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.
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.