Summit League Wrap & Tourney PreviewPosted by Brian Goodman on March 5th, 2011
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. Tournament action tips Saturday in Sioux Falls, so get up to speed on all things Summit League and get a leg up on your Big Dance upset research.
Summit League Tournament Predictions
Saturday, March 5:
- Oakland 91, Southern Utah 72— Keith Benson and company will make a statement in the opening game, leaving no doubt who the top dog in the conference is.
- Oral Roberts 77, North Dakota State 70—Michael Tveidt, in his swan song, will do his best to help his Bison rise up one last time. In the end, ORU is just too deep and too much to handle.
Sunday, March 6:
- South Dakota State 82, IPFW 75—the first upset of the conference tournament. Home cooking and a “why not us?” mentality carries South Dakota State to victory.
- IUPUI 80, UMKC 75— Alex Young goes off, IPFW can’t find an answer.
Monday, March 7:
- Oakland 88, South Dakota State 85—What a great matchup this would be… Oakland has too much firepower, and outpaces The Jackrabbits in a nail-biter.
- Oral Roberts 81, IUPUI 71—Oral Roberts is playing like a team that wants it just as bad as anyone else. They will get revenge on last year’s elimination by the Jags.
Tuesday, March 8:
- Oakland 80, Oral Roberts 79—It will come down to who has the deeper bench, the smarter players, and the more reliable players in crunch time. Oral Roberts has one or two guys like that. Oakland has four or five. The experience will be the difference. We knew it would come down to these two since day one. I think we are in for a classic battle. Winner goes dancing, loser goes home. See you at the Summit.
Power Rankings and Postseason Preview
1. Oakland (17-1, 22-9)—they will easily deal with Southern Utah; their first test will come on Monday when they face either IPFW or South Dakota State. There are only two teams that could keep up the scoring pace with Oakland—Oral Roberts and SDSU—so if you are an Oakland fan. you are rooting for IPFW to pull off an “upset” of the home team. For the early rounds of the tournament, I suspect Oakland will exploit their size mismatch against the lower-seeded teams. If they face IUPUI or Oral Roberts in the championship, it is going to be a shootout, with the hot team winning. History is in Oakland’s favor—since 1995, the #1 seed has won the conference tournament 10 times, the #2 seed has won four times, and the #7 seed once. That #7 seed was Oakland way back in 2004.
2. Oral Roberts (13-5, 17-14)—This team is right where they want to be. They got hot at the right time, ripping off eight straight wins to close the season. If they win the first game against North Dakota State I see them going all the way to the championship. It all rests on the shoulders of the ORU point guards. If Rod Pearson plays well, ORU is a much better team. Along with contributions from Pearson, ORU needs sharpshooter Warren Niles to come out hot against North Dakota State. They simply cannot afford to have streaky performances from him anymore. The Golden Eagles one wildcard is the late addition of Kyron Stokes—the best perimeter defender on the team. He was supposedly out for the season with multiple concussions, but doctors cleared him to play with two games left, and it will be a huge shot in the arm for the Golden Eagles. In postseason games decided by one or two possessions, a defensive stop or two from Stokes could mean the difference between going home or going dancing.
3. IUPUI (12-6, 18-13) – They missed out on that all-important bye, so you are cautious when going with this team. They are not deep, and they don’t even have a completely reliable starting five. How far they go will depend solely on how good Alex Young is feeling. Last year IUPUI cruised through the first two rounds on the back of Robert Glenn and Young, but they ran out of steam in the championship against Oakland. They will get yet another shot at taking down ORU on day three, but the Golden Eagles are just a mismatch. It’s all uphill for the Jags. Not impossible, but improbable.
4. IPFW (11-7, 18-11)—the Dons lost their mystic in the second half of the season, but they have a chance to get some of that back if they can dethrone the home team. South Dakota State will be feeling right at home and likely bombing away from three. IPFW needs to slow the pace, and let Ben Botts dictate the game. It really is their only shot at coming through this very tough first round matchup.
5. South Dakota State (10-8, 18-11)—If I had to pick any team to make it to Tuesday who is not in the top three, it would be the Jacks. They have home court advantage, they score as many points as Oakland, and all it would take is two hot games before they find themselves playing on ESPN for all the marbles. This is my dark horse team. Right now, I have ORU facing Oakland in the final, but on my crazy bracket, I have SDSU vs. ORU.
6. UMKC (9-9, 16-13)—How does this team stay in games? We have no answer. But we do know they play tough and never quite go away. This was the best-case scenario for UMKC. They know they won’t be winning this tournament, so that may help them play with looseness, unlike the Jags. Let’s see how they handle Alex Young and IUPUI.
7. North Dakota State (8-10, 14-14)—they have had a forgettable season, but they are always a tough out in the conference tournament. Last year, they barely lost to ORU as the six seed. If they get a good crowd turnout, and if ORU comes out cold–like they are liable to do on the road—this team has a chance at a big first round upset. Don’t sleep on the Bison.
8. Southern Utah (7-11, 11-18)—I don’t give this team much hope in the first round game against Oakland, but feel free to give it the old college try, Southern Utah. They lost to Oakland by 18 in their last outing, though they had some nice wins against IUPUI and IPFW late in the season. Thanks for coming out, SUU, grab a t-shirt on your way out.
A Look Back
Oakland dominated the season headlines—making waves in the non-conference schedule with close games against Michigan State and Illinois, and finally breaking through with the huge upset against then-#7 Tennessee. They climbed all the way to #6 in the mid-major poll, and set school and conference records for wins. This has been a dream season for Oakland so far, we will see if they are able to finish it strong.
Oral Roberts recovered nicely from a tumultuous start—losing first-teamer Mike Craion for the season and starting with a 5-12 record. But they have now won 12 of the last 14 games, including an eight-game win streak that they take into the conference tournament. They pose the biggest threat to Oakland.
Other teams have had nice seasons. IPFW had its best start since joining the Summit, occupying second place for the majority of the season—however, they faded fast. IUPUI was up and down all season. Started slow, put it together; looked poised to capture the #2 seed after defeating mighty Oakland, then fell apart down the stretch losing three of their final six games.
Centenary avoided the all-time losing record by picking up a win against Western Illinois at the very end of the season. The Gents, who are on their way to D-III as we speak, could go down as the worst team in the history of D-I basketball; at least they didn’t lose them all.
All-Conference First Team:
- C-Keith Benson, Oakland (17.7 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 3.8 BPG)
- F- Alex Young, IUPUI (19.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
- F- Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts (19.1 PPG, 2.3 APG, 52% FG)
- G- Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (16.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, 1.3 SPG)
- G- Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (19.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.1 APG)
Sixth Man – Travis Bader, Oakland (10.4 PPG, 45% 3PT)
Newcomer of the Year- Stephen Roundtree, Oral Roberts (12.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG)
Coach of the Year—Greg Kampe, Oakland
Most Improved Player—Damen Bell-Holter, Oral Roberts