Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

The Summit League standings were shaken up one final time as the regular season comes to an end. All eight teams clinched a spot this week in the tournament, and Oakland became the first conference regular season champion of 2011. The win guarantees them a spot in the NIT should they falter in the conference tournament. The Golden Grizzlies were also bumped all the way up to #6 on the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, just one spot behind Gonzaga and six spots ahead of last year’s NCAA runner-up, Butler. But perhaps the biggest winner in the weekend drama was ORU. Thanks to a dominant 18 point drubbing of IUPUI, the Golden Eagles locked down the coveted #2 seed—which quite frankly—almost gives them an easier road to the Conference Championship game than top-seeded Oakland. It was the final big momentum swing that has now aligned us for a fantastic Championship weekend.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (21-9, 16-1)—There have been grumblings among Summit fans who think Oakland has lost a little of their edge— they have been involved in some close games against conference foes, including a loss to IUPUI—but I don’t think there is really anything for this team to be concerned about until the conference championship game. The only team Oakland could have trouble with would be ORU.  Simply because ORU is the only team that could match their size and depth. However, Oakland won’t face them again until the championship game—so until then, rest easy Golden Grizzly fans. Oakland is nearly unstoppable on offense—they are third in the country in scoring and eighth in field goal percentage.  Even in their one conference loss to IUPUI, they scored 88 points. To beat Oakland, you have to get their big men in foul trouble, and hope you can outlast them in a shootout.

2. Oral Roberts (16-14, 12-5)—They are on a seven-game win streak and are playing better than any team in the conference, including Oakland. They have dominated their opponents by an average of 13 points per game during the win streak. They have been brought back to life by the vastly improved guard play, and a renewed team focus.  Veteran guard Kyron Stokes was also cleared to play basketball by his neurologist after suffering what seemed to be career-ending concussions earlier in the year. But He is back, head gear and all, not a moment too soon. Not only is he the best perimeter defender and most experienced player Scott Sutton has, but he is also one of the vocal leaders on the team.  Adding guys like that only make you better. We will see how it pans out next week as they push for the championship.

3. IUPUI (17-13, 11-6)—They had a great chance to clinch the #2 seed, and it looked like they would after defeating Oakland  by  12 on February 5, but a blowout loss to Oral Roberts gave them their third loss in five games. It is nothing short of a monumental collapse that will haunt the Jags. They have an NBA-material forward in Alex Young, but he can’t carry a team alone. This team really struggles to play defense, and their point guard play is less than impressive. Two elements they must have to make it to Championship weekend.

4. South Dakota State (18-10, 10-7)—They salvaged the season a bit down the stretch, winning five of their last seven with losses to the two best teams in the conference. They will likely get the four-seed, which will match them against IPFW in the first round, a team they dominated twice in the regular season.

5. IPFW (10-7, 17-11) — IPFW finally collapsed down the stretch like I predicted. There were too many times during the year when you looked at their roster and said “how are they winning?” They were too small and too streaky to stay on top forever. Looking back, the best team the Mastodons beat all year was ORU. The last month they struggled in the Conference, going 3-4 in the month of February, and they failed to score 80 points against any conference opponent in that span.

6. UMKC (16-12, 9-8)—The Roos, like IPFW, have somehow competed hard despite having no size to work with. There was a stretch in January where no one really wanted to play UMKC—taking ORU, IUPUI, and NDSU to five overtime periods combined. But recently they have been getting demolished by the top teams, and have slowly faded into the pack. They are still a dangerous team when they shoot well, but it won’t be enough to win three days in a row next week.

7. North Dakota State (13-14, 7-10)—Despite the record, I am sure Oral Roberts would rather play Southern Utah in the first round than North Dakota State. No matter what their seeding, NDSU is going to be a tough out. They still have Michael Tveidt, who was a key member of their Cinderella run from a couple years ago, so if anyone has an upset left in them it is NDSU. They are limping into the tournament, but sometimes the most dangerous animal is a wounded animal—and they have nothing to lose.

8. Southern Utah (11-17, 7-10)—Southern Utah will have an interesting next couple of week. On Saturday, they play Oakland in the final regular season game, and then face them again in the first round of the Conference tournament. Is that an upset I see on the Horizon? (Nah).

9. Centenary (1-28, 1-16) — No one deserves to lose them all, and Centenary avoided infamy by defeating Western Illinois 73-60—ending a 33-game losing streak.  This team might be the worst team in NCAA history, but tonight, they are winners. That convincing win is good enough to bring them out of the cellar for the first time all season, at least in my poll.

10. Western Illinois (2-15, 7-21)—they will always be remembered as the only team to lose to the worst team of all-time…by 13.

A Look Ahead

The Summit League conference championship starts Saturday March 5, for the men and women, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s all high-stakes basketball from here on out. Win, you advance with dreams of making the Big Dance; lose, and you go home with nothing to show for it.  Don’t you love mid-major basketball?  A Conference Championship preview is coming up next week.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 12th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

  • The cream has risen to the top in the Summit League, finally, and it looks like there are four teams that have a legitimate shot to win a title. IUPUI resurfaced in the Summit after knocking off the top two teams, and Oral Roberts asserted itself with a dominating win against UMKC, keeping them in the mix of elite teams. Oakland fell in the mid-major Top 25 to # 12 after losing to IUPUI, and likely lost what little chance they had of getting an at-large bid by sweeping the conference regular season. But this should be of no concern for Oakland fans. The loss may even have helped the Golden Grizzlies in the long run to stay focused on the task at hand.
  • This is an interesting article from  Indystar.com that suggests the Jaguars’ Alex Young may be on his way to the NBA.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (12-1, 17-9) — their conference win streak was ended by IUPUI, but there is nothing for the Golden Grizzlies to really be concerned about.  If they stay focused and keep the goal in sight, they will be fine. For Oakland fans, this is perhaps the only mistake Coach Kampe has made all season.

2.  IPFW (9-4, 16-8)—they are holding on to that number two spot, and my predicted collapse is not happening. They can even afford to give another game away and still finish in second. They are in the best position out of all the contenders right now.  Ben Botts doesn’t get mentioned very often, especially since he shares the spotlight with guards like Nate Wolters and Leroy Nobles, but he deserves to be. How many more wins before we are convinced IPFW is for real?

3. Oral Roberts (9-5, 12-14)—They made a big statement going into UMKC and dominating that game from wire to wire and scoring triple digits for the first time in seven years. They have received two career games from guard Rod Pearson, and it will be good for the Golden Eagles to have some stability at that position going into the final stretch of the conference schedule. They are getting hot at the right time, and their big men are second only to Oakland. They need that #2 seed to have any chance at a title, so every game is a must-win from here on out.

4. IUPUI (9-4, 15-11)— they were coming on strong with victories over the top two teams, taking over the #2 spot in the standings briefly before getting crushed by South Dakota State —though I think the game was more of a fluke than a reflection of things to come.  The Jackrabbits shot 53% from the field in the victory over the Jags—even Oakland is losing that game if SDSU shoots that well against them.  Led by Alex Young, IUPUI is my favorite right now to leap into the #2 position.

5. South Dakota State (8-6, 16-9) — When they shoot lights-out from three, there is nothing you can do to stop them. Clint Sargent hit seven threes against IUPUI, and Nate Wolters added 21. When they are off, they tend to blow big leads by shooting themselves to death (i.e. at Oral Roberts).  They have the ability to drive the ball inside with Wolters, and if they can find that healthy balance in the offense down the stretch, they will be dangerous.

6. UMKC (7-6, 14-10)—They have been putting up some solid performances against the top teams in the conference, but the loss to ORU was crushing. They were dominated every way possible in that game.  Their shortcomings may not be so much a disparity of talent, but more a lack of preparation. That fault lands on the coaches. I still think they can pull it together and finish in the top five.

7. North Dakota State (7-7, 13-11)—They have won four of their last five games, and have started to look pretty confident. I know the fans of both teams will hate this, but they play a very similar style to SDSU. Both teams like to settle back behind the three once they get good lead, and they try to shoot teams out of the building.

8. Southern Utah (4-9, 8-16)— Three of their four conference wins have come against Western Illinois and Centenary. Their last four games will be against the top four teams in the conference. I think it is safe to say they have reached their potential.

9. Western Illinois (2-11, 7-17) — I can cut Centenary some slack, they are a D-III team in transition, but Western may be just as bad. They have the worst scoring offense in the conference, and they put up a measly 48 against North Dakota State. They showed promise at the end of last year, and they failed to build on that.

10. Centenary (0-14, 0-26)—The coaches and players don’t ignore the fact that they are a Division-III team playing in Division-I. This team is not going to win a single game this season, and they could very well go down in history as the worst team of all time alongside the Savannah States and NJIT’s.

A Look Ahead

And down the stretch they come…four big conference games remain on everyone’s schedule. This time of year, fantastic basketball is always played by mid-major teams with their tournament lives on the line.

  • Though Oakland just about has the conference wrapped up (with a three-game lead and five games to go), there’s a 1-2 battle between the Golden Grizzlies and IPFW taking place on the 12th.
  • For the Summit, high-stakes games will take place on February 17, when South Dakota State faces IPFW, and on February 24, IUPUI comes into Tulsa to face Oral Roberts.  These rivalry games will have massive implications for the conference tournament.
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The Other 26: Week 10

Posted by KDoyle on January 21st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

The week is here, long at last. Going into the season, BYU and San Diego State were projected to be strong, but this strong? Just to give you an idea of where these two juggernauts stood before the season, the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll had San Diego State receiving 73 votes and BYU 55 votes in the top 25 poll. In Zach Hayes’ Bracketology—a bracket that, in my mind, is very accurate for his latest edition—he had SDSU as a six seed and BYU a seven. Clearly, each team has exceeded many of the critics and so called experts expectations. Who would have thought that the teams would combine to have a 38-1 record at this stage of the season? Not even Steve Fisher or Dave Rose would have thought that.

In the grand scheme of things, the tilt in Provo, Utah, next week will not have an impact on whether or not either team will make the NCAA Tournament—it is a foregone conclusion that both are in—but this may be San Diego State’s biggest roadblock between them having an undefeated regular season or not. Can the magic carpet ride that San Diego State has been flying on continue, or will Jimmer Fredette and Co. take the air right out from under them? It will all go down on Wednesday evening in Provo.

The Other 26 Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Oakland is the sole representative of the Summit League in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, moving up to #11. They have now won 23 of the last 24 conference games. Who knew this team would be better without Derick Nelson, Johnathon Jones, and Eric Kangas? It must be the shoes…or maybe it’s all Greg Kampe.

Caught On Film:

This Alex Young Dunk made SportsCenter’s Top 10:

Oral Roberts basically saved their season with a big road win against SDSU, despite not having Dominique Morrison or Mike Craion. The win kept them from falling to 2-4 in the conference, and bought them some more time to get healthy. Things may be looking up for the Golden Eagles.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (11-8, 6-0)–Nothing new here, the Golden Grizzlies are still the best team. They should have no problem finishing undefeated. They can even afford to drop a couple conference games in a worst case scenario (i.e. major injury), but Greg Kampe will keep his team running hard through the finish line.

2. Oral Roberts (7-12, 4-3)– They lost first-team selection Mike Craion for the season and the second best player in the conference, Dominique Morrison, for three weeks to a meniscus tear. It looked like ORU was done. But a 90-82 victory against South Dakota State basically saved the Golden Eagles’ season. Back-to-back conference wins without their two stars proves this team is still dangerous. Improved guard play is the main reason they have risen in the rankings. They also have the schedule working in their favor, with basically only one unwinnable game left — at Oakland.

3. South Dakota State (12-5, 4-2)—This is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference, but if you live by the three, you also die by the three. Cold shooting days are bound to come. I hesitate to keep this team near the top because of how far they can swing. However, with four conference wins so far, they have given themselves a great opportunity to finish in the top two or three. Clint Sargent is a huge distraction for defenses, and Nate Wolters is arguably the best point guard in the conference. He leads the conference in scoring with 19.3 PPG. And thanks to some SDSU fans, I have finally settled on a nickname for the young man; he is now Nate “the Lane Train” Wolters. Don’t hate it.

4. IUPUI (10-9, 4-2) — Their two conference losses came against the top two teams, and even those were close games. The Jags have two big-time threats in Leroy Nobles and Alex Young–both guys are in the top eight in scoring. Coaching is what wins close games late in the season and in the conference tournament, and Ron Hunter deserves to be mentioned with the Kampes and the Suttons of the world.

5. IPFW (11-5, 5-1) — I know they are 5-1 in conference play, but I just can’t keep them above the big boys. They have one impressive conference win so far (at ORU). They also have the toughest part of their conference schedule remaining, starting off Saturday against Oakland. How will they weather the storm?

6. North Dakota State– (9-7, 3-3) In reality, this team is right in the middle of the race for the #2 seed, but the loss to IUPUI really hurt those chances. The Bison have two quality wins against SDSU and ORU, but two disastrous losses to UMKC and Southern Utah.

7.  Southern Utah–(4-12, 1-5)– Southern Utah runs a beautiful offense — a ton of plays that they run with such precision — but the T-birds just don’t have the firepower to overcome the more talented teams. If only they could recruit some ballers…SUU should be a top team in the Big Sky Conference sooner than you think.

8. UMKC–(10-7, 3-3)– they split against the Dakotas and followed that up by taking care of business against Southern Utah and Centenary. Spencer Johnson is second in rebounding, and Jay Couisnard is fifth in scoring; It’s been the difference for UMKC.

9. WIU–(1-5, 6-10) their only conference win came in a six point squeaker against Centenary, and they just lost to SDSU by 31. Turn the lights out.

10. Centenary– (0-18, 0-7)– 0-31: that’s the combined records of the Centenary men’s and women’s basketball teams.

A Look Ahead

This is moving week for the Summit, and it seems like everyone is playing in a big game. UMKC at Oral Roberts, Oakland at IPFW, and SDSU at IUPUI on January 17 will have some big-time effects on the overall standings…MLK Day will be a great day for Summit Fans.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

The “race to the Summit” (as the conference likes to call it) has begun. Or should we say, there is one team already at the Summit and they are rolling boulders down on everyone else trying to get to the top. Oakland asserted itself as the king of the hill on Thursday night with a convincing 85-77 win against Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before the season started, ORU was ranked second, and a threat to dethrone Oakland (ashamedly, I thought they had what it took). But ORU has faltered, thanks to the season-ending foot injury to the 2009 newcomer of the year and preseason first-team selection, Michael Craion. Oakland can more or less put the bus on cruise control from here on out. Barring major injury, this will be an easy three months for the Golden Grizzlies.

In other news: IPFW has flexed its muscles, beating up ORU on the road and then taking care of business against Centenary. They will be an interesting team to watch if you are a Summit League fan.

IUPUI’s John Ashworth was also named among 66 candidates for the 2011 Bob Cousy Award, honoring the nation’s top point guard.

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (9-8, 4-0)—they survived the brutal non-conference schedule, now it’s all downhill. Greg Kampe will make sure they keep the pedal to the metal—all the way to March Madness. All five of Oakland’s starters scored double figures against ORU. It is clear now that no team can stop them. Will this be the easiest road to the NCAA tournament for any team in the nation?
  2. IPFW (9-4, 4-0)—Once a fine basketball program during the Mid-Con days, we knew this team would put it together eventually. After about a four-year hiatus, they are once again in the hunt. The victory at ORU was their coming out party, and it was their show-us-what-you’ve-got moment of the season.  A well deserved #2 spot. They lead the league in defensive rebound percentage (.708). Keeping teams to one-and-done on the offensive end is a big reason this team is rolling.
  3. South Dakota State (9-4, 1-1)— This team is like watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie. He’s made a couple good movies, but he has also made several movies that made my eyes bleed. What is he, a terrible writer/producer or a good one?! Leave me alone M. Night! The loss to North Dakota State may have been just a bump in the road for SDSU, and the UMKC blowout was more their style. Or perhaps it is the other way around? It’s really hard to read this team. Can we get them a good matchup already?!  Have I mentioned Nate Wolters just might be the best point guard in the conference? I’m still trying to find a nickname for him.
  4. Oral Roberts (5-10, 2-2) — the Golden Eagles have four players in the top 20 in scoring for the conference, more than any other  team. But back-to-back home losses tell us a lot about this team: either the loss of Michael Craion has completely thrown them for a loop, or the team is just packing it in. Whatever the case, ORU is a long, long way from their preseason #2 selection. This team has zero ability to stop anyone on defense, which is usually the signature of a Scott Sutton team. It’s still early, and they are still 2-2 in the conference, but Michael Craion is not walking through that door—and the way they defend and shoot—the Golden Eagles look just about done. They have missed 116 free-throws in 15 games. Let that sink in… At least you have baseball season to look forward to, ORU.
  5. IUPUI (8-8, 2-1)—they have started to play better, almost upsetting #7 San Diego State, but they still rely way too much on Alex Young and Leroy Nobles to carry them offensively. If Young and Nobles are the only guys capable of scoring, then the rest of the team needs to start playing better defense for them to win.
  6. UMKC (8-6, 1-3)—Spencer Johnson had a huge game against NDSU, pulling down 21 rebounds in a two point victory. This team was starting to rise before they got throttled by South Dakota State. Let’s see if Jay Couisnard and Johnson can keep them in postseason contention.
  7. Western Illinois (5-7, 1-2)—their biggest problem is scoring points. They have shown the ability to play good defense, so far allowing a Summit best 59 points per game. However, their scoring margin is only +1.5, which means they couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. They have actually scored less than Centenary—whose scoring margin is -24.2.
  8. North Dakota State (7-6, 1-2) — already with two conference losses: one to UMKC, and one to Southern Utah. If you want to be considered a serious contender you have to beat both of those teams. They are third in the conference in scoring (78 points per game), less than a point behind Oakland. But guess what—Oakland plays defense, NDSU does not.
  9. Southern Utah (4-9, 1-2)—They get to play South Dakota State next, and if they can handle them, we might be able to talk about Southern Utah making a move to the top 5 in the rankings. Why not? They would have a better record than ORU and IUPUI (man does this conference have a lot of letters or what?).
  10. Centenary (0-4, 0-15)—  Maxx Nakwaasah is the Gents’ leading scorer, and he is averaging just over 10 points per game. No one else is close to double digits.  Keep playing hard, Centenary, you can’t lose them all…right? Maybe your coach will buy you all snow cones at the end of the season (bad joke, ok, I’m done)—Rest in peace, gentlemen.

A Look Ahead

The next couple of weeks will be pretty quiet in the Summit League. The only major game of note will be UMKC at Kansas, on Wednesday, January 5, at 7 P.M. (CST)… it more than likely won’t be a good game, but it will be another opportunity for the Summit League. Thursday, January 6 will be IUPUI vs. Oakland, in Rochester… IUPUI is one of the few teams that pose any real threat to Oakland, so it will be interesting to see how that one plays out.

Oakland is the sole representative for The Summit League in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. They are ranked at No. 21. North Dakota State received eight votes and South Dakota State received one.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Oakland finally gets their upset—an 89-82 road victory over the #7 Tennessee Volunteers.

It will be known from now on as the program’s signature win, just the second top 25 win in Oakland history. Keith Benson was fantastic—draining mid-range jumpers and even two three pointers on his way to a 26/10 night. One observer said he looked like Amare Stoudemire with his mid-range game. He proved to be more than just a post presence; He is an all-around, NBA-ready, mid-major star.

Benson Was Dominant

In case you missed it, this was Oakland’s close call earlier in the week against Michigan State.

In other news: Oral Roberts got pounded in their rubber-match with Missouri, 81-62, in a game the #12 Tigers called “a revenge game” after the Golden Eagles shocked them in the final seconds last year. It was close early, with the Golden Eagles up 22-19, but the Tigers used an 18-2 run before halftime to put them away. Oklahoma used a similar first-half run in Oral Roberts previous game to put them to bed early. Apparently, the ORU coaching staff thinks halves last 15 minutes.

Power Rankings:

  1. Oakland (6-5, 2-0) —Surprise! Imagine if they had beaten Michigan State the other night, would they crack the top 25 this week? Oakland has three players averaging double figures; they are the best offense in the Summit League, despite little production from one of their main guys, starting guard Larry Wright. They have the best coach in the conference, and the best player to ever play in the Summit League/Mid-Con conference (apologies to George Hill, Bryce Drew, and Caleb Green). By the way, I am predicting Keith Benson will be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. In fact I will go as far to say top 10 to Detroit. This is not Hyperbole. If you were able to see this guy in the Big East every night on ESPN, you would be saying the same thing. Benson dismantled the Vols—posting a 26 point 10 rebound and zero turnover night. He is only the fifth player in 15 years to do that against a ranked opponent. The other four: David Noel (UNC, 2005-06), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame, 1999-00), Brad Miller (Purdue, 1997-98), and Raef LaFrentz (Kansas, 1996-97). It’s time to sit back and enjoy this, Summit fans, because I don’t think you will see a player like Benson for quite a while. You heard it here first.
  2. North Dakota State (7-3, 1-0) —I love this team. They are like a mini version of Oakland. They score a lot of points (second in the conference with 79.3, 36th in the NCAA), and they play good defense (68 points allowed per game), those numbers are similar to past champions. They are just a well-rounded group. The Bison have been quietly gaining experience and confidence, and this team is a somewhat of a dark horse to make a run. They just dismantled their cross-tundra rival, North Dakota, 81-55, and they already beat the previous #2 team in the conference, South Dakota State. It’s still way too early, but they look good. Did I mention they have the fifth-highest three-point field goal percentage in the nation? Okay, just checking.
  3. Oral Roberts (4-6, 2-0) — let’s face it, the Golden Eagles are good, but they’re not Oakland-good. That doesn’t necessarily mean this team can’t win the conference title—anything can happen in a conference tournament—but it means they will have to be near-perfect if they want to beat a mature, complete team like The Golden Benson’s (err, I mean, Golden Grizzlies). Oral Roberts has the talent to win the conference, but it is young, raw, talent (that’s code for: “why the hell did they just do that!?”). Right now, I would describe the Golden Eagles as a team in search of its soul. Don’t count them out, they have over 200 wins, 16 NCAA Tournaments appearances and two final four appearances on the bench between Scott and Sean Sutton. Dominique Morrison is steady leader, fourth in scoring with 17.3 points per game (less than a point behind Keith Benson), but it may take more to rise above Oakland.
  4. South Dakota State (7-2, 0-1) —You see the 7-2 record and the 79.3 points per game and think this team might have something. They had two nice wins against Iowa and Nevada—but so far, they really haven’t beaten anyone. They have lost two of their last three (the win came against Mayville State). If you are an SDSU fan, fourth-best is not a bad spot to be right now with guys like Nate Wolters (17.2 PPG, 48% from three) and Clint Sargent (13.1 PPG).
  5. IPFW (7-2, 2-0) — They are sitting on top of the Summit standings—but they beat the teams at the very bottom to get there. Until they face and beat a tougher opponent (like one of the teams above them on this list) this is where they deserve to be ranked. Valparaiso, Purdue, and ORU await the Mastadons. Let’s see how they look after that.
  6. IUPUI (5-6, 1-1) —Ooey-Pooey beat Ohio, and they gave Ohio State everything they could before fading late and losing by 11. However, they did lose at home to ORU. This team was the preseason #3 in the Summit, and I still think it will shake out that way, but right now they just look mediocre at best. They play good defense, which will have to be their mantra for the season. Ron Hunter is relying solely on Alex Young and Leroy Nobles to carry this team offensively; they are combining to average 34 of the team’s 66 points per game.
  7. Western Illinois (5-5, 1-1) — Every once in a while, they will show flashes of goodness, especially on defense. But they struggle to score points, posting only 61 per game. Matt Landers is second in the conference in scoring with 17.9 per contest, and when they start getting production from their all-conference first team selection, Ceola Clark, they will stay competitive in most of their games.
  8. UMKC (5-4, 0-2) — The Roos have fallen pretty far down the list, losing both conference games. But I expect them to bounce back, especially with their duel threat in Spencer Johnson and Jay Couisnard. Right now, I see UMKC battling for that fourth-to-sixth place in the conference tournament for the rest of the year.
  9. Southern Utah (3-7, 0-2) — They lost to Weber State by six, the best in the Big Sky Conference, which is the silver lining in the dark storm clouds. What does that mean? Maybe nothing, but it could mean the Summit League is better than the Big Sky Conference. Let the debate begin!
  10. Centenary (0-2, 0-11) — No one should lose them all, but right now, Centenary is in danger of doing just that. The Summit League has been improving steadily, and it will be extremely difficult for this team to escape with a win or two. You can’t blame them; they just don’t have D-I talent. I hate watching teams suffer like this, so let’s just ignore the situation.

A Look Ahead

  • Saturday, Oakland takes on Michigan in Ann Arbor. Oakland could really get heads turning if they could deal with the Wolverines on the road. Then on Thursday, December 30, Oakland will go on the road to take on ORU in Tulsa. Both of these teams should be undefeated in the conference going into this game, and it will be the best the Summit League has to offer. If you only watch one Summit League game a year, this should be it.
  • The Summit League is ranked #16 in the December 14 Sagarin Ratings. Oakland is currently #12 on the collegeinsider.com top 25 mid-major poll, while South Dakota State is #18, but I suspect both of those will change. Oakland will be in the top 10, especially after the win at Tennessee.
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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Standings

South Dakota State 3-0
UMKC 2-0
North Dakota State 2-1
Western Illinois 2-1
IPFW 1-1
IUPUI 1-1
Oakland 1-1
Southern Utah 1-1
Oral Roberts 0-2
Centenary 0-3

A Look Back

The Summit League has had a pretty good start to the non-conference season. The Dakotas notched impressive wins over the defending Big West champs UC Santa Barbara, and Big Ten opponent Iowa. NDSU won by eight over UC Santa Barbara, and SDSU took a 10-point win at Iowa. Oakland slammed MAC favorite Ohio, and Western Illinois barely lost to #14 Missouri. With more upset opportunities coming up for the Summit teams, this could be a breakthrough year for the conference. In other news, Oakland star Keith Benson was ranked #5 by Rivals.com at the center position. The man is simply unstoppable, and we may get to see some history in the Summit League, because no one has anything close to a big man capable of slowing him down.

Power Rankings:

  1. Oakland: Life couldn’t be better for the Golden Grizzlies. Sure, they have encountered some setbacks due to injury and suspension, but does that even matter right now? Keith Benson can’t be stopped in the Summit League, and Oakland just came away with a pretty decent win over Ohio, the MAC favorites. They got two highly touted local Michigan recruits, and they are led by perhaps the best coaching staff in the conference. With Oral Roberts in a state of turmoil right now, and IUPUI lacking an inside presence, Oakland looks solid at the top.
  2. IUPUI: Leroy Nobles and Alex Young are two of the best guards in the conference, and they did their best to right the ship against Indiana-Northwest after dropping the season opener to #11 Gonzaga. They never trailed in the game, which shows they are executing well—they’ll be around all year.
  3. South Dakota State: They’re 3-0, so heck, they deserve to be #3, but more importantly, it is how they got to be 3-0. Blowout wins at Eastern Illinois, Iowa, and SW Minnesota State… not exactly intimidating schools (although Iowa is an impressive win), but it is getting the job done, more than you can say about most teams in this conference to this point. They nailed the recruiting trail and came up with some excellent talent this summer. They are reaping the harvest now.
  4. Oral Roberts: In their defense, the Golden Eagles are missing first-team selection Mike Craion, and his inside presence is greatly missed, to say the least. Not having him on the court gives ORU virtually no chance against the tougher schools with legitimate big men like Tulsa and Missouri State. But the problems for the Golden Eagles extend beyond the big man positions. Right now, they don’t have a guard that isn’t a liability on the floor. All three of their starting guards—Warren Niles, Ken Holdman, and Rod Pearson—have regressed so much since last year you wonder if Scott Sutton should go to his highly-touted freshman Hunter McClintock to run the offense. Terrible guard play, spotty defense, and little to speak of from the big men have the Golden Eagles one home loss to Indiana State away from panic mode. They still have more talent than everyone in this conference (with Oakland being the exception), but they need to stop making me look like a fool for picking them to win it.
  5. North Dakota State: I have plenty of respect for NDSU, and they are on the cusp of breaking the top three. They barely lost to Oregon in a shootout, 97-92, and they defeated UC Santa Barbara and Denver easily. Michael Tveidt is averaging 18.7 points per game in the early going, and he can create his own shot anytime. They can pound it down low with Eric Carlson, and there is no reason they couldn’t beat any of the teams above them. They are #5 on my power rankings, but take it easy, NDSU readers; they can beat anyone on this list.
  6. UMKC: This is where it gets shaky—Yeah, they are 2-0 and have one of the conference’s leading scorers in Jay Couisnard, and Spencer Johnson had a fabulous game against Central Arkansas—but they only won by two? And like I said last year, if you beat Truman State—well, you beat Truman State. Show me something more, Roos.
  7. Western Illinois: They only lost to Missouri by five? You have my attention, Leathernecks.
  8. IPFW:  Zach Plackemeier has shown some promise thus far for the Mastadons, but their only win was by 15 against SIU-Edwardsville (which coincidentally is exactly how many letters are in Zach Plackemeier’s name).
  9. Southern Utah: They lost to California Baptist by 10… no way they rise higher than eight at this point. They beat Cal State Bakersfield by just eight points, I didn’t even know Bakersfield had a basketball team.
  10. Centenary: Three games: Memphis, UT Martin, Arkansas Monticello—three losses by a total of 99 points. Makes you wonder who built another Monticello in Arkansas.

A Look Ahead

Oral Roberts is in desperate need of a win. They have Indiana State coming up on Saturday, November 20. Oakland takes on #9 Purdue, Sunday, November 21, a major opportunity for the Golden Grizzlies. The Summit League is currently ranked #18 in the Sagarin Ratings, and they are 9-7 so far in non-conference play. Oakland is #12 in the mid-major top 25 poll.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Lower Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL)

  • Shelvin Mack – Jr, G – Butler. There were times during Butler’s superb run to the national championship game last season where you’d be excused if you thought Shelvin Mack, a 6’3 guard with icewater in his veins, was the best player on the floor.  In BU’s first round NCAA game against  UTEP, his explosive 18-point second half where he drained five threes in the first eleven minutes fueled a 22-4 blitz that awakened his sleepwalking team and drove the Bulldogs into the second round (and beyond).  He also added four boards, four assists and a couple of steals in that one just for kicks, but it was seemingly like that all season long.  While Horizon League POYs Gordon Hayward (2010) and Matt Howard (2009) garnered most of the publicity, Mack quietly went about his business of doing whatever was needed to win games — 25 points against UW-Milwaukee; 7 rebounds against K-State; 8 assists against Northwestern and Green Bay; sticky defense every night out.  And win Butler did, to the tune of 25 victories in a row and an unprecedented march to play Duke for the title.  Neither the Bulldogs nor Mack will sneak up on anyone this year, especially after a summer with USA Basketball where the stocky junior opened the eyes of NBA scouts and his peers by earning a spot on the USA Select team ahead of such notable guards as Jimmer Fredette, Jacob Pullen, LaceDarius Dunn, Scoop Jardine, William Buford and Scotty Hopson.  Go ahead — check any preseason all-american list and you’re likely to see quite a few of those names on it.  If anyone actually believes that Butler was a one-year flash in the pan, they haven’t been paying attention.  It’s very difficult for any school to make the Final Four in a given year, but the Bulldogs with Mack leading the way along with Howard and a cast of other returning players, will once again be in that conversation.  Sometimes you just know  when a player is a winner — he has that little extra something that doesn’t always show up in the box score yet you know he’ll find a way to get it done?  That’s Mack, a true example of the ”Butler Way” if ever there was one.  All-American forward Gordon Hayward will be missed, but  we have absolutely no doubt that Butler will again be a top ten caliber program in 2010-11 in large part due to the heretofore overlooked glue player whose time has come to take the spotlight.

Butler's Heart & Soul Returns to Indy (AP/P. Sakuma)

  • E’Twaun Moore – Sr, G – Purdue. Less than a week ago Purdue was one of the three favorites along with Duke and Michigan State to win the national title this coming April, but a Robbie Hummel ACL injury later and everyone has been talking about another lost season for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers. However there is still some hope in West Lafayette that comes in the form of E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (Moore, Hummel, and Johnson were part of a loaded Boilermaker recruiting class in 2007). As talented as Johnson is it will be Moore and his all-around brilliance that will have to be driving force behind the Boilermakers if they are to make a push for the Final Four, of which they are still capable even with the loss of Hummel (to injury) and Chris Kramer (to graduation). Coming off a season where he was first team All-Big Ten and honorable mention AP All-American and an off-season where both he and Johnson briefly flirted with entering the NBA Draft before deciding to come back for their senior year, Moore will be expected to increase his scoring load and pick up some of the defensive slack created by the departure of Kramer. On the offensive end, Moore averaged 16.6 points per game providing the Boilermakers with their most explosive offensive threat since the days of Glenn Robinson while adding 2.7 assists per game, a figure that may not need to increase as the Boilermakers should be bolstered by the full-time return of Lewis Jackson. However it is the other side of the ball where Moore will really have to step up. Although he averaged a respectable 1.5 steals per game Moore was not expected to exert himself significantly on the defensive end as he had Kramer taking on the tougher defensive assignments and being an all-around Steve Wojciechowski-like pest to help create opportunities and cover up for the mistakes of others on the defensive end. To get the Boileramakers back to the Sweet 16, which they got to last year without Hummel, and beyond Moore will have to step around his all-around game while still maintaining his scoring even as teams continue to put an increased focus on him during their game-planning.

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RTC Conference Primers: #26 – Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Oral Roberts (15-3)
  2. Oakland (14-4)
  3. IUPUI (14-4)
  4. South Dakota State (10-8)
  5. North Dakota State (9-9)
  6. IPFW (8-10)
  7. UMKC (7-11)
  8. Western Illinois (6-12)
  9. Southern Utah (4-14)
  10. Centenary (2-16)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • Ceola Clark, III (G)Western Illinois (14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • Alex Young (G) - IUPUI (18.3 PPG)
  • Dominique Morrison (F)Oral Roberts (15.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
  • Michael Tveidt (F)North Dakota State (15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
  • Keith Benson (C) - Oakland (17.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.3 BPG)

6th Man

  • Reggie Hamilton (G) - Oakland (transfer from UMKC)

Impact Newcomer

  • Jake Lliteras (G) - Oral Roberts (14.8 PPG, H.S.)

What You Need to Know

The Summit League is not a power conference, and they have struggled in the NCAA Tournament, but the top teams continue to land big-time talent and improve as they seek respect from the big boys. When it was first assembled, the conference champs would end up a #16 seed in the Big Dance, but for the third straight year, the Summit League earned a #14 seed—not exactly Final  Four contention, but they certainly have the ability to wear those glass slippers when March Madness rolls around. The all-conference team I selected above might be the best mid-major talent we have seen in quite some time. Everyone on my all-conference team has one thing in common: if they go down, they go down swinging—that’s a must-have ingredient for a small school looking to compete on the big stage. I think this is the year we see the Summit League move past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and take down some giants during the regular season.

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Summit League Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

2009-10 Summit League Standings

  • #1. Oakland                        23-8 (17-1)
  • #2. IUPUI                            22-9 (15-3)
  • #3. Oral Roberts               19-12 (13-5)
  • #4. South Dakota St.       14-15 (10-8)
  • #5. IPFW                              15-14 (9-9)
  • #6. North Dakota St.       11-17 (8-10)
  • #7. Western Illinois         13-16 (6-12)
  • #8.  UMKC                           12-17 (6-12)
  • DNQ   Centenary               8-21(3-15)
  • DNQ   Southern Utah     7-22 (2-16)

Here are my Season Awards; the Summit’s selections shouldn’t be much different…

  • Player of the Year - Keith Benson (C), Oakland (16.9 ppg, 10 rpg, 3.3 bpg). Benson edges out his teammate Jon Jones because his work on defense and his rebounding were so far above anyone else in the conference. He was a matchup problem every single night, and his averages against league opponents are worthy of POY.
  • Newcomer of the YearWarren Niles (G), Oral Roberts (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg). Niles is the highest scoring freshman in the conference, and he started the last sixteen games for ORU.
  • Defensive POY - Keith Benson (C), Oakland

Summit League First Team

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

League Standings

  1. Oakland                                               (12-1)    18-8
  2. IUPUI                                                     (11-2)    18-8
  3. South Dakota State                           (9-4)    13-11
  4. Oral Roberts                                        (9-5)    14-12
  5. IPFW                                                       (6-7)    11-12
  6. North Dakota State                           (6-7)      9-14
  7. UMKC                                                      (4-8)    10-13
  8. Western Illinois                                               (3-10)    10-14
  9. Centenary                                           (3-11)      8-17
  10. Southern Utah                                  (2-10)      6-17

Top Storylines

  • Two teams from the Summit made an appearance on this week’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll. Oakland (#14) and IUPUI (#22) were both rewarded for their dominant conference performances thus far.
  • WIU senior guard David Nurse was named to the ESPN the Magazine District V all-academic basketball team. Nurse is working on a masters degree in business and has a 3.8 GPA, proving that there are still students among the “student” athletes.

Last Week

We enter the final three weekends of conference play, and it seems like the top four seeds have already been decided. Oral Roberts dropped two conference games to Oakland and lowly Western Illinois. Unless they can pull off a miracle, you can stick a fork in this team. A fourth-seed in the tournament would mean playing both top-seeded teams in order to make the dance. The eighth and final conference seed is still up for grabs.  Western Illinois would like to have it, as they think they can upset anyone in the conference.

Team Breakdowns

  • Alpha Squads - Oakland, IUPUI
  • Longshots - South Dakota, Oral Roberts
  • Bottom Feeders IPFW, UMKC, North Dakota, Southern Utah, Centenary, Western Illinois. No one seems to have what it takes to win this league besides the top two teams.  Oral Roberts is too banged-up, South Dakota plays too small, and everyone else just doesn’t have enough.  If someone else not named Oakland or IUPUI ends up winning this conference tournament, it would be a Disney-style underdog story.

Team Capsules

  • Oakland – The only team that can beat this team is IUPUI. And they already faced them twice. You can pencil them in for a trip to the finals.
  • IUPUI - They have three very dangerous scorers (Robert Glenn–18.5 ppg, Alex Young –18 ppg, and Leroy Nobles–13.5 ppg), they will be a 20-win team, and could be Oakland’s Kryptonite. Remember at the beginning of the year? I said D wins the Summit League. They allow 67.8 points per game; I like love this team.
  • SDSU – The Jackrabbits live by the three-ball, and they die by the three-ball.
  • ORU - We keep talking about their close losses, five by three points or less, but at some point, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to make free throws and easy jumpers. ORU does neither.
  • NDSU – North Dakota relies on their execution of the offense and getting open looks in order to win games. They are not athletic enough to cut and slash. I don’t see this team going too far in the tournament. They have only nine wins and its mid-February.
  • UMKC – Will likely end up with the seventh seed, but could get as high as fifth. Then again, the Roos have IUPUI and Oakland coming up, so they could miss the tournament altogether.
  • WIU – The Leathernecks are somehow holding on to that final spot in the conference tournament with a 3-10 conference record.  This same record could also get you the eight seed in the Pac-10 tournament this year.
  • Centenary – Sure, they are on the outside looking in, but they aren’t that far out, and it’s never too late to turn the season around! They swept the season series against IPFW, and they have a chance to sweep Southern Utah and scoot into the conference tournament, with some help.
  • SUU – The Thunderbirds are 5-6 at home, and winless on the road (0-11). Next game: on the road at IPFW.

Games to watch

  • February 13: IUPUI @ Oral Roberts - This game lost any significant when ORU choked at home against the Leathernecks, but it’s still the best game of the week.
  • February 20: Oral Roberts @ Austin Peay (ESPN BracketBuster) – ORU needs this game if they want any confidence going into the conference tournament.
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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

The Summit League    (Conf. W-L  — Overall W-L)

  1. IUPUI                9-1                          16-7
  2. Oakland                9-1                          15-8
  3. Oral Roberts              7-3                          12-10
  4. South Dakota State          7-3                          11-10
  5. IPFW                 5-5                          10-10
  6. North Dakota State          4-6                          7-13
  7. UMKC               3-6                          9-11
  8. Western Illinois        2-8                          8-12
  9. Centenary         2-8                          7-14
  10. Southern Utah            1-8                          5-15

Top Storylines

  • Last Saturday, Oakland was able to tie the record for consecutive conference wins with 16, but they couldn’t beat the record, getting hammered by IUPUI 78-54. The Jags capture the top spot in the conference, and all of the sudden, it’s a four horse race for first.
  • Oakland center Keith Benson earned another Summit League Player of the Week award with his 22.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in two games against North Dakota and South Dakota. Pro scouts are starting to attend Benson’s games on a regular basis now, and he has a good shot at landing a seat on an NBA sideline.

Last Week

IUPUI crushed Oakland on Thursday, making them the front-runner in the conference. I have said all year long, Oakland does not impress me, and they are beatable on any night. The Jags are picking up momentum, and they are the best team in the Summit as of today. Oral Roberts dropped a close game to their crosstown rival, the Tulsa Hurricanes. The loss was a big punch to the gut of the Golden Eagles (usually blowing a 15-point second-half lead does that), but it may have been a blessing in disguise. Since that loss, ORU has rallied to win back-to-back conference games in blowouts, and they still have their eyes on first place.

  • Alpha-squads: Oakland, IUPUI, Oral Roberts
  • Contenders: South Dakota State
  • Long-Shots: IPFW, North Dakota State
  • Bottom-feeders:  UMKC, Western Illinois, Centenary, Southern Utah

Team Breakdowns

In my standings I have three alpha squads and one contender, but in reality, only three teams can win the conference.  Oakland, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts have a combined conference record of 25-5. The bottom seven teams? 24-44.

  • IUPUI—very impressed with the Jags. Not a single team has been able to stop Alex Young (18.1 points) and Robert Glenn (18.2 points), and having two guys that can carry the team is a really nice asset. They are my pick to win the whole thing.
  • Oakland–don’t get me wrong, I still like these guys, as they have the most talent in the conference and it should be their turn to make the Big Dance. But they just haven’t been able to close the deal as a favorite… ever. So I will believe it when I see it.
  • Oral Roberts—seven of their ten losses came by a combined 30 points. That’s 4.3 points per loss. A couple more buckets, a few more free-throws, fewer injuries, and this team could be 19-3, and might be a darkhorse favorite when the conference tournament rolls around. Don’t forget, #12 New Mexico, Missouri, and Stanford fell to this injury-depleted team. Oakland and IUPUI could as well.
  • South Dakota State—lost to Oakland by three on Saturday, and their only bad game in the conference came early in the season against IUPUI. I still think lightning could strike and they end up in the conference semifinals or heck, even the final, but there is no chance they win the conference.
  • IPFW—4-1 in their last five conference games (dropped a close one to SDSU 65-64), but their next two games are against IUPUI and ORU, so that run could come to a screeching halt.
  • North Dakota State—they can be dangerous if they are shooting well, but they just don’t have the guard power that is needed to contend in the Summit. Whenever they face an upper-level team, they get exposed by the better point guards.
  • UMKC– they haven’t showed me enough to even be considered a long shot. They don’t have the ability to score more than 60 or 65 points a game, and like most of the teams at the bottom of the conference, they lack depth on their bench. 3-6 so far in the conference, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone expected much more this year.
  • Western Illinois—they are 8-12, but their wins have come from Truman State, Central Arkansas, Greenville, Culver-Stockton, Savannah State, Centenary, and Southern Utah. I don’t think those wins will boost your RPI.
  • Centenary—the hot start had all the Centenary fans believing (4-2), but since that time they have gone 4-12. David Perez has cooled off considerably, with his scoring average dropping to 16.9 points. On defense they are giving up 81 points per game.
  • Southern Utah—the Thunderbirds still have eight games to turn this season around and make it respectable, but they have only won one game since Christmas, so those prospects are grim.

Games to Watch

  • February 6 – Oral Roberts @ Oakland – Oral Roberts’ last chance to close the gap on Oakland before the tournament.
  • February 13 - IUPUI @ Oral Roberts – IUPUI will be looking to put away ORU, and perhaps clinch the number one spot.
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