Summit League

Every Summit League team will hope to earn a win here, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the conference tournament championship with a bid to March Madness on the line.

World-Herald staff writer Mike Sautter made his preseason picks for the order of finish in the Summit League and top players for the 2019-20 men's basketball season. 

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Predicted order of finish

1. North Dakota State

Last season: 19-16, 9-7 Summit League (T-3rd)

Coach: Dave Richman (6th season, 96-67 at NDSU)

Last NCAA appearance: 2019

Returning starters: Vinnie Shahid (G 5-11 Sr.), Jared Samuelson (G 6-3 Sr.), Tyson Ward (G 6-6 Sr.), Rocky Kreuser (F 6-10 Jr.) Sam Griesel (F 6-6 So.)

Newcomer to watch: Maleeck Harden-Hayes (F 6-7 Fr.)

Outlook: The defending league tournament champs return all five starters and seven of their top eight scorers. Senior Vinnie Shahid was the Summit League newcomer of the year and the tournament MVP last season, leading the Bison with 13.1 points per game. Gretna grad Jared Samuelson is the rock of the team with his leadership and toughness. If Shahid can back up his strong finish to last season, the Bison will return to the NCAA tournament for the fifth time since 2009.

2. South Dakota

Last season: 13-17, 7-9 Summit League (T-5th)

Coach: Todd Lee (2nd season, 13-17 at USD)

Last NCAA appearance: None

Returning starters: Triston Simpson (G 6-2 Sr.), Stanley Umude (G 6-6 Jr.), Cody Kelley (G 5-11 Sr.), Tyler Peterson (G 6-4 Sr.)

Newcomer to watch: Hunter Goodrick (F 6-7 Fr.)

Outlook: The Coyotes lost only one starter from last season. Norfolk product Tyler Hagedorn returns after redshirting last season due to injury and will add a double-digit scorer to the already talented lineup. Lincoln North Star grad Triston Simpson is the league’s most experienced point guard and Umude is the coaches pick as the preseason player of the year. The Coyotes have been close in recent years to breaking through to the NCAA tournament — 2020 could be the year if everyone remains healthy.

3. UNO

Last season: 21-11, 13-3 Summit League (2nd)

Coach: Derrin Hansen (15th season, 227-199 at UNO)

Last NCAA appearance: None

Returning starters: JT Gibson (G 6-3 Sr.), Matt Pile (F 6-8 Jr.), KJ Robinson (G 6-0 Sr.)

Newcomer to watch: Marco Smith (G 6-2 So.)

Outlook: The nonconference schedule isn’t as daunting as previous years. After a runner-up season a year ago — in the regular season and conference tournament — the Mavs return starters Pile, Gibson and Robinson. Each are All-Summit caliber players. If UMKC transfer Marco Smith gets his waiver approved to play right away, he will provide toughness on the defensive end and depth at guard. A healthy Zach Thornhill will help fill the scoring void left by graduation. Omaha Burke graduate Wanjang Tut will play a key roll if the Mavs are to see their first NCAA tournament appearance in program history.

4. Oral Roberts

Last season: 11-21, 7-9 Summit League (T-5th)

Coach: Paul Mills (3rd season, 22-42 at ORU)

Last NCAA appearance: 2008

Returning starters: Francis Lacis (F 6-7 So.), Emmanuel Nzekwesi (F 6-8 Sr.), Sam Kearns (G 6-0 Sr.), DeShang Weaver (F 6-8 So.)

Newcomer to watch: Deondre Burns (G 6-3 Sr.)

Outlook: Oral Roberts has four returning starters and two all-league caliber players in Nzekwesi and redshirt sophomore Kevin Obanor. Burns, an Arkansas-Little Rock grad transfer, averaged 10 points per game last season. The Golden Eagles swept UNO and South Dakota last season but went 0-3 against league favorite NDSU. Freshman Max Abmas finished with 18 points, going 6 for 10 from behind the arc, in the Golden Eagles’ 94-82 exhibition loss to Central Arkansas.

5. South Dakota State

Last season: 24-9, 14-2 Summit League (1st)

Coach: Eric Henderson (1st season)

Last NCAA appearance: 2018

Returning starters: Alex Arians (G 6-4 So.)

Newcomer to watch: David Wingett (F 6-7 Fr.)

Outlook: Henderson takes over after TJ Otzelberger left for UNLV. Replacing the school’s all-time leading scorer Mike Daum and second-leading scorer David Jenkins won’t be easy. Arians will need to shoulder the scoring load. Senior guard Brandon Key returns after redshirting due to injury last season. Former Winnebago star David Wingett will be an immediate difference maker, along with 6-foot-8 freshman Alou Dillon. Baylor Scheierman, a freshman from Aurora, should see significant minutes.

6. Purdue Fort Wayne

Last season: 18-15, 9-7 Summit League (T-3rd)

Coach: Jon Coffman (6th season, 96-68 at IPFW)

Last NCAA appearance: None

Returning starters: Matt Holba (F 6-7 Sr.), Dylan Carl (F 6-11 Jr.)

Newcomer to watch: Brian Patrick (G 6-5 Jr.)

Outlook: A lot of new faces for Fort Wayne this season. Replacing sharpshooter John Konchar’s production is not going to be easy. Holba is an all-league caliber forward and will need to make a big jump in scoring from his 11.7 points last season.

7. Western Illinois

Last season: 10-21, 4-12 Summit League (8th)

Coach: Billy Wright (6th season, 48-94 at Western Illinois)

Last NCAA appearance: None

Returning starters: Kobe Webster (G 6-0 Jr.), C.J. Duff (G 6-1 Sr.), Ben Pyle (F 6-7 So.)

Newcomer to watch: Anthony Jones (G 6-5 Jr.)

Outlook: The Leathernecks will try to capitalize on their strong finish to last season. Webster was a coaches choice as a preseason all-league selection.

8. North Dakota

Last season: 12-18, 6-10 Summit League (7th)

Coach: Paul Sather (1st season)

Last NCAA appearance: 2017

Returning starters: Marlon Stewart (G 6-3 Sr.), Billy Brown (G 6-3 Sr.), Kienan Walter (F 6-9 Sr.)

Newcomer to watch: De’Sean Allen-Eikens (G 6-6 Fr.)

Outlook: The Fighting Hawks’ second season in the Summit League begins with a new coach. A total of four players who started at least 16 games from a season ago return, including leading scorer and former Creighton guard Marlon Stewart. York product Brady Danielson is likely to see playing time as a true freshman.

9. Denver

Last season: 8-22, 3-13 Summit League (9th)

Coach: Rodney Billups (4th season, 39-51 at Denver)

Last NCAA appearance: None

Returning starters: Ade Murkey (G 6-5 Sr.) Taelyr Gatlin (G 6-3 So.)

Newcomer to watch: Tristan Green (F 6-9 So.)

Outlook: One senior (Murkey) and five sophomores return from last year’s last-place team. It’s a rebuild of the roster and staff with all three assistants in new roles after Denver’s three league wins in 2018-19.

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Vinnie Shahid

Vinnie Shahid helped lead North Dakota State to the NCAA tournament last season, and he's expected to have another big year for the Bison.

All-Summit League predictions

Vinnie Shahid

North Dakota St. • 5-11 • senior

Can play both guard spots. Last season’s Summit League newcomer of the year and tournament MVP after two seasons at Western Nebraska Community College. Should lead the Bison in scoring and assists for a second straight year.

Stanley Umude

South Dakota • 6-6 • Junior

The Summit’s only returning first team all-league selection. Averaged a team-best 14.4 points and was second in rebounding (5.5). Had the top freshman to sophomore point-per-game increase in the country at 13.3 points per game.

Emmanuel Nzekwesi

Oral Roberts • 6-8 • Senior

Second-team All-Summit pick averaged 16.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in league play as a junior. Tied for the conference lead with nine double-doubles last season.

Triston Simpson

South Dakota • 6-2 • Senior

Second on the team in scoring with 14 points per game and led South Dakota in assists per game (3.6). The league’s most experienced point guard also led the Summit in minutes per game (37.1).

Matt Pile

UNO • 6-8 • Junior

Led the conference in offensive rebounding with just over three per game. The high-powered Maverick offense likely will go through him. Look for Pile to get a touch each time down the floor in half-court sets.

Player of the Year

Vinnie Shahid

Newcomer of the yar

Deondre Burns: Oral Roberts senior guard averaged 10 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 41 percent from the field at Arkansas-Little Rock last season.

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