Many do their preseason predictions. Oftentimes these are woefully wrong. In fact that will likely be the case with mine as well. Is any of this particularly shocking though? Especially in today’s college basketball, with roster turnover, new additions many of whom we don’t know how they fit. It shouldn’t be. So it makes sense that after gaining the information the non-conference portion of the schedule we make updated predictions. So 1-10 where do I predict Summit League teams finish? Below I will give you a predicted order of finish, predicted conference victory total, a short what has gone well so far this season and what still needs work.
- South Dakota State
Conference record: 14 wins 4 losses. After this first portion of the season. South Dakota State has provided some separation. At the same time North Dakota State, Western Illinois, and Oral Roberts have all proven to be dangerous teams. The Jackrabbits look like they will finish on top but it won’t be blemish-free.
What’s been good: The Jackrabbits have been one of the most efficient offenses in the country this season. Top 20 in the country in adjusted offense. On the offensive side of the ball, there is no team more deadly than the Jackrabbits. Noah Freidel seems to be back better than ever, and Douglas Wilson seems fully healthy. Between Freidel, Wilson, and Baylor Scheierman there are 3 players worthy of potential player of the year mention. This veteran team along with budding contributors like Luke Appel and Zeke Mayo are going to be a really tough beat this season.
What needs work: There isn’t much. It’s why 14-4 is the most likely finish to this season but I don’t think it’s the ceiling. However, as I said North Dakota State, Western Illinois, and Oral Roberts are talented and veteran-laden as well. So those teams will cause problems for the Jacks. Along with that. There have been a few games this season where the Jackrabbits just don’t have the necessary defensive intensity. While I think they’ll win the league, they still have to prove they can bring that intensity night in and night out, especially in the 3 game span of the Summit League Tournament.
2. Western Illinois
Conference record: 12 wins 6 losses. If there is a surprise team at this point in the season it’s Western Illinois. Many of us felt the Leathernecks were prime for a jump this season but I don’t think even the most die-hard Leatherneck fan thought they would finish the non-conference 9-2. While I think South Dakota State wins the league by a couple of games. I think Western Illinois gives them their biggest challenger.
What’s been good: Colton Sandage and Will Carius were pretty good last year, they have been even better this year. Carius is a legit first-team contender and Sandage is right there with him. Luka Barisic, and Trenton Massner have both been great additions as well. The leathernecks are explosive offensively and play just enough defense to be balanced. Players like George Dixon and JJ Flores provide some ability as sort of defensive specialists off the bench.
What needs work: Still just in the 2nd year of a complete roster overhaul. As we get into the grind of conference play, do we really know what this Leatherneck team is? This team especially the starting unit is still limited defensively, not because of effort but just because of ability to really lockdown. The Leathernecks seem to be a very cohesive unit so it’s possible they prove me wrong but still seems like there is something to prove here.
3. North Dakota State
Conference record: 11 wins 7 losses. Anyone who has watched the Bison in their last two games probably has the likelihood to exclaim, “they’ve figured it out”. There’s a real possibility that is true. With Sam Griesel returning it looked like a new offense, one that it’s possible could carry the Bison to a much better than 7 loss season. However, this is still a team that at times in their 4 losses looked lost offensively. Just have a feeling some of these offensive inconsistencies return.
What’s been good: A veteran core returned for the Bison and this contributed to the high level of optimism in the pre-season. Much of the really poor offensive performances happened with Sam Griesel out. Fact remains that the Bison have two of the best big men in the Summit League in Rocky Kreuser and Grant Nelson and returned just about every meaningful contributor from last year. After Sam Griesel returned from injury he has been red hot. Freshman Andrew Morgan has looked great at times and gives much-needed frontcourt depth. The solid defense that is a staple of David Richman teams is still there as well.
What needs work: There have been times the offense has looked so out of sync. I would want nothing to do with this team come Summit League tournament time, but sometimes it seems the Bison are just preparing for that tournament in the conference season. After Morgan the bench depth, which most thought would be no problem seems to be bubbling as a problem. If players like Kreuser or Griesel were to miss any more time this season. Players who thus far have not been able to, would have to step up in big roles.
4. Oral Roberts
Conference record: 11 wins 7 losses. This same statement could be said for Western Illinois, and North Dakota State as could be said for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles ceiling can be higher than this. There is some special talent on this team. I think it’s most likely that Oral Roberts falls around 11 wins in the conference season this year.
What’s been good: Max Abmas is a unique talent that we rarely see in the Summit League. There are going to be nights that his talent is special enough to beat any team in the Summit. There have been flashes this season of that special team that made a sweet 16 run last season. Francis Lacis and Deshang Weaver had each had some of those special moments this season. The Golden Eagles are second in the Summit this season in offensive efficiency. Oral Roberts can be devastating from the outside, leading NCAA basketball in 3 point makes this season.
What needs work: Oral Roberts is still trying to fill the hole left by the departure of Kevin Obanor. Deshang Weaver and Francis Lacis are nice players but the loss of Obanor has made ORU even more perimeter-oriented this season. High major transfers Trey Phipps and Issac McBride have had moments, but haven’t consistently had a major impact. Elijah Lufile who missed all of last season has shown flashes that he might be a consistent contributor down low but it has taken some time for him to get consistently involved.
5. South Dakota
Conference record: 9 wins 9 losses. We have often described South Dakota as the Summit League team with the highest floor but also maybe the team in the top half with the lowest ceiling. Todd Lee has shown he can deliver Summit League winners, but this year’s version of the Coyotes may not have the top-level talent of previous years.
What’s been good: Mason Archambault and Kruz Perrot-Hunt have made big jumps this season. Archambault has been good on the offensive end and maybe even better on the defensive side of the ball. Hunter Goodrick returned after missing last season as a Covid precaution. Goodrick has given consistent contributions in the post for the Coyotes. Xavier Fuller has joined Archambault, and Perrot-Hunt to give the Coyotes a consistent backcourt.
What needs work: Goodrick isn’t much of a low post scorer, and Tasos Kamateros hasn’t made the jump many predicted this season. While the backcourt is pretty consistent and gives the Coyotes scoring punch, the frontcourt has struggled to do the same. The backcourt while solid seems limited in how much more they can give. While well coached and solid, the Coyotes seem limited to be much more than that.
6. Kansas City
Conference record: 9 wins 9 losses. Somewhat similar to South Dakota, there are limitations that seem to put Kansas City destined to around .500 in league play at the end of the year. The Roos put themselves in a position to win just about every game but rarely are winning games by large margins.
What’s been good: Kansas City is second in the Summit in adjusted defense this season to North Dakota State. Kansas City seems to always bring it on the defensive side of the ball. In addition to their defensive intensity, Evan Gilyard has been a great addition to the backcourt. Gilyard is a needed veteran presence and talented scorer. Kansas City has had games that they have looked fantastic, most notably was their blowout win over Missouri.
What needs work: Just not enough consistent scoring. Gilyard has been a nice scoring option, Anderson Kopp, and Marvin Nesbitt have had flashes. Josiah Allick is a talented player but he has been in foul trouble and just hasn’t made the jump most have hoped he would. There’s not a ton of depth for the Roos and they continue to await the return of key players from injury such as Arkel Lamar.
7. St. Thomas
Conference record: 7 wins 11 losses. if 7 wins were the over-under in Vegas, I would take the under but it seems there are legitimately 3 teams in the Summit League St. Thomas is better them and I think they take 2 games from two of them and split with another. So that gets them to 5 and they can get 2 more surprises.
What’s been good: Even the most die-hard St. Thomas fan wasn’t predicting this smooth transition to Division 1 basketball. Maybe I am too high on them. I mean 7 wins? However, they already are a top-half Summit League offense. I’ll talk about defense, next but this team can score efficiently and it makes them dangerous. Anders Nelson and Riley Miller are legit Summit League scorers, and everyone on this team can shoot from the outside. They might be the best outside shooting team in a Summit League that features Oral Roberts and South Dakota State.
What needs work: The Tommies are still pretty bad defensively. It’s not an effort issue, it’s a personnel issue. However, you can’t do much about personnel in the middle of a college basketball season. The lack of size will bite the Tommies in the grind of Summit League play. The inability to defend and lack of size is what makes a 4 win conference season also possible.
Conference record: 4 wins 12 losses. Denver plays with effort and energy. That’s something we haven’t said for a few years. There’s also energy in the building for the first time in several years. The Denver altitude will be a legit factor for the first time in a while. Denver may have a ceiling better than 4 wins as splitting their home games is a real possibility.
What’s been good: The Pioneers are the only of the 3 remaining teams that I think have a Summit 1st or 2nd team member with KJ Hunt. Hunt has been a fantastic addition both on the court and leadership was. Mikey Hunt is a solid contributor, and freshmen Tevin Smith and Coban Porter continue to show that they will grow into bigger and bigger roles all season.
What needs work: As we saw with Western Illinois last year, it takes time to build a team from scratch. Denver will be dealing with that all season. Just like the Leathernecks did this year, Denver has holes they will need to have to try and fill next year. There’s just not enough talent to truly compete. The defensive effort is there but large scoring droughts still happen.
9. North Dakota
Conference record: 4 wins 12 losses. Here is the thing with North Dakota. I have always underestimated them because of how they look “on paper”. Coach Paul Sather always seems to find a way to scrape out wins that we wouldn’t expect. However, for the next month, it’s possible the Fighting Hawks could be down to less than 10 players.
What’s been good: Paul Bruns is probably a future star and gives the Fighting Hawks the chance to have the freshman of the year for the 3rd straight season. North Dakota continues to compete in spite of some growing pains over the roster turnover. Mitchell Sueker, Ethan Igbanugo, Caleb Nero, and Bentiu Panoam give the Fighting Hawks a veteran core.
What needs work: Depth was already an issue for North Dakota and now Brendan Howard left the team and Sueker, and Nero may miss a chunk of time with injury. In their last game, North Dakota had 8 players dressed. In addition to some legitimate depth issues, the veteran backcourt hasn’t really taken the step forward that most said was needed for a successful season for the Fighting Hawks.
Conference record: 3 wins 13 losses. Omaha narrowly escaped missing the Summit League Tournament last season. The problem is a lot of talent from that team is gone this season. So there was some concern coming into the season, but things have gotten off to an even rougher start than many had hoped. Omaha has yet to record a division 1 victory. The Mavericks have been far more competitive recently, so it seems plausible they scrape out a few victories.
What’s been good: Felix Lemetti has been a solid addition. The JUCO point guard with division 1 experience has been a steady hand and is a quick player that can open up some things. Players like Nick Ferrarini, Kyle Luedtke, and Darrius Hughes have started to make solid contributions on a consistent basis as the season has progressed.
What needs work: La’Mel Robinson who was expected to be the Maverick’s best player was lost for the season with a knee injury before the season even started. Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler who was contributing when in there has missed several games with injury. The list could continue, Wanjang Tut, and others meant to be consistent contributors just have not been. There’s hope the Mavericks will find new life with the “new season” starting, but it’s been rough so far.