South Dakota State
's Nate Wolters (left) hopes to lead his Jackrabbits
to a Summit League title. (Kelly Lambert-US PRESSWIRE)
March 9-12 Sioux Falls Arena (Sioux Falls, S.D.) | Bracket
The Summit puts a little different spin on top-seed advantage, having the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds play a day before the Nos. 3 and 4 play their quarterfinal, giving the big dogs an extra day of rest before the semifinals. If you're going to rig tourneys to favor the higher seeds, this isn't a terrible way to do it. Anyway, South Dakota State rallied to land the 1-seed, but this competition looks like it will be a three-way tussle with Western Illinois and North Dakota State also as very real title possibilities.
Key Matchup: No. 3 North Dakota State vs. No. 6 Missouri-Kansas City
As KenPom's Log5 projection of this event explains, the Bison got a big break in drawing a really poor UMKC team in the quarters instead of home-state South Dakota. They should easily handle the Kangaroos -- they won by 19 and 37 in the regular season -- and move on to a tough semifinal if Western Illinois holds up its end of the bargain against South Dakota.
Team to Watch: North Dakota State
The Bison slipped to the 3-seed in large part due to an injury to inside-outside threat Tayler Braun. Braun missed nine league games and NDSU went 5-4 in that span. He made it back for the final two regular-season games, making NDSU 7-0 in the league with him. If he's ready to perform at his usual level for three tournament games, the Bison likely are the best team in the event.
Hottest Storyline: Braun with the win?
The possible NDSU-Western Illinois semifinal has a couple of undertones to it. It features two of the slowest teams in the nation (although NSDU wasn't as slow when they had a healthy Braun), but more importantly, it's the first meeting with Braun available. Western Illinois swept the season series, winning 50-42 and 49-36, which helped the Leathernecks claim a share of the league title and finish one game better than NDSU. With Braun, expect the Bison to try to elevate the tempo a bit and use their superior talent to prevail.
The Pick: South Dakota State
The tournament is in Sioux Falls and they have the best player in the league in do-everything star guard Nate Wolters. The final won't be easy, though, especially if it's North Dakota State waiting for them.