2009-10 Conference Primers: #17 – Summit LeaguePosted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2009
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Oakland 22-9 (16-2)
- Oral Roberts 21-10 (15-3)
- South Dakota St. 18-11 (11-7)
- IUPUI 17-14 (9-9)
- North Dakota St. 14-14 (8-10)
- Southern Utah 13-16 (8-10)
- Western Illinois 13-16 (6-12)
- IPFW 11-18 (4-14)
- UMKC 9-20 (4-14)
- Centenary 6-23 (2-16)
- Johnathan Jones (G), Sr, Oakland
- Garret Callahan (G), Sr, South Dakota St.
- Dominique Morrison (F), Soph, Oral Roberts
- Jon Avery (F), Sr, IUPUI
- Keith Benson (C), Jr, Oakland
6th Man. Hunter McClintock (G), Fr, Oral Roberts
Impact Newcomer. Larry Wright (G), Jr, Oakland. The junior transfer from St. John’s University, should have an immediate impact on the Summit League. Two years ago he led the Red Storm in three-point field goal percentage, and he should be the perfect replacement for Erik Kangas, The Oakland great who set the all-time single season mark last year with 145 threes. Wright’s long-range shooting could be the key to Oakland’s success.
What You Need to Know. The Summit League is like the little engine that could. Every year, it produces a scrappy team that creates some hype in the NCAA Tournament. Last year Ben Woodside and his rag-tag boys from North Dakota State challenged the defending national champs (Kansas), and just came up short 84-74. This year’s Summit League has the potential to produce a similar Cinderella story, with teams like Oakland and Oral Roberts reloading with some really talented players. Watch out for Oral Roberts and their newcomer Damen Bell-Holter (Mr. Alaska 2007, top 50 center prospect on Scout.com) who has the potential to dominate the lesser big men in the conference. Defense is the key to winning the Summit League. Last years champ NDSU held their opponents to 69.1 points per game, and Oral Roberts, in their three straight championships from 2006-08, held their opponents to 62.0, 64.9, and 68.1 points per game.
Predicted Champion. Oral Roberts (NCAA Seed: #14). With all the questions about age and inexperience with the Golden Eagles, it seems that Scott Sutton has the answers with his experience and skill level as a coach. Give him talented players, and his team will always compete. If Oral Roberts clinches another Summit league title, it will be their fourth championship in five years. I think a tough non-conference schedule (at Wake Forest, Missouri, New Mexico, Louisville,and Stanford) will be a trial-by-fire, and help their young freshmen mature quickly. The tough schedule also will help the NCAA Selection Committee give them a more favorable seed, especially if they win a couple of those big games (best bets are at home against New Mexico and Missouri). A #14 seed in the Big Dance will give Oral Roberts the Cinderella tag. A first round win is not out of the question for a Scott Sutton-led ORU squad.
- Oakland University. Oakland is one of those teams that is always in contention for the Summit League championship (three title-game appearances and one championship in the last five years), and is the favorite to win it this year according to Sporting News. Look for Oakland to give perennial conference powerhouse Oral Roberts a run for their money. However, Oakland never seems to come through in the big moments, and they lack a true star. In the past, the Summit champion had a go-to guy that would get the big bucket or the big rebound exactly when you needed it (NDSU—Ben Woodside, ORU—Caleb Green, IUPUI—George Hill). Does Oakland have a guy who can put the team on their shoulder and carry them? It remains to be seen. Also, I am not crazy about Greg Kampe’s coaching style. Just from watching him in the past it looks like he dishes out a lot of verbal abuse, and his players don’t really look thrilled to win for him.
- South Dakota State. Even though they had a pretty bad year last season (13-20, 7-11), SDSU ousted the defending champs Oral Roberts in last year’s conference tournament, and both times they played ORU during the season they had close games (a five point loss and a nine point loss). SDSU is also returning their top three scorers from last year in Garret Callahan (15.8), Clint Sargent (14.1) and Anthony Cordova (12.0), but the plain truth of the matter is, they were 13-20 last year.
- North Dakota State. You have to think the defending champs are always going to be a top contender, but they lost four of their five starters from their Cinderella run last year in March including conference MVP Ben Woodside. I don’t care if you are North Carolina or Kansas, losing that much production is staggering. Their lone starter returning, Michael Tveidt (fourth in scoring, first in three-point percentage), will no doubt have to be the leader of this team. It’s an outside chance, sure, but with Saul Philips as coach and Tveidt’s experience, NDSU is a dangerous team that will be looking to defend their title. But don’t expect to see them still standing when the dust settles.
- Nov. 13, 2009 – Oral Roberts at Wake Forest. Best case scenario: Oral Roberts upsets a top ACC team and pads its RPI for a run at the NCAA Tournament. Worst case scenario: Oral Roberts can use this game as a learning experience for the future, while losing to a good team that doesn’t kill their RPI. The team with the most to lose in this matchup is Wake Forest.
- Nov. 20, 2009 – South Dakota State at Purdue. This is a big game for SDSU if they want to be considered a legitimate Summit League contender.
- Nov. 23, 2009 – Oakland at Kansas. Oakland doesn’t have to win this game, but they do have to compete. They are fighting for respect, and beating preseason #1 Kansas would do the trick.
- Dec. 9, 2009 – Missouri at Oral Roberts. Missouri was an Elite 8 team last year, and Oral Roberts gets them at home this year. Last year ORU lost by only nine to the Tigers in Mizzou. This is a big game for both teams.
- Dec. 22, 2009 – Oakland at Syracuse. Again, a prove-your-worth game for Oakland, who hope to deliver an early Christmas present in the form of a loss to the Orange.
Key Conference Games:
- Jan. 28, 2010 – Oakland at Oral Roberts at 7pm CST. Possible #1 vs. #2 matchup.
- Jan. 28, 2010 – North Dakota St. at Oral Roberts at 7pm CST. Last time NDSU was in Tulsa they wanted to cut down the nets after clinching the regular season title. ORU wants revenge.
- Feb. 13, 2010 – IUPUI at ORU at 7pm CST. Final meeting of the season between old rivals, always a close game.
- Feb. 20, 2010 – North Dakota St. at Oakland at 6pm CST. A rematch from the conference championship game, this time there is no Ben Woodside to save NDSU.
- Feb. 27, 2010 – IUPUI at South Dakota St. at 7:30pm CST. Final game of the season that could decide a spot in the conference tournament.
Oral Roberts Senior forward Kevin Ford made SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” twice last year with two monster dunks during the regular season.
Also, Centenary College will be dropped from the Summit League to Division III after the 2010-11 seasons due to budget cuts voted on by the school’s Board of Trustees. They are also ineligible for tournament play this postseason because of NCAA penalties regarding the schools Academic Progress Report.
Fun With KenPom. As noted above, Oral Roberts had a very tough schedule last season. In fact, the Golden Eagles played the top-rated nonconference schedule in America, with games against Creighton, Missouri, UNC and USC last year. IPFW and Centenary were no slouches either, both playing top 50 schedules in the nonconference slate as well.
NCAA Tournament History. The League, formerly known as the Mid-Continent, has gone 8-25 (.242) in its history, but the only current member of the conference to hold an NCAA win is Oakland, who won a play-in-game in 2005 against Alabama A&M. Despite NDSU giving Kansas a tough first-round game last year, the last eight ‘real’ first-round games have resulted in a loss by an average of 20.3 points.
Final Thoughts. Every team in this conference is young, and a few are very talented. With a new batch of recruits coming in for North Dakota State, Oakland, Oral Roberts, and IUPUI, the team that comes out on top this year should establish itself as the team to beat for the next few years. The winner of the Summit has always been considered a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament, but no one has quite been able to get the job done yet. Maybe this is the year one of these teams will break through with an upset? The League’s trademark is its experienced coaching (over 1500 wins and 60 years combined experience), so look for the best-coached team to make a run to the Big Dance.