North Dakota State and South Dakota State have been the two most dominant programs in the Summit League over the last 10 years and the two best teams this season. While it’s not a surprise that they are the two teams that are playing in the Summit League finals tonight, the dominance they displayed in the semi-finals was, at least for this writer. Both teams for the most part dominated from start to finish with neither South Dakota against South Dakota State nor Oral Roberts against North Dakota State capable of getting the game within single digits in the second half. Let’s chat just a bit about both games.
The first game of the night was in front of the 4th largest single-session crowd in Summit League Tournament history. The tension and excitement in the arena were palpable. With an All South Dakota semi-final. There was even a recipe for success many talked themselves into for South Dakota pulling off the upset. You had a South Dakota team middle of the Summit in adjusted defense that had been playing much better offensively and had used physical play to harass a physical Kansas City team the night before. None of that really played out. The Jackrabbits were maybe as efficient on offense as they’ve been all season in the first half. The punches just kept coming. Some from the all-league guys Baylor Scheierman and Douglas Wilson, and some from all-newcomer Zeke Mayo. The Jackrabbits went to the half up 25 after shooting 69% from the field. The Coyotes were only able to get that number under 20 on a couple of occasions as the Jackrabbits went on to win 83-60. Wilson finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds, Scheierman 18 points, and Mayo 13. Honestly, there’s not a ton left to say it was really just a dominant performance by South Dakota State
While the second game ended much like the first there was a bit more drama in the first half. While for the most part, North Dakota State led wire to wire, Oral Roberts was able to make a late 1st half run to get it to 7 before a Sam Griesel drive and basket gave the Bison a 9 point halftime lead. That leads us to the player who for the most part was the story of the game. Griesel who is in his last collegiate season played like a young man not wanting it to end. Every time Oral Roberts would start to close the gap Greisel would make a play. The junior (4th yr) guard finished close to a triple-double with 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. He was helped along the way by Grant Nelson with 20 points and 8 rebounds and Rocky Kreuser with 16 points. Max Abmas did his best to keep Oral Roberts in it with 28 points but in the end, the Bison cruised in the second half.
So onto tonight. We get the two best teams in the Summit. The two best programs over the last 10 years, head to head in what should be an electric avenue in the Denny. South Dakota State had two narrow victories during the regular season and so in spite of the fact that the Jackrabbits went undefeated in the regular season, this one should be a barn burner. South Dakota coming off their best half of the season and North Dakota State coming off their best all-around game. This really could be one of the best Summit League Tournament games ever. This is coming from a person who watched Oral Roberts tip in South Dakota State last season and watched North Dakota State storm back down 25 at the half in the championship game to tie Oral Roberts before a Francis Lacis block of Sam Griesel sent Oral Roberts on their sweet 16 run. We have consistently talked about this as the best top 5 we have seen in the Summit League and these two teams have stood out even from that 5, and they clash tonight. All of this seems to set up a potential best Summit League tournament final ever.
So what’s the prediction: North Dakota State has 3 players who have been to this final every year of their careers in Sam Griesel, Rocky Kreuser, and Tyree Eady. South Dakota State is a team that did something in year 40 no other Summit League team has done before. Ultimately this South Dakota team might just be too balanced and too talented to lose this game. Especially after watching them score both inside and out and defend at levels they did not do the first 2/3 of the season. In an all-time great game.
South Dakota State 80 North Dakota State 78 Baylor Scheierman game-winner after a Sam Griesel game-tying basket.