Checking In On… The Summit LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2012
Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.
The Week That Was
- Collision Course: Oral Roberts and South Dakota State have set the stage for a fantastic final two weeks in regular season play. After splitting the season series, the Jackrabbits are just a game behind the Golden Eagles. Both teams are in the top-60 in RPI, both are ranked in the mid-major Top-25 , and both have an NBA-level talent in Dominique Morrison and Nate Wolters. This is setting up nicely for a rubber match in Sioux Falls on March 6.
- Mo’ D-Mo: Morrison is closing in on 2,000 points for his career, which is some rarefied air in the Summit League. Just 11 players in the 30-year history of the conference have reached 2,000. IUPUI’s Alex Young was the latest to do so, and he is the active points leader in the nation with 2,142. This season has been opportunity to showcase some of the most impressive talent this conference has ever seen.
- Competition To Come: Oral Roberts will face Akron in one of the 13 nationally televised ESPN BracketBuster games on February 18. Before the loss to South Dakota State, I would have said this game had big at-large implications, but now the Golden Eagles will really just be playing spoiler for the Zips. I think Oral Roberts should still be considered a contender for an at-large, and saying otherwise shows some major disrespect for the Summit League. However, I am not on the selection committee. A win will be good publicity for the Summit League, but Oral Roberts still needs to win the conference tournament to go dancing. Keep an eye out for South Dakota State on ESPNU as well.
Records reflect only games against Division I opponents through Wednesday.
- Oral Roberts (21-5, 13-1) — South Dakota State is a tough place to play, and losing to the Jackrabbits is not as bad as it looks. They landed a haymaker against the Jacks in the Mabee Center back in January and SDSU answered back with one of their own. The Golden Eagles bounced back with a road win against the third-place Bison, gaining some confidence for the home stretch. No one has ever finished the regular season perfect in the Summit League, and you knew they had to lose eventually. The Jacks were actually the best conference team they could have lost to. The Golden Eagles’ RPI actually went up after the loss. ORU is hot right now, shooting just under 50% as a team, good enough for tenth in the nation.
- South Dakota State (19-6, 11-2) —Their last big test of the season will come against North Dakota State, and it could be the difference between ORU sealing the conference or South Dakota State sneaking in the back door for that all-important top seed. The Jackrabbits are in the top-15 in the nation in scoring and are nearly unbeatable when they get hot. Barring a stunning upset, it looks like both ORU and South Dakota State will finish the last two weeks undefeated and appear fated to meet in the postseason, which would be one of the most intriguing matchups during this championship week. Both teams have the DNA to topple a prolific Power Six team.
- North Dakota State (13-8, 8-5)—The Bison are a distant third, and even winning their last five conference games will not be enough to improve their seed. They are slumping, just 2-4 in their last six games. The Bison are sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (49.6%), which makes them capable of ruining ORU or SDSU’s run. They face Western Illinois in the final game of the regular season, which will probably decide what team controls the three-seed in the conference tournament.
- Oakland (13-13, 7-7)— Still a contender for the three-seed and just defeated Western Illinois in double-overtime to inch closer to that goal. With a great offense, the Golden Grizzlies are still a threat to put it together for a late run in the conference tournament, but before that happens, Greg Kampe needs to get his team to play better defense. Reggie Hamilton is averaging 24.5 points per game and is currently second in the nation, but does he deserve Conference Player of the Year honors? His team is struggling, but Hamilton is not exactly a black hole. He is also leading the team with five assists per game.
- Western Illinois (10-9, 7-6) — The Leathernecks continue to carve out wins with their stingy defense, allowing just 60.3 points per game. They have improved immensely since last season, and should be considered a contender down the stretch. WIU has posted a 4-1 record in the last five games and are getting hot when it matters.
- Southern Utah (10-12, 7-7) —The Thunderbirds are stuck in that weird position where winning out the rest of the way will mean about as much as losing out. They are in no danger of missing the conference tournament, but improving one or two seeds won’t make a bit of difference in the long run. They still have to play one of the three best teams in the first round, all of which have swept them up to this point in the season. Does it matter anyway? The Thunderbirds are having dreams about the Big Sky at this very moment. Enjoy the limbo, T-birds.
- IPFW (7-10, 4-10) — Can you believe this team is actually going to play in the conference tournament? The Mastodons have done nothing under first year coach Tony Jasick and have now lost 11 of 15. Frank Gaines is averaging 19.4 points per game and 5.5 rebounds, but his production continues to decline.
- IUPUI (8-15, 4-9) —Back-to-back wins ended the seven game skid, and gave them a little spark heading into the final stretch. Alex Young continues his audition tour for NBA scouts around the country, and it adds a little motivation for the rest of his team who want to see him move on the next level. They could finish strong.
- South Dakota (5-14, 3-10) — They got beat down by 31 at ORU, and it would have been twice that if ORU had played their starters for even half the game. Two of their players average nearly half their points, and they are hurting for some more talent outside Charlie Westbrook. Baby steps, Coyotes.
- UMKC (8-16, 3-10)—They have dropped 11 of 13 and are 2-12 on the road this season. Like IUPUI, their only dependable offense comes from one player. For the ‘Roos, that player is Reggie Chamberlain, who averages 17 points per game. They are one of the nation’s worst rebounding teams, with just 28.6 a game, and that has really been the story on the Kangaroos this season.
- Akron at Oral Roberts, February 18 (ESPN2, 2 pm CST) — Akron has the most to lose in this game. ORU already knows they need to win their conference tournament to have a shot at March Madness, but Akron is still on the bubble. This will be a big momentum and confidence boost for the Golden Eagles if they can pull this one off in front of the nation.
- South Dakota State at Buffalo, February 18 (ESPNU, 1 pm EST) —This is a quality BracketBuster matchup for the Jackrabbits, who are fighting for their own respect in the college basketball world.