WEEKLY NOTEBOOK: No. 1
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Six of the nine Summit League teams will take the hardwood during the opening night of the college basketball season and each of those half-dozen games will be available to view by either a television or streaming broadcast. South Dakota State is the only one with a home tilt as the Jackrabbits are set to open the Eric Henderson era against UT Rio Grande Valley at 7 p.m. CT on MidcoSN and ESPN+. Preseason favorite North Dakota State is one of five league teams opening their slate on the road. The Bison will square off at defending Big 12 champion Kansas State.
Purdue Fort Wayne will be the first foe for new UNLV head coach T.J. Otzelberger on opening night. Otzelberger spent the last three seasons at South Dakota State, leading the Jackrabbits to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT appearance during that stretch.
Henderson is not the only rookie head coach in the league getting his first taste of Division I experience this week. North Dakota's Paul Sather is no stranger to the sideline having spent the last nine seasons at Division II power Northern State, but he will launch a new era in Fighting Hawks' hoops on Thursday at home against Crown College.
UPCOMING IN THE SUMMIT LEAGUE
Tuesday, November 5
Western Illinois at Indiana (BTN+) 7:00 PM
UTRGV at SDSU (MSN/E+) 7:00 PM
NDSU at Kansas State (E+) 7:00 PM
Omaha at Wichita State (YurViewKS) 7:00 PM
Denver at Colorado State (MWC) 8:00 PM
Purdue Fort Wayne at UNLV (MWC) 9:00 PM
Wednesday, November 6
Oral Roberts at Oklahoma State (E+) 7:00 PM
Thursday, November 7
Midland at Omaha 12:00 PM
Crown College at North Dakota (FSN) 7:00 PM
Mayville State at NDSU 7:00 PM
Peru State at SDSU 7:00 PM
Friday, November 8
Houston Baptist at Oral Roberts 7:30 PM
South Dakota vs. Pacific& 8:30 PM
Saturday, November 9
Utah Valley at Denver (ALT1) 2:00 PM
Stetson at Western Illinois 7:00 PM
SDSU at Cal State Bakersfield 9:00 PM
Sunday, November 10
Purdue Fort Wayne at SEMO (E+) 4:00 PM
South Dakota at Hawai'i& 9:00 PM
All times local to site
NOTING THE PIONEERS
• Rodney Billups is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Pioneers and he will do so surrounded by an entirely new assistant coaching staff. The three-man staff is made up of Bacari Alexander, Raman Sposato and Dwight Thorne II, who was the program's director of operations the past three seasons.
• Ade Murkey is the lone senior on Billups' 13-man roster and team's top returning scorer (11.3 ppg) from a squad that went 8-22 a year ago.
• David Nzekwesi was one of the top-scoring freshmen in the league a year ago, averaging 8.1 ppg in 25 contests (four starts). In league play, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 10.0 ppg (second among league rookies).
• True freshman Robert Jones could provide an immediate impact inside for the Pioneers. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged a double-double as a senior in high school (17.1 ppg; 11.0 rpg).
NOTING THE FIGHTING HAWKS
• Paul Sather is one of two new head coaches in The Summit League this season as he takes over a UND program that went 12-18 overall and 6-10 in league play during its first season as a league member.
• Sather inherits a starting backcourt that features seniors Marlon Stewart and Billy Brown. Stewart is the team's top returning scorer at 14.4 ppg while Brown is one of the league's top returning 3-point shooters after knocking 46 percent of his tries from deep as a junior.
• Sophomore Aanen Moody was also a deep-ball threat, knocking down 81 treys during his redshirt freshman season. Those makes rank tops among league returners as he averaged 10.0 ppg in league play.
NOTING THE BISON
• Head coach Dave Richman returns for his sixth season and has led the Bison to two NCAA Tournament appearances, including a win over North Carolina Central in a 2019 First Four contest.
• The Bison, who won the 2019 Summit League Championship as a No. 4 seed, were picked to defend their title thanks in large part to having two key seniors back.
• JUCO-transfer Vinnie Shahid was named to the All-Newcomer Team a season ago and was named Tournament MVP at The Summit League Championship.
• Shahid led NDSU in scoring at 13.1 ppg and was followed by classmate Tyson Ward, who averaged a career-best 12.4 ppg as a junior. Ward joined Shahid on the All-Tournament Team.
• The Bison also have sharpshooting Jared Samuelson, who shot 46.2 percent from 3-point range last season (2nd in Summit League).
NOTING THE MAVERICKS
• Derrin Hansen is the longest-tenured among The Summit League coaches, entering his 15th season at Omaha.
• The Mavericks return three of their five starters that all averaged double figures for a team that finished second in 2018-19 regular season and advanced to the title game of The Summit League Championship.
• Senior J.T. Gibson is the team's leading returning scorer (12.9 ppg) while Matt Pile (11.2 ppg) and K.J. Robinson (11.1 ppg) also return.
• Pile had nine double-doubles a year ago, which are the most among league returners and his 7.9 rpg is second best.
NOTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES
• Head coach Paul Mills saw his Golden Eagles finish 11-21 during each of his first two seasons, but the expectations in year three are different as his squad was picked to finish third in the preseason poll and garnered a pair of first-place votes.
• A good reason for the uptick in expectations is the returning inside duo of Emmanuel Nzekwesi and Kevin Obanor. Nzekwesi was a second-team all-league performer after averaging 14.8 ppg and 8.5 rpg a season ago while Obanor was named The Summit League Freshman and Newcomer of the Year after averaging 14.4 ppg and 7.2 rpg.
• Little Rock graduate transfer Deondre Burns should help solidify a backcourt that also has senior Sam Kearns back to run the point.
• Burns averaged 10.0 ppg for the Trojans last season while Kearns battled through injuries to average 10.3 ppg and 3.6 apg.
NOTING THE MASTODONS
• Head coach Jon Coffman has 96 victories to his credit as he enters his sixth season leading the Mastodons. Those are the most victories by a head coach in the program's Division I era (since 2001).
• The Mastodons will lean on redshirt senior Matt Holba to pick up some of the scoring load after the departures of program stalwarts John Konchar (19.5 ppg) and Kason Harrell (15.2 ppg).
• Holba averaged 11.7 ppg a year ago and made 81 3-pointers, which are tops among the league's returners.
• A newcomer that could help in the scoring department is guard Jalin Wimberly, who averaged 18.6 ppg as a JUCO All-American (Third Team) last season at Andrew (Ga.) College.
NOTING THE JACKRABBITS
• The Jacks have one of two first-year head coaches leading their program as Eric Henderson was promoted to that role after taking over for the now-departed T.J. Otzelberger (UNLV).
• Henderson has to replace two of the league's top three scorers along with SDSU's top four scorers from a year ago as the Jacks aim for their third-straight regular-season crown.
• Sophomore Alex Arians is the team's top returning scorer at 6.2 ppg, but he'll be aided in that department from Douglas Wilson, who was a two-time JUCO All-American and averaged 21.0 ppg and 8.7 rpg at Des Moines Area Community College last season.
• The Jacks also have a prolific scorer in newcomer David Wingett, who is eligible right away after spending an injury-shortened freshman season at Memphis. Wingett scored more than 2,200 points during his prep career in Nebraska.
NOTING THE LEATHERNECKS
• Head coach Billy Wright became the first coach to guide a No. 8 seed over the No. 1 seed at The Summit League Championship last season. Wright is entering his
• Junior Kobe Webster spearheaded those efforts and is the league's top returning scorer after averaging 17.0 ppg and posting team-highs in assists (97) and steals (34).
• The second-team all-league performer and the Leathernecks will be without the nation's leading shot blocker in Brandon Gilbeck, who graduated, but WIU replaces him with another 7-footer in the form of freshman Alex Brantley.
• Junior C.J. Duff helps form a solid one-two punch in the Leathernecks' backcourt with Webster. Duff averaged 11.1 ppg as a sophomore that included a stretch of eight-straight, double-figure scoring games.
• Sophomore Ben Pyle also came on strong towards the end of his rookie season, averaging 15.5 ppg during WIU's two tournament contests. He had 17 points in the upset of South Dakota State, which was one shy of his season-best.
Before Kansas City officially rejoins The Summit League as a full-time member for the 2020-21 season, the men's basketball team will have matchups with a pair of current league members this season. Kansas City will entertain Western Illinois on Nov. 30 before traveling to
South Dakota on Dec. 22 for the team's final non-conference matchup before embarking on its WAC schedule.
Kansas City athletics department officials announced in June of 2019 that this will be their final season in the Western Athletic Conference before returning to The Summit League where they were a member from 1994-2013.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Following the 2019-20 season, there will be a new Player of the Year for the first time since the 2015-16 season with the graduation of three-time honoree Mike Daum from South Dakota State (2016, 2017, 2018). Daum ended his career as the league's all-time leading scorer (3,067 points) and rebounder (1,236 rebounds).
• Former South Dakota State head coach T.J. Otzelberger's first opponent as UNLV's head coach will be against a Summit League foe. Purdue Fort Wayne will visit Sin City on the opening night of the college basketball season to take on the Rebels. The Mastodons and Jackrabbits split their two matchups a year ago, but Otzelberger went 5-1 against Purdue Fort Wayne during his three seasons in Brookings.
• The Summit League Men's Basketball Championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Tuesday, March 10 at 8 p.m. CT.
• The Summit League announced in late October that Midco Sports Network will televise more than 90 men's and women's basketball games during the 2019-20 season. The regional network will carry 39 men's regular-season games and all four quarterfinals and both semifinals at The Summit League Championship in Sioux Falls (March 7-10).