What-to-know tourney previews: The Summit League
A great three-team race all season has led to a Summit tourney that will see three styles clash for a chance to dance.
1. We'd ask a question here, but we already know you want to talk about Nate Wolters.
Who, me? Talk about Nate Wolters? The preseason and end-of-season Player of the Year in the Summit? The senior South Dakota State combo point guard who is the school's all-time leader in points and assists? The player who's lit up major-conference teams for 34 and set college basketball's season high this year for points in a game? The guy who's become something of a cult hero and turned himself into an NBA prospect in the process? The player who could be just the type to spur SDSU to a Round of 64 upset, should the team get there? That guy? What makes you think I want to write about him?
2. You done yet?
I suppose I am. Listen, SDSU is the favorite for this thing not because it tied for the league title, but because the tournament is in Sioux Falls, S.D. It's where the Jackrabbits won last year, their first NCAA tournament bid ever. Now, Western Illinois and North Dakota State do provide legitimate roadblocks. But WIU, with its slog-it-out style (read about it here), could not beat Scott Nagy's Jackrabbits this season and Terell Parks, the Defensive Player of the Year, has a foot injury.
North Dakota State finished a game behind both these teams, is the No. 3 seed, and got swept by WIU. Yet North Dakota State managed to get a win over SDSU. They're a very solid defensive team that will need some aberrational 3-pointers in order to escape.
3. Could there be a dark horse if there's clearly a top three?
Oh, most definitely, as much as a fourth-seeded team could be a dark horse. That's Greg Kampe's Oakland club, and I never, ever count out his teams. Kampe's made some NCAA tournaments in his day, and this team has underachieved. It has guards Travis Bader and Duke Mondy, who are weapons. By the way, no conference was better overall, offensively, inside league play than the Summit. KenPom.com rates the league as 106.0 points per 100 possessions. Really good there. So this one should have a lot of offense. Certainly can be one of the best small-league brackets.
Schedule: All games at Sioux Falls Arena: March 9 (first round); March 10 (quarterfinals); March 11 (semifinals); March 12 (championship).
Title game: Tuesday, March 12, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
THREE BEST PLAYERS
- Naters Gonna Nate (South Dakota State)
- Frank Gaines (IPFW)
- Bader (Oakland)
Conference RPI: 19
KenPom.com rating: 23
Sagarin rating: 23
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