The first round of the Summit League men’s basketball tournament provided plenty of shocks and surprises for fans.
Without a doubt though, the biggest shock of the weekend was the upset loss of three-time defending champion and No.1 seed South Dakota State to a resilient Western Illinois team.
Now, with South Dakota State out of the way, the target now falls on the back of the No.2 seed Omaha Mavericks.
After dispatching the North Dakota Fighting Hawks 81-76 in their first round game, the Mavericks now find themselves playing against Purdue-Fort Wayne for a trip to the title game.
The Mastodons come into this game red-hot, after they beat the South Dakota Coyotes 96 to 70 in their first round game.
Offensively, the Mastodons seemed unstoppable in their game. The team shot 58 percent total on the night and shot 53 percent from three. Overall, the team made a 16 three-pointers, which is a new Summit League record.
The scoring for the Mastodons was fairly evenly shared as well. Six players for the Mastodons were in double figures by the end of the night.
Normally, the key for Omaha beating Purdue-Fort Wayne would be to shut down their star man, John Konchar. While Konchar did put in an impressive effort against South Dakota (he achieved a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists), it seems that a more balanced Mastodon scoring threat could provide greater danger for the Mavericks.
Thankfully, the Mavericks have some balanced scoring of their own. While the Mastodons may have gotten all their starters into double figures in one game, the Mavericks are the only team in the Summit League to have all their starters average double figures across the whole season.
Aside from that, the bench play could prove to be crucial as well for Omaha. Against North Dakota, freshman Wanjang Tut was the story of the game as he came off the bench to score a season-high 18 points. If his play can continue, and other bench players such as Ayo Akinwole and Brett Barney can continue their contributions, then Omaha should be in fine shape.
Both Purdue-Fort Wayne and Omaha will know that whoever wins on Monday will very likely be the favorite going into the championship game on Tuesday night. With neither team having made it to March Madness as well, both the Mavericks and Purdue-Fort Wayne will likely be as motivated to win as they possibly can be.
The game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. on Monday March 11, 2019. The game can be streamed online on ESPN+ or on the radio on 1180 Zone 2.