The Summit League will crown a champion and another berth in the NCAA Tournament will be claimed on Tuesday night when the Omaha Mavericks take on the North Dakota State Bison. Neither team was expected to earn the Summit League’s automatic bid. South Dakota State was the favorite to win the conference after winning the last three titles with Mike Daum leading the way, but the Jackrabbits were stunned in the first round of the tournament by last place Western Illinois and that busted the Summit League open. Now, Omaha and NDSU are looking to benefit from one of the biggest upsets in a conference tournament this year.
North Dakota State has not had center Jordan Meidinger available all season, but the Bison have overcome the loss of the big man to reach the Summit League Final. Omaha has no injuries to report.
The Omaha Mavericks are slight favorites to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Omaha is a three-point favorite against North Dakota State in what it is expected to be a relatively high scoring game. The total has been posted at 142.
What’s at Stake?
It’s been a pretty meteoric rise for Omaha’s basketball program, as the public school in Nebraska’s biggest city is starting to challenge Creighton for city supremacy. Just eight years ago, the Mavericks were in Division II, but they made the leap to Division I and joined the Summit League for the 2012-13 season. This has been their most successful season yet and after going 19-10 overall and 13-3 in conference play this season, Omaha could make it to the NCAA Tournament in their eighth season as a D-I program.
The Bison have not had the same success on the hardwood that they have had on the gridiron, but they were the last team to win the Summit League before South Dakota State’s threepeat. North Dakota State has won the Summit League three times in the last 10 years, and the Bison have even pulled off a major upset in the NCAA Tournament. The Bison knocked out No. 5 seed Oklahoma in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and they would love to play spoiler again.
Omaha will have a little bit of a rest advantage. The Mavericks played on Saturday and Monday to get to this point, while the Bison played on Sunday and Monday. Winning three games in three days is tough for any team, but there shouldn’t be too big of a difference in terms of fatigue.
North Dakota State is hoping the third time is the charm. In the two previous meetings between these two teams, the Mavericks won both games handily. Omaha topped NDSU 90-77 at home on January 2, and outlasted the Bison 58-50 in Fargo on February 23.
One of the big questions tonight is whether or not the Bison can shut down the Mavericks’ perimeter game. Omaha has attempted over 700 threes this year, and the Mavericks have been one of the better teams in the nation at hitting the triple. As a whole, Omaha is sinking 39.1 percent of its threes, but what really makes this team something is that four of their five starters are solid from beyond the arc. Matt Pile has yet to shoot a three this season, but the other four starters are all shooting 38.4 percent or better from downtown.
Meanwhile, the Bison haven’t been able to stop anyone on defense all year. About the only good thing you can say about their defense is that they don’t foul opponents enough to send them to the line, but they are in the bottom 50 in the nation in most defensive rankings.
NDSU is pretty efficient on offense though. The Bison rank 42nd in the country in shooting efficiency, and that’s despite putting up a ton of threes. They are attempting 26.4 three-pointers a game, so you can bet that whichever team shoots better from downtown will win tonight.
I like Omaha in this one because the Mavericks can play a bit of defense. The Bison have not shown they can stop most teams, and the extra fatigue will undermine their chances of pulling off the upset.