Checking In On… the Summit LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2011
Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.
The Week That Was:
- Summit Continues To Rise: Last week, I thought the conference had reached its peak when it hit #14 in the RPI and Sagarin Conference rankings, but today the Summit sits at #12. Incredible, considering the Summit closed out last season ranked #21. This could mean something in March when the selection committee is deciding what seed the Summit champion will receive. So keep an eye on the rankings.
- Featured Scorers: The Summit League entered the week with more players in the nation’s top 25 in scoring than any other conference. IPFW’s Frank Gaines is ranked 9th, Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton 20th, South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters is 21st, and IUPUI’s Alex Young comes in at 23rd. Hamilton, Wolters and Young also rank in the top 10 for overall points.
- Oakland (6-4, 2-0) — They gave up a winnable game against Ohio at home, and they never had a chance against Michigan in a shootout. Those games are a little disheartening if you are Golden Grizzly fans, but there is no reason to panic. Oakland owns the best scoring offense in the conference, and is among the top 25 in the nation. They have the tops scorer in the conference in Reggie Hamilton, and they play much better defense than the other top scoring teams like South Dakota State and North Dakota State. The next few weeks will be key for Oakland. If they can take care of business against NDSU and SDSU, this conference could be decided by the end of January. They play Oral Roberts twice next month, and they are the only serious contender right now. Get ready for some early fireworks in the Summit League.
- Oral Roberts (7-3, 1-0)— we all saw Damen-Bell Holter’s half-court shot at the end of regulation to give the Golden Eagles the win over UALR, but I am not as impressed as the nice folks down at ESPN. Don’t get me wrong, it was a sweet shot, but they wouldn’t have needed the heroics if Bell-Holter had shot a little better than 2-8 from the field. Also, where has Steven Roundtree gone? He was held out of the starting lineup against UALR for the first time in his college career, and he has played so poorly that the best thing we have seen him do on the court was a strange, hillbilly dance at the end of that highlight. Let’s not forget Warren Niles, who I can now safely say is one of the worst starting guards in the conference. Despite looking terrible against Oklahoma and UALR, the Golden Eagles are 7-3, and they are still more talented than everyone else in the conference, with the exception of Oakland. Gonzaga and #9 Xavier are coming up.
- South Dakota State (9-3, 2-0)—and suddenly the Jackrabbits emerged with a six-game win streak. Of course, I’m not sure any of those wins were against division I teams, but no one has ever accused this team of tough scheduling. Nate Wolters looks strong, and the Jacks other scorers like Griffan Callahan and Taevaunn Prince have made them the best shooting. With that being said, they needed overtime to top IUPUI, and beat Western Illinois by just one. SDSU is still not in the same conversation as Oral Roberts and Oakland. Whatever happened to the highly touted Jordan Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra? With all the hype those guys got coming out of High School, they have been underwhelming to say the least.
- North Dakota State (7-2, 1-1) —they looked pretty good when they were 6-0, but now it looks like any of the top three teams in the conference could have started with that record if they played the Bison’s schedule. North Dakota State won’t play a ranked team this year, and they have already dropped a game against Western Illinois, barely beat IUPUI, and lost to a mediocre Arizona State team. Again, they score a lot of points, but they haven’t played a decent team yet. They are 7-2 now, but I can almost guarantee you they will be 7-5 by January 1. On a positive note, Taylor Braun has been playing well in his sophomore campaign, and now leads the team in points and rebounds.
- Western Illinois (3-2, 1-1)— I have really been intrigued by the potential of this Western Illinois team ever since their game against Michigan. They have some really nice athletic talent, and they no longer resemble the abysmal Leatherneck teams of years past. Their defense has been surprisingly good. In their last six games, the Leathernecks have held their opponent under 70 points, and four times they have held them under 60—including #17 Michigan. This is not a fluke, they slow the pace of the game, play tough defense, and hope to make the most out of their opportunities on offense. I would watch Western Illinois for the rest of the month. They have an easy schedule, and could close out December with five straight wins.
- UMKC (5-4, 1-1)— The Kangaroos dominated IPFW in their first conference game, but they fell to Oakland by 13. They have a brutal three game stretch to finish out December, and they could drop their next conference game to ORU. UMKC is by far the worst rebounding team in the conference, with barely 30 per game. Do they even have a player that can score besides Reggie Chamberlain? They haven’t found one yet. With all their holes, this team could still be a top five team in the Summit if they can survive this month. January provides a four game stretch where they play Summit teams that are 1-6 in the conference so far.
- IPFW ( 3-3, 1-1)— On paper IPFW looks like a pretty good team—they have a top-10 scorer in the nation, they are averaging 76.1 points per game, and they are averaging more rebounds than both ORU and Oakland. However, three of their six wins this season have come against non-Division I teams. Those stats nice looking stats are padded. To be fair to Frank Gaines, he can score against anyone, but this team has a lot of work to do, especially since getting embarrassed at home by UMKC. You can’t get run out of your building by a below-average conference foe and expect any kind of respect.
- Southern Utah (2-5, 0-1) — The T-Birds had a chance to beat ORU on their floor, but they blew a seven point lead late in the second half. They are now stuck in the middle of a three game losing streak, including a disheartening, 22-point blowout loss to Big Sky front-runner Weber State. No one on Southern Utah is averaging more than 11 points per game, and although they had a good rebounding night against ORU, they are still getting killed with a meager 32.2 rebounds per game.
- South Dakota— (2-5, 0-2)— Seniors Louie Krogman and Charlie Westbrook are stepping up and playing well. They have picked up back-to-back wins after falling to Oakland and IPFW, and the Coyotes have a chance to go on a nice win streak if they can pick up a home win against Southern Utah. Oral Roberts faces them at the end of the month, and it doesn’t get any easier from there. This is a critical three game stretch for the Coyotes where they need to pick up three wins.
- IUPUI (2-8, 0-2)—Despite Alex Young’s great play, this team has lost its way. I think IUPUI will give Todd Howard some time to turn this ship around, but when you Google “IUPUI Head Coach” the first name that pops up is still Ron Hunter. No one on this team is on the same page yet. Even though it is early, It may be time to file this one away under “rebuilding year”.
- December 18 - Oral Roberts at #9 Xavier— will the suspensions be enough for Scott Sutton to pull off another signature upset and get ORU back on track?
- December 20 - Oakland at Arizona— Remember last year in the NCAA tournament when Hamilton’s three rimmed out in the final minutes and Oakland lost 85-82 to Texas? If that shot had gone down for Hamilton, Oakland could have been playing Arizona for a chance at a Sweet Sixteen berth. We finally get our Oakland-Zona matchup, just minus Derrick Williams and Keith Benson.