It was about this time last year when the Summit League men’s basketball tournament looked to be NDSU’s to lose. The Bison had the Summit Player of the Year in Taylor Braun, South Dakota State no longer had Nate Wolters and the Bison had the veteran team with the veteran center (Marshall Bjorklund) and playmaking forward (TrayVonn Wright). The Bison also had a defensive stopper in forward Kory Brown, always an important role in any title-contending team.
This year is one big muddled mixture. If there ever was a year when a lower seed could win the tournament, this would be it. The Bison are the No. 2 seed, but they went overtime in both regular season games with No. 7 Denver, their first round opponent Saturday. I think this tournament is going to blow up from the conventional way of higher seeds advancing. So here’s my prediction:
First round: No. 1 SDSU over Western Illinois. No. 5 USD over No. 4 Fort Wayne. No. 2 NDSU over No. 7 Denver. No. 3 ORU over No. 6 IUPUI.
Semifinals: No. 5 USD over No. 1 SDSU. No. 3 ORU over No. 2 NDSU.
Title: No. 5 USD over No. 3 ORU.
Reasoning: South Dakota is hot winning five of its last six including a convincing win over the Jackrabbits to close the regular season. The Coyotes have six players, six, who averaged double figures in scoring in Summit League games with Tyler Larson one of the top overall players in the league in scoring and rebounding. They’re a veteran team loaded with juniors and seniors, look out for this team. SDSU has one of its better defensive teams under Scott Nagy, but I’m not convinced there’s enough overall scoring to get through three games. Brown’s bad knee is not a good sign for the Bison. Like a shutdown corner in football, you need a defensive stopper in tournament time and if he’s not 100 percent, that’s pretty tough. Lawrence Alexander can carry a team in a weekend series, but to do it for three games may be asking too much. Oral Roberts is intriguing after bombing the Bison, but that may have been an emotionally-charged win as much as anything after one of its top players was suspended. Over three games, reality will set in for the Golden Eagles. Fort Wayne has a chance with center Steve Forbes, but the Mastodons are also coming in losers of two of their last three including to a very average Nebraska-Omaha team.