If you’ve ever read or listened to anything that I’ve done for BangTheBook, you know that small conferences are where it’s at in college basketball. We’ve got a real doozy for you in the Summit League on Thursday night with a look at the South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. the North Dakota State Bison. Henceforth, the two teams will be SDSU and NDSU because, well, let’s face it, the full names are a mouthful.
This is just one of a lot of interesting spots on the docket for Thursday night, so I would encourage you to check out my college basketball situational spots article and also to check out Thursday’s edition of BTB Radio, where John Ryan helped us cover the Big East and the Big Ten.
The Summit League is down this season, but SDSU has shown no ill effects of losing all-program star Mike Daum. The Jackrabbits can put the conference regular season crown away with a win on Thursday night. If not, they’ll have to sit on pins and needles with the outright conference title out of their hands. The Bison are favored by 4.5 with a total of 144.5 at home in this one per 5Dimes.
This is quite an interesting spot. NDSU has a game in hand on SDSU. The Jacks are atop the conference at 13-2 in league play and there are 16 league games, as you play everybody twice. SDSU won the first meeting between these teams 78-73. NDSU is 11-3, so the Bison are down two in the win column and therefore 1.5 games out of first place. The Bison play on Saturday at home against Omaha and will be a decent-sized favorite in that game.
What that means is that these two teams could tie for first place if NDSU wins on February 27. They would also be tied with identical 1-1 records against each other. The second tiebreaker in this conference is record against the next best team. Ironically, South Dakota and Omaha are tied at 9-6. SDSU lost one of the two meetings against each of those teams. NDSU lost to South Dakota, but has a chance to sweep Omaha on Saturday.
Basically, if NDSU wins out, they should be the #1 seed in the Summit League Tournament. If they lose this game, they are the #2 seed. If they win this game and beat Omaha, they would be the #1 since both teams have a loss to South Dakota on their resumes and NDSU would be 2-0 against Omaha. There are other factors in play as well, including tiebreakers as a result of other games.
Confused? I can’t blame you, but these conference tiebreaker situations matter a lot. If NDSU loses here, it would be very hard for them to get up for Saturday’s game with nothing to play for and, in fact, it would potentially be better for Omaha to finish the #3 because South Dakota is a much more dangerous team and they could finish fourth.
But, that’s all in the future. To the task at hand here. SDSU’s loss to South Dakota was far and away their worst defensive performance of the season, but nobody plays defense in this league. The game immediately following that rivalry game defeat came against North Dakota State. It wasn’t a great effort from the Jacks on defense with 1.11 points per possession allowed, but it was one of many good offensive showings for SDSU over the course of the season. This is the best offense in the conference bar none. South Dakota State ranks 1st in adjusted offensive efficiency, eFG% offense, 2P%, and 3P% in Summit League play. The Jacks are also one of the better defenses here, in the sense that opponents are only shooting 50.5% from 2. At least SDSU can hang its hat on the fact that opponents are only shooting 29.7% from 3 in league action.
That doesn’t bode well for a NDSU team that takes the highest rate of three-pointers in the league at just shy of 44%. NDSU has made 83% of its free throws, though. With this game right in fouling range based on the line, that could very well be the deciding factor.
NDSU also plays good defense, at least relative to this conference. The Bison are 2nd in 3P% against and 1st in 2P% against. The Bison could also have an edge on the glass. SDSU is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the Summit League, but NDSU is the best defensive rebounding team by a pretty decent margin.
Give and take. That’s how a lot of these small conferences are. A team like SDSU is so efficient on offense, but numbers can be padded against some of the teams in this league. A team like NDSU looks to be on par with SDSU, but the Jacks have a far better offense. In a conference where offense typically wins, we have to side with SDSU, right?
Getting +4.5 with a “been there, done that” team seems like too much to pass up. The Jacks have won three straight conference tournament crowns and just have a knack for this type of thing. They may not have Daum, but others have stepped up and will do so here again.
Pick: South Dakota State +4.5