RTC Conference Primers: #26 – Summit LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2010
- Oral Roberts (15-3)
- Oakland (14-4)
- IUPUI (14-4)
- South Dakota State (10-8)
- North Dakota State (9-9)
- IPFW (8-10)
- UMKC (7-11)
- Western Illinois (6-12)
- Southern Utah (4-14)
- Centenary (2-16)
All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)
- Ceola Clark, III (G) – Western Illinois (14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG)
- Alex Young (G) – IUPUI (18.3 PPG)
- Dominique Morrison (F) – Oral Roberts (15.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
- Michael Tveidt (F) – North Dakota State (15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
- Keith Benson (C) – Oakland (17.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.3 BPG)
- Reggie Hamilton (G) – Oakland (transfer from UMKC)
- Jake Lliteras (G) – Oral Roberts (14.8 PPG, H.S.)
What You Need to Know
The Summit League is not a power conference, and they have struggled in the NCAA Tournament, but the top teams continue to land big-time talent and improve as they seek respect from the big boys. When it was first assembled, the conference champs would end up a #16 seed in the Big Dance, but for the third straight year, the Summit League earned a #14 seed—not exactly Final Four contention, but they certainly have the ability to wear those glass slippers when March Madness rolls around. The all-conference team I selected above might be the best mid-major talent we have seen in quite some time. Everyone on my all-conference team has one thing in common: if they go down, they go down swinging—that’s a must-have ingredient for a small school looking to compete on the big stage. I think this is the year we see the Summit League move past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and take down some giants during the regular season.
Oral Roberts (NCAA Seed #14). The Golden Eagles could have captured this conference championship last year had they been healthy. Just a recap of last season: ORU lost their first and second string point guards to season-ending ACL tears; they lost their backup center to an ACL tear; their shooting guard quit the team; their best shooter, Warren Niles, played with a broken hand all season; their sixth man, Kyron Stokes, needed ankle surgery and played through the pain; they had to add two walk-ons just to dress a full roster; they had only seven scholarship players available, and only five who were fully healthy—yet they still won 20 games and upset #12 New Mexico, Missouri (with the game-winner below), and Stanford. Their only loss in the offseason was lone senior Kevin Ford. They are healthy and much deeper from a stellar recruiting class. In addition, IUPUI and Oakland, their two main rivals, have taken a step back—losing their best players to graduation. This might be one of the most talented ORU teams in the last ten years, and it’s their championship to lose.
- Oakland: I hate picking against the defending champ, especially with the conference player of the year returning, but Keith Benson was not the guy who made Oakland tick last year, that honor goes to point guard Johnathon Jones. Oakland’s floor general was by far the best guard in the conference, and he was a nightmare matchup every game. No guard in the conference had the ability to guard him. And let’s not forget, Oakland may not have gotten past IUPUI in the conference championship game if it wasn’t for Derick Nelson’s 36 points. Yes, the Golden Grizzlies may have Benson—a potential NBA first round pick—but who is going to carry this team, let alone hit open shots, when he is getting double-teamed?
- IUPUI: Last year, they thrived off the top-scoring duo of Robert Glenn and Alex Young (who combined for 38.1 PPG last season), but with Glenn gone it will be more difficult for Young to keep up his scoring clip of 18.3 points per game since defenses will be keying on him exclusively. IUPUI is down three starters from last year, as well as sixth man of the year Jon Avery. I expect Young and IUPUI to be good, but relying on newcomers and role players to step up is always a precarious place to be for a program.
Top 5 RPI Boosters
RPI in a small conference like this hardly matters since the only ticket to the Big Dance is an automatic bid. But RPI does matter when the selection committee is looking at seeding the Summit League representative. This year there are some good opportunities to make a big impression with good showings in the following contests:
- November 12, 8 p.m: Oakland at West Virginia: The Golden Grizzlies couldn’t take out Pitt in the NCAA Tournament, did they learn anything from their last meeting with the Big East? This game will show us a lot about Oakland’s stamina and determination.
- November 14, TBA: IUPUI at Gonzaga: The Jags will take on a former mid-major Zags early in the year.
- November 15, 12:30 p.m: Michigan State at Oakland: They got blown out by Tom Izzo’s squad last year on the road, so what makes this year different? Likely nothing, except Oakland gets a chance at the Spartans in Auburn Hills. A great chance for Oakland to show some school pride. Oakland’s chances at an upset could also hinge on any impending disciplinary action from Michigan State’s recent off-court problems.
- December 11, 2 p.m: Oral Roberts at Oklahoma: these teams are a lot closer than you would think. The Sooners and Golden Eagles have this game circled on their calendars.
- December 16, 7 p.m: Oral Roberts at Missouri: It’s the rubber match between these two teams. In 2008, Missouri won by eight at home, and last year, Oral Roberts stole one in the final seconds 61-60, this year should be another great game in this surprising rivalry.
Key Conference Games
The games between the big three are going to be key, and here are the first few upcoming games to look forward to:
- December 4: Oral Roberts at IUPUI
- December 30: Oakland at Oral Roberts
- January 4: IUPUI at Oakland
Pop quiz: Who was the last team to defeat Kansas in Lawrence? It was Oral Roberts way back in 2006, a 78-71 while Kansas was ranked #2 in the nation. By the way, what is more impressive—a Summit League team beating a highly-ranked Kansas team at home, or the fact that Kansas hasn’t lost a home game in four years?
NCAA Tournament History
The Summit League holds an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 8-26 (.235), with their most recent victory coming in 2005 when Oakland topped Alabama A&M in the play-in game. The most noteworthy performance in March by the conference remains the two wins notched by Valparaiso in 1998 (Bryce Drew, anyone?).
If history is our guide, Oral Roberts has been the only team able to get quality wins against the nation’s best teams. Stanford, Missouri, and then #12 ranked New Mexico were all victims of ORU last season. Although no one from the Summit League has been able to put it together in the NCAA Tournament, they have produced some exciting teams (remember Ben Woodside and North Dakota State?). Maybe this is the year they break through. As for the other contenders (IUPUI and Oakland), they need to prove they can handle a major-conference team in the regular season before they will pose a serious challenge in the Big Dance.