With March now three days deep, we have roughly ten conference tournaments underway. In other words, it is a good time to be a college basketball fan right now. Tomorrow we will be seeing another one of these tourneys tipping off, just adding one extra layer to the excitement. Which tournament you may ask? The Summit League Conference Tournament to answer your question!
In years past, this was a conference dominated by the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. But not this year, as the Jackrabbits finished with an 8-8 conference record, which earned them the four seed. On the top we have South Dakota, who just barely edged out North Dakota State to claim the top seed. But only time will tell how this one will shake out, as the quest for a NCAA Tournament bid starts now!
Ok, technically it starts tomorrow as things will start off on Saturday, March 4th. Two quarterfinal games will be held that day, followed by the other two the next. The two semifinal games will then be on Monday, with the tournament then concluding on Tuesday, March 7th at 8:00 pm EST on ESPN2. You can check out the seedings and bracket below.
(1) South Dakota
(2) North Dakota State
(4) South Dakota State
(6) Fort Wayne
(8) Western Illinois
— Summit Hoops (@summithoops) February 26, 2017
So let’s start things off by taking a look at the one-eight matchup. We have the top-seeded South Dakota taking on Wester Illinois. My initial thought was this should be a no contest, with South Dakota running away with it. But then I saw Western Illinois actually had a nice edge in a few stats. But then I kept looking, and for every category they had an edge, they were that much worse in the next one. When all is said and done, I still see South Dakota pulling through, 82-75.
The team they will get in round two will come from the South Dakota State vs Denver game. So without even looking at the numbers, I know I want to pick the Jackrabbits, just because I like the name. But I am a numbers guy, so I dove in anyway. Unfortunately, the numbers point me in the direction of Denver. Overall it just seems that Denver is the better team here. So I am taking them in a close one, 79-78.
Moving to the bottom half of the bracket, we have North Dakota State going up against the likes of IUPUI. This is where I think we see our first real upset in the Summit. North Dakota State just is not an impressive team on paper from a numbers perspective. When looking over the stats, the seven seed IUPUI outclasses them slightly. So I am going with the guys with a bunch of letters for a school name, IUPUI 75-73.
One more game to go until we hit the semifinals. This one will see Omaha going against Fort Wayne. And I have to say, I did not see Fort Wayne play this season, but from looking at the numbers, these guys know how to put that ball in the hoop. Their defensive numbers are certainly lacking, but their offensive numbers are extremely impressive. Based on what I am looking at, the seeding here should be reversed. Give me Fort Wayne 89-84.
Now we have reached the semis. First up we have South Dakota taking on Denver. In this matchup, I am seeing more of South Dakota’s flaws. They are not great shooting the ball. Their defensive numbers do not stand out. And they foul more than the average. So when all is said and done, I see the one seed falling here in the semis. I am going with Denver 77-76.
Now we have the battle of the two big first round upsets. IUPUI takes on Fort Wayne, with a date with Denver on the line. While both teams can shoot the ball rather well, Fort Wayne still has the decisive edge here. Not many times you see a five-six championship game, but that’s what I am calling for here. Give me Fort Wayne 83-80.
So here we go. The battle of two teams no one else will likely be predicting for this title game. Both teams are great on offense. But the thing that makes Fort Wayne stand out is their 6.1 created possession margin. That paired with their ability to score the ball will be what leads them to a NCAA berth. Give me Fort Wayne 84-78.
So what do you think? Will there be an upset in the Summit League Conference Tournament? Or will this be one of those that just moves along according to the top teams? Tell us in the comments!