- South Dakota State
- North Dakota State
- Oral Roberts
- South Dakota
- Western Illinois
Player of the Year: Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts
Coach of the Year: Scott Nagy, South Dakota State
Rookie of the Year: Tyler Hagedorn, South Dakota
All-Conference 1st Team
C/F Dexter Werner, North Dakota State
F A.J. Jacobson, North Dakota State
G/F Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts
G Deondre Parks, South Dakota State
G George Marshall, South Dakota State
All-Conference 2nd Team
G/F Jake Bittle, South Dakota State
G/F Garret Covington, Western Illinois
G Kory Brown, North Dakota State
G Mo Evans, IPFW
G Marcellus Barksdale, IUPUI
All-Conference 3rd Team
C/F Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nebraska-Omaha
FTyler Hagedorn, South Dakota
G/F J.C. Fuller, Western Illinois
G Nate Engesser, Denver
G Marcus Tyus, Nebraska-Omaha
C/F Tyler Hagedorn, South Dakota
F Adam Dykman, South Dakota State
G/F Jake Holtzmann, Denver
G Cole Gentry, South Dakota State
G Khy Kabellis, North Dakota State
1. South Dakota State
Key Losses: Cody Larson
Key Returners: Deondre Parks, George Marshall, Jake Bittle
Key Newcomers: Adam Dykman, Cole Gentry, Mike Daum, Tevin King
C Connor Devine, Jr.; (2.1/2.2/0.1/0.2/1.1)
F Reed Tellinghuisen, So.; (8.6/3.3/1.0/0.6/0.5)
G Jake Bittle, Sr.; (10.1/4.3/2.7/1.2/0.3)
G Deondre Parks, Sr.; (14.1/4.1/1.9/0.6/0.1)
G George Marshall, Sr.; (13.2/3.7/2.3/0.7/0.1)
Reserves: Skylar Flatten, Ian Theisen, Keaton Moffitt, Adam Dykman, Cole Gentry
Postseason Prediction: 13 Seed (Auto Bid)
The Jackrabbits, aside from owning one of the best nicknames in college basketball, are one of the best mid-major programs in the country, and have been over the last four years or so. Together with North Dakota State (which I can only assume is a bitter, bloody rivalry), the Jacks have dominated the Summit conference and will look to do so once again in 2015-16 with a roster loaded with experience.
South Dakota State loses one major piece from its 2014-15 squad with the graduation of forward Cody Larson. Larson was really the Jackrabbits’ only viable inside threat and also was the team’s best rebounder by a substantial amount. Replacing Larson will not be an easy task, but the return of what should be the best backcourt in the conference should help make up for the production lost down low.
As just mentioned, SD State returns the best backcourt in the conference led by leading scorer Deondre Parks, point guard (and former Wisconsin student-athlete) George Marshall, and 6’4’’ wing Jake Bittle. All three men are seniors, all three are experienced, and all three averaged double digits in scoring for the Bunnies last season. Parks will regain his role as the undisputed go-to guy, a role the 6’4’’ shooting guard exceled in last season posting a shooting percentage slash of .482/.361/.754. Parks’ versatility is what makes him so dangerous, as he is equally comfortable and deadly shooting the three as he is driving hard to the hole. Marshall is a hard-nosed scoring point guard who does most of his damage from deep where he shot 42.1% on 152 attempts last year, and it also doesn’t hurt that he played under Bo Ryan for a bit. Bittle is the team’s best perimeter defender and possesses good size at 215 lbs. He is a smart passer and is the most consistent shooter on the team putting up a slash of .595/.412/.806 last season while averaging 10 points per contest.
The frontcourt will be a bit thin for the Rabbits this season without Larson. Reed Tellinghuisen, a 6’6’’ forward will play something of a stretch-four for the team. Tellinghuisen shot 42.1% from distance on 133 attempts as a freshman and will add yet another outside shooting threat to the Rabbits’ starting group. His 190 lb. frame doesn’t offer much in the realm of rebounding, which could be the Achilles heel for SD State this season unless someone can step up at the center position. The best odds to take over for Larson lie with 6’10’’ junior center Connor Devine and 6’9’’ sophomore center Ian Thiesen. Both men are big bodies and proved to have some rebounding ability in limited minutes a season ago. Devine’s rim protection ability gives him a slight edge, but Theisen should earn ample minutes splitting time in the middle.
The Jackrabbits have a good amount of new blood coming into the program this season. 6’7’’ forward Adam Dykman, former Nebraska Mr. Basketball, appears to be the jewel of the recruiting class. He should see plenty of time immediately in the thin Rabbit frontcourt. Mike Daum, a 6’9’’ redshirt freshman, should also see time down low for SD State. The Jackrabbits add three new members in the backcourt with Beau Brown, Cole Gentry, and Tevin King coming in. Gentry should see some floor time backing up Marshall at the point, and the 6’2’’ King will look to spell Parks and Bittle when needed.
The Jackrabbits should represent the Summit this season in the NCAA tournament. They have the experience and backcourt necessary to take the conference by storm.
2. North Dakota State
Key Losses: Lawrence Alexander
Key Returners: A.J. Jacobson, Kory Brown, Dexter Werner
Key Newcomers: Khy Kabellis, Spencer Eliason, Trey Miller, Malik Clements, Deng Geu, Dylan Miller
C Chris Kading, Sr.; (5.3/3.9/0.4/0.4/1.5)
F Dexter Werner, Jr.; (8.4/5.4/0.7/0.6/1.0)
G/F A.J. Jacobson, So.; (11.6/4.2/1.8/0.4/0.3)
G Kory Brown, Sr.; (8.3/4.9/1.6/0.8/0.7)
G Carlin Dupree, Jr.; (7.0/4.5/2.6/1.2/0.1)
Reserves: Khy Kabellis, Spencer Eliason, Trey Miller, Malik Clements, Deng Geu, Dylan Miller
Postseason Prediction: NIT
The Bison have represented the Summit League the last two consecutive seasons in the Big Dance. This season, with the loss of conference player of the year Lawrence Alexander, ND State figures to take a step back. However, with nearly everyone else on the roster returning and a decent incoming class, the Bison should be right in the thick of things alongside South Dakota State all year.
Replacing Alexander will be a bitch; the guy played 95.5% of the Bison’s available minutes last season (38 per game, 2nd in the country), and threw up 18 points per contest while shooting 44.5% from three on 227 attempts – good lord. The Bison will be heavily reliant on sophomore wing A.J. Jacobson to make up for the lost production. Jacobson is versatile at 6’6’’, capable of knocking down the three (38.6%), getting to the basket, and converting on fouls (82.7%). He is the team’s returning leading scorer and only returner who averaged in double figures. Expect a major leap for Jacobson in his sophomore campaign.
The supporting cast includes two seniors, Kory Brown and Chris Kading, junior point guard Carlin Dupree, sophomore guard Paul Miller, and junior load Dexter Werner. Brown at 6’4’’ 205 lbs. is a good rebounder for his size and a capable finisher around the rim. He plays a slasher role at the 2 position and also is a stout defender. Kading is a 6’8’’ forward who should see an increased role this season in his senior year. Kading is a good rim protector (7.0% Blk%), finisher (61.8%), and offensive rebounder. Together with Werner, Kading should help make up one of the toughest down-low combos in the conference. Dupree played major minutes for the Bison last season but left a lot to be desired with his play on the floor. The guard struggled mightily to make shots (.402/.225/.560) and struggled at times with turnovers. Expect Dupree to work out the kinks and become a reliable point for this veteran squad this season. Miller will fill the role of spot-up shooter for the Bison; the sophomore hit on 37.8% of his three attempts last season and his shooting ability will be key for ND State’s spacing on offense this year. Werner, as mentioned above, is an absolute load at 6’6’’ 240 lbs. The junior was one of the best offensive rebounders in the country last season (13.7% OR%, 35th nationally) and possesses a keen ability to draw fouls on offense. His conditioning has limited his PT in the past, but if Werner can stay on the court, the Bison become a very tough team to score on and rebound against down low.
Coach Dave Richman brings in a slew of freshmen this season that will essentially make up the entirety of the Bison bench. Khy Kabellis is a 6’3’’ point guard who could compete for starters minutes as the season progresses; he is a prototypical point guard with strong passing ability. Malik Clements, a JUCO transfer from Mississippi, is a strong 2-guard who should earn time in the Bison backcourt early on. Dylan Miller (6’8’’) and Trey Miller (6’7’’) are each promising scoring forwards who could act as nice scoring sparks off the bench as changes of pace for the scoring challenged Kading and out of shape Werner. Den Geu (6’8’’) and Spencer Eliason (6’9’’) will provide even more depth in the frontcourt. Eliason, a strong, sturdy big man and redshirt freshman, has potential to start for the Bison down the road.
North Dakota State absolutely has the talent to make it back to the Dance this season. Their size is basically unmatched by anyone in the Summit, and their experience will help immensely. The loss of Alexander is a huge blow, but Coach Richman will have his boys competing for title with the Jackrabbits at season end.
3. Oral Roberts
Key Losses: Korey Billbury, Denell Henderson, Bobby Word
Key Returners: Obi Emegano, Aaron Young
Key Newcomers: Jalen Bradley, Chris Crawford, Kris Martin, Javan White, Tre Vance, Aaron Anderson
C Albert Owens, So.; (3.8/2.4/0.1/0.2/0.8)
F Brandon Conley, Sr.; (4.8/3.6/0.5/0.4/0.9)
G Obi Emegano, Sr.; (18.3/4.7/2.2/1.7/0.2)
G Jalen Bradley, Jr.; (JUCO)
G Aaron Young, Jr.; (6.1/1.4/1.9/0.6/0.0)
Reserves: Darian Harris, Chris Crawford, Kris Martin, Javan White, Tre Vance, Aaron Anderson
Postseason Prediction: None
Growing up I, like most kids, giggled like a school girl at the mention of the name “Oral Roberts”, thinking it to be the funniest college name in the world. As an adult I still giggle at the name, but did a bit of research to discover the source of the moniker. As expected, Oral Roberts was an actual person, a televangelist in fact, that founded the school in 1963. His name, thankfully wasn’t actually “Oral”, it was Granville! Oral was in fact his middle name, no doubt giving the child version of Roberts a bit of a complex when deciding which name to go by. I would’ve chosen “G.O.”. I digress.
Basketball-wise, Oral Roberts figures to be near the top of the Summit league once again this season after a third place finish in their inaugural year in 2014-15. The Golden Eagles suffer a few tough losses from last year’s squad including the graduation of Denell Henderson, and the transfers of Bobby Word (Cleveland State) and second leading scorer Korey Billbury (VCU). The good news is, the Eagles bring back arguably the best player in the conference, Omi Emegano.
Emegano will be the life-blood for Oral Roberts this season; they will rely on the 6’3’’ senior for everything scoring-related. The guard averaged 18.3 ppg last season with slashes of .445/.368/.796 while drawing the 19th most fouls per 40 minutes in the country. With little help around him this season, Emegano could easily go for 20 a night.
Three important role players return for Oral Roberts this season, junior point guard Aaron Young, senior forward Brandon Conley, and sophomore center Albert Owens. Young will continue his duties as the Eagles’ starting point guard after he struggled to limit turnovers as a sophomore. The 5’11’’ Young, however, does score well and is very efficient from all areas on the court (.519/.444/.761). Conley is a traditional 6’7’’ power forward who makes his living on the inside, where he finishes 61.9% of his shots near the rim and 54.9% of his shots inside the arc overall. In limited minutes as a freshman, Owens proved to be an effective shot blocker and rebounder. At 6’9’’ 260 lbs., Owens’s size will be a major asset for the Eagles this season.
ORU will be forced to rely on some newcomers this season with the departure of so many rotation players. Jalen Bradley, a 6’1’’ JUCO transfer, is a lights-out three-point shooter who averaged 17 points per game in JUCO while shooting 42.6% from three. Given that the Eagles have very little threats on the outside, Bradley could be huge for them. Kris Martin is a 6’5’’ 2-star recruit from Frisco, Texas. Martin is a slasher-style 2-guard whose biggest gift to ORU this season will be his perimeter defense. Expect major PT for Martin this season. Chris Crawford is a 6’1’’ guard capable of filling it up on a nightly basis. Crawford averaged 22 points per game in high school and promises to provide a scoring lift for ORU off the bench this season. Finally, Javan White, a 6’8’’ athletic forward, should provide needed depth in the frontcourt. White has long arms and should be a solid rim protector and rebounder for ORU this season.
With Emegano, Oral Roberts has a shot to win every conference game this season. However, their lack of depth and experience is troubling and will be tough to overcome when facing the likes of SD State and ND State.
Key Losses: Steve Forbes, Joe Edwards, Isaiah McCray
Key Returners: Mo Evans, Max Landis
Key Newcomers: Andrew Poulter, DeAngelo Stewart, John Konchar, Charles Ruise, Jr., Filip Serwatka
F Andrew Poulter, Jr.; (JUCO)
F Joe Reed, Sr.; (8.2/4.5/1.4/0.7/0.4)
G/F DeAngelo Stewart, Jr.; (JUCO)
G Max Landis, Sr.; (9.3/2.2/2.4/0.7/0.0)
G Mo Evans, Jr.; (10.2/3.5/3.3/1.0/0.2)
Reserves: Michael Calder, John Konchar, Charles Ruise, Jr., Filip Serwatka
Postseason Prediction: None
The IPFW Mastodons is a badass motherfucking name and reminds me of the black Power Ranger, Zack, whose Zord of course was the Mastodon. IPFW had a mediocre 2014-15 year going 16-15 overall while finishing 9-7 in the Summit. Really it wasn’t such a bad season for first year coach Jon Coffman and the Mastodons hung tough with most opponents they faced. This season will be a bit of an uphill battle to repeat with another nine conference wins as IPFW loses its two leading scorers, Steve Forbes and Joe Edwards, and another key contributor in Isaiah McCray.
Aside: I was curious about how IPFW (Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne) got its name, so here it is: IPFW is a cooperatively-managed regional campus of two state university systems (Indiana & Purdue) and offers grad and undergrad programs through both universities. I guess I still don’t really understand why there is a jointly-managed college participating in D1 sports, but I like it – especially because they’re the motherfucking Mastodons.
Back to ball. IPFW will be led this season by returning leading scorer Mo Evans, senior forward Joe Reed, and senior guard Max Landis. Evans is the team’s point guard and had success last year as IPFW’s floor leader, churning out a respectable 21.4 assist rate. The guard has proven shooting ability from deep (34.2%) and finishes well inside the arc (50%) and at the line (82.1%). Evans played the second most amount of minutes last season for the Dons and should receive even more PT in junior year. Reed is the incumbent big man for IPFW. At 6’8’’ 220 lbs., Reed has good size for the Summit League but often doesn’t use it. He is a subpar rebounder for a power forward and prefers popping out for midrange jumpers and the occasional three to banging down low. Landis is an uber-efficient off-guard who specializes mainly as a spot-up threat on offense. 61.5% of his shots last season were threes, and 87.5% of the makes were assisted. When he did shoot inside the arc, Landis finished at a 61.9% clip and was successful at the foul line, where he got to a fair amount, shooting 88% (22nd nationally).
Michael Calder, a 6’2’’ senior guard with a sweet deep stroke, is the only other relevant returner the Dons have, meaning incoming transfers and frosh will need to step up for IPFW to be competitive this season in the Summit.
IPFW has a few enticing transfers eligible this season, unfortunately their two best transfers, Bryson Scott (Purdue) and Xzavier Taylor (Bradley) will not be eligible until next season. This year will feature UALR / JUCO transfer Andrew Poulter, Senegal-born Racine Talla (USC Upstate and JUCO), and guard DeAngelo Stewart (Alabama State and JUCO). Poulter is huge at 6’11’’ 270 lbs., and should be a good source of rebounding and interior defense for the Mastodons this season. Talla is a very raw 6’9’’ forward, but has potential to be an asset on the boards off the bench. Stewart likely starts this season for IPFW. He is a 6’6’’ prototypical wing capable of scoring attacking the basket and spotting up from three. Stewart had an illustrious season at his JUCO School last season after seeing very limited action as a freshman for Alabama State.
The freshman class for IPFW is headlined by three men in particular; redshirt guard John Konchar, guard Charles Ruise, Jr., and 6’6’’ forward Filip Serwatka. In high school, Konchar put up absolutely ridiculous numbers averaging 28.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 4.1 apg, 3.2 spg, and 2.5 bpg. At 6’4’’, Konchar is a big guard who should be able to cause problems for opposing shooters. Konchar’s athleticism and spot up ability will be big for IPFW this year. Ruise. Jr. is a nice 6’2’’ off-guard who has a knack for scoring; he should be a productive backup for Coach Coffman in his freshman campaign. Serwatka is another freshman that can light it up. Given his size, he likely will play more of a small forward or stretch four position, which will be good for spacing purposes and allow Evans more room to create.
IPFW likely finishes around the same position they did in the prior year. If newcomers fail to gel quickly however, look for the Dons to take a step back in 2015-16.
5. South Dakota
Key Losses: Brandon Bos, Tyler Larson
Key Returners: Casey Kasperbauer, Tre Burnette
Key Newcomers: Zach Dickerson, Shy McClelland, Tyler Hagedorn, Dan Jech
F Tyler Hagedorn, Fr.;
F Eric Robertson, Sr.; (5.1/3.3/0.2/0.4/0.7)
G Tre Burnette, Sr.; (7.8/5.9/0.8/1.3/0.5)
G Casey Kasperbauer, Sr.; (9.9/2.4/0.8/0.7/0.1)
G Trey Norris, Sr.; (5.5/1.4/2.7/0.9/0.0)
Reserves: Zach Dickerson, Shy McClelland, Dan Jech, D.J. Davis, Austin Sparks
Postseason Prediction: None
The South Dakota Coyotes lose a lot of production from a season ago in which they went 17-16 with a 9-7 Summit League record. Specifically, the Coyotes lose their top two scorers, Tyler Larson and Brandon Bos, leaving Coach Craig Smith and company in a rebuilding situation. South Dakota does return three starters and two key role players, but with only so-so talent coming in (and eligible this season), a top 5 conference finish may be tough to come by.
With the departure of Larson and Bos, the Coyotes will turn to Tre Burnette, Casey Kasperbauer, and Trey Norris for leadership and production. Burnette, at 6’5’’ plays as an undersized power forward for the Coyotes, but despite his height, he is an effective rebounder, particularly on the defensive side of the ball (24.3% DR%, 38th nationally). In addition, Burnette is South Dakota’s best defender, leading the team with 1.3 steals per contest last season. Kasperbauer is South Dakota’s leading returning scorer at just under 10 points per game. The 6’1’’ guard is primarily an off-ball three-point threat, shooting nearly 75% of hist shots from deep last season. Kasperbauer is a very good shooter, 43.4% from three on 166 attempts and 92.7% from the line on 41 attempts, but he relies on others to create shots for him making his ceiling that of a pretty good Summit League three-point specialist. Norris is the Coyotes’ point guard and floor leader. He brings a pass-first mindset to the offense and finishes when he has to, shooting 52.7% inside the arc last year.
Reserves looking to fill bigger roles this season for South Dakota include 6’8’’ senior forward Eric Robertson, 6’4’’ sophomore wing D.J. Davis, and sophomore 6’8’’ forward Austin Sparks. Robertson is likely to earn a starting role this year after playing 19 minutes per contest last season as a junior. Sparks played very little last season but will look to gain increased playing time with the departure of 6’10’’ center James Hunter. Davis was, for lack of a better word, highly ineffective last season in limited minutes, but Bos’s and Larson’s absence leaves a big void on the perimeter, one that the team hopes Davis can help fill.
New blood includes Eastern Illinois transfer Zach Dickerson, Detroit and JUCO transfer Shy McClelland, and two promising freshmen, Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech. Dickerson started nine games for EIU in 2013-14 and is a solid shooter. McClelland had a very good JUCO season where he averaged 15, 5, and 4. He should earn backup minutes behind Norris and Kasperbauer. Hagedorn and Jech, 6’10’’ and 6’9’’ respectively, are both big forwards that are poised to receive ample playing time this season in the weal Coyote frontcourt. Hagedorn was Nebraska’s Gatorade Player of the Year in high school and Jech comes in as a promising rebounder and rim protector.
South Dakota won’t win this conference this season, but they will be competitive and have the potential to pull an upset or two against the top tier.
Key Losses: DavRon Williams
Key Returners: Marcellus Barksdale
Key Newcomers: Darell Combs, Jordan Pickett, Matt O’Leary, T.J. Henderson, Noah Thomas
F Nick Osborne, Jr.; (w/ Loyola 13-14) (5.4/4.0/0.7/0.4/0.4)
F Aaron Brennan, So.; (6.4/3.1/1.0/0.8/0.3)
G Mason Archie, II, Sr.; (7.6/1.7/1.2/0.7/0.0)
G D.J. McCall, So.; (4.8/2.9/1.2/0.6/0.0)
G Marcellus Barksdale, Sr.; (9.5/4.7/2.4/1.7/0.2)
Reserves: Leo Svete, T.J. Henderson, Darell Combs, Jordan Pickett, Noah Thomas, Matt O’Leary
Postseason Prediction: None
See previous discussion where I admitted my ignorance towards Indiana University – Purdue University co-managed regional universities.
IUPUI is an intriguing Summit team this season. Unlike most teams in the conference, IUPUI doesn’t lose a whole lot of production from last year, and they are coached by former Arizona stud Jason Gardner, who I loved watching when I was a lad. Huge caveat: IUPUI was one of the worst offensive teams in the nation last season (while playing pretty good D actually) and the team limped to a 10-21 record while going 6-10 in conference play. The good news is IUPUI has a healthy amount of new transfers and freshmen that could do a lot to help turn this program around. Also – Gardner was a rookie coach last year, and improved this team vastly over the car wrecks that were the 13-14 and 12-13 seasons in which IUPUI won a total of 6 games in each.
The Jaguars lose only one player of great importance, second leading scorer and leading rebounder DavRon Williams. Aside from Williams and moderately used point guard P.J. Boutte, everyone of importance is back including leading scorer and best all-around player Marcellus Barksdale. Nobody on IUPUI averaged in double digit scoring last season, but Barksdale came the closest, throwing up 9.5 points per contest. At 6’5’’ 210 lbs., Barksdale has good size at the wing position and he rebounds well for his position. The senior struggled with his shot last season and doesn’t offer much as a three-point threat. However, Barksdale is an invaluable playmaker and attacks the rim better than anyone on the team; he also doubles as the squad’s best defender and helped turn IUPUI into the Summit’s second best defense last season. Without Boutte, Barksdale will likely take over most of the ball handling duties this year making him even more irreplaceable to the Jags.
Three veteran players return to surround Barksdale with viable options: 6’6’’ forward Aaron Brennan, 6’5’’ guard Mason Archie, II, and 6’5’’ guard D.J. McCall. Brennan played well in the post last season as a freshman for IUPUI; he was a pretty good offensive rebounder and finished at a high rate around the rim. Defensively he needs to improve a bit but having a year under his belt will certainly help his development. McCall was also a freshman last season and was basically a walking turnover. He showed flashes of scoring ability during the year, including a 14 point effort versus Purdue, but his ball protection must get better this season. Mason Archie is IUPUI’s best returning three-point option, which is scary when you consider he shot just 31.4% on 105 attempts. Archie did shoot well inside the arc for a guard and converted from the line at a high rate when he got there. Archie was also turnover prone as a junior and will look to suppress the urge to give the ball to the opposition this season as a senior.
Several transfers and fresh faces will look to give Gardner’s Jags a boost this season including three that all come by way of Loyola. The Loyola trio is made up of 6’1’’ guard Jordan Pickett, 6’8’’ forward Matt O’Leary, and 6’8’’ forward Nick Osborne. Osborne and O’Leary both had mild success as reserves for the Ramblers and will compete for the second starting forward slot alongside Brennan. Osborne may have the upper hand due to his superior rebounding ability, but O’Leary is much better handling the ball and making plays in more of a stretch four role. Pickett saw very limited action as a freshman at Loyola due to injury, but he was a fairly highly regarded recruit coming out of Indianapolis and has potential to be a nice source of shooting off the IUPUI pine. Darell Combs out of Eastern Michigan is the fourth impactful transfer Gardner brings in this year. Combs is a 6’2’’ guard who averaged 7.5 points per game for EMU in only 15 minutes per game. Like Pickett, he also can shoot the three ball, something that is sorely needed on this squad.
T.J. Henderson (6’0’’ G) and Noah Thomas (6’9’’ F) are two freshmen that should see the court this season. Henderson could even earn a few starts given the lack of point guards IUPUI has. Sophomore wing Leo Svete will provide shooting in a reserve role.
IUPUI will be an improved team from last year, good enough to maybe crack the top 5 of the conference. Their defense should be fierce once again; there offense is the biggest factor holding them back.
Key Losses: Brett Olson, Cam Griffin, Jalen Love
Key Returners: Marcus Byrd, Nate Engesser
Key Newcomers: Jake Holtzmann, C.J. Bobbitt, Thomas Neff, Joe Rosga, Bradley George
C Daniel Amigo, So.; (5.7/1.4/1.1/0.5/0.7/1.7)
F Marcus Byrd, Sr.; (8.5/3.7/1.8/.0.5/0.3)
G/F Jake Holtzmann, Fr.;
G Bryant Rucker, Sr.; (4.7/1.5/1.3/0.4/0.0)
G Nate Engesser, Sr.; (10.1/2.3/2.4/0.7/0.1)
Reserves: Duke Douglas, Christian Mackey, C.J. Bobbitt, Thomas Neff, Joe Rosga, Bradley George
Postseason Prediction: None
Denver was an interesting team last season. They had a piss poor defense (288th in efficiency per kenpom), were the worst offensive rebounding team in the country, and were one of the smallest teams in the country. They were 7th in the nation in effective FG% (56.2%), 39th in 3P% (38%), 5th in 2P% (55.5%), 10th in FT% (76.6%), and had the highest assist percentage in the nation. They also played at the slowest tempo in Division 1 basketball. So basically they were a bunch of little guys who could shoot the shit out of the ball.
Like so many other Summit teams, Denver loses its two leading scorers from a season ago, Brett Olson (their best player) and Cam Griffin. In addition, the team loses Jalen Love, a guard who played major minutes for the Pioneers in 2014-15, to transfer.
The returning group will be led by seniors Marcus Byrd and Nate Engesser. Engesser, a 6’3’’ guard, is the team’s leading returning scorer (10.1 ppg). He is a dynamite shooter, posting slashes of .629/.433/.829 in 2014-15. (Aside: I guess it goes without saying that most of these players shot the shit out of the ball given the earlier discussion, but I will still rattle off their stats regardless). Byrd put up similar shooting numbers, .567/.441/.800, and also has the luxury of being 6’7’’, making him the second tallest player on the Pioneers’ roster. Both Engesser and Byrd will be counted upon to be lights out once again, especially with the Olson departure.
The “biggest” factor Denver this season could be the play of Daniel Amigo. Amigo, at 6’10’’ 250 lbs., is easily the biggest player on the team and one of their only viable inside threats. The big man scored fairly well in the 16 games he played in last season, but failed to make much of an impact rebounding-wise. A big improvement from him goes a long way in determining Denver’s outcome this season.
Guard Bryant Rucker and wings Christian Mackey and Duke Douglas will do their best to help fill the void left by the departed. Mackey could secretly be the team’s best rebounder, Rucker is yet another long-range shooting threat, and Douglas is a slasher-style wing, which is a bit of a rare commodity on the Denver campus.
Of the incoming freshman, 2-star 6’6’’ wing Jake Holtzmann looks to have the greatest potential. He is an extremely smart, versatile basketball player who will fit well within the Denver three-point attack system. C.J. Bobbitt, an athletic 6’7’’ forward, too could make a huge impact on the Denver lineup. Bobbitt’s rebounding and athleticism are both sorely needed in the Pioneers rotation. He should play big minutes right away. Three guards, Bradley George, Thomas Neff, and Joe Rosga, will provide depth in the backcourt. Look for at least one of the three to break out and crack the rotation early on.
Denver loses too much from last year to be considered as a top 5 Summit League candidate, but the way they shoot the rock, they will have a chance to compete in nearly every game they play. A 6th or 7th place finish feels right for this squad.
Key Losses: C.J. Carter, Mike Rostampour
Key Returners: Devin Patterson. Marcus Tyus, Tre’Shawn Thurman
Key Newcomers: Zach Pirog, J.T. Gibson, Tra-Deon Hollins
F Jake White, Sr.; (7.3/5.6/0.5/0.3/0.4)
F Tre’Shawn Thomas, So.; (9.5/5.6/0.9/1.1/1.0)
G Tra-Deon Hollins, Jr.; (JUCO)
G Marcus Tyus, Sr.; (13.0/3.7/2.0/1.0/0.1)
G Devin Patterson, Sr.; (11.7/2.8/3.9/2.2/0.0)
Reserves: Zach Pirog, J.T. Gibson, Tim Smallwood, Randy Reed, Kyler Erickson
Postseason Prediction: None
Omaha has been a Division 1 basketball program for four seasons amassing a total record of 51-70 under Coach Derrin Hansen. This season promises to be more of the same for the Mavericks as they lose two starters, including best player C.J. Carter; but with three starters returning and a few promising recruits joining the fold, the Mavs may be able to scratch out 6 or 7 conference wins this year.
Omaha played the 3rd fastest paced basketball last season and just barely was a top 200 offense. Aside from an impressive win at Marquette, the Mavs were a pretty awful team overall, mostly due to their inability to defend.
This season will revolve around the play of guards Devin Patterson and Marcus Tyus and forward Tre’Shawn Thurman. Patterson, a 5’11’’ point guard, put up solid assist numbers last season running the Mavs’ high tempo offense. The guard gets to the foul line regularly where he shoots a scorching 81.8% and he’s deadly in the passing lanes and swiping the ball from lazy handlers – really the only thing on defense Omaha did well last season was force turnovers. Tyus was the team’s second leading scorer last season and should step up to around 15 - 17 points per game this year. Tyus is a lights out shooter from deep (44.6%) and inside the arc (50%) where the 6’1’’ guard gets to the rim with ease. He’ll have a heavier scoring load this season with the absence of Carter. Thurman, at 6’7’’, plays mostly from the 4 spot on the height-challenged Mavs squad. He is a good shot blocker and rebounder and is a reliable scorer. Thurman will hear his number called much more frequently this season with the Rostampour departure.
Four returning senior reserves have opportunities to make impacts on the rotation this season: 6’8’’ forward Jake White, 6’2’’ guard Tim Smallwood, 6’6’’ wing Randy Reed, and 6’0’’ guard Kyler Erickson. White should start for the Mavs and offers strong rebounding, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Smallwood is a brick of a shooter and will likely yield PT to incoming guards. Reed has nice potential on the wing, though he didn’t see the court often last season; he should see around 15 minutes per game off the pine in 2015-16. Erickson will fill a three-point threat and back-up point guard role off the bench.
Three incoming players should make a splash in the Omaha basketball pool in 2015-16: 6’10’’ freshman center Zach Pirog, 6’3’’ freshman guard J.T. Gibson, and 6’2’’ JUCO transfer Tra-Deon Hollins. Pirog is a tall, but at 200 lbs. is a bit of a rail likely to be susceptible to some bullying down low. He should still see plenty of court time as he develops this season. Gibson was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year. He was fairly widely recruited, especially at the mid major level, and has the opportunity to earn starters minutes in his rookie season. Hollins averaged 17 points per game in JUCO last season and has a high motor that figures to fit perfectly in Omaha’s high tempo offense.
Omaha could finish as high as 6th this season in the Summit if Tyus becomes a star and the reserves and newcomers step up. They could also fail to get over the loss of Carter and end up finishing where they did last season in a disappointing 8th position. I’ll wager on the latter for now but remain optimistic.
9. Western Illinois
Key Losses: Mohamed Conde
Key Returners: Garret Covington, J.C. Fuller
Key Newcomers: Brandon Gilbeck, Jalen Morgan, Delo Bruster
F Jalen Chapman, Sr.; (4.9/4.3/0.5/1.0/0.7)
F Tate Stensgaard, Sr.; (4.3/4.5/0.9/0.5/0.3)
G Garret Covington, Jr.; (15.5/4.3/2.3/1.1/0.2)
G J.C. Fuller, Sr.; (12.0/3.3/2.3/0.4/0.3)
G Jabari Sandifer, Jr.; (7.4/3.0/4.3/0.9/0.2)
Reserves: Jamie Batish, Dalan Ancrum, Mike Miklusak
Postseason Prediction: None
I’m a big fan of the Leathernecks as a team name (name is taken from the traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps – they are the only non-military university to use a military nickname), but I’m not a big fan of the Leathernecks as a team. Western Illinois was easily the worst team in the Summit last season, and one of the worst teams in the nation. The bright side for the ‘Necks is they return almost everyone from a young team a season ago, including All-Conference player Garret Covington, so an improved season is certainly in the cards.
Covington, a 6’5’’ junior guard, was Western Illinois’s leading scorer last season, pouring in over 15 points per contest while turning in a slash of .392/.353/.821 – yes that is a gross 2-point percentage. Covington’s issue was settling for jump shots; the guard hurled 42.3% of his shots from mid-range compared to only 8.4% at the rim (where he finished at an unthinkable 33.3%). He did draw a fair amount of fouls and was effective at the line, suggesting he is actually a good shooter, but his shot selection just has to improve.
The backcourt should be a strength for the Leathernecks in 2015-16. In addition to Covington, Western Illinois brings back 6’3’’ senior guard J.C. Fuller and 6’1’’ junior point guard Jabari Sandifer. Fuller was an asset on offense last season, shooting .444/.341/.754 while scoring over 12 points per game (second on the team). He also served as a reliable secondary ball handler, distributing well for a natural off-guard. Sandifer turned in an impressive 30.0 assist rate (87th nationally) while maintaining a fairly decent turnover rate. Shooting is not one Sandifer’s strong suits (.357/.309/.603), but his value as a ball handler and offensive catalyst is invaluable to the ‘Necks.
The Leathernecks were one of the worst rebounding teams in the country last season, particularly on the offensive end. What should help remedy that is the return of two forwards, both of which had their season cut short by injury in 2014-15. Senior Tate Stensgaard, a 6’8’’ slim forward, and 6’6’’ wing Mike Miklusak each started their fair share of games for Western Illinois last season and enjoyed moderate success. Both men are decent on the boards, but on this team - decent is excellent. Miklusak likely comes off the bench this year, giving way to true big man Jalen Chapman. Chapman is the ‘Necks best returning rebounder but is an absolute abomination shooting the ball. Chapman shot 38.7% on a combination of shots around the rim and popping to 12-15 feet and finished free throws at a 53.2% clip.
Off the bench, 6’4’’ senior Jamie Batish, the team’s best shooter, and 6’5’’ sophomore Dalan Ancrum, a promising athletic wing, should provide a source of depth the ‘Necks can rely on throughout the year.
The freshmen class is not impressive to say the least, but perhaps Western Illinois can get something out of one or two of their plethora of newcomers. The most promising rookies, according to Ky, appear to be 6’11’’ big man Brandon Gilbeck, 6’8’’ redshirt freshman Jalen Morgan, and 5’11’’ guard De’Angelo “delo” Bruster. Gilbeck has loads of rebounding and rim protection potential, two areas the ‘Necks need serious help in. Morgan is an athletic wing with defensive potential. Bruster is a strong little point guard who should provide solid backup for the starting Sandifer. He is a good rebounder for his size and he has the strength to compete at the D1 level.
It’s hard to pick Western Illinois finishing any higher than last place after last season’s debacle. I do think they will be better and they certainly have the talent to upset a few mid-level conference opponents.