Conference Tournament Primer: Summit LeaguePosted by Adam Stillman on March 8th, 2014
Championship Fortnight continues with yet two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week-plus of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the America East and the Summit get started.
Dates: March 8-11
Site: Sioux Falls Civic Center (Sioux Falls, S.D.)
What to expect: Top-seeded North Dakota State is looking for its second NCAA Tournament bid in program history. The first came in 2009, the year the Bison became eligible for postseason play in NCAA Division I. NDSU is on fire, winning seven straight and 12 of 13 games to close the season. IUPU-Fort Wayne and Denver could pull upsets, as both beat NDSU this season.
Favorite: North Dakota State. NDSU has won seven straight games and 12 of 13 to close the season. The Bison won the league by two games with a 12-2 mark and seem to be peaking at exactly the right time.
Darkhorse: South Dakota State. No, Nate Wolters isn’t walking through that door, as last year’s star is playing in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. But the Summit League Tournament is played just about an hour from SDSU’s campus, meaning the third-seeded Jackrabbits could have a significant home court advantage. SDSU beat second-seeded IUPU-Fort Wayne by 28 points about a month ago, and although the Jackrabbits were swept by NDSU, it’s tough to beat a team three times in a single season.
Who wins: North Dakota State. The Bison are one of the best shooting teams in the country; in fact, NDSU ranks first in the nation by hitting 50.9 percent of its field goals. NDSU is 27th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings in offensive efficiency, scoring 114.2 points per 100 possessions. That should be enough to get the job done here.
Player to watch: Taylor Braun, North Dakota State. The Summit League Player of the Year is a nightmare match-up for most. At 6’7″ and 210 pounds, it might be a surprise to learn that Braun is a guard. He does a little bit of everything for NDSU, averaging 18.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this season. Braun will lead the Bison to the NCAA Tournament.
Bubble implications: None. North Dakota State sits at #41 in the RPI rankings, but the Bison’s dearth of quality wins — their best victory is either Notre Dame or Delaware — will force them to win the automatic bid in order to reach the NCAA Tournament.