Checking In On… the Summit LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2011
Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.
Ed. Note – This post was written in advance of Wednesday’s action.
The Week That Was
- Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton was named as the Lou Henson Award national player of the week (the Award presented to the top Mid-Major Player in Division I college basketball) by CollegeInsider.com. This is very good publicity for the Summit League and Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies are trying to show once again that they are the best team in the conference, and Reggie Hamilton just might will them to another championship with the way he is performing.
- Alex Young is on the verge of 2,000 career points, and as the current active points leader in the NCAA, it is worth noting. This is a huge accomplishment for Young, who will join just 10 other players in conference history to reach 2,000 points. Young will likely finish in the top five all-time in Summit League history.
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider debates who is the better point guard, Nate Wolters or Reggie Hamilton. We have a chance to find out very soon (see “Looking Ahead”).
Records reflect only games against Division I opponents.
- Oakland (8-6, 2-0) — The only reason I still have Oakland at the top is because nothing has changed as far as conference standings go in the past two weeks. Because of the Holidays there have been very few games played by anyone, but the next two weeks could decide the conference altogether. Back-to-back blowout losses to Arizona and then Western Michigan had me worried. There are other teams like ORU and South Dakota State playing much better. But I could not move them down when Reggie Hamilton continues to dominate the NCAA (23.0 PPG, .423 FG%, .893 FT%), placing him third in the nation in scoring, right behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who may just be the next Jimmer, and is making his own case for Player of the Year. If Hamilton was in the Missouri Valley, he may be getting the same attention as well. Hamilton has Oakland ranked no. 24 in the country in overall offense and the Golden Grizzlies continue to prove they have lost little from the past two dominant seasons.
- Oral Roberts (9-4, 1-0) — The Golden Eagles enjoyed one of their best two weeks of success in team history—a half court heave that won the game against UALR, followed by a slim loss to a very good Gonzaga team, and capped off with blowout wins against No.15 Xavier and Texas Tech. The Golden Eagles looked shaky at times during their tough non-conference schedule, but the bottom line is they’re now at 10 wins, all against quality opponents, and very high confidence going into the conference. I expect the Golden Eagles to chew up the Summit. Although they have a brutal upcoming two weeks against the Dakotas and Oakland. They need these next few games badly. The conference will in fact be locked up by somebody in late January, and the Golden Eagles have hit their stride at the right time.
- South Dakota State (10-4, 2-0) — As well as Reggie Hamilton is performing, it is still hard to ignore the case Nate Wolters (21.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.0 APG, .435 FG%) is making for Summit League Player of the Year. He has South Dakota State ranked no. 33 in the nation in overall offense, not far behind Oakland. South Dakota finished their non-conference slate in a questionable way (blowout win against Washington, blowout loss to North Dakota), leaving me a bit nervous about declaring them a true contender, but they have a big opportunity approaching them. They have a chance to sneak into the all-important No. 1 seed in early January with wins over ORU and Oakland. The way to stop this team is to out-rebound them (something Oakland and ORU can do). They take a high volume of shots, and if they are cold, it is all over. A very interesting two weeks coming up for the top-four contenders. It is anyone’s conference.
- North Dakota State (6-3, 1-1) — NDSU accomplished little in asserting their case for being a true contender at the beginning of the season, with wins over average teams in lower ranked conferences. Still, this team can be dangerous. They won’t pass your eye test, but they are a hard team to beat at home, and Saul Phillips can get the most out of his players by preaching sound fundamentals and perfecting the offense. North Dakota State is by the book, and if you are not on your game or playing sloppy they will capitalize. I do not think they have the firepower to survive upcoming contests against Oakland and ORU, but we will see. This team has surprised us in the past.
- IPFW (4-4, 1-1) — Frank Gaines has dipped slightly in production (20.3 PPG, 39.4 FG%), but he is still a dangerous weapon that makes IPFW at least a partial contender this season. Unfortunately things are about to get worse for the Mastadons with Oakland, ORU, South Dakota State and North Dakota State coming up in the next few weeks. They certainly can steal a couple of those games, especially if their offense is scoring at the pace they are now. But don’t be surprised if they are well out of the top-four when February rolls around. Three wins this season have come against non-Division I teams. They may be the best of the rest in the Summit League, but they are not a serious contender.
- Western Illinois (4-4, 1-1) — This team makes up for its offensive struggles by slowing the pace and playing good defense. They beat North Dakota State already, and gave South Dakota State a big scare. Teams will struggle with their pace, and scoring 70 points may be impossible. They are not as talented as the top teams, but I see them rising quickly, especially with an easier conference schedule to start the new year. Physical teams will impose their will on Western Illinois, but they have sleeper potential.
- UMKC (7-7, 1-0)— The Kangaroos left a below-average non-conference impression on me, and it is hard to tell where this team stands after just two games in the Summit League. They easily handled IPFW, but fell to Oakland. The win at IPFW said something about UMKC, who is still trying to find their identity after losing their top two scorers from last season. Still, they struggled in the month of December. Reggie Chamberlain (17.3 PPG) gives UMKC that elite conference player that Western Illinois, South Dakota, and Southern Utah lack, so they still have the ability to be between fifth and eighth best. I request a larger conference sample before I give a verdict!
- IUPUI (4-8, 0-2) — The Jags are winless in conference play, but they have had a resurgence lately, mainly because Alex Young (20.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG) decided the only way they can win is if he does it himself. Last week, he averaged almost 25 points per game on his way to Summit League Player of the Week, and he is already averaging more points per game than he ever has during his sensational career. Young is currently the active points leader in the NCAA, and that will likely stay the same as he continues to lift IUPUI on his shoulders.
- South Dakota (2-6, 0-2) — The new guys at least showed they can put up points against Oakland and IPFW, averaging 85 points per game against the Summit League opponents, and seniors Charlie Westbrook (16.5 PPG) and Louie Krogman (15.2 PPG) continue to hover near the top of the Summit League in scoring. They could find a little success in the Summit if they could pull down some more rebounds (no. 256 in the country) and ratchet up their defense.
- Southern Utah (3-6, 0-1) — They haven’t played against the rest of the Summit League, so it is hard to gauge this team. But they are just 3-6 against Division I teams, and all of those wins have come against U.C. Davis and Bryant College, who are a combined 2-22 in the Big West and Northeast Conference. It also seems they have lost to every Ivy League school this year (not exactly “quality losses”). Even with the patty-cake schedule, they are averaging just 62.2 points per game. Southern Utah needs to do anything better.
- Oakland at South Dakota State, Friday, December 30 — If South Dakota wants to be taken seriously, this is a game they need to win. It will be Nate Wolters versus Reggie Hamilton, one of whom will emerge the favorite to win the conference Player of the Year, so this game has multiple implications— for both team and individual goals.
- Oral Roberts at Oakland, Tuesday, January 3 — It is the first clash of the season between the conference powers, and it seems like ORU hasn’t come out of Oakland victorious in a decade. I don’t think I need to clarify that this will be a huge indicator of which team will take the conference. This is a bitter rivalry, and this game is going to be a war. ORU needs this more than Oakland. This is supposed to be their year, so a win now in Oakland is a must. (If this game ends up being anything like the video below, then fans of the Summit League will certainly be in for a treat).