For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on RushTheCourt.net, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.
South Dakota State University
General Theme: South Dakota State may have the flashiest non-conference home slate of any team in The Summit League for the 2010-11 season. Between November 18th and December 11th, the Jackrabbits will play seven straight games at Frost Arena, including a high-profile match against WAC member Nevada. UW-Milwaukee will also head to Brookings in that span. Coach Scott Nagy has to be happy with that portion of his schedule as it will provide the team an opportunity to play in front of its rabid fanbase more often than most Summit teams do in the early months. Aside from the home games, Nagy's team will also make a unique trip to Michigan to face both Western and Central, before stopping to play Minnesota on its way back to South Dakota.
Travel At A Glance: As pointed out above, the Jacks will not have to travel much this season outside of the typical Summit League destinations. Credit the coaching staff for putting together a schedule that will save the team on its travel budget.
Easiest Game: Eastern Illinois had its first winning season in a decade last year, finishing with a respectable 11-7 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference. My college basketball knowledge isn't deep enough to know if EIU is expecting bigger things this season (seriously, covering the far reaches of The Summit League is hard enough), but I do know that South Dakota State should expect to take care of the Panthers. If SDSU has arrived like many people believe, they absolutely must beat a mid-tier OVC squad.
Toughest Game: Tubby Smith is a proven coach, and even though last season was a struggle and he's lost a number of players over the past two seasons at Minnesota, you can never count out a Smith-led group. SDSU will be playing the Golden Gophers after a trip to face two promising MAC schools in WMU and CMU, so it's hard to expect that the Jacks will keep this one close.
Most Likely Upset: The Jackrabbits have as great as shot as ever to take down Nevada when the Wolf Pack visit Frost Arena. Outside of this home game, don't count them out when they face Iowa on November 14th in Iowa City. Iowa will be implementing a new system under new Head Coach Fran McCaffery while SDSU will already have an August Canadian trip and its first regular season game under its collective belt. They'll be ready and will give the Hawkeyes fits.
Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: From December 18th through the 23rd, the program will play at Western Michigan, at Central Michigan, and at Minnesota. That's a tough stretch of games in a limited amount of time. If the Jacks can come away from that with a 1-2 record, it should be considered a success.
Most Challenging Conference Stretch: SDSU ends the season with three straight road games against IPFW (2/17), Oakland (2/19), and Summit rival NDSU (2/26). IPFW will be gunning for a favorable seed by the time that game rolls around, Oakland will be celebrating senior night, and NDSU will always be tough in Fargo, especially in the last game of the season. Sure is a challenging way to end the conference schedule.
Best Individual Match-Up: Having not seen him play yet, I'm not sure who he'll match-up well against, but I'm most excited to see freshman Jordan Dykstra. The 6'8" forward led his team to two straight Iowa state championships and was named the AAU Player of the Year in his homestate while in high school. He had a couple impressive showings during SDSU's recent trip to Canada, scoring 14 points on two different occasions. It looks like Coach Nagy has in Dykstra a player who will compete right away. He could blossom into an All-League player in The Summit League, providing for a number of enticing match-ups throughout the season.
Most Anticipated Home Game: Nevada. Hands down. While the Wolf Pack is down two players through the NBA Draft, it always seems like they're a team to be reckoned with in the WAC (and soon-to-be the MWC). Getting them to go out to Brookings is a good sign for the SDSU program.
Concluding Thoughts: I absolutely love all of the home games early on. Most schools in The Summit League never experience such bliss outside of the conference games, so the staff should be commended and the fans urged to show up for those games. With this schedule, SDSU has a great shot to enter conference play with an impressive record built on quality wins instead of pure fluff.