If you missed part 1 go back and read it. It Covers Oral Roberts, South Dakota State, South Dakota, North Dakota State, and Denver. The following covers the remaining 5 teams.
- Oral Roberts: 13-5 Conference record. No one runs away with it this year. The Golden Eagles finish at the top of a 3 or maybe 4-team fight to the top. The most talent and the most continuity lead them to the top spot.
- South Dakota State: 12-6 conference record. It’s been 10 years since the Jackrabbits lost 6 conference games. There are 18 conference games now but still a bold prediction based on history.
- South Dakota: 12-6 conference record. The pieces are there, but not the history of South Dakota State or the talent of Oral Roberts. Puts them 3rd in the race of the 3 I think could win the conference.
- North Dakota State: 11-7 Conference record. Would not be surprised if this is the hottest team come tournament time. Putting them here because am expecting growing pains with the new backcourt.
- Denver: 11-7 conference record. High on this team as it is. Tempered a bit by the loss of Coban Porter for the season.
- Western Illinois: 8-10 conference record. A lot of question marks on this team. No questions about the talent of Trenton Massner though. His talent lifts others
- St. Thomas: 6-12 conference record. A talented freshman class joins a team that made strides last year. With more size, and more talent, there will be some growing pains but the talent addition will start to show.
- North Dakota: 5-13 conference record. Might be a bold prediction. Especially after losing conference freshman of the year. More guard size, more athleticism, and injured players healthy.
- Omaha: 4-14 conference record. In spite of this prediction, the future looks good. Especially after Coach Crutchfield was able to convince Frankie Fidler to return to Omaha.
- Kansas City: 4-14 conference record. Staff is really encouraged by the talent infusion for Kansas City. It’s just a lot of young talent, so a growing year. Picked 6th in the preseason poll, so could be way off on this one.
Western Illinois Leathernecks
G Trenton Massner SR 6’2 16.4ppg, 6.2rpg, 4.0apg
G Alec Rosner SR 6’3 18.8ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.2apg (division 2)
G Quinlan Bennett JR 6’4 9.6ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.2apg (Lamar)
G/F KJ Lee SO 6’8 2.0ppg, 1.0rpg, 0.3apg
F Vuk Stevanic SR 6’8 1.0ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.0apg (St. Francis)
When they coined the term straw that stirs the drink. I am pretty sure they had Trenton Massner in mind. With all the roster loss, It is not uncommon to see Western Illinois picked lower in the predictions. I have them this high in no small part because of Massner’s ability to change a game. Massner does everything at a high level, scoring, rebounding, distributing, and defending. Massner was on the all-Summit and All-defensive team last year and looks to repeat this season. Coach Rob Jeter admitted things run through Massner this season especially on offense, which makes a ton of sense given his skillset. Jeter has stated the biggest difference between last years team and this years is while they have lost juice on offense, they are vastly improved defensively. Part of this defensive improvement is actually a player from last year’s roster. Quinlan Bennett is in his second season at Western Illinois but his first was lost to injury. Bennett should find his way right into a role as team leader, starter, and perimeter defensive stopper. Bennett brings a little bit of punch on the offensive end also as he averaged near double-figures in his last division 1 season at Lamar. Likely joining Massner and Bennett in the backcourt is senior transfer Alec Rosner. An elite shooter and scorer at the division 2 level, Rosner brings division 1 size to the guard position at 6’4. Jeter and Western Illinois have had some success with lower-level transfers and look for Rosner to be the next example of that scoring the basketball. Leatherneck fans didn’t get a chance to see all of what KJ Lee could do during his freshmen season last year, but Lee did see a big jump in minutes late in the season. Lee had a 6 game stretch where he played at least 15 minutes at the end of last season. Jeter has also raved about Lee’s growth in the offseason and is clearly excited about what the 6’8 guard will bring to the floor this year. It seems the most likely player to anchor things down low is St. Francis transfer Vuk Stevanic played limited minutes last season but did average 6 points and 3 rebounds per game two years ago. You can watch video after video of Stevanic highlights and not see anything happen above the rim, but he’s a crafty low-post scorer with a mid-range game. The veteran will likely log big minutes down low this season.
G JJ Kalakon JR 6’5 JUCO
F Jesiah West JR 6’5 JUCO
F Steph Gabriel JR 6’7 JUCO
F Cody Collinsworth JR 7’1 JUCO
One name not mentioned above but could absolutely crack the rotation for big-time minutes is Braden Lamar. This is especially true if the Leatherneck is looking for an offensive spark. I am going to leave Lamar off the remainder of this preview as my hunch is Western Illinois gives minutes to athletes that can help on the defensive end. JJ Kalakon is an intriguing backcourt prospect. A good athlete with the ability to play lockdown defense. Kalakon has skill on the offensive end and is able to step outside from time to time and put points on the board. He may be the biggest impact JUCO addition by the time the season comes to a close. Both Jesiah West and Steph Gabriel join Western Illinois with reputations as high-energy athletes that will impact on the glass and on defense. In trying to find information on Cody Collinsworth it seems there isn’t a highlight video to be found. Obviously, Collinsworth’s size at 7’1 stands out. Not a whole lot else known about the JUCO product.
You heard it here first: There was something wrong chemistry-wise with Western Illinois last season. Especially the second half of the season. Tons of talented offensive players left, but this year’s version will be a better team with better continuity.
Name to know this season: Alec Rosner was an elite scorer and shooter at the division 2 level. This is a Western Illinois tea in need of scoring and Rosner provides that. Rosner is a name that will be known at the end of this season.
St. Thomas Tommies
G Drake Dobbs SO 6’2 1.9ppg 0.9rpg, 0.9apg (Liberty)
G Riley Miller SR 6’3 15.4ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.2apg
G Andrew Rohde FR 6’6 Freshmen
F Courtney Brown JR 6’7 5.4ppg, 3.9rpg, 0.4apg (Milwaukee)
F Parker Bjorklund SR 6’7 12.6ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.4apg
Year 2 in division 1 for St. Thomas is mostly a mixture of former division 3 veterans and highly touted freshmen. The Starting lineup is to likely show some of that especially as we get later in the season. Riley MIller is one of those former division 3 players who will likely have a major impact again this season. One thing that Miller showed last season is that his elite shooting translated regardless of the level of competition. Miller returns for his final season is a candidate to lead the Tommies in scoring again. Last year Miller made over 100 3-point shots and shot at an impressive 41% clip. While the initial hunch is that Miller’s production will go down with the increase in talent on the roster, however as the season went on last season Miller had less and less room to get his shot off. Miller may have more room this season leading to similar production this season. It is likely that fellow senior Parker Bjorklund joins Miller in the starting. Bjorklund was another stand-out on last year’s team. Miller and Bjorklund form a nice inside, outside punch as a base for this St. Thomas roster with new pieces. It will be interesting to watch Bjorklund play this season with some help down low. Bjorklund was the best rebounder and low post threat last season. One of those new pieces is transfer Drake Dobbs. Dobbs will likely run the point this season and replace the departed Anders Nelson. Dobbs second season at Liberty he saw limited minutes. Dobbs may be a key piece to how successful the season is for the Tommies, replacing Nelson on offense is no easy task. Dobbs had an incredible year shooting his first year at Liberty. Speaking of quality shooters, whispers coming out of St. Paul are that is what they have with Andrew Rohde. Rohde may not have been the most talked about member of this year’s recruiting class 6 months ago but he might be now. It sounds like the Tommies may have something special on the offensive end in Rohde. There may be a lot of flash coming from the freshmen Rohde and while you may not get as much flash from Courtney Brown, you will get dependability. Brown who is a transfer from UW-Milwaukee gives St. Thomas a frontcourt veteran presence. Brown will give a little bit of offense, the ability to rebound, and probably most importantly a solid frontcourt defender. Brown missed last year with an injury but is primed to return healthy this season.
F Ahjany Lee FR 6’9 Freshmen
G Kendall Blue FR 6’6 Freshmen
F Brooks Allen SR 6’7 7.4ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.0apg
F Carter Bjerke FR 6’9 Freshmen
Freshmen forward Ahjany Lee has a chance to be the best player in the 4 player freshmen class. A very athletic big man with decent ability in the post already as a freshman and looks pretty smooth with the basketball in his hands. Lee may have the highest ceiling of anyone on the St. Thomas roster. Lee is likely already the best post defender on the St. Thomas roster. Brooks Allen will join Lee in providing depth in the St Thomas frontcourt. Allen was a solid bench contributor last year and seems destined for a similar role this year. Lee has the ability to score inside and out and gives constant energy on the court. Speaking of inside-outside big men, Carter Bjerke gives some of the same things that Allen does with his ability to step outside the 3-point line. In addition to that, he gives the Tommies some legit division 1 size. There’s a chance that all 3 of Lee, Blue, and Bjerke find their way into the starting lineup before the season is over. It will be a fascinating story as the season progresses the roles the Tommies’ young players play.
You heard it here first: Andrew Rohde will be the top-scoring Tommie freshman and a legit candidate to win Summit League freshmen of the year.
Name to know this season: Drake Dobbs is not the most well-known newcomer for the Tommies this season. However, Dobbs looks to be the most likely candidate to take over the role occupied by Anders Nelson previously. If Dobbs can do this at a level higher than Nelson, look for bigger things than predicted for St. Thomas this season.
North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Projected starting lineup
G Jalun Trent JR 6’4 JUCO
G Matt Norman JR 6’4 9.1ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.8apg
F BJ Omot FR 6’8 Freshmen
F Mitchell Sueker SR 6’9 9.9ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.7apg
F Tsotne Tsartsidze JR 7.9ppg, 5.3rpg, 0.7apg
It is a fascinating situation in Grand Forks this season. North Dakota actually has quite a bit of returning players from last year. That usually means a team gets picked in the top half of the league. However, this Fighting Hawk team with 7 returners including potentially all 5 starters being returning players also finished with only 2 league wins last season. Adding in some instant contributors, I think North Dakota finishes better this season than last. Veteran forward Mitchell Sueker comes back healthy and ready to be a team leader and big contributor this season. Sueker who we jokingly call Dr. Sueker on the podcast because of the amount of time he’s been in college along with an array of degrees I can’t pronounce. Sueker is a classic inside-out forward that can score in a variety of ways and brings an important veteran presence to the Fighting Hawk frontcourt. A player likely to join Sueker in the frontcourt is freshmen BJ Omot. Omot is one of the most highly touted recruits in North Dakota history. Not only does Omot bring size that the Fighting Hawks need but he’s also probably the best athlete on the team before ever taking the court. Omot shows the ability to score inside and also is a smooth athlete that shows backcourt ball skills as well. It would not be surprising if Omot starts day one for the Fighting Hawks. Tsotne Tsartsidze started basically from day 1 of last season. It seemed to take Tsartsidze a little bit of time to acclimate to the division 1 game. As the season progressed Tsartsidze seemed to gain confidence and was a solid contributor. Tsartsidze has the ability to score down low and in the mid-range and is a solid low post defender even if he sometimes is a bit undersized in matchups down low. It seems the most likely returner to have a jump in production is Matt Norman. Like Tsartsidze, Norman started slowly but seemed to find his rhythm as the season progressed. Norman scored in double figures in 2 of his first 10 games but finished in double figures in half of his remaining games. Norman showed the ability to score from the outside and driving to the basket. Jalun Trent is an intriguing prospect from the JUCO level and may get the keys to run the point to start the season. Sather has liked big point guards who can distribute in the past and Trent fits that description. Trent stands 6’4 and averaged 7 assists a game at the JUCO level last year.
G Caleb Nero SR 6’2 7.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.7apg
F Brady Danielson SR 6’4 4.6ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.1apg
G Elijah Brooks FR 6’4 Freshmen
G Reid Grant SO 6’3 1.9ppg, 1.3rpg, 2.0apg
One of the questions to be answered is whether some younger players push out some returners such as Brady Danielson, Reid Grant, and Caleb Nero for minutes. My hunch would be that the veterans hang on or at least some of them will. It seems Nero will likely find a big role, most likely as a high-level bench performer. Nero has shown scoring potential and is a good outside shooter. Nero has battled through some injuries and is coming back healthy this season. If Danielson was 6’7 his minutes would be more secure, instead, he is 6’4. Danielson is a pure energy player with the ability to step out and shoot from the outside. Last season Danielson shot 37% from behind the arc and pulled down 4.1 rebounds in only 19 minutes a game. Grant played late in the season and showed what can be best described as moxie as his playing time increased with a knack for big plays and distributing the basketball. Not sure if Danielson and Grant hold onto their minutes from last year with the new additions. Kansas Mr. Basketball Elijah Brooks has a chance to find a way to do something special for the Fighting Hawks. He may find a way into the starting lineup as the season progresses. Brooks is a talented guard off the ball with the ability to run the offense also. He may not start day 1 but it may not be long before he is.
You heard it here first: After losing past freshmen of the year winners Tyree Ihenacho and Paul Bruns after just one season in Grand Forks. Fighting Hawk fans don’t want to hear anything about another potential freshman of the year. However, BJ Omot has all the skill and opportunity to be in that conversation this season.
Name to know this season: If Elijah Brooks can do big things on the defensive side of the ball, he might have a similar impact as fellow freshmen BJ Omot, providing an impressive inside outside 1-2 punch.
Potential starting lineup
G La’Mel Robinson JR 6’0 9.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.2apg (two years ago)
G JJ White SO 6’2 JUCO
F Frankie Fidler SO 6’7 12.8ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.8apg
F Marquel Sutton SO 6’7 JUCO
C Dylan Brougham JR 6’9 4.8ppg 3.1rpg, 0.4apg
Maybe it’s just the comeback story or maybe it’s how impressive he was during his freshmen season for the Mavericks but I think La’Mel Robinson finds himself in the starting lineup. Robinson was maybe considered the best player on Omaha coming into last season and then a late summer torn ACL ended his season. Robinson is more than a year removed from the injury so while there will certainly be some rust, one would assume he will return relatively healthy this season. Robinson has already proven to be a lightning-quick scorer who can score off the bounce. if he can improve his shooting from his freshmen campaign he could become a dangerous scorer in the Summit League. All of Frankie Fidler’s freshmen season was impressive, but the growth and killer instinct he showed at the end of last season might be an indicator of a truly special sophomore campaign. If Omaha exceeds expectations this year, Fidler growth will be part of the reason why. Fidler is a silky smooth athlete, equally capable of scoring inside and out. Fidler shot an eye-popping 42% from behind the arc and had a knack for hitting big shot after big shot especially later in the season last year. Two newcomers that the Mavericks are really excited about are JJ White and Marquel Sutton. Both are JUCO products with 3 years of eligibility remaining. Omaha really struggled to rebound the basketball last year and Sutton should immediately provide relief there. Sutton averaged nearly double digits in rebounding at the JUCO level last year. Coach Chris Crutchfield also expects Sutton to help on the offensive end also. White may very well play the lead guard with Robinson coming off the bench or may play with him. Some of this would likely be matchup-dependent. Cruthfield has talked about White’s quickness and I do think he will find a spot in the starting lineup frequently. It seems likely joining the four players discussed above will be someone that can provide interior size. This will likely be, at least to start the season returner, Dylan Brougham. Crutchfield has talked about the work Brougham has put in during the off-season and that Brougham has come back stronger. He provides good size and rebounding presence with the ability to score when needed around the basket.
F Kennedy Brown SO 6’9 JUCO
G Jaeden Marshall SO 6’4 JUCO
F Luke Jungers FR 6’9 JUCO
F Akol Arop JR 6’5 5.4ppg, 4.9rpg, 0.3apg
You may have noticed the theme in recruiting this year for Omaha. Often that first recruiting year for a new staff can be hard. A late start and acclimating to all the other nuances of the new job. Coach Crutchfield chose to focus on the JUCO route with an additional focus on players with 3 years of eligibility remaining. Already mentioned above were Sutton and White, also fitting that description are Kennedy Brown and Jaeden Marshall. We already discussed Omaha’s rebounding woes, and Brown should provide immediate relief there. Brown was a high-level rebounder and shot blocker at the JUCO level last year and may find himself in the starting lineup early and often due to those traits. Brown was one of the best-shot blockers in his JUCO conference last year. Marshall may also find himself in the starting lineup supplanting either White or Robinson. He has the size that neither of those players has so will likely spend more time than either of them off the ball. Marshall also shot nearly 40% from 3 last year and was a high-level scorer. Luke Jungers is a freshman out of Omaha who certainly has pick-and-pop potential to go along with his good size at 6’9. Jungers already displayed this by hitting 6 3’s in Omaha’s exhibition game. If Jungers can provide high-level shooting consistently he will find a consistent role on this team. Akol Arop is a good athlete that will likely fill an energy role on this year’s team. Last year due to Omaha’s lack of size Arop had to spend a lot of time in the trenches down low, and while Arop is a good athlete and rebounder, that was not his most effective role. Veteran Kyle Luedtke will likely find some type of role this season but whether he gathers consistent playing time. Freshmen Jamal Ambrose is an intriguing prospect at 6’10 and is described as a good athlete.
You heard it here first: The preseason voters got it right putting Frankie Fidler on the first team. If Omaha exceeds expectations, Fidler is a dark horse player of the year candidate. Primed for a huge second year.
Name to know this season: Omaha desperately needed rebounding last season. They brought in some pieces to support that. One of those is Kennedy Brown. Could find his way early into the starting lineup and be a big contributor this season.
Kansas City Roos
Projected starting lineup
G Emmanouil Dimou FR 6’4 Freshmen
G Anderson Kopp SR 6’5 8.3ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3apg
G Rayqwuandis Mitchell SR 6’5 8.3ppg, 2.9rpg, 0.9apg (UIC)
G Shemarri Allen SR 6’4 4.8ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.2apg
F Sidy Diallo FR 7’2 Freshmen
Many predictions are much higher on the Roos than I am. Here’s the thing. I love the thinking and the plan behind building this roster. I think it will pay huge dividends… just not this year. 11 freshmen on the roster, really only a couple of returners, I just think there are major growing pains this year. If there was an award for hardest to predict Summit League starting lineup it would go to the Kansas City Roos in a landslide. I think there are two players that you can safely assume are in the starting lineup consistently and the rest is up for grabs. One of those players is returning player Anderson Kopp. Kopp is a lights-out outside shooter and he will likely have the green light to do a lot of that this season. Last year he started slowly shooting the ball and still shot 42% from 3. The percentage may go down because of the volume of attempts this season but Kansas City needs Kopp’s shooting and will likely utilize it often. Rayqwuandis Mitchell is the other likely consistent lineup piece. The UIC transfer brings consistency and a defensive effort that coach Marvin Menzies is looking for, to the Roos lineup. As with Kopp Mitchell will likely see a jump in shot attempts this season. I am really not sure what Shemarri Allen’s role will look like this year, but I think he finds his way to similar all-around numbers. He’s been a non-existent shooter from the outside in his career, but he’ll bring the defensive intensity Marvin Menzies wants, along with an all-around game that involves the ability to put the ball in the basket, rebound, and distribute. For the last two players in the starting lineup, I think it’s a safe bet at least two freshmen start, and after an extensive process that almost included picking names out of a hat, the two most likely are Emmanouil Dimou and Sidy Diallo. Mostly because of the skill set they bring that is otherwise missing in this starting lineup. Dimou is the freshman most discussed for his lead guard skills. This makes him likely to find big minutes. Allen also is capable at times of running the point so it’s possible Allen runs lead guard and one of the talented freshmen forwards find their way into the starting lineup. Diallo is my pick purely based on what could be. At 7’2 he is also described as a player that can run the floor very well and spot up from outside the arc. Kansas City has raved about his skill set. Also with his size and athleticism, Diallo could end up being one of the best post defenders in the league.
F Jeff Ngandu FR 6’9 Freshmen
F Allen David Mukeba JR 6’7 FR Freshmen
F Babacar Diallo JR 6’6 0.3ppg, 0.6rpg (St. Peters)
G Timothy Barnes JR 6’3 4.0ppg, 1.5rpg, 0.5apg
F Precious Idiaru FR 6’10 Freshmen
F Promise Idiaru FR 6’9 Freshmen
On a team where we know little about most of the freshmen prospects, one where the intrigue may be a little bit higher is forward Jeff Ngandu. Ngandu signed originally with Seton Hall with thoughts that he might find a way into some major minutes there but never made it on campus for Seton Hall. Now he arrives in Kansas City for his first college basketball season. Well-built physical big with a ready-made college basketball frame, Ngandu may find himself with major minutes this season. Two veterans will vie for minutes in Babacar Diallo and Timothy Barnes. Diallo joins after spending one year at St Peters and Barnes is back for his second season in Kansas City. Barnes did have some moments last season, scoring in double figures 3 times and playing in 22 games. The name of the game for the Kansas City freshmen class is size, skill, and athleticism. Menzies has consistently throughout his career found under-recruited players with high ceilings and that’s likely this season as well. Almost all of the freshmen recruits are foriegn born players with skill and length, some of those notable names are Allen David Mukeba (JUCO sophomore), and the brothers Promise and Precious Idiaru.
You heard it here first: Going to give you two heard it here firsts. The first is that Anderson Kopp will be a top-10 Summit League scorer. He’s an elite shooter with a green light. I wish I was brave enough to say top 5 because that’s possible. Second heard it here first. While I am down on the Roos this year, predicting a top 3 Summit League finish by year 3 of the Menzies era. Love the way they are building this roster.
Name to know this season: Jeff Ngandu was a talented recruit with power 5 ability. Ready-made college basketball frame. An older freshman, Ngandu is ready to jump right in and do big things. I put Diallo in my projected starting lineup but equal chance Ngandu is the name most talked about as the season progresses.