Conference Tourney Primers: Summit League

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 7th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

Summit League Tournament

Dates: March 7-10

Site: Denny Sanford PREMIER Center (Sioux Falls, SD)

summitWhat to expect: South Dakota State or North Dakota State has won this tournament for three years running, a streak likely to continue in Sioux Falls after each team went 12-4 and split the regular season crown. Then again, both teams also just lost their respective Summit League finales by 16 points apiece – troubling outcomes heading into this weekend. In addition to the Jackrabbits and Bison, both IPFW and Oral Roberts are talented enough to go the distance, while Denver and South Dakota – teams which combined for three wins against the league co-champs – could play spoiler. The preseason favorite Mastodons look especially dangerous after winning eight of their final 10 games following a 1-5 start.

Favorite: South Dakota State. KenPom ranks South Dakota State 60 spots higher than any other team in the conference, thanks largely to its eight Summit victories by 15 or more points. The Jackrabbits are the most well-balanced team in the league, boast its top big man – talented and well-traveled forward Cody Larson – and reside just one hour north of Sioux Falls. There should be a lot of blue and yellow in the stands.

Darkhorse: IPFW. On January 21, IPFW sat at 8-11 overall (1-5 in conference play) and looked well on its way to a disastrous campaign. Then something changed. The Mastodons bounced back with seven straight victories, including home wins over North Dakota State and South Dakota, and immediately reestablished themselves as legitimate Summit contenders. Bulky center Steve Forbes (6’9”, 295 lbs) played his best basketball over those final two months and the offense as a whole – dreadful to start the year – scored over 1.2 points per possession four different times. This team is more than capable of punching a ticket to the Dance.

Who wins: South Dakota State. South Dakota State already wrapped up the top seed prior to its blowout loss at intrastate rival South Dakota last Saturday, so maybe the Jackrabbits deserve a pass. They are more efficient – both offensively and defensively – than any other challenger in this tournament and should have the crowd on their side (unless they play the Vermillion-based Coyotes).

Player to watch: Lawrence Alexander – North Dakota State. The senior is a high-volume, high-efficiency scorer (19.1 PPG, 45% 3FG) who dropped 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting (8-of-11 3FG) against South Dakota earlier this season. If he catches fire, the Bison have a great shot to reach their second-straight NCAA Tournament.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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