RTC Summer School: The Summit LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on August 2nd, 2012
Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Today, the Summit League.
Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.
- Southern Utah and Oral Roberts Head For Greener Pastures: Southern Utah made its long-awaited transition to the Big Sky while Oral Roberts made a quicker exit to the Southland Conference, ending the most successful stretch of sustained competition for Summit League basketball. With the League favoring the Dakota teams and a move northward, ORU made a business decision: Cut ties and shift its focus south to more natural competition and recruiting. ORU was the most successful team in the recent history of the Summit League, but it was clear that league officials had a vision for the direction of the conference that ORU wasn’t too thrilled with.
- IPFW and Oakland Lobby For Open Horizon League Spot: Speaking of new directions, this story came out a couple months ago reporting that Oakland was interested in filling Butler’s vacated spot in the Horizon League. Oakland has been courting that conference for a long time, but it is not likely they will get their wish; there hasn’t been any movement on the Horizon’s end in several months, if at all. Even IPFW kicked around the idea of moving up in the world to join the Horizon. The Horizon could use a mid-major like Oakland to give it back some of the firepower they lost in Butler, but IPFW should get comfortable with its spot in the Summit. They aren’t going anywhere.
How They Stack Up
- South Dakota State: Oakland closed the gap a little bit with their recruiting haul, but South Dakota State still boasts the best player and arguably the best front court of any team in the conference. Its recruiting class wasn’t as flashy as in years past, but it addressed several holes they had and added some depth. The Jacks should still be the favorites heading into the season. Notable additions: Jacob Bittle, point guard; Connor Devine, center.
- Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies impressed the most out of all the teams with their recruiting class, adding two transfers that can help right away in Tommie McCune (West Virginia) and Ralph Hill (Dayton). They also added Lloyd Neely, The Detroit Public School League MVP from 2012 and Mr. Basketball finalist. The Golden Grizzlies had to find a way to replace Reggie Hamilton, the 2012 NCAA scoring leader, and it looks like they are well on their way. Notable Additions: Tommie McCune, guard; Lloyd Neely, forward, Michigan Mr. Basketball finalist.
- North Dakota State: Saul Phillips and the Bison have once again situated themselves as one of the league’s top contenders by landing a top-tier Wisconsin recruit in Brett VandenBergh. Last season, the Bison put up massive point totals, but couldn’t hold back teams on defense. This season it appears the Bison are trying to return to a defensive mindset based on who they have recruited, and they have made some great strides in getting back to the top of the Summit. NDSU is a rock solid program that poses a legitimate threat to win a conference title. Notable Addition: Brett VandenBergh, forward – No. 13 ranked player in Wisconsin.
- Western Illinois: The Leathernecks caught a huge break when Ceola Clark was awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA for 2012. The two-time Summit League Defensive Player of the Year headed one of the toughest defenses in the country in 2011, and despite the loss of Newcomer of the Year Obi Emegano (transferred to ORU), the Leathernecks could continue to improve with the addition of Jordan Foster. The conference championship run from last season will give this team a lot of confidence moving forward. Notable addition: Jordan Foster, point guard, No. 32 ranked player in Illinois.
- IUPUI: IUPUI has a lot of work left to do after a disappointing season in 2011. The loss of Alex Young will be hard to absorb. Outside of Young, IUPUI had no threat offensively and struggled to compete. Cortell Busby was a good addition, but it may not be enough to turn the program around completely. Other players will have to step up if the Jags want to return to the George Hill days. Notable addition: Cortell Busby—point guard (84 rating on ESPNU.com)
- IPFW: The Dons took a step back in their first year after Dane Fife left for Michigan State, but they are returning nearly every major contributor from last year, including leading scorer Frank Gaines (21.2 PPG). If William Dunn can contribute right away, he will help spread the floor for Gaines and help elevate the scoring load on Trey McCorkle. The Dons could once again be on the rise with the better part of their squad intact from 2011. Notable addition: William Dunn, shooting guard, No.5 ranked player in Minnesota.
- South Dakota: Dave Boots enters his 25th season as the South Dakota head coach, but these first two in the Summit League may be his most challenging. Building a program from its early days in a Division I conference is like building from scratch, and this will be the first real recruiting class we get to see from South Dakota as a DI school. We know what Dave Boots can do on the Division II level (over 600 wins) but how does he guide the Coyotes on the next level? Notable addition: Tyler Flack, forward.
- UMKC: The Kangaroos missed the conference tournament last season, but like IPFW they are returning the core of their players as well as two highly touted additions in Wedel and Burke. The Kangaroos will have to compete for their head coach Matt Brown, who may be on the hottest seat in the conference. Notable additions: Mason Wedel, point guard, No. 7-ranked player in Kansas; John Burke, forward, 80 ranking on ESPNU.
- Nebraska-Omaha: Andy Katz talked about the new kids on the block in Nebraska-Omaha as they joined the NCAA conference ranks for the first time in 2012-2013. They won’t be eligible for the big dance until 2015-16, but for now the program is building on the excitement of taking the leap into the top level of competition in college hoops. For Nebraska-Omaha fans, the wins will be the icing on the cake. Notable addition: Marcus Tyus, point guard.
If last season was the “season for the ages,” then next season is the season of transition. With the power of the conference shifting northward, and the remaining centrally located teams vying for spots in other conferences, 2012-13 could bring even more change for the Summit League. With most of the premier players in the conference departing, only Nate Wolters remains in the national spotlight as he looks to take South Dakota State to the Dance once again. The future success of this conference hinges on how quickly the rest of the league can compete with SDSU, Oakland, and North Dakota State as they move past the ORU era.