Summit Tournament Preview: The Battle of South Dakota

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© Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The two clear favorites to win the 2018 Summit League tournament are each from the state South Dakota. The University of South Dakota Coyotes are listed as the favorite (+103), but the South Dakota State Jackrabbits are not too far behind (+138). Which one will punch a ticket to the dance? Or is there potentially a deep sleeper that could shock the field?

2018 Summit Tournament Overview

Not only are the two South Dakota Summit schools the two clear favorites, but the entire tournament will take place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. All eight Summit teams compete in the conference tourney, which doesn’t have any byes. South Dakota State has won the Summit tournament each of the past two seasons and in four of the last six. The pre-tourney favorite University of South Dakota has never won a conference tourney, but the Coyotes didn’t join D1 until 2008 (they won the 1958 D-II Championship) and didn’t join the Summit until 2011.

Let’s jump into the bracket to see if we are indeed destined to see an all-South Dakota final and then finish up with ATS predictions for today.

Who Should Win

South Dakota State +138

The top seeded Jacks are gunning for a Summit threepeat on the shoulders of the unguardable Mike “The Dauminator” Daum in the frontcourt. Daum is a scoring machine in the post, in pick and pops, and even rim facing isos. Head coach TJ Otzelberger did a great job surrounding Daum with competent offensive pieces to keep defenses from completely collapsing. Most notably, freshman David Jenkins has given the Jacks a ball handler capable of running spread pick and roll offense. Jenkins has been hyper-efficient in ball screens this year. Forcing opposing bigs to guard Daum in pick and roll is simply unfair.

The Jacks aren’t invincible however, and their defense could potentially be their downfall. As good as Daum is offensively in pick and roll, he’s nearly the opposite defensively. (Although stretch big Reed Tellinghuisen has been surprisingly solid in that regard, covering up a lot of mistakes).

SDSU’s pick and roll defense will be tested immediately by No. 8 seed Western Illinois, which runs pick and roll between Kobe Webster and Dalan Ancrum at one of the highest rates in the entire country. SDSU handled the Leathernecks in both meetings this year, but WIU center Brandon Gilbeck did an excellent job defensively against Daum in the first meeting. WIU’s defense quickly unravels when Gilbeck gets in foul trouble, which is what limited him to just 16 minutes in the second meeting. Daum subsequently exploded for 30. If Gilbeck can stay on the court, WIU won’t go down without a fight. Don’t forget that the Leathernecks took last year’s top seed South Dakota to OT in a similar situation in last year’s Summit tourney.

If Not SDSU, Then…

South Dakota +103

The Yotes enter the tournament this year as the No. 2 seed, but USD handed SDSU its only league loss. It also nearly staged a huge comeback at Frost Arena to sweep its in-state rival. USD runs a precise ball screen motion offense with the league’s best guard in Matt Mooney leading the way. Head coach Craig Smith might also have the services of his best perimeter defender in Carlton Hurst. He could provide valuable minutes off the bench if he does indeed return from injury. Should USD get a rubber match with SDSU, the versatile defense of big man Tyler Hagedorn is key. Hagedorn has generally held Daum in check (relatively speaking), which puts the onus on the other Jacks.

The Yotes have No. 7 seed Omaha in the first round. The Mavs are as healthy as they’ve been all year. They also made a surprise run to the Summit finals last year, nearly knocking off the Jacks in the process. Having said that, head coach Derrin Hansen’s squad this year hardly resembles his previous Omaha teams. The Mavs aren’t pressing or running in transition, and they struggle defensively in almost every category in the halfcourt.

A potential distraction of note for the Yotes…Craig Smith is the rumored favorite to land the open Colorado State job. That scenario could be in the back of his players’ minds.

Potential Sleeper

Denver +2850

No. 3 seed Denver came on strong to end the season, having won four straight. Its last loss came at SDSU when the Pios nearly pulled off a win after trailing by 20 in the second half. Denver has arguably the league’s best inside-outside combo in true post Daniel Amigo and Joe Rosga, one of the country’s best shooters. Amigo has looked like a different player both mentally and physically down the stretch, while Rosga has been on fire during Denver’s four-game winning streak (16-30 from deep). The Pros have a good draw with No. 6 seed Oral Roberts.

The Pios swept ORU in the regular season for two reasons

  1. ORU runs offense through the post at the highest rate in the country, per Synergy. However, Amigo has allowed just .537 points per post possession.
  2. First year head coach Paul Mills came from Baylor, and thus runs a lot of the morphing 1-1-3 zone. Denver is the league’s best zone offense (thanks to Rosga), grading out in the 95th percentile nationally, per Synergy.

Most Intriguing Matchup

Fort Wayne vs North Dakota State

Actually, this 4/5 matchup isn’t all that interesting, but Fort Wayne’s prospects moving forward are. The Dons ran amok offensively against NDSU this year, posting 1.22 ppp on 25-57 shooting from 3. NDSU’s ball screen defense is abysmal, which the Dons’ excellent ball screen motion exposed in every facet. Should Fort Wayne prevail over the Bison, the Dons did give top seed SDSU all it could handle in the regular season.

Saturday ATS Predictions

Western Illinois +16

South Dakota -13

Summit Final Prediction

South Dakota over South Dakota State

 

Photo via Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports