The 'Yotes, not even picked in the top half of the league, are your 2016-17 Summit League Champs. Coach of the Year Craig Smith did an excellent job crafting a roster around transfers Trey Dickerson, Trey Burch-Manning, and Matt Mooney, pairing them with Tyler Flack. Mooney was a first team All League player and their nucleus is young enough that they'll be good again next season. Smith runs an up tempo style that snagged 12 conference wins.
Why they'll make a run- They're one of the obvious favorites, as the #1 seed. The addition of Flack makes them a much more versatile squad. USD closed the season with six straight victories to win the league. They're pretty matchup proof across the league, having at least one win against all 8 league opponents. You can't come in to a tournament any hotter than South Dakota is rolling into Sioux Falls.
Why they'll have a short weekend- There isn't a key contributor for South Dakota who has even played in a Summit League semifinal. Flack was at USD in 2014 when they won a first round game, but he was taking a medical redshirt. The 'Yotes have absolutely no experience winning in a win-or-your-season's over situation. Craig Smith and his players are both very inexperienced.
The Mavs are one of the 15 highest scoring teams in the country. Their offense defines the program, as does their athleticism. Omaha is no joke. They have wins against both North Dakota State and South Dakota, the two teams in front of them by seed. The Mavs have to fight with both Creighton and Nebraska for local talent and local attention but they've now established themselves as at least an above average Summit League program.
Why they'll make a run- they score quite a bit and they do it a lot of different ways. Omaha is the only team in the Summit League, and probably one of very few teams in the country with five players averaging double digit points. Marcus Tyus and Trae'Shawn Thurman lead the squad, but Tradeon Hollins and Mitch Hahn get theirs, too. Hahn spreads the floor, shooting 125 threes of his own this season. If they get hot, they'll score as much as anyone in the Summit.
Why they'll have a short weekend- There are two reasons, really. First and foremost is matchup. Omaha has to deal with preseason favorite Fort Wayne. The 'Dons are actually favored in Sunday's game. Despite achieving the #3 seed, Omaha ended up with a terrible draw. Look for fireworks in that one. Neither team guards. That's the deal, too. Because Omaha doesn't guard it's hard to believe they'll shoot well enough to win three games in a row
South Dakota State
The one man band. There isn't a team, perhaps in the country that depends as much on one player as much as South Dakota State depends on Mike Daum. Daum's contributions to the Jacks is on a Steph Curry at Davidson level. Without Daum, I can't honestly imagine that SDSU is playing this weekend. Reed Tellingheusen is Daum's right hand man, but his game is spotty at best. SDSU has struggled with guard play all season long.
Why they'll make a run- Mike Daum.
Why they'll have a short weekend- They're the 4 seed, they play the 5 seed. SDSU's last game of the season was actually a 24 point walloping of Denver. They have to feel pretty good about their chances of at least moving out of the first round and setting up an epic semifinal with USD.
The Pios looked like a force early, starting the season off strong and being the first team to hand NDSU a loss this season. Joe Rosga and Daniel Amigo create a potent inside outside punch and DU has one of the better wing defenders in the league in Jake Pemberton. Gone is the old Princeton offense. Rodney Billups had what could only be called a successful season in the mile-high city.
Why they'll make a run- They can guard a little bit. Pemberton is a plus defender, so is Amigo. If their shot isn't falling it's at least possible for DU to stay in games. The Pios finished 3rd in the league in points per game against. If Daum is struggling and Tellingheusen can't help him out Denver's good enough defensively to win that game. That sets up a semifinal against a USD team that they played tough twice.
Why they'll have a short weekend- Denver would likely have to win consecutive "road" games against SDSU and USD to truly make a "run". They'd also have to beat the best player in the tournament followed by beating the league's regular season champions. It's a tough row to hoe for the Pios.
Fort Wayne was the preseason pick to win the league and they started off the season with what looked like an incredible win over Indiana. While the Hoosiers have struggled all season long, they're still a Big Ten squad. The 'Dons remain one of the finest offenses in college basketball, but their refusal to play defense resulted in just an 8-8 league record.
Why they'll make a run- They're likely the most talented team in the league, still. Mo Evans is an electric scorer, Bryson Scott is a Big Ten transfer and John Konchar is a first team All Summit athlete. Calhoun's ability to score inside rounds out the Mastodon offense.
Why they'll have a short weekend- with that said, they also refuse to guard anyone. IPFW repeatedly played games in the high 80s and 90s and finished 6th of the 8 teams that made the tournament in points per game against. Coffman's squad needs to shoot it well to win.
Though they are the 7 seed, IUPUI was part of a logjam in the middle of the league all season long, losing just nine conference games. That's plenty of games, but not for the 7 seed in a 9 team league. IUPUI also split with their first round opponent, NDSU. Darrell Combs and Matt O'Leary give IUPUI a 1-2 punch capable of at least playing with anyone in the league. O'Leary plays the five and extends his shooting range to the three point line, creating space for his teammates.
Why they'll make a run- O'Leary could burn the Bison like he did in Indianapolis. If they can find a way to get passed NDSU in round one they have a win over both Fort Wayne and Omaha, their potential round two opponents. Combs is also the waterbug-type guard that is capable of winning mid-major tournament games by himself.
Why they'll have a short weekend- I still think the best tournament team in Sioux Falls is North Dakota State, so I have a tough time believing IUPUI isn't flying home on Sunday morning.
WIU snuck into the tournament a game ahead of Oral Roberts. They, too are a bit of a one man band. Garrett Covington is as good of a perimeter scorer as you'll find in mid major basketball. Miklusak helps out a bit but WIU lacks an interior presence on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Why they'll make a run - Garrett Covington.
Why they'll have a short weekend- They're the 8 seed in an 8 team tournament.
The Bison aren't exactly reeling going in to the Summit League tournament, but they're not the league champions, either. After a 7-1 first half of league play, Dave Richman's club finished their conference slate by going 4-4 in their last 8, 1-3 on the road and 3-1 at home. The Bison lost the league lead on the last day of the season that they had held all season. NDSU was able to raise their road record in league play to .500 after going 1-7 just a year ago.
They don't have Dave- Richman isn't exactly an elder statesmen, but of the 4 teams favored to move on to round 2, he's actually been at his University the longest. Craig Smith started at USD last season, Coffman is in his third year as the head coach, but just his sixth at FW overall, and TJ Otzelberger just got to Brookings. Richman, by far, has the most wins in a Summit League tournament setting. His brand of basketball is tournament tested. Is anyone else's?
Defense travels- Speaking of Richman's brand of basketball, defense travels. The Sanford Premier Center is a beautiful facility, and I couldn't imagine taking in a mid major conference tournament at a better venue, but it's not a shooter's gym. Teams who can score inside (Carlin Dupree and Dexter Werner) and defend (NDSU #1 in the league defensively) have the advantage in this arena. If NDSU shoots poorly in three games this weekend they can at least rest assured that their defense will keep them in games until the bitter end.
The redemption of Paul Miller- NDSU guard Paul Miller probably experienced the low point of his NDSU career in Sioux Falls a season ago. Miller, coming back from a knee injury, scored just 12 points on 3-10 shooting against IUPUI and then was benched for the following game against Fort Wayne for violating team rules. Miller wouldn't play much better in his return as he scored 5 points on 1-8 shooting in NDSU's season ending loss to the Jacks.
It was a rough time for the player that many felt was emerging as NDSU's next star. Miller dedicated himself to his craft and to an improvement of his attitude in the offseason. The result was an All Summit League First Team performance as a junior. Miller was ultimately NDSU's team MVP, as much as the fans would love to give that award to Dexter Werner. He was NDSU's best offensive player and rebounded extremely well for a guard. Even when his shot wasn't falling, Miller found other ways to fill the stat sheet or defend well. Paul made "winning basketball plays" as described by his head coach all season long.
This weekend presents a tremendous chance for Miller to excel where he once had the most trying point of his Bison career.
X factor?- NDSU's rotation has effectively been shortened to 7 players. Dylan Miller starts and is part of the plan, Jacobson, Kabellis, Dupree and Paul Miller barely leave the floor and reserve forward Dexter Werner plays quite a bit as well. Tyson Ward is the only reserve that sees consistent minutes with Deng Geu's role being very limited and Jared Samuelson and Spencer Eliason playing in specific situations.
Such a tight rotation doesn't leave much room for an X factor. If NDSU wins this tournament it's likely going to be because of someone they've been counting all season. With that said, I wouldn't be surprised to see big plays from Carlin Dupree. Dupree is a senior and has a chance to play in at least four NCAA championship games if he is able to help the Bison advance to the Madness. He was electric last season in Sioux Falls and his ability to score at the rim will help the offense if Miller, Kabellis and Jacobson aren't hitting from the outside in the DSPC.
1,000 for Big Dex? - Werner currently sits at 935 points in his career. If NDSU gets to play in all three games at the Summit League tournament Werner would have to score 22 points in each game to reach 1,001 career points. If they win the tournament, Werner will get at least one more shot. The 16.3 Dexter would have to average over four games is just four points over his season average. 1,000 points and 650 rebounds would be quite an accomplishment for the North Dakota native.
3 in 4?- We talked about it in the season preview, it's been written about by other Bison writers, but it still deserves mention. Tim Miles built the Woodside team, went to one NCAA tournament and left. Saul Phillips built up the Taylor Braun team, went to one NCAA tournament and left. Richman took the Lawrence Alexander team to the NCAAs in his first year and immediately returned to the Summit League title game the next year. If NDSU wins one of the next two Summit League Tournaments, Richman has a chance to distinguish himself in Division I NDSU Men's Basketball.
NDSU over IUPUI
SDSU over Denver
USD over Western
Fort Wayne over Omaha
NDSU over Fort Wayne
SDSU over USD
NDSU over SDSU