Today is Dec. 5. It’s far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far too early to declare South Dakota State a contender in the Summit League men’s basketball race.
However, it might have been reasonable to peg the Jackrabbits - picked third in the preseason poll - as a pretender if they hadn’t come away with a road sweep over the weekend.
Hear me out.
Coming into this season, its fifth in the conference, SDSU had yet to win a single Summit contest at Oakland, Oral Roberts, IUPUI and North Dakota State. That’s almost half of the gyms in the league - a league that has made a habit of moving its regular-season champ on to the Big Dance. The Jacks cannot be considered a contender with those droughts hanging over them.
That’s why this weekend was a step forward. First, SDSU staved off a massive choke job to earn that elusive first win at Indianapolis in the conference opener, setting a new tone. Of course, that wouldn’t have been worth much of the Jacks hadn’t followed it up by continuing their success against lowly regarded Western Illinois - and they did that, too, narrowly escaping the apparently improved Leathernecks in the last of an eight-game road trip. (They wound up 5-3 on the grueling swing, the longest in coach Scott Nagy’s 17-year tenure.)
It was just the third road sweep for SDSU since joining the Summit - the first that didn’t involve UMKC and Southern Utah.
What does this all mean? Not a lot in concrete terms. SDSU joins two-time defending champ Oakland as the only 2-0 squad in the Summit and remains unbeaten (6-0) this season against teams outside major conferences. I’m willing to guess neither of those things are on the team’s list of goals.
But the 2-for-2 start does at least perpetuate the hope that things could be different for the Jacks this year.
They’re going to have several more opportunities to prove - or disprove - themselves.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.