The Summit League has produced teams that have given fits to squads from larger conferences in the NCAA Tournament in recent years, but the conference hasn't had a team notch a win in the Big Dance since 2005. That year, Oakland miraculously won the Summit League Tournament and an NCAA Tournament play-in game despite finishing the season with a 13-19 record.
This season, Nate Wolters and the top-seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits hope to earn their second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid after rolling through the league's regular season slate.
Who, What, When
The 2013 Summit League Tournament will take place from March 9-12 at Sioux Falls Arena in Sioux Falls, S.D.
With the exception of the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, every Summit League team will have a shot to capture the conference's automatic bid this weekend. Since there are only eight teams participating in the tournament, no byes are in play.
Here is how the schedule looks:
Saturday: No. 1 South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. No. 8 IUPUI Jaguars (Game 1); No. 2 Western Illinois Leathernecks vs. No. 7 South Dakota Coyotes (Game 2)
Monday: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner (Game 5); Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner (Game 6)
Who the Numbers Like
North Dakota State: The Bison had a couple of offensive lapses during conference play, but they didn't suffer any bad league losses and hold the highest Pomeroy Efficiency Rating among Summit League teams at No. 70, 40 spots ahead of South Dakota State.
Who the Eyeballs Like
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits feature the nation's fourth-leading scorer in Nate Wolters and own the league's best non-conference win, a 70-65 victory at No. 16 New Mexico on Dec. 22. South Dakota State won the Summit League Tournament last season before falling to Baylor in a close NCAA Tournament first-round game.
Western Illinois: The Leathernecks finished in a first-place tie with South Dakota State at the top of the regular-season standings, but are relegated to the No. 2 seed due to a pair of losses to the Jackrabbits. Still, Western Illinois split the season series with North Dakota State and Oakland due, in part, to a highly efficient offense that ranks No. 32 in the country and shoots at 46.9 percent.
Best Possible Title Game
South Dakota State vs. Western Illinois: Both games played between the two teams this season were decided by single digits, although the Jackrabbits swept the series. In last year's Summit League final, South Dakota State pulled out a 52-50 overtime victory over Western Illinois. It's safe to say that the Leathernecks will have revenge on their minds.
Who Might/Will Get In Anyway
The Summit League is surely a one-bid conference, as none of the teams rank in the top 68 in Pomeroy's rankings, nor the RPI or BPI.
Players To Watch
Nate Wolters: South Dakota's senior star averages 22.8 points per game and has scored 30 or more points in 14 career games, including a 53-point effort against IPFW on Feb. 7. He is projected by some to be selected early in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft.
: Bader is another pure scorer, finding ways to get to the basket even on nights where his shooting is off. He is averaging 22.0 points per game for Oakland, sitting right behind Wolters at No. 5 in the nation. On Jan. 24, Bader lit up IUPUI for 47 points, but did get shut down by some of the better teams the Golden Grizzlies faced this season, including Pittsburgh and Michigan State.
Marshall Bjorklund: A 6'8, 240-pound junior out of Arlington, Minn., Bjorklund uses his mass to score inside at a better success rate than almost any other player. He's No. 2 in the nation in field goal percentage, making 67.6 percent of his shot attempts. Bjorklund averages 11.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for North Dakota State.