There were four teams that opened Summit League play with a loss today. None of them want to start conference play 0-2. I am going to discuss 4 players that hold the biggest key to their team avoiding that 0-2 start.
Will Carius Western Illinois: The Senior forward picked up 2 fouls before I could get the Leathernecks stream to work correctly today. The fouls caused him to miss almost all of the 1st half. After that Carius was never really heard from again. If you just look at the final score it looks like the Leathernecks were never in the fight in the second half but they closed the game to 10 and showed life the first 10 minutes of the second half and really could have used the impact Carius can bring. Carius can stretch the defense and with Tamell Pearson taking most of the defensive attention of Rocky Kreuser, there aren’t many players on the Bison to handle Carius down low. The Leathernecks leading scorer coming into today’s game is the x-factor for the Leathernecks getting a split against the Bison.
Marvin Nesbitt Kansas City: Brandon McKissic had a poor shooting game, including missing multiple lay-ups that he typically makes. The thing is I think McKissic and Josiah Allick can be counted on to do their part for the Roos. Nesbitt the senior guard from Chicago is tomorrow’s x-factor. The size of UND should have caused the Roos more problems than it did today but the Roos played them well down low with constant defensive energy. However, UND adjusted and instead of giving big minutes to players like Gertautas Urbonavicius, turned to players like Ethan Igbanugo and the quicker bigs like Mitchell Sueker. This is where a player like Nesbitt can play a big role. We saw it in the second half with Nesbitt making some big plays. At 6’4 Nesbitt has the strength to switch on some of the UND bigs and the quickness to drive on the guards and don’t forget the biggest thing Nesbitt brings to the offensive end, the ability to hit from the outside.
Matt Pile Omaha: Pile just had an opponent put up 39 points primarily while he was defending him. I have little doubt that was taken personally. Omaha made a mistake in getting into an up and down the floor shootout with the best offensive team in the Summit League (yes SDSU fans, that is not a typo). Coach Hansen will adjust and my hunch is that adjustment goes straight through the senior big. If there was a bet on a Matt Pile double-double tomorrow I would be putting money on it. Running the offense through the post not only makes ORU defend and gets the game at a pace that suits Omaha, but it also opens up the offense for Ayo Akinwole and Marlon Ruffin. If Pile ends up with 15 points 10 rebounds and 5 assists, Omaha is feeling better about game 2.
Ade Murkey Pro Guard: Unless Murkey discovers some newfound eligibility and feels like helping out his old team, this Denver team is a mess right now. Even with Tristan Green returning they were beaten by 40 today. South Dakota is a team that can be beat up inside and Denver does have size. They defended horribly in their opener, Jase Townsend had 5 shots, I am not sure I ever thought I would type that. Someone one the Pioneers needs to decide they are going to defend on the perimeter. If I had to pick an actual member of the current Denver squad I would pick Frank Ryder, can they feed the senior big man and play at a pace that keeps the game closer? They have to find their pride somewhere, there is a long season ahead of them if they don’t. Here’s the only caveat, I don’t trust USD a ton either so I would not be shocked if it was a much closer game tomorrow.