By: Evan Lachnit, KCOU Sports
The Summit League is one that could be called up and coming in the large scheme of things of Division One college basketball. The conference that fields teams from the Great Plains to the far end of the midwest has produce talented teams to the NCAA Tournament in recent years.
It has been the Dakota schools that have brought this buzz to the conference. Both South Dakota St. and North Dakota St. have brought a sizzle to this league that only Oral Roberts and Valpo (who is now in the Horizon League) had brought in the past. Just last season, North Dakota St. made it to the tournament and made some noise when they defeated the five seed Oklahoma Sooners. NDSU went on to lose in the round of 32 to San Diego St. but it was a huge win for the program.
This year it has been a Dakota school party at the top one again. With Oral Roberts not to far behind, both SDSU and NDSU have proven that they are the cream of the crop in this conference. Both teams are 12-4 in conference and have 2o plus victories.
Here are my predictions for the tournament that starts today.
No. 1 South Dakota St. (21-9, 12-4) vs. No. 8 Western Illinois (8-19, 3-13)
Let the teams’ records do the talking in breaking down this one. South Dakota State’s offense has been proficient this season shooting close to 46 percent from the field and averaging 72.9 points per game. The Jackrabbits have four players averaging over 10 points per game. Western Illinois has had a rough season with one of the lone bright spots being sophomore guard Garret Covington who has averaged 15.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Prediction: SDSU and it is not pretty.
No. 2 North Dakota St. (20-9, 12-4) vs. No. 7 Denver (12-17, 6-10)
Again this is a mismatch on paper, but I do not think Denver is a pushover like Western Illinois (no offense Leathernecks fans). NDSU did struggle against Denver this year, with both games going to overtime before the Bison prevailed. I like Denver as a sneaky upset team, but I can not envision the Pioneers beating the Bison. NDSU is just too strong and they have more experience.
Prediction: NDSU, but closer than the experts think.
No. 4 IPFW (16-13, 9-7) vs. No. 5 South Dakota (16-15, 9-7)
Both of these teams are fairly equal and it should be a tremendous game. Both teams split their two regular season matchups. The two games were decided by by a total of 13 points. IPFW shots over 47 percent from the field and has well balanced scoring. South Dakota is less efficient the field, but in most of the other stats these teams are almost very similar.
Prediction: IPFW, flipped a coin and I love the alphabet soup schools.
No. 3 Oral Roberts (17-13, 10-6) vs. No. 6 IUPUI (10-20, 6-10)
Again the difference between the top of this conference and the bottom is pretty significant. Oral Roberts defeated IUPUI in both of their matchups this season, with one game going to overtime. The Golden Eagles are led by Obi Emegano who is averaging over 18 points per game. IUPUI has struggled at the offensive end of the court this season. They have shot a dismal 29 percent from three point range and they turn the ball over about 16 times a game.
Prediction: You have to be able to take care of the ball and shot from behind the arc in March, because IUPUI lacks that, give me Oral Roberts.
No. 1 South Dakota St. vs. No. 4 IPFW
Prediction: SDSU is the better team, thus they win. Simple as that.
No. 2 North Dakota St. vs. No. 3 Oral Roberts
Prediction: Could end up being a classic if this game happens. Tempted to take the Golden Eagles but I just like NDSU too much. NDSU in a close one.
No. 1 South Dakota St. vs. No. 2 North Dakota St.
Prediction: This will be a good one if both teams can make it here and for chalk to hold. In the battle between the Dakota’s, give me SDSU because they watched NDSU claim the title last season.