Checking In On… the Summit LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2012
Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.
The Week That Was
- League Continues To Impress: If you still underestimate the Summit League, I have some news for you. On January 24, The Summit League was ranked No. 15 in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI (rpiratings.com) and No. 17 in the Sagarin Ratings. The Summit League has a winning percentage of .500 or better against 15 of the 17 mid-major conferences its teams have played this season, a .506 winning percentage against non-league Division I opposition and a .585 winning percentage against all non-league competition. Still not convinced? How about five players currently among the NCAA’s Top 15 in scoring average, more than any other Division I conference. IUPUI’s Alex Young owned the nation’s highest single-game scoring total this season (43), and he is the active points leader in the nation. Oral Roberts is making the most noise nationally, but whomever emerges from the conference will be a challenge for anyone in the Big Dance.
- Golden Eagles Flying High: Oral Roberts enters the week having won 17 consecutive Summit League games dating back to last season, The Golden Eagles are closing in on Oakland’s record of 20 games set during the 2009-11 seasons.
- Oral Roberts (18-4, 10-0) — Dominique Morrison has led the Golden Eagles to one of the best starts in school history, but they have a daunting road trip ahead when they travel to the Dakotas for back-to-back games. If they can survive early February without a blemish, they’ll have a strong chance to finish with the first undefeated record in conference history.
- South Dakota State (13-5, 8-1) — They have not lost since the meltdown at ORU, and although that game made them fade into the background, they are still a talented and dangerous team. ORU is in the top-45 in RPI, but the Rabbits are right on their heels in the top-60. Golden Eagles beware; there are no free-passes.
- North Dakota State (11-6, 6-3) — They have now lost to the top two teams in the conference, but they are still very much in the mix as well. When Taylor Braun plays well, the Bison have a chance to beat anyone. He’s averaging 16.2 points per game and 7.1 rebounds.
- Oakland (10-11, 5-5) — Reggie Hamilton is having an incredible season, averaging 23.7 points per game, good enough for third in the nation, but it is getting overshadowed by the Golden Grizzlies’ struggles as a team. The Golden Grizzlies are having strong offensive week, but they have struggled to play defense.
- Western Illinois (8-8, 5-5) — The Leathernecks play the best defense in the conference, allowing just 59.8 points per game, and their upcoming matchups with ORU, North Dakota State and South Dakota State could decide the outcome of this conference. They are a tough team to beat at home, and their next three conference games will be at home.
- Southern Utah (8-10, 5-5) — The T-Birds have won three of their last four to keep their heads above the water, but Southern Utah has struggled to get into the lane and score, so most of their points come on three-point shots and midrange jumpers, which isn’t exactly the most sustainable model for offensive prowess. They slow the pace and try to keep the score in the mid 60’s where they can give themselves a chance to win. The T-birds don’t have enough firepower to keep up with a team shooting lights-out, and they don’t really have enough to keep up with average scoring teams, either. Jackson Stevenettleads the team with 13.9 points per game, the lowest total of any team leader in the Summit League.
- UMKC (8-13, 2-7) — The Kangaroos had a tough December and January, losing eight straight before dominating Western Illinois at home for their first conference win of the season. UMKC’s struggles to score (66.1 PPG) have given them the lowest average scoring margin in the conference at -5.1.
- IPFW (6-10, 3-7)— The Mastodons have lost four in a row and seven of their last nine games. They are very close to last in every defensive category and last in assist-turnover ratio, but lead the Summit League in rebounding, which is a bit of an anomaly. Junior Frank Gaines continues to carry this team, and his 20.2 points per game and 5.7 rebounds give the IPFW faithful some hope for next season.
- South Dakota (4-12, 2-8) — Summit League foes are getting their first looks at South Dakota and are experiencing overwhelming success. The team’s struggles in their first season was expected. Charlie Westbrook and Louie Krogman are sixth and ninth in the Summit League in scoring, respectively, and rank as one of the top tandems in the League (31.8 PPG).
- IUPUI (6-14, 2-8)— Alex Young is a great basketball player, but the Jags as a team are a long way from the days when Young led them to the conference championship in 2009. IUPUI is in the midst of its third and longest losing streak of the season, which now stands at six games. Young is truly the lone bright spot, leading the team in points, rebounds, steels, assists, and field goal percentage.
- North Dakota State at Oakland, January 28—The loser of this game may be out of the conversation when it comes to conference contenders.
- Oral Roberts at South Dakota State, February 2—This is the rematch between the two powerhouses. Oral Roberts needs this game more than South Dakota State with at-large talk being thrown around. It will also give us a better look at these teams when they are in conference tournament surroundings.