Summit League Preview: Daum returns to lead Jackrabbits

Elisha Page/The Argus Leader via AP
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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Summit League.

It’s somewhat of a transition year for the Summit League as IUPUI bolted for the Horizon League upon Valparaiso’s jump to the Missouri Valley Conference to fill the spot vacated by Wichita State’s move to the AAC. North Dakota will eventually be the Jaguars’ replacement, but the Fighting Hawks aren’t joining the conference until next season. That means it’s an eight-team league and a 14-game conference schedule this year for the Summit.

South Dakota State has the look of the favorite with Mike Daum still in the fold following last season’s surprise run to the NCAA tournament. The Jackrabbits tied for fourth in the regular season, but topped champion and rival South Dakota in the semifinals of the conference tournament before dispatching Nebraska-Omaha to secure a Big Dance bid in coach T.J. Otzelberger’s debut season. The Jacks were often quite inconsistent last season, but return the bulk of the roster. Then there’s Daum, whose presence has the ability to tip the scales in SDSU’s direction nearly every night. Improving the defense will also be paramount.

After reportedly flirting with the Drake job, South Dakota’s Craig Smith returns to Vermillion with another strong roster, despite the defection of point guard Trey Dickerson to Georgetown. Matt Mooney averaged 18.6 points last year to help power a Coyotes offense that didn’t always find success easily. Trey Burch-Manning was big on the boards for South Dakota last year, but he moves into an expanded role this year. Improving their outside shooting will go a long way in helping South Dakota earn that first-ever NCAA tournament berth.

North Dakota State figured to be in the mix at the top of the Summit, but Khy Kabellis’ decision to transfer to Pacific dimmed the Bison’s prospects somewhat. Paul Miller, though, is NDSU’s top player and most important returner after averaging 16.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. If the Bison can plug a few rotation holes and see growth on both ends of the floor, they could make life interesting for both their neighbors to the south.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

REALIGNMENT MOVES 

In: North Dakota (2018)
Out: IUPUI (Horizon)

PRESEASON SUMMIT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Mike Daum, South Dakota State

Not only is the 6-foot-9 junior the league’s top player, he is a potential All-American after averaging 25.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He’s the rare high-usage, high efficiency player with high-level production despite being the focal point of defenses every night. Making him even harder to defend than the fact he scores it extremely well both inside and out is that Daum is a master at getting to the free-throw line, where he shoot 87.2 percent, making him an asset late in games where many other big men are often liabilities.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SUMMIT TEAM

  • Matt Mooney, South Dakota: A big-time scorer, Mooney shot 36.7 percent from the 3-point range last season while also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
  • Paul Miller, North Dakota State:The 6-foot-6 senior is a stat-stuffer with a big role for the Bison.
  • Albert Owens, Oral Roberts/strong>: The senior center put up 17.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game a year ago.
  • Daniel Amigo, Denver: The 6-foot-10 center had a bit of a breakthrough sophomore season, averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SummitHoops

PREDICTED FINISH

1. South Dakota State
2. South Dakota
3. North Dakota State
4. Denver
5. Fort Wayne
6. Omaha
7. Oral Roberts
8. Western Illinois