What the Mavs don’t have is a league win yet.
They were sluggish in a home loss to Oral Roberts and then awake, but overmatched in a road loss at South Dakota State.
Head coach Brittany Lange is always upbeat and convinced that her kids can pick up a W or two in the next two weeks.
“Impressed with how they battled at SDSU. They have a nice balanced attack.” – Stewart
“Still dangerous.” – Stemen
“Three players averaging over 30 minutes per game. Have to wonder if fatigue will become a factor.” - Elsen
8. Fort Wayne
The Dons are not that far removed from some recent glory days. They were conference contenders as recently as 2011 and were a tough tournament out in the Amanda Hyde/Haley Seibert years from 2012-14. They have been trying to build it back since.
It has been a similar story in 3 league games at home. Slow start + shaky shooting = L.
This is another very young team with one senior (KeShyra McCarver) and 8 freshmen and sophomores. DeJour Young is always capable of a big game, but the Dons are going to need everybody pulling on the rope together to pull out a league win.
They did put it all together on Tuesday night with a 76-65 win at home against Omaha. Five players in double figures led by 16 from Young. The Dons were 19/21 at the FT line and +15 on the boards as they pick up their first Summit League win of the season.
HUGE GAME OF THE WEEK
Saturday, January 13 – South Dakota State (2-0) at Oral Roberts (2-1)
SDSU scoring 86 PPG, ORU giving up 53