South Dakota schools breaking away from the pack
With all nine teams playing each opponent once, now is as good of a time as ever to evaluate the Summit League women’s basketball standings. As it turns out, the Summit, and the state of South Dakota in particular, could make waves in March.
South Dakota (19-3, 7-1 Summit League)
Starting the season with a convincing win at Creighton, the Coyotes have not looked back. Beating a ranked Iowa State team in Vermillion is so far the highlight of the season. The conference slate started with a hiccup on the road at Denver, the only mark against the current league leaders.
A well-rounded squad also gets the advantage of playing five of their last eight at home. Ciara Duffy is third in the Summit in points scored, while Allison Arnes leads the league in 3-point percentage and Hannah Sjerven leads the league in field goal percentage.
All of this set up the ‘Yotes as No. 1 in ESPNW’s mid-major rankings last week.
South Dakota State (15-6, 7-1 Summit League)
At No. 3 in the same rankings are the Jacks. The only blemish on their Summit League record was a 105-98 loss at South Dakota in double-overtime. A tough nonconference schedule brought down the overall record, but playing four ranked opponents will do that.
Macy Miller runs the show for the Jacks, ranking in the top three in the conference in most of the offensive categories. On the other end, the Jacks have given up the least amount of points in the conference this year.
SDSU gets their final three games of the season at home, including a rematch against the Coyotes on the penultimate game day of the season. In Brookings, the Jacks have only lost once, against No. 7 Oregon. No. 21 Drake fell in Brookings back in early December.
Denver (12-9, 5-3 Summit League)
The best of the rest, Denver has put together a solid start to the Summit League campaign. The Pioneers have held serve at home and managed to swipe a road win at Omaha to sit third in the table.
Perhaps the best one-two punch in the Summit, Denver fields two of the top five scorers in the league. Madison Nelson and Lauren Loven both average over 15 points per game (PPG). Denver is the only team keeping pace with the South Dakota schools in terms of scoring.
An even split of home and away games means that in order to catch the top two, Denver will need to steal a big game on the road.
Oral Roberts (11-10, 4-4 Summit League)
Across the board, the Golden Eagles are playing like a .500 club. A glance at the Summit League statistical leaders sees a notable absence of Golden Eagles.
The results have followed suit. After getting a win in Omaha to open the conference schedule, ORU dropped a home contest against North Dakota.
But the start of a four-game home stand perhaps set the blueprint for a top-three seed. Against North Dakota State, ORU dropped 18 3-pointers, second most in Summit League history.
After four straight games at home, the Golden Eagles hit the road for four straight before closing out the season at home against Omaha.
Western Illinois (8-13, 4-4 Summit League)
The usually fast-paced Leathernecks have been just a step slower this year than in years prior. Scoring a lot of points is the name of the game, but Western also give up a lot. They are the only team to give up more than 600 points in the first eight games of conference play.
The Leathernecks’ inability to win on the road, just a pair of wins all season away from Macomb, stalls any momentum. An even split of home and away games gives the Leathernecks hope of finishing in the top half.
North Dakota (8-13, 3-5 Summit League)
Lexi Klabo has had no issues in adjusting to life in the Summit. The senior from Fargo leads the league in scoring at 18.3 PPG.
The bad news for the Fighting Hawks is a lack of scoring behind her. Jill Morton is the next highest scoring Hawk at just 10.2 PPG.
UND failed to claim a win at home against either South Dakota school and will have to travel to face both away in the second half. Just three games in their last eight are in Grand Forks.
North Dakota State (6-14, 3-5 Summit League)
The young Bison team find themselves in a situation similar to the Fighting Hawks. Michelle Gaislerova has been the bright spot, but not much else has been firing for the Bison.
Turnovers still plague the team, and the home win against Western showed what could be with the squad when everything is in sync.
NDSU likely will need to steal a game on the road against WIU or UND to avoid the South Dakota schools in the tournament.
Purdue Fort Wayne (6-14, 2-6 Summit League)
Fort Wayne’s struggles can be simply underwritten by a lack of offense. The Dons have scored the fewest points in conference play this season.
The conference slate started with six straight losses, but two wins at home has injected some life into the team. A big result was the 70-55 victory against Denver last time out. It was the first time in the Summit the Dons scored 70 points.
Omaha (6-14, 1-7 Summit League)
If the tournament were today, the Mavericks would be the team staying home from Sioux Falls. The only tally in the win column in conference play is at home against the Bison.
Rayanna Carter is the leading scorer for the Mavericks at just 9.8 PPG. Omaha close the season on a three-game road trip.