Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2009

checkinginon

Standings

  1. IUPUI                                     (0-0)        2-0
  2. South Dakota State              (0-0)        2-0
  3. UMKC                                   (0-0)        2-0
  4. Oral Roberts                          (0-0)        2-1
  5. Centenary                              (0-0)        2-1
  6. Southern Utah                      (0-0)        2-2
  7. North Dakota State              (0-0)        1-1
  8. IPFW                                      (0-0)        1-2
  9. Western Illinois                    (0-0)        1-2
  10. Oakland                                 (0-0)        0-2

Top storylines.

  • Preseason favorite Oakland is having to get better the hard way, losing to Eastern Michigan by four and Wisconsin by 16 to start the season 0-2. Its not getting any easier, as Michigan State and Kansas await the Golden Grizzlies. I don’t think Oakland fans should worry too much, ranked 20th on the College Insider mid-major poll, they are still clearly the strongest team in the conference.
  • Oral Roberts’ campaign  to recapture the Summit League title has taken a huge hit with the loss of their top freshman, Hunter McClintock, to a season-ending ACL tear during a routine practice drill. McClintock, who hails from Patterson HS in North Carolina,and was recruited by Kentucky and Hawaii before committing to ORU, was expected to be a big contributor right away. ORU will have to dig deep to get past this loss.
  • IUPUI forward Robert Glenn earned his second career player of the week honors after opening the season with a 37-point performance at Drake. A nice win for IUPUI, and a career best for the senior as he is trying to make the most of his final season by keeping IUPUI in the discussion as one of the top teams in the conference.

This last week, the Summit League began their season with a bunch of questions as to who was going to emerge as contenders. The non-conference schedule is used as a measuring stick to see how these teams measure up to the premier college programs, and what areas they need to improve. So far, the league favorite, Oakland, has done nothing but struggle, while a couple of others, South Dakota and IUPUI, have proven they will be tough to deal with down the road. After watching some games and seeing the results on the court I think the Summit League should be divided into four categories: The Alpha-squads, The Contenders, The Longshots, and the Bottom-Feeders. The Alpha-squads are the teams that look like a team that could end up in the NCAA tournament. They execute game plans well, they have athletes, and they can hold their own against the big boys — at least for a while. These are the guys who have the best shot  at making it to March Madness.  The Contenders are just that, teams that could end up putting together a run and making life difficult for the Alpha-squads. The Longshots… “so you’re saying there is still a chance?” The Bottom Feaders — R.I.P.

  • Alpha-squads — Oakland, ORU, IUPUI.
  • The Contenders — South Dakota, North Dakota, Southern Utah
  • The Longshots — IPFW, UMKC
  • The Bottom-Feeders — Western Illinois, Centenary

Looking ahead, November and December are chalk-full of big games for the Summit league. South Dakota State takes on #7 Purdue on the 20th, and Oakland challenges #1 Kansas on November 25th . Call me crazy, but I think Oakland can be competitive. Yah, Kansas is the best team in the country, and yah, Oakland has yet to win a game, but lets look back to November 15, 2006, Oral Roberts 78, #3 Kansas 71. I’m not going to say Oakland will shock the world, but I am saying its possible.

Now for a quick roundup of all the teams in the conference as we move forward, its way too early to make the following statements, but here they come:

  • Oakland is still the best team, and until they lose to somebody in their conference, that won’t change. They have three all-conference first team selections. They are returning four starters, and Derick Nelson who would have been a starter last year if it wasn’t for his injuries that sidelined his season.
  • Oral Roberts made a statement by going into Stanford on Wednesday night and coming away with a 83-81 victory. Even though Oakland is the best, Oral Roberts is still for sure the second best, and it looks like we may be getting set up for a Summit League Championship clash this march.
  • IUPUI’s win at Drake turned some heads, and they could be a team to watch in the Summit.  They will be looking to spoil the Oakland/ORU party. Watch out for Robert Glenn and Leroy Nobles to lead a high-powered offense for the Jags, who combined for 64 points in the 88-82 win at Drake.
  • South Dakota State is also looking quite nice as a darkhorse in the conference this year, led by All-Summit selection Garrett Callahan, SDSU is the only team returning all five starters from last season, and they started the season 2-0. Their experience is their strength, and they will get their chance to play spoiler again this year in the NCAA Tournament, after knocking off  three-time-defending-champion ORU last season.
  • UMKC is off to a good start, despite not having a senior on their roster. So what if their wins are against Truman State and Lincoln University?  They’re flying high right now, and daring anyone to stop them.
  • IPFW is 1-1 after the first week, joined by Southern Utah, North Dakota State, and surprisingly, Centenary College, as the remaining teams with wins. The water gets a little cloudy at this point, and I am not really sure where these teams will end up at the end of the year, (with the exception of Centenary, who will find itself at the bottom)  but clearly these three teams are only middle of the road teams that will have to fight in order to stay in contention.
  • Western Illinois is not looking too hot right now, but things should start looking up once they get into league play. I don’t expect them to be the worst team when it’s all said and done, if that is any consolation to the Western Fans. Their only win of the season came from a 71-59 defeat of Truman State, but that looks even less impressive when you consider the fact that UMKC vanquished this  Truman State team 80-33 earlier in the week. Like I said, there are longshots, and then there are bottom-feeders…

Its still too early to be making predictions, but things are starting to shape up and fall into place as expected in the conference. Injuries have made my prediction of Oral Roberts winning the Summit League look even more insane, but Oakland is not exactly living up to their hype either. In fact, I wouldn’t laugh at you if you told me the Summit League’s best teams would be South Dakota and IUPUI.  Crazier things have happened…

rtmsf (3720 Posts)


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