Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
- Oakland 10-7 (4-0)
- South Dakota State 8-8 (4-1)
- IUPUI 10-7 (3-1)
- Oral Roberts 8-8 (3-2)
- UMKC 8-7 (2-2)
- Centenary 6-9 (2-3)
- North Dakota State 5-9 (2-3)
- IPFW 6-8 (1-3)
- Southern Utah 5-10 (1-3)
- Western Illinois 6-8 (0-4)
- Oakland Center Keith Benson earned his third Summit League Player of the Week award while averaging 21 points and 9.5 rebounds in two conference wins. He is drawing a lot of draft buzz as of late, and I don’t see anyone matching up with this guy in the conference. His numbers are going to blow up in the next month.
- Oral Roberts became the first Summit League team this season to defeat a ranked opponent. On December 23, Oral Roberts dismantled previously unbeaten New Mexico, 75-66. The win becomes even more impressive when you consider the fact that Oral Roberts is suiting up only six scholarship players because of injuries.
The big game of the week was Oakland at Oral Roberts, the two juggernauts of the Summit League. Oakland won the game, 67-64, claiming its first victory at ORU since 2000. Neither team was too impressive. Both teams could easily be upset, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these teams failed to make the NCAA tournament. ORU lacks toughness needed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and even though they have impressive wins against Stanford, Missouri, and #12 New Mexico, it just seems like their young players don’t understand what it means to win yet. When it comes down to who wants it more, Oral Roberts hasn’t shown they are that team this season. Oakland has tons of talent, but they are routinely getting outcoached. Greg Kampe has a bad track record when his team is a favorite, and I’m not convinced they can live up to the pressure of being a favorite in this conference. Expect a dark horse team to upset them in the conference tournament and make the NCAA.
Alpha-squads: Oakland, IUPUI
The Contenders: Oral Roberts, North Dakota
The Long-Shots: South Dakota, UMKC
The Bottom-Feeders: IPFW, Centenary, Southern Utah, Western Illinois
Oakland – I could tell you the numbers of the Oakland stars — like Keith Benson and Jonathan Jones — but the bottom line is this team is beatable. If they are focused and locked in, Oakland has five guys that can score at any time. But when they let up, this team can be beat by anyone in this conference. They may win 24 or 25 games, but when the conference tournament comes around, I would be nervous if I was a Golden Grizzly fan.
IUPUI — This team is going to be scary down the stretch. They have been playing well, and I expect them to finish second in this conference. They lost by three at Oakland last week, and forwards Alex Young and Robert Glenn are dominating. The Jags are my favorite dark-horse at this point.
Oral Roberts — This is the definition of a Jekyll and Hyde team. They win on the road in Stanford, they dismiss Missouri and New Mexico at home, but they lose to South Dakota and Oakland with two of the worst basketball games I have ever seen in terms of overall execution. You could blame it of the horrible refs (seven fouls in 30 seconds at one point in the game against Oakland), but in reality Oral Roberts has no one to blame but themselves. Since their win against New Mexico they have shot an abysmal 38% from the field, and 63% from the line. Maturity is needed before the Golden Eagles can be taken seriously.
North Dakota — The Bison really are not that good, but who below them is going to be better? Michael Tveidt is playing well and that may be enough to keep them above the other competition.
South Dakota — This was the team at the beginning of the year for whom I had the highest expectations, and so far — holding a 4-1 conference record — they are living up to them.
UMKC — The days when UMKC was a conference force seems so long ago. Their small lineup gets physically beaten by the top teams. On the bright side, UMKC already has as many wins as they did all last year, standing at eight for the year.
IPFW — They showed some promise on the defensive end, holding Western Illinois to 49 points in their last game. On the other hand, how hard is it to do that? We are talking about Western Illinois. Deilvez Yearby, the lone star on IPFW, has scored in double figures every game this year, and has posted 16.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 3 BPG so far this season.
Centenary — The Gents are in a tough position, being demoted from D-1 basketball at the end of the year, but they are still playing hard, and that deserves a shout-out.
Southern Utah — It’s hard to find anything good about this team. But they have blocked a shot in every game this season. Always glass half-full.
Western Illinois — Forget what I said about the glass half-full stuff, these guys are bad.
To sum-up the season so far, Oakland is the best team and they should be looking to dominate this conference all the way to the big dance, and they just might. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were upset by a team like IUPUI or even Oral Roberts. I could see the best team in this conference not making the NCAA tournament — in other words, it is still wide open.