One bid to the NCAA Tournament is available in the Summit League, where the conference tournament will once again be held at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The teams in this conference were mostly able to get the regular season in and will head to the conference tournament in hopes of punching that magic ticket to the Big Dance.
Denver is not involved, as this conference takes the top eight teams and leaves the ninth at home. This, like a lot of mid and low-major conferences this season, is a league that seems to have a lot of parity. Every team lost at least four games in league play except for South Dakota State, whose 12 games were the fewest of any member of the conference.
This conference tournament has a little bit of a unique format in that all eight teams play in the quarterfinals, but the reward for the top two seeds is an off day on Sunday to get ready for Monday’s semifinals.
Let’s see what this year’s Summit League Tournament has in store.
Saturday March 6
#1 South Dakota State vs. #8 Omaha
#2 South Dakota vs. #7 Western Illinois
Sunday March 7
#4 Oral Roberts vs. #5 North Dakota
#3 North Dakota State vs. #6 UMKC
Monday March 8
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner
2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner
Tuesday March 9
Championship Game at 8 p.m. CT
All games are played in the neutral setting of the Sanford Pentagon, which only seats 3,250 spectators. The Denny Sanford Premier Center, usually the home of this tournament, seats over 12,000. We have a new venue in play here, but still a neutral site. Four teams, South Dakota State, South Dakota, North Dakota, and North Dakota State played here in the Dakota Showcase earlier this year.
As mentioned, the #1 and #2 seeds get the advantage of having Sunday off, while the winners from Sunday have to come right back and play on Monday.
The Odds from Circa Sports
South Dakota State +120
North Dakota State +305
Oral Roberts +435
South Dakota +555
Kansas City +1900
North Dakota +5100
Western Illinois +7000
There aren’t many differences between the top four teams in this league. UMKC was previously in the WAC, but joined the Summit League for this season. That spot was previously occupied by Fort Wayne, who joined the Horizon League. The top teams in this league are really good offensively. Defense is largely optional in this conference. The best teams often shoot very well from three-point land.
On the eve of the tournament, South Dakota State was second in 3P%, South Dakota was 15th, and Oral Roberts was 10th. North Dakota State isn’t good offensively, but may be the best defensive team in the conference.
The Jackrabbits are clearly the best offensive team in the league, as they also rank in the top 50 nationally in 2P%. A low TO% hurts the top three teams in this league from a defensive efficiency standpoint, but a lot of that has to do with how these teams in this league take care of the basketball.
Aside from the top four, UMKC plays some pretty good defense and has done well to force turnovers and defend the three-point line. If you’re looking for a dark horse, they are about the only one. The bottom of this conference is quite bad. North Dakota is a pretty weak #5 seed, which leaves us with very little upset potential.
Final Thoughts & A Pick
One of the two South Dakota teams should win this tournament. South Dakota would seem to have the easier of the two draws because Oral Roberts in the semifinal game is an interesting matchup for South Dakota State. The Coyotes are a little better defensively than the Jackrabbits. South Dakota State is the better offense, but South Dakota is not far behind.
It should be an all-South Dakota final and I’ll give the Coyotes the nod for their first conference title ever at +555.