World-Herald staff writer Rob White takes a look at the Summit League conference race.
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1. North Dakota State Bison: All five starters and 96 percent of the points — including sharp-shooting sixth man Mike Felt (8.0 ppg) — return for the Bison.
2. Denver Pioneers: The Pioneers, coming off a second-round trip in the NIT and playing in their third league (following the Sun Belt and WAC) in three seasons, are a title contender despite losing Royce O'Neal (11.2), who transferred to Baylor.
3. South Dakota State Jackrabbits: All-American, Summit player of the year and NBA draft pick Nate Wolters is gone, but the Jackrabbits still have a viable nucleus led by Jordan Dykstra, a poor man's Doug McDermott who can score inside and from 3 as well as rebound.
4. UNO Mavericks: The fourth-place prediction is a big if and is dependent on Justin Simmons winning an NCAA appeal and having eligibility restored for the final nine games of the season.
5. IUPUI Jaguars: This was considered a solid middle-of-the-pack team before it was ravaged by injury and ineligibility last year. Guard Ja'Rob McCallum, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee transfer, is a potential Summit newcomer of the year for the Jaguars.
6. South Dakota Coyotes: The Coyotes must replace Juevol Myles (15.4 ppg) and longtime coach Dave Boots retired in September, but four starters led by sharpshooters Brandon Bos and Casey Kasperbauer and second-team preseason All-Summit big man Trevor Gruis are back.
7. IPFW Mastadons: Scoring machine Frank Gaines and leading rebounder Mario Hines are gone from the team that put together a late-season surge to finish fifth in the league. Role players have to step into more prominent roles.
8. Western Illinois Leathernecks: Center Terell Parks and guard Ceola Clark, All-Summit first-team picks, and steady 6-7 shooter Jack Houpt have departed. Adam Link is a solid player whose numbers will improve, and the Leathernecks will stay close with methodical offense.