Summit League Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-UpPosted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2012
Charlie Parks is the Summit League correspondent for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.
Summit League Tournament Glance
- One Big Year: This was an unforgettable season for the fans that follow the Summit League. Reggie Hamilton leads the nation in scoring; Alex Young is the NCAA active scoring leader and is looking to move on the NBA; Dominique Morrison led Oral Roberts to a school-best 26-5 record to go along with a crisp 38 RPI to get at-large talk going, and Nate Wolters and company are a serious dark horse contender for an NCAA tournament run with a 24-7 record. The Summit League is making a move into the best-mid-major-conference-talks, something that was unthinkable two years ago.
- Where Does The Summit Go From Here: With ORU and Southern Utah leaving and Nebraska-Omaha on the way in, the future of the conference and its status in the basketball world is still to be determined. If North Dakota State and Oakland are able to rise up and take the place of ORU, the league can pick up where they left off. However, if things stay the same, and South Dakota State is the only real powerhouse, then the conference could take a step back. Regardless of what lies ahead in 2013, there is still a lot of basketball left in 2012. So here are my regular season awards and a quick preview for the upcoming Summit League tournament …
- Coach of the Year – Jim Molinari, Western Illinois: With all due respect to Scott Sutton and the amazing job he did this year, I have to go with Jim Molinari from Western Illinois. A year ago, Western Illinois was 7-23 with a 2-16 conference record after finishing the year with 13 straight losses. Molinari has turned things around and has the Leathernecks playing defensive-minded basketball. The Leathernecks offense is more efficient, and the addition of freshman Obi Emegano has helped Western Illinois capture the five-seed in the Summit League tournament.
- Player of the Year – Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: My pick for Player of the Year was really a no-brainer. Dominique Morrison was not only the best player in the conference, but one of the best in the nation over the course of the entire season. His 20.3 points per game becomes even more impressive by the fact that he shot 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from beyond the arc. On top of all that, he was clutch. Say what you want about the term “clutch”, but when a bucket needed to be made or when the game was on the line, he found a way. He was the total package this year. Morrison is going to be one of those guys Scott Sutton and the ORU fans will never forget.
- Forward: Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: He will finish his career, along with everyone else on this All-Conference Team, in the top ten in scoring with well over 2,000 points.
- Forward: Alex Young, IUPUI (20.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG): Young will leave IUPUI as the highest scorer in school history, and the fifth-leading scorer in conference history. He’s a first-round NBA draft pick if I ever saw one.
- Guard: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (21.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.1 APG): The man can flat out play, and he is going to be Summit League Player of the Year next year. The question is, will he be looking to lead South Dakota State to their first ever conference title or a repeat?
- Guard: Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (25.5 PPG, 5.1 APG): In case you thought this guy was a ball hog, just take a peek at those assist numbers. Put Hamilton on the list of current Summit League players that deserve a shot in the NBA. He’s quick, can run the point, and has deep three point range. Oh, and I forgot to mention he leads the nation in scoring.
- Center: Jordan Dykstra, South Dakota State (11.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG) I have to give a shout-out to the big men, and he is the best one in the conference. Just a sophomore, Dykstra is going to be a dominant force in the years to come.
As I’ve mentioned before, I will take my starting five over your five starting five any day of the week. I don’t care if it is ACC All-Conference or Big East All-Conference, the Summit League can ball with the best of them. Reader’s Take
Power Rankings/Conference Tournament Preview (by seed)
- Oral Roberts (26-5, 17-1) — ORU has an outside chance at an at-large bid should they fall short of a conference championship. This is a very good team that can make the Sweet Sixteen if they can get the right draw. If the Golden Eagles finished with 29 wins to go along with their BracketBuster win, I would have a hard time understanding a seed lower than 12. In that case, they would be looking at a matchup against a team like Murray State, Wichita State, or Saint Mary’s — which would be the perfect teams for ORU to face. A 13-seed would put them in the Wisconsin, Baylor or Florida range, which would be a much more difficult matchup. The high mid-major matchup would play into ORU’s athleticism well, but a team like Baylor or Florida may have too much depth for ORU to handle. But before they can think about the NCAA Tournament, they need to finish off the Summit League. Dominique Morrison needs to be Dominique Morrison. We have seen the consistency and the desire all season, and this team will be crowned champions if he leads them there. Morrison is like a big band-aid, when the team is struggling just get Morrison the ball and he will create points. That is how ORU has done it all season and that is what they need to do now to close the deal. On the flip side, this team can’t get ahead of itself. If the Golden Eagles get that front-runner mentality, there are plenty of teams who will take advantage and steal their championship. Scott Sutton has talked about this team being a little too loose at times, and unable to slam the door shut on teams. They have to get serious and go for the knockout punch when they have the opportunity or they will get upset.
- South Dakota State (24-7, 15-3) — The Jacks are the only other team in the Summit League that could possibly put together a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament if they managed to upset ORU. A conference championship win would mean the Jacks would be looking at 27 wins, a BracketBuster win over Buffalo, and a 92-73 win over Washington, the Pac-10 favorites. A 12 or 13-seed would be in the works for South Dakota State as well. This team is not far behind ORU, and both teams deserve a shot at the Big Dance. With the tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the home-court advantage will be big for this team. If they can make some shots early and get the crowd into the game and momentum on their side against ORU, they have a very good chance. This team has a tough road as the No. 2 seed. The first round is IUPUI, followed by Oakland. Will they have enough gas left in the tank to finish off ORU?
- Oakland (17-14, 11-7) — Reggie Hamilton has the ability to take the Golden Grizzlies all the way to the conference championship, but I’m not sure they can win it with the depth they have right now. For Oakland to bring home their third consecutive Summit League Championship, it would need to beat South Dakota State and one of ORU or North Dakota State, three teams against whom Oakland went 1-5 against in the regular season. If they did capture a third title, they would be facing a 15 or 16-seed, despite early season wins against Houston and Tennessee. How will they win? With the tenth-best scoring offense in the country, they will need to get hot and overpower teams. If they can’t it together, Oakland’s suspect defense and rebounding usually gives their opponent every opportunity to score. With defenses and physicality ramped up in the conference tournament, Oakland could be in trouble.
- North Dakota State (17-12, 9-9) — They started the season looking like the second or third best team, but they finished the season 4-8, including a 13-point loss to Western Illinois on the final game of the season. Saul Phillips may have found his next point guard in Newcomer of the Year Lawrence Alexander, and this team should be a top-tier Summit contender next season.
- Western Illinois (16-13, 9-9)— The Leathernecks have already exceeded expectations, and are about a year away from being a true contender. Their defense has greatly improved and it will help solidify them as a contender in the coming years. Freshman Obi Emegano averaged 13.3 points per game this season, and he has a chance to become a conference Player of the Year candidate.
- Southern Utah (13-16, 8-10) — The Thunderbirds’ final season in the Summit League was not too bad, but pretty average. Last year they were 11-19 and 7-11 in the conference. The hope for Southern Utah is that the move to the Big Sky will help them with recruiting. How much longer does Roger Reid have at the helm in Southern Utah?
- IUPUI (14-17, 7-11) — Alex Young has carried this team all season, and he will have to do it one more time. Did the team buy into Todd Howard as a head coach? That remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see where IUPUI ends up as a program now that Ron Hunter has departed.
- IPFW (11-18, 5-13) — At this point in the season, they are playing for pride and for each other. They survived the cut, and now have a 0-0 record just like the one-seed. They can forget about everything else and just try to make this opening game of the tournament their season. IPFW took a big step back under Tony Jasick, and next year will hold a lot of expectations for IPFW as they look to climb the ranks in the Summit League.
I am going to go with the favorites this year. I’m picking ORU over South Dakota State 75-70 in a must-see championship game. I expect ORU to get a No. 13 seed, even though I think they deserve a #12 or #11 seed. Whatever the outcome, whatever the seed, I am looking forward to it. Enjoy the mid-major madness.