No team should ever go into a game with the goal of picking up a moral victory, because the only “credit” received for such a result is a loss. That being said, South Dakota gave Creighton everything it wanted and then some Tuesday as they pushed the Bluejays to double overtime.
Ultimately players such as James Milliken (career-high 23 points) and Austin Chatman (24 points, eight assists) made key plays down the stretch as Creighton won 91-88. Greg McDermott’s Bluejays have now won 24 straight home games.
But how did the game get into overtime? South Dakota’s Tyler Larson knocked down a three-pointer as time expired at the end of regulation, with Creighton’s Ricky Kreklow falling as a result of Nelson’s stepback move. While we can’t put this one on the same level as Kemba Walker getting the best of Gary McGhee in 2011 since Walker’s shot won the game for UConn, there’s no denying the fact that this was an impressive play by Larson.
Turnover is the name of the game for the Summit League as we head into the 2014-2015 season. There will be five new head coaches in the nine-team league and that doesn’t include Scott Sutton, the head coach at Oral Roberts, who will return to the conference after a two-year stint in the Southland. Just one first-team all-conference player is back this season, and among those who have left were the league’s best player (Taylor Braun) and biggest personality (former North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips).
That said, the Summit League should end up being one of the tightest conference races in the country this year, as the separation between the top teams in the conference is quite small.
Our pick to win the regular season title is Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles had enjoyed a terrific run near the top of the Summit League for a decade-and-a-half before the school got swept up in the realignment chaos and wound up in the Southland. After a two year hiatus, Sutton is back with one of his better teams. Senior Obi Emegano is healthy after tearing his ACL last season and junior guard Korey Billbury had a terrific sophomore campaign in Emegano’s absence. Losing Shawn Glover will hurt, but the key for ORU will be whether Brandon Conley takes a step forward this season.
ORU’s biggest challenger will be Joe Scott’s Denver Pioneers. While he loses Chris Udofia to graduation, Scott does return Brett Olson, a first-team all-conference guard last year and our Preseason Player of the Year. He’s a sharp-shooter who hit more than 50 percent from three in league play, but he’s also going to have to learn to be “the guy”. In total, the Pioneers bring back four starters from last year. Denver joined the Summit prior to the 2013-2014 season.
New IPFW head coach Jon Coffman will enter this season without three of the Mastodons’ top six players from a year ago, but he does get back sophomore point guard Mo Evans, who is expected to be one of the league’s breakout stars, as well as big man Steve Forbes. Forbes is a dominating presence in the paint, but he only averaged 21.3 minutes as a junior due to fitness and foul trouble.
South Dakota State loses a number of key pieces, but former Florida big man Cody Larson will be one of the league’s most athletic players. The Jackrabbits will also get a boost when former Wisconsin point guard George Marshall gets eligible in December. North Dakota State will be without Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and former head coach Saul Phillips, but the Bison have built a strong enough program to withstand the turnover. Expect big seasons from Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown.
In: Oral Roberts Out: None
PRESEASON SUMMIT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brett Olson, Denver
Olson is the only player from last season’s all-Summit first-team to be returning to school this season after averaging 14.5 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 boards. He shot 51.5% from beyond the arc in league play, but with Chris Udofia graduating, Joe Scott is going to need Olson to take on a more commanding role this season if the Pioneers are going to play their way out of a tough, balanced conference.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SUMMIT LEAGUE TEAM:
Cody Larson, South Dakota State, Sr.: Larson, who began his career at Florida, might be the bst athlete in the conference.
Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts, Jr.: Emegano was on pace to have a huge season in 2013-2014 but tore his ACL in the fourth game of the year.
Lawrence Alexander, North Dakota State, Sr.: A four-year starter at the point, Alexander will be the catalyst for the Bison, will have plenty of scoring to replace.
Steve Forbes, IPFW, Sr.: The big fella needs to get in shape and stay out of foul trouble, but he’s a monster when he does.
The majority of the work will begin later in the summer but the project includes a 6,000 seat basketball and volleyball facility to be completed by the fall of 2016. The arena then connects to a building that will have a science, health and research lab and will include classrooms, clinical areas, office space and the new weight room.
A soccer and outdoor track facility is also slated to be finished by the fall of 2015.
The 6,000 seat arena will feature a ground-level main floor and a second-level concourse that includes practices courts.
This is a big move for the Coyotes, as they’ll have one of the nicer facilities in the Summit League to go along with a new head coach in Smith.
South Dakota finished 12-18 and in the middle of the pack in the Summit at 6-8 and former head coach Joey James was not retained.