Perhaps the most peculiar geographic realignment that we had seen in the last year of schools moving around was Texas Christian University‘s decision to join the Big East. Located nearly a thousand miles from the two closest other schools (Louisville and South Florida), it made about as much sense as the Dallas Cowboys playing in the NFC East. And yet, thanks to the meteoric rise in the last decade of Gary Patterson’s Horned Frog football program and its location in the nation’s fifth largest television market, TCU’s cachet had outgrown its affiliation with the Mountain West to the point where it could entertain options. Well, at least one option, and that option was to join a BCS football conference centered in the Northeast regardless of its culture, religion and location.
Cheer Up Buddy, You're Staying Near Home
But if we’ve learned one thing about the rapaciousness of conference realignment in college sports, your best option today is tomorrow’s $1 pastry in the day-old bin. With the Big 12 seemingly getting picked apart by vultures on all sides, and all indications leaning toward Missouri as only the latest defector, the conference had to make a splash soon. That happened today, with the pending announcement that TCU will reunite with some of its old Southwest Conference brethren Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor in the new-and-improved Big 12. An invitation has been extended, and TCU is expected to accept the offer immediately.
Centenary was outrebounded in their last meeting with NDSU by 22. Although Redus had a strong game, Adams and Stallings combined for just 16 points. Expect the same defensive play from the bigger, better guards of NDSU.
(2) Oral Roberts vs. (7) South Dakota St.
Home state advantage could make this a much tighter game than it is on paper. Jackrabbit forwards Anthony Cardova and Kai Williams, the only players taller than 6’5 to see regular minutes, must come up with huge games on the glass. If Ford and Lewis are not accounted for, it’s over.
SDSU – 2 days before Christmas the Jackrabbits beat Iowa State on the road by 7. While the Cyclones are anything but a powerhouse team, props to SDSU for getting this win and holding Iowa State’s second leading scorer to 5 points on 2-12 shooting.
IPFW – The Mastodons finally broke through for a W in league play with a 100-66 smackdown of South Dakota State (Jan.2). Former Kansas St. forward Deilvez Yearby scored 19, grabbed 9 boards and swatted 5 shots. Former Oakland forward David Carson scored 24.
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are in first place. Enjoy all of the perks that go with it, Thunderbird fans. But remember, Duke football got out to a cute little start this season and that didn’t end so well, did it?
This unfamiliar madness all started on Tuesday (Dec. 2) as the Southern Utah Thunderbirds kicked off Summit League conference play at home with an upset of epic proportion over Oakland. Alright, relax self, so maybe Oakland isn’t the UNC of the Summit League, but the 82-66 victory was somewhat of a surprise considering the Thunderbirds came into the game on a 4 game losing streak and, frankly, Southern Utah head coach Roger Reid wasn’t exactly feeling ecstatic about the match up with Oakland prior to the game,
Ryan Pravato of CollegeFastBreak is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Summit League Digest (NOV.21)
The first 10 days or so of the college basketball season has been refreshingly cosmic. My penchant has always been my college hoops fandom. It’s an impulse that will not die.
It’s like Rasheed Wallace snapping “Ball Don’t Lie” after an errant free throw.
It’s, you know, automatic.
Summit League Headlines
Two days before Oakland’s opener at Cleveland St., star guard/forward Derick Nelson injured his foot. He’ll be out until late Decemberish. A huge blow to not only Oakland, but also to the dozens of participants who selected Derick in their fantasy mid major only college basketball draft.
IUPUI senior guard Gary Patterson (12.9 ppg last season) has missed the team’s first 3 games because of a broken left hand he suffered in late October.
0-9. The Summit League’s record versus other DI teams before Oakland’s overtime win @ Oregon on November 17th. And it wasn’t as if Summit League teams were playing perennial powerhouses like UCLA or UNC every game. Some of these losses were against Kennesaw State (yes, they’re DI), San Jose State, Northern Illinois, Cleveland State and Northeastern. UMKC even lost to first year DI team North Dakota. So technically that’s a 0-10 DI record prior to the Oakland win.
Oral Roberts (1-1) So far in 2 games of action only Robert Jarvis is averaging double figures in points. Jarvis is also averaging 5.5 rebounds as well. Don’t expect that to continue.
Key upcoming games: Nov. 30 @ Mizzou, Conference opener Dec. 4 @ North Dakota State
UMKC (1-2) 5 days after losing to DI newbie North Dakota, the Kangaroos beat Wichita State on the road by 3. Sophomore guard Reggie Hamilton is averaging 15.3 ppg.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 30 @ Florida
IUPUI (1-2) 3 point loss at Indiana on the 18th. 6’5 freshman Alex Young is leading the squad in scoring with 15.7 so far. Good young nucleus needs veteran Gary Patterson back to seriously contend.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Western Michigan
IPFW (0-2) The Mastodons have played Xavier and Michigan State thus far and actually had a second half lead against the Spartans before succumbing to their freakish athleticism. Sophomore guard Ben Botts is the only player averaging double figures.
Key upcoming game: Conference opener Dec. 4 @ Southern Utah ( first of 7 straight road games)
North Dakota State (1-0) The Bison doubled up NAIA school Mayville State 128-64 on the 18th–7 players scored in double figures. Star guard Ben Woodside scored 28 in just 16 minutes.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Minnesota
Oakland (1-1) Upset Oregon on the road (17th) in overtime with the help of a phenomenal 32 point performance by junior point guard Johnathon Jones. Even more impressive was the fact that Jones only made one three pointer.
South Dakota State (1-2) Sophomore guard Clint Sargent is averaging 17.3 ppg and 8.3 rebs/gm. He’s 10 for 20 from downtown thus far.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Central Florida.
Centenary (1-2) 6’1 senior guard Nick Stallings scored 31 in a Nov. 20th win against Troy. Guards Chase Adams and Gary Redus II are playing well early on too.
Key upcoming game: Conference opener Nov. 4 @ South Dakota State
Southern Utah (1-1) The Thunderbirds gave the Florida Gators a decent game on the 20th in a 14 point loss. Junior guard Davis Baker had 23 points and 8 rebounds. 6’10 senior John Clifford struggled mightily (fouled out, scored just 5). John wishes Southern Utah could play the likes of DII Mesa State more often (scored 24).
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Boise State.
The Summit League is what it is. The guard dominated league will pull off a few solid upsets in the coming weeks against those big school beasts, but along the way there will be plenty of blowouts, some camel spider cringe worthy.
WYN2K. Someone in PR at the Mid-Continent Conference decided that the league needed to be rebranded to effectively portray the goals and ideals of its member institutions. Hence, the Summit, which immediately reminds us of the orange and white monstrosity court at the University of Tennessee, but which league commish Tom Douple stated, represents “the top in athletics and academics.” Good luck with that, Tom. In the spirit of change, the league’s most well-known school (at least for hoops), Valparaiso, left for the Horizon League, while it added three new members – Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne (IPFW – shouldn’t it be IUPUFW?), North Dakota St., and South Dakota St. Of the three, only IPFW will be eligible for the league championship this season, as the Dakota schools will have to wait until 2008-09.
Predicted Champion. Oakland (#14 seed NCAA). We see four teams with championship credentials in this league, but Oakland stands out to us as the team most ready to take over the top spot from Oral Roberts. The small school from suburban Detroit (not California) returns three starters from a squad that finished second in both the regular season and tournament, and played ORU very tough in its last two meetings (Oakland won by 1 pt at home, but lost in the MCC championship game by 4 pts). Despite losing all-MCC player Vova Severovas, the Golden Grizzlies will have a superb backcourt led by Eric Kangas, an exceptional shooter who made 109 threes while shooting 43% from deep last year. Oakland is also expecting a big contribution from Rutgers transfer Dan Waterstradt, a 6’10 forward who possesses size and ability that most big men at this level do not have. We also like Oakland in close games – last year it’s ft% (76.9%) was third in the nation.
Others Considered. We’re not sure who will be the second-best team in the Summit, so we copped out and predicted a three-way tie among the next tier of teams – Oral Roberts, North Dakota St., and IUPUI. IUPUI is the media/coaches pick to win the league, with three of its top four scorers returning as well as guard George Hill, the presumptive best player in the league who had a broken foot that kept him out of action last season. Our main concern with IUPUI is whether Hill will be able to seamlessly transition into the backcourt after a productive first season from guards Austin Montgomery and Gary Patterson, the top two vote-getters for newcomer of the year. If things are rosy, IUPUI could make a run at the title. Another team we considered was North Dakota St., an independent last season who ran off twenty wins (20-8) including a win at Marquette (64-60) and near-misses vs. Texas Tech (81-85) and Kansas St. (81-83). NDSU isn’t eligible for the league title, but it returns four starters and seven of its top eight scorers. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they ended up with the league’s regular season crown? We’d be remiss if we didn’t also consider two-time defending league champion Oral Roberts as well. Scott Sutton returns a lot of players, but we can’t overlook the two he lost – Caleb Green and Ken Tutt, who combined for six all-conference selections, three POY awards (all Green), and scored over 4500 pts (!!!) for the program. If ORU’s depth, and there is plenty of that, can overcome the loss of those two stalwarts, we might just see the Golden Eagles in March again this year.
Games to Watch. The Summit will play a true round-robin of 18 games each, so there will be ample opportunity for each team to distinguish itself against the other good teams.
IUPUI @ Oral Roberts (01.17.08) & Oral Roberts @ IUPUI (02.16.08)
Oral Roberts @ Oakland (01.12.08) & Oakland @ Oral Roberts (02.07.08)
The Summit Championship Game (03.11.08) ESPN
RPI Booster Games. The Summit loves its Big 12 and Big 10 teams. Last year the league went 2-22 (.083) against BCS teams, with Oral Roberts pulling one of the biggest early-season shockers of last year (ORU 78, #3 Kansas 71) as well as defeating Seton Hall 76-74. There are some good opportunities this year, and several of them will be televised:
North Dakota St. @ Florida (11.09.07)
IUPUI @ Marquette (11.10.07) ESPN FC
UMKC @ Kansas (11.11.07) ESPN FC
Oral Roberts @ Texas A&M (11.13.07) ESPNU
Oakland @ Michigan St. (11.24.07)
Texas Tech @ Centenary (12.01.07) ESPN FC
North Dakota St. @ Minnesota (12.03.07)
Wichita St. @ UMKC (12.15.07)
Oral Roberts @ Oklahoma St. (12.20.07) ESPN2
Oregon @ Oakland (12.22.07) ESPNU
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Still none, although we wish they’d let NDSU into the Summit League Tournament just to see what might happen if they won.
Neat-o Stat. By most objective measures, Western Illinois was one of the worst teams in America last year. Its record was 7-23 and its offensive and defensive efficiencies were among the bottom fifty. However, it was also one of the unluckiest teams in America, losing two more games than would be expected by its overall statistical profile and losing eight games by four points or less, the most such instances in the nation.
64/65-Team Era. The history of the league shows that the MCC has had a tendency for one team to dominate for a while before ceding its power to another. From 1987-1990, Southwest Missouri St. won four consecutive NCAA bids. After a few years of several teams winning the league, Valparaiso started its run of seven NCAA bids in nine years in 1996. The last two years Oral Roberts has been winning the bids, with a great shot at a third straight this season. Over the 23-year era, the league has a solid low-major record of 8-23 (.258) in the NCAA Tournament, including two trips to the Sweet 16 (1986 – #14 Cleveland St.; 1998 – #13 Valparaiso). Unfortunately, in the nine years since that Bryce Drew-led run by Valpo, the league has lost its first round game (avg: #15.0 seed) by an average of 21.7 pts (excluding the 2005 PiG, where Oakland, with a 13-19 overall record, defeated Alabama A&M 79-69). Speaking of young Mr. Drew…
Note: video cannot be embedded, so double-click on the YouTube logo above to get it to play.
Final Thought. Notwithstanding the name change, the Summit appears to be a league in transition. Oral Roberts has already shown a commitment toward building a serious program by keeping Scott Sutton on board with a seven-year contract extension. Oakland and IUPUI have also shown signs of long-term progress, and a newcomer like North Dakota St. is well positioned to be competitive in the league immediately. Last year the league earned its highest computer rankings (mid-teens) of the last decade and even with the loss of Valpo, the conference should have enough talent in its top half to keep it among the best of the low majors.