FORT WAYNE –
1. South Dakota State
2. North Dakota State
4. Western Illinois
8. South Dakota
9. Nebraska Omaha
Top 3 teams
South Dakota State
Why it’s good: Two words: Nate Wolters. The 6-foot-3 senior guard was the overwhelming choice for the Summit League Preseason Player of the Year. He averaged 21.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds last season – just the fifth player in NCAA history to average 20-5-5.
Tough stretch: The Jackrabbits will have six consecutive road games from Dec. 15 through Jan. 5, including a visit to rival North Dakota State. But first will be a Dec. 4 road meeting against Minnesota.
X-factor: South Dakota State is the defending Summit League champion and has a significant home court advantage during the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls.
North Dakota State
Why it’s good: Led by 6-7 All-Summit League guard Taylor Brown, the Bison have four starters and the top five scorers returning. Brown averaged 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds last season.
Tough stretch: It isn’t exactly a long stretch, but it’ll be difficult when the Bison visit Indiana on Nov. 12. When asked about the Hoosiers, NDSU coach Saul Phillips said they were big, strong and fast.
X-factor: To go along with Brown, North Dakota State had two others named to the all-league second team in 6-8 forward Marshall Bjorklund and guard Lawrence Alexander, who was the league’s Newcomer of the Year last season.
Why it’s good: Coach Greg Kampe is an institution at Oakland as he begins his 29th season. Guard Travis Bader was a preseason first team all-conference selection. He averaged 15.9 points a game, even though he played with the nation’s leading scorer in Reggie Hamilton (26.2).
Tough stretch: The Grizzlies have an ambitious pre-conference schedule. In November, they play at Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Tennessee. In December, they play at Western Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Alabama.
X-factor: Three other starters return in Drew Valentin, Corey Petros and Ryan Bass, but there is a lot of buzz about 6-4 guard Duke Mondy, a transfer from Providence. Kampe is saying Mondy could be one of the best guards he’s had.