Summit League Conference Tournament Preview

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The Summit League was one of the more exciting conference races to follow throughout the season.

South Dakota State entered the new year as the favorite to win the conference in large part due to the fact that a) they won the automatic bid last season and b) they have a kid by the name of Nate Wolters that everybody was in love with. But the Jackrabbits came out and lost two of their first three games in conference play, digging themselves a hole that needed 12 wins over the course of the next 13 games to get out of.

Western Illinois finished tied with SDSU atop the league, but since SDSU swept WIU this season, the Leathernecks were forced into being the No. 2 seed. North Dakota State looked like they might be the best team in the conference early in the season, but a broken foot sidelined Taylor Braun for a long time, costing them valuable league games. Braun scored 22 in the regular season finale, just his second game back from injury.

Of note: Wolters (53 points) and Oakland’s Travis Bader (47 points) have the two highest scoring totals for one player in any games this season.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Sioux Falls, SD (Sioux Falls Arena)

When: March 9-12

Final: March 12th, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Favorite: South Dakota State

Not only are the Jackrabbits the No. 1 seed, but the tournament is being hosted in Sioux Falls, SD, which is just a quick drive down I-29 from Brookings, where SDSU is located. Throw in that the Jackrabbits are the league champs, they have the league’s Player of the Year and went to the tournament a season ago, I think it’s fair to call them the favorite.

And if they lose?: Here’s the thing to remember about North Dakota State: they went 2-4 against the top four teams in the Summit League they beat SDSU and Oakland in their only games with Braun, a 6-foot-7 wing and their leading scorer, in the lineup and 0-4 without him. They were the best team in the conference before he got injured, and Kenpom likes them to win the tournament with Braun back in the lineup.

Western Illinois is good as well, but they are one of the most boring teams in the country to watch. Think Wisconsin, but without the dunking from Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker. Winning is winning, but I want to see wins with points.

Sleepers: Oakland is a dangerous team. They don’t defend all that much, but they have a talented roster — Travis Bader is as good of a shooter as you’ll find in the country when he gets hot and Duke Mondy is a transfer from Providence — that can put up points in a hurry.

Studs: 

– Travis Bader, Oakland: He scored 47 points in a game and averaged 22.0 points on the season. Do. Not. Let. Him. Get. Hot.

– Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright, North Dakota State: Braun is the guy that gets all the attention for the Bison, but Bjorklund and Wright kept them relevant while he was injured.

– Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Duh.

CBT Prediction: I’m taking North Dakota State. Braun scored 22 in his second game back. He looks healthy, and when he’s healthy, NDSU is the best team in the league.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Two workouts this week could alter Caleb Swanigan’s NBA Draft decision

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Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has the most important decision among any college basketball player who could return next season from the 2017 NBA Draft process. If Swanigan comes back for his junior season, he’s the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. More importantly, Purdue would have a serious chance to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions, especially if Vince Edwards also returns from the same draft process.

Wednesday night is the decision deadline for players to return to college basketball for next season and Swanigan will use two more workouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday to help decide his future. According to multiple reports, Swanigan will workout for the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s workout with the Magic will also reportedly involve Cal big man Ivan Rabb — an important workout for Swanigan since Rabb is listed ahead of Swanigan on a lot of popular mock drafts. The Magic own three picks between No. 25 and No. 35 — which is listed slightly above the No. 40 slot that Draft Express has Swanigan listed. So if Swanigan has a good workout against Rabb for the Magic, then he could get himself some sort of guarantee from a Magic team that desperately needs talent and has a lot of picks in that range.

The Knicks also have Swanigan scheduled for a Wednesday workout as they own the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. Again, the Knicks are a team in win-now mode with current stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis openly feuding with the team’s front-office, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for Swanigan to land some sort of guarantee from New York in the second round.

Of course, guarantees for draft night are nice to have, but things can change quickly on draft night. Swanigan has to consider all of the information he is receiving before he makes his decision on Wednesday. But if Swanigan has two strong workouts and gets the information that he’s looking for this week, then he could easily bolt for a potential guaranteed contract.

Angel Delgado’s return to Seton Hall makes Pirates Big East contender

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Seton Hall got huge news on Monday when Angel Delgado announced that he would be returning to school for his senior season.

“I am coming back to school for my senior year,” Delgado said in a statement on Monday. “It’s very important to my family and me that I finish what I started. This was a difficult decision that took time and patience. Coming back feels just right.”

Delgado, a 6-foot-10 forward from the Dominican Republic, averaged 15.1 points and 13.2 boards last season for the Pirates. He was one of the best big men in the country over the last six weeks of the season.

And his return should bring about one of the best years that Seton Hall basketball has had in a long time.

The Pirates are loaded with talent, tough and, most importantly, old players, from Delgado to Khadeen Carrington to Ishmael Sanogo to Desi Rodriguez. They are going to be a nightmare to run offense against, and they may just be the best team in the Big East not named Villanova. Delgado should end up being a preseason all-american.

Seton Hall is currently ranked No. 17 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

Texas to return Andrew Jones for sophomore season

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Texas got another boost on Monday as former five-star recruit Andrew Jones announced that he will be returning to school for his sophomore season.

“I’ve matured and learned a lot through this process,” Jones said in a statement released on twitter. “I enjoyed the experience and opportunity that I had to be able to participate in the combine and team workouts.

“Time to go work out with my teammates. Hungry and Humble.”

This comes on the heels of Texas landing a commitment from a top five prospect in Mo Bamba. With all those pieces in the fold, including a recruiting class that features four more top 100 prospects, the Longhorns look like they are on track to be a borderline preseason top 25 team and heading back to the NCAA tournament.

This could end up being a narrative-changing year for Texas.

West Virginia returns potential Big 12 Player of the Year in Jevon Carter

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West Virginia got some great news on Monday as Jevon Carter announced that he will be returning to the Mountaineers for his senior year.

“I’m excited about coming back to West Virginia and playing with my teammates for my senior season,” he said. “The entire NBA process was a great experience for me and to gain valuable feedback that I can use to prepare for the future.”

This is massive for the Mountaineers. Not only is Carter the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points, but he is a three-time all-Big 12 Defensive Team member and led West Virginia in minutes played last season. He’ll be a favorite to win Big 12 Player of the Year, with Devonte’ Graham of Kansas.

Arizona adds five-star Emmanuel Akot to Class of 2017

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Emmanuel Akot, a five-star wing that has been committed to Arizona for months, announced on Monday that he will be reclassifying to the Class of 2017 and enrolling at Arizona this offseason.

“My family and I have decided to join the 2017 class and become a member of the Arizona Basketball family,” Akot said.

Akot was considered a top 15 prospect in the Class of 2018, a class that many believe to be significantly weaker than the Class of 2017. At 6-foot-7, he’s a versatile defender with quite a bit of potential that can step out and knock down threes, but he’s also far from a finish product and will likely need time to acclimate to the college level.

That said, he should be able to fill a role on the wing nicely, providing a nice bit of defensive reliance alongside more offensive-minded weapons like Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins.

Akot joins a five-man recruiting class headlined by top four prospect Deandre Ayton and four-star recruits Brandon Randolph and Ira Lee.