Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Ed. Note – This post was written in advance of Wednesday’s action.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton was named as the Lou Henson Award national player of the week (the Award presented to the top Mid-Major Player in Division I college basketball) by CollegeInsider.com.  This is very good publicity for the Summit League and Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies are trying to show once again that they are the best team in the conference, and Reggie Hamilton just might will them to another championship with the way he is performing.
  • Alex Young is on the verge of 2,000 career points, and as the current active points leader in the NCAA, it is worth noting. This is a huge accomplishment for Young, who will join just 10 other players in conference history to reach 2,000 points. Young will likely finish in the top five all-time in Summit League history.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider debates who is the better point guard, Nate Wolters or Reggie Hamilton. We have a chance to find out very soon (see “Looking Ahead”).

Reggie Hamilton Of Oakland Is Off To An Outstanding Start (AP)

Power Rankings

Records reflect only games against Division I opponents.

  1. Oakland (8-6, 2-0) — The only reason I still have Oakland at the top is because nothing has changed as far as conference standings go in the past two weeks. Because of the Holidays there have been very few games played by anyone, but the next two weeks could decide the conference altogether. Back-to-back blowout losses to Arizona and then Western Michigan had me worried. There are other teams like ORU and South Dakota State playing much better. But I could not move them down when Reggie Hamilton continues to dominate the NCAA (23.0 PPG, .423 FG%, .893 FT%), placing him third in the nation in scoring, right behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who may just be the next Jimmer, and is making his own case for Player of the Year. If Hamilton was in the Missouri Valley, he may be getting the same attention as well. Hamilton has Oakland ranked no. 24 in the country in overall offense and the Golden Grizzlies continue to prove they have lost little from the past two dominant seasons.
  2. Oral Roberts (9-4, 1-0) — The Golden Eagles enjoyed one of their best two weeks of success in team history—a half court heave that won the game against UALR, followed by a slim loss to a very good Gonzaga team, and capped off with blowout wins against No.15 Xavier and Texas Tech. The Golden Eagles looked shaky at times during their tough non-conference schedule, but the bottom line is they’re now at 10 wins, all against quality opponents, and very high confidence going into the conference. I expect the Golden Eagles to chew up the Summit. Although they have a brutal upcoming two weeks against the Dakotas and Oakland. They need these next few games badly. The conference will in fact be locked up by somebody in late January, and the Golden Eagles have hit their stride at the right time. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Summit Continues To Rise: Last week, I thought the conference had reached its peak when it hit #14 in the RPI and Sagarin Conference rankings, but today the Summit sits at #12. Incredible, considering the Summit closed out last season ranked #21. This could mean something in March when the selection committee is deciding what seed the Summit champion will receive. So keep an eye on the rankings.
  • Featured Scorers: The Summit League entered the week with more players in the nation’s top 25 in scoring than any other conference. IPFW’s  Frank Gaines is ranked 9th, Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton 20th, South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters is 21st, and IUPUI’s Alex Young comes in at 23rd. Hamilton, Wolters and Young also rank in the top 10 for overall points.

Damen Bell-Holter Paces Oral Roberts And Hit A Buzzer-Beater To Sink Arkansas-Little Rock. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (6-4, 2-0) — They gave up a winnable game against Ohio at home, and they never had a chance against Michigan in a shootout. Those games are a little disheartening if you are Golden Grizzly fans, but there is no reason to panic. Oakland owns the best scoring offense in the conference, and is among the top 25 in the nation.  They have the tops scorer in the conference in Reggie Hamilton, and they play much better defense than the other top scoring teams like South Dakota State and North Dakota State. The next few weeks will be key for Oakland. If they can take care of business against NDSU and SDSU, this conference could be decided by the end of January. They play Oral Roberts twice next month, and they are the only serious contender right now. Get ready for some early fireworks in the Summit League. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 2nd, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take 

The Week That Was:

  • Climbing Up The Charts:  The Summit League hit a new all-time high at #14 in the November 28 Sagarin conference Ratings. The league was 18th in the preseason, but has risen steadily in the past couple weeks. There is no doubt the conference has likely reached its apex in the eyes of the mainstream college basketball fans with Oakland, Oral Roberts, and North Dakota State playing so well. Unfortunately, this won’t last with Oral Roberts departing next season and being replaced by Nebraska-Omaha. Enjoy the respect while it lasts!
  • Oakland Tops Tennessee…Again: The Volunteers fell to the Golden Grizzlies 89-81 on Monday for the second time in two seasons, and now it is clearly safe to say Greg Kampe and Company own the University of Tennessee. Will the Volunteers ever schedule Oakland again? The win marked just the third time in the 30-year Summit League history that a “power six” conference lost a game in back-to-back seasons to a Summit League team. Wow.
  • Racking ‘Em Up: IUPUI’s Alex Young is currently leading the nation as the NCAA active points leader with 1,753 to start the week, and he will likely close out his career with over 2,000. Right now he is ranked 18th in conference history, and could close in on the top ten by the end of the season.

The Golden Grizzlies Will Be The First To Tell You That Beating Tennessee Doesn't Qualify As An Upset.

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (4-2) – The Golden Grizzlies beat down Tennessee again, this time at home with Reggie Hamilton dropping 35, and he is among the leaders the conference in scoring with 20.7 points per game. Oakland has been much better than most expected, and they have ripped off four consecutive wins. The Tennessee win was huge for their confidence. They trust themselves, and they know they can get the job done without Keith Benson. Keeping this mentality will be crucial once the conference grind begins. Oral Roberts is a force, and they are hungry, but it has been a long time since Oakland lost to Oral Roberts, and they still hold a slight edge.
  2. Oral Roberts (5-2)-The Golden Eagles had a huge 68-63 win against Missouri State at home on November 30. The way they won was impressive—pulling down offensive rebounds, hitting free-throws and playing tough defense. They are starting to get that Scott Sutton look. The Golden Eagles have so many weapons on offense, especially since Damen Bell-Holter is finally back although he is not quite 100 percent. There are four guys who can shoot beyond the arc, and at least that many who can bang around down low. This might be the most complete team in the Summit League, and we will find out if this is the case when they play Oklahoma next week.
  3. North Dakota State (5-0) — NDSU has a big-time streak going, they have a chance to really make a statement with games against Western Illinois and IUPUI coming up. I’m not buying the perfect start until I see how they show up in a battle with a conference foe. They are winning because they are shooting lights out. They rank 29th in the nation in field goal percentage which is mostly due to sophomore big-man Marshall Bjorklund, who is shooting 72% from the field and leading the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game. If they keep this up they will be 8-0 going into the December 10 showdown with Arizona State.
  4. South Dakota State (4-3)—The Jacks are still looking for that consistent second option to compliment Nate Wolters. Unlike their rivals in the North, South Dakota State is struggling mightily to shoot the ball, which is uncharacteristic of this team. Wolters himself may be struggling the most; he is shooting just 27% from three and 40% overall. A little help from his friends may take some of that pressure off his shoulders. They have the same upcoming schedule as North Dakota State, so we will get a chance to see where both of these teams stand in comparison early on in the season.
  5. Western Illinois (1-2) – Their 59-55 loss to #15 Michigan opened some eyes. The Leathernecks are a much more athletic than anticipated with freshman Obi Emegano emerging as a star. Ceola Clark seems to have hit his stride as well, and the duo has formed a dangerous one-two punch. Western has a lot of holes, but right now they have some confidence and are looking forward to a big matchup with North Dakota State.
  6. IPFW (0-2) – The ‘Dons haven’t picked up a Division I win yet, but they could get a nice head start in the conference standings when they face UMKC and South Dakota this week. Frank Gaines in playing out of his mind right now, averaging 23 points per game (7th in the nation), and the team is 41st in the nation with 75 points per game. They are one of the better scoring teams in the conference, and they have played some tough opponents— losing to #14 Xavier and Iowa. It is still early, and the ‘Dons have a strong overall game. Let’s see what they can do at the start of this conference schedule.
  7. UMKC (2-4)— Losing to Northwest Missouri State, barely escaping Nebraska-Omaha, and then Getting dismantled by #11 Wisconsin by 46 points was bad for the Kangaroos look. They have the worst scoring offense in the Summit League, and two big conference games against IPFW and Oakland loom. Reggie Chamberlain has been the lone bright spot for UMKC this season, averaging 17.1 points per game. It is always a hard transition when you lose two great seniors like UMKC did, but the Kangaroos will need to play with a lot more energy if they don’t want to end up at the bottom of this conference.
  8. Southern Utah (2-3) – They have looked rough to start the season.  Despite shooting 48% from the field, they are scoring just 69 points per game. Their two wins against Division I schools have come against Bryant and UC Davis, and they have been close games at that. But other than the blowout loss to San Diego State, the Thunderbirds losses have been winnable games coming down to the final possession. Their height and rebounding ability has really become a problem and they sit 236th in the NCAA for total rebounds with 34 per game. They are about to face Oral Roberts, maybe the best in the Summit, then square off against Weber State, who may be the best in The Thunderbirds new conference. Thunderbird fans have little to be optimistic about in the coming weeks.
  9. IUPUI (1-5)- As bad as the bottom half of the Summit League has looked in the opening month, the Jags have looked so much worse. IUPUI is pulling down just 33.9 rebounds per game and scoring 68.3 points per game—despite having the most talented player in the conference in Alex Young. Even Young is struggling—averaging 17 points per game off 38% shooting.   IUPUI hosts the Dakotas before traveling to Louisville to get hammered by the Cardinals. This could get worse. Much worse. I don’t see them contending for a conference championship this season. There are just too many teams in the Summit that are playing better than they are at this point in the year.
  10. South Dakota (0-3)—The Coyotes are still looking for their first Division I win, and they may be looking a little longer with Oakland and IPFW coming up next. They have the second-lowest scoring offense in the conference, but they have at least been competitive in their three losses. The wins will come for South Dakota, but they should view this season as a growth period as they transition into Division I.

Looking Ahead

  • North Dakota State at IUPUI, December 3— North Dakota State will look to continue their undefeated streak against the struggling Jags. This is an important game for teams that are headed in opposite directions. IUPUI needs this win to get on track, while North Dakota State needs this to compete with Oakland and Oral Roberts down the stretch.
  • Oral Roberts at Oklahoma, December 8— This is an important matchup for Oral Roberts. They are still looking for their annual power conference upset, and this is the perfect game for them to do it. Oklahoma looked strong early in the season, but were dealt their first loss of the season by Saint Louis over the weekend.
  • #15 Michigan at Oakland, December 15— Oakland got embarrassed last season by Michigan right after the Golden Grizzlies upset #7 Tennessee, will the tables be turned in this year’s rematch?

POY Stock Watch

  • Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (20.7 PPG, .891 FT%)—Trending: UP. The team is on a roll thanks to Hamilton’s back-to-back 35-point games. He is one of the leading scorers in the conference so far, and he is playing to prove to everyone that he doesn’t need Keith Benson on his team for them to shine.
  • Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts (17.6 PPG, 44% FG)—Trending: HOLD.  When Oral Roberts needs a big basket they go to Morrison. It seems like he can drop 30 points at any time, but he is content to move the ball and create good offense for his teammates.
  • Stephen Roundtree , Oral Roberts (13.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG)—Trending: UP. He exploded onto the scene last year leading all NCAA freshmen in scoring, and this season he has turned into a dominant presence inside for Oral Roberts. He has an array of low post moves, and his hustle and determination on the glass is what sets him apart.
  • Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (20.4 PPG, 6.1 APG)—Trending: DOWN. Wolters has struggled to shoot the ball, and his team is in a funk.
  • Alex Young, IUPUI (17.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG)—Trending: DOWN. Shooting just 38% from the field has hurt Young in the early going. His team is in shambles, and Young has his work cut out for him if he wants to bring his team back into contention.
  • Frank Gaines, IPFW (23.0 PPG)— Trending: UP. Gaines leads the conference in scoring and he has put IPFW in position to contend for a conference title this season.
Share this story

Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 19th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Bad news for Oral Roberts — senior guard Ken Holdman tore his ACL and is out for the season.  This is a huge blow for the Golden Eagles as they look to unseat Oakland in their final season in the Summit League. They are now down to just seven scholarship players available. This is not anything new for Oakland, a team who has suffered four major knee injuries in the past two seasons resulting in players missing the entire season. You hate to see contenders hobbled by injuries, so let’s hope they find a way around this.
  • I still think this season may be one of the most hotly contested in the Summit League, as there are a few teams that are talented enough to win it and it won’t be a clear favorite like it has been in years past. Doug Gottlieb named ORU as one of his five underrated mid-major programs, but ESPN.com writer Myron Medcalf picked Oakland to win the Summit League– one of the few publications (besides RTC, of course) to pick Oakland over ORU.
  • Jay Bilas ranked his top three-point shooters of all time, and Oakland guard Travis Bader made his list as the next great shooter beyond the arc. Some good pub for OU, but I think it also just affirms the fact that Bader really is the key factor for Oakland to win its third Summit League championship in a row.

Power Rankings

Nate Wolters (middle) Is Getting Plenty of Pub, But Needs Help To Lift The Jackrabbits To The Top Of The Summit

  1. Oakland (0-2)– A loss to No. 15 Alabama is hard to gauge at this point, but one telling statistic from that game was that Oakland only managed four three-pointers. Oakland was a team last season that was very good from outside and it made them one of the top five offenses in the nation, but they could only get 12 points beyond the arc on Monday? It could be some early season rust, or it could be a sign that without the inside presence from last season, open shots will be much harder to come by. Again, it was a loss to a Top 20 team and those guys usually make you look bad, but it is something to consider.
  2. Oral Roberts (1-2)—Losing the first two games of the season to West Virginia and UTSA are tough to swallow for Golden Eagles fans — especially since the losses were by a combined eight points. However, the Ls don’t really tell us much about the team or how their season will finish. The one thing ORU fans can take away from the opening games: Depth is clearly an issue. I don’t know what team you are watching, but they literally have six guys who can play basketball right now (and by “play basketball” I mean guys who don’t hurt the team every time they step on the floor. They may need to dip into the walk-on jar if center Damen Bell-Holter’s injury persists.
  3.  North Dakota State (4-0)- Those Bison have been the most impressive Summit League team so far. They have played some solid low-major teams and played very good basketball to pick up some dominant victories. NDSU has had balanced scoring so far in the season, with their two guards Taylor Braun and Mike Felt combining for 29.4 PPG. The Bison are similar to South Dakota State in that they lean heavily on three-point shooting, but they are not married to the arc like SDSU and they are a much more efficient from the field. The Bison are shooting 37% from three and 51% overall from the field—almost ten points higher than South Dakota State. Keep an eye on the Bison.
  4. South Dakota State (1-2)- I don’t like reading into non-conference wins and losses, especially early in the season, but SDSU’s first two games raised some eyebrows. They had a nail-biter against Western Michigan, even with Nate Wolters scoring 32 points and dropping 11 dimes. They made it clear in that game that they were going to live and die by the three (no surprise), and the blueprint for beating SDSU is simply stop Wolters. Their second game was a 71-55 loss to Minnesota. The Gophers are an average team, and maybe Oakland, ORU, and NDSU would have kept that game a little closer or even pull out a win against Minnesota. Wolters still had 20 points, but the Jacks shot 36% from the field. I don’t want to oversimplify this, but it is early, so I will — squeakers against bad teams and big losses to average teams means something needs to be fixed.
  5.  IUPUI (1-2)— IUPUI had an impressive showing against, well, Anderson University. Alex Young proved once again that he will be a force, scoring 20 points in 26 minutes, but the 75-70 loss against UALR really exposed some weaknesses with the Jags. The Jags are going to have trouble grabbing boards this season. They were outrebounded 36-26 by the Trojans, which is a massive gap in a five-point game. The Jags’ big man, senior Christian Siakam, had just two rebounds in the game.  He is their biggest inside presence, and he must do a better job to give his team a better chance to win. This team won’t go anywhere if Young continues to lead the team in rebounding.
  6. IPFW (1-1)— Good teams tend to expose your weaknesses, and that is exactly what No. 14 Xavier did to the Mastodons when they ran them out of the building, 86-63. IPFW has a lot of work to do before they can seriously contend. They need to decide what kind of team they are going to be. Last year they were a pretty good shooting team from downtown, but they shot just 25% from the field against Xavier. Frank Gaines is a really good player, and he is one of the team’s best rebounders (15 in the first two games, great for a guard). Gaines is also the clear heart and soul of this team’s offense. He dropped 29 points against Nebraska-Omaha and 22 against Xavier, but those points came off 14-44 shooting (31%). Somebody else has to step up and take the pressure off Gaines, both as a scorer and a rebounder.
  7. Southern Utah (3-1)- They scraped by UC Davis in a one-point win and were completely destroyed by San Diego State 70-37. Southern Utah struggled to shoot the ball against the Aztecs, going 13 -43 with 26 turnovers. Whenever you have twice as many turnovers as you do made baskets, you are really in for a tough practice the next day. I don’t think Southern Utah is terrible, but they have looked pretty bad in the early going, although they did manage to beat Montana State-Billings. Their offense needs to improve, and they need to find a way to rebound. They have height problems – Matt Massey is their starting center at 6’9″ – but that is the least of their worries at this point. The turnovers need to stop, most importantly. The T-Birds have 71 of them in the first four games.
  8. UMKC (1-2)- You know you are in trouble when you get run out of your own gym by Division II Northwest Missouri State. UMKC has shot 32% and 36% from the field in the losses to Northwest Missouri State and Bradley. So far it looks like the offense is their main weakness.  They don’t really have a clear scoring threat, with guys like Reggie Chamberlain going from being the leading scorer one night to a non-factor the next. This is obviously just a team that has lost its two best players from last year and is stuck in a transition period. Kirk Korver is not exactly the sharpshooter his brother was, he is just 6-20 so far on the season for the Kangaroos.
  9. South Dakota (0-2)—Their Division I transition has not gone well so far, losing big to Nebraska and then falling by nine to Eastern Washington. They have a very low 35% field goal percentage, and they are near the bottom in the country with 54 points per game. There is a lot of basketball to be played, but for now, just expect the Coyotes to struggle as they find their feet in Division I.  However, I still think in the overall picture, this team will be better than Western Illinois, Southern Utah, and UMKC by the time the conference schedule comes around.
  10. Western Illinois (0-2)— Ceola Clark is the best player on this Leatherneck team, but he did not play in the 87-58 beating that was inflicted on them by the Dayton Flyers, who are an average team in the Atlantic-10 Conference. It is just one game, but it was an ugly one. Let’s hope this team doesn’t have a year like Centenary did last season.  After their surprisingly close loss to Michigan, they will have what most teams would consider a cupcake schedule—with games against Greenville, North Dakota, Eastern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago and Eureka—but they will likely struggle to win against even these teams with their 293rd-ranked offense.

Looking Ahead

A few decent shots at better mid-majors are going to crop up around Thanksgiving. Among them:

  • Austin Peay at Oral Roberts, Nov. 19—This is a very important home non-conference game for the Golden Eagles. ORU can’t afford to dig themselves and their confidence out of a deep hole like they did last year. They are the favorites this season and expectations begin to have a crushing effect when teams don’t live up to the hype.  If they want to be considered a contender, these are the games they have to win.
  • Oakland at Houston, Nov. 22— A winnable game for Oakland against a Conference USA opponent. This is one of those confidence boosters you hope for early in the season, especially since they have gotten run by two tough non-conference opponents already.
  • North Dakota State at Fresno State, Nov. 26— A 6-0 start for North Dakota State would be very impressive, and Fresno State is their next test. Although the Bulldogs are not as tough as they once were, they still are a difficult team at home. It will be a good gauge for the Bison to see how they stack up against Summit-level teams this year.
Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #22 – Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. You can find him on Twitter at @CharlieParksRTC

Ed. Note — yesterday’s Summit League primer was actually a re-publish of the summer update.  We apologize for the error.

Reader’s Take I

For the Summit League, having someone win Player of the Year may be the ticket to a title. Five of the last seven conference champions have also been the home of the Summit League Player of the Year.

 

Top Storylines

  • Realignment Hits the Summit: Word got out recently that Oral Roberts was flirting with the Southland Conference. ORU bolting could be a devastating move for the Summit League, which would lose one of its few premier teams. The Summit would take a definite step back. As for ORU, the Southland Conference isn’t exactly an upgrade — in fact, it is probably a downgrade in RPI and level of competition — but the move just makes sense. The Southland offers more natural conference matchups with teams from Arkansas and Texas, and better local recruiting opportunities. Let’s face it; no one from Oklahoma wants to travel to North Dakota in January to play a conference game. Also, Pat Knight just took the head job at Lamar. The Suttons and Knights have always been pretty close, and they have a long history together in college basketball. Scott Sutton versus Pat Knight would be a nice “new” rivalry. But unless the Southland pays the Summit League’s $250,000 buyout for Oral Roberts, this move couldn’t happen until 2014.
  • Bears With Bugs: Has the injury bug found its way to the Golden Grizzlies? Reggie Hamilton and Drew Valentine underwent some recent surgeries; Hamilton shouldn’t miss any time, but what about Valentine? It was a minor knee operation, but knives, knees and basketball don’t go well together at all. Oakland fans should keep a close eye on the situation, but I see no reason for panic… yet.

Predicted Order of Finish

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Summer Update: Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 12th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The newest update comes from our Summit League correspondent, Charlie Parks.

Reader’s Take – Almost every team in the Summit has its star this year, but to win this conference and have a legitimate shot at upsetting a powerhouse in March, you need a #2 option that is just as reliable in a big situation.

IUPUI appears to have the most talent with Alex Young and Leroy Nobles, as either guy can get you 20-plus easy-looking points at any given moment. But keep in mind, its not just the most talented duo, but also the two guys that give you the best opportunity to win. What doesn’t always show in the stat column can and often does show up in the win column (that little bit of Bobby knight-wisdom was for free).

Summer Storylines

  • Coaching Carousel – There have been a few key coaching changes this offseason in the Summit League. The one that could affect the balance of power the most in the conference is the departure of Ron Hunter  from IUPUI. After 17 years leading the Jags, Hunter took the job at Georgia State. His longtime assistant, Todd Howard, was promoted to fill the vacancy. Hunter led IUPUI to its only NCAA berth back in 2003, but you could sense a change was needed and that Hunter had taken IUPUI as far as it was going to go under his direction. He is a solid coach, but the new scenery may be beneficial for the Jags.
  • More Carousel.  The other coaching change of note is the departure of Dane Fife from IPFW. Fife moved on to accept a position on Tim Izzo’s staff at Michigan State. The move is a big bummer for the Mastodons, who have been steadily improving over the last six years under Fife, culminating in last year’s 18-12 record. His baby-faced assistant, Tony Jasick, now has the challenge of taking IPFW to the next level. IPFW may have taken a small step back in its ongoing quest for a conference title.
  • Sutton Returns to Coaching.  One team that improved with a new coaching change has to be Oral Roberts who hired former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton. Sean served at ORU last year in an unofficial manner but he wasn’t able to really interact with players. But this year, the son of one of the legendary coaches in college basketball will try to bring the Golden Eagles back to the top. Sean was known as one of the best recruiters in the country during his long tenure as assistant coach under his father at Oklahoma State, so it will be interesting to see what kind of talent he will be able to attract to Tulsa.
  • Rolling Out The Welcome Mat – Two new teams have joined the Summit League, and Division I: South Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha. Personally, I was hoping for an already established D-I school to join the fray, but The Summit obviously has an agenda by grabbing these start-up teams. UNO is the new “ooey-pooey” of the Summit League, at least as far as nicknames go. South Dakota will begin play this year, whereas UNO will start next season.
  • Keith Benson Goes League – Keith Benson became the first Oakland player ever drafted when he was taken in the second round (48th overall) of the NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Reviews for Benson have so far been mixed, but he will definitely get his opportunities assuming the NBA plays basketball again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

O26 Primers: Big Sky, Summit League and Sun Belt Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 6th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences begin things tonight. The Big Sky and Sun Belt look to be very competitive with multiple teams capable of getting hot at the right time and running away with the title, while the Summit League features the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at the head of the pack and everyone else trying to keep up. All three conferences are definite single-bid leagues meaning all games will be played with a great sense of urgency; the agony of defeat and glory of victory becomes that much more apparent as well.

Big Sky

The Favorite: Northern Colorado has played the best ball in the Big Sky over the course of the past month and they also have arguably the league’s best player in Devon Beitzel on their side. Montana will have their chance to prove me wrong, but right now it is the Bears who are the favorite.

Dark Horse: Any team that is proficient at shooting the three ball cannot be discounted in a game. Despite having a middle of the road 9-7 record within the conference, Northern Arizona can stroke it with anyone. Cameron Jones, Gabe Rogers, and Eric Platt all shoot well over 40% from downtown.

Who’s Hot: Northern Colorado has won eight of their last nine games and 15 of 18 to enter the Big Sky tournament as the hottest team.

Player to Watch: Cameron Jones has had his way with Big Sky teams this year as he is averaging just shy over 20 points on the year and has scored in double figures in every game save one. He’s got Northern Arizona playing well entering the tournament as the Lumberjacks have won four of five games with the lone loss coming to Northern Colorado by a point.

First-Round UpsetEastern Washington over Weber State. Although they have struggled for most of the season, Eastern Washington is riding a modest two game winning streak entering the Big Sky tournament with their last win coming against the team they will do battle with in the tournament’s first round: Weber State.

How’d They Fare? It was one of the most heroic performances that you have never heard of in college basketball. Anthony Johnson’s performance in the second half of the Big Sky Championship game against Weber State propelled Montana to the NCAA Tournament where they narrowly lost to #3 seed New Mexico. Montana was trailing 40-20 at the intermission, but Johnson scored 34 of his 42 points in the decisive half to defeat the Wildcats. If Johnson’s unbelievable performance carried over to the New Mexico game, Montana advances to the second round. Instead, they were defeated by the Lobos 62-57.

Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simple one of the greatest moments—if not the very greatest—in Big Sky history came in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. North Carolina fans, close your eyes:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Summit League Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 5th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. Tournament action tips Saturday in Sioux Falls, so get up to speed on all things Summit League and get a leg up on your Big Dance upset research.

Summit League Tournament Predictions

Saturday, March 5:

  • Oakland 91, Southern Utah 72Keith Benson and company will make a statement in the opening game, leaving no doubt who the top dog in the conference is.
  • Oral Roberts 77, North Dakota State 70—Michael Tveidt, in his swan song, will do his best to help his Bison rise up one last time. In the end, ORU is just too deep and too much to handle.

Sunday, March 6:

  • South Dakota State 82, IPFW 75—the first upset of the conference tournament. Home cooking and a “why not us?” mentality carries South Dakota State to victory.
  • IUPUI 80, UMKC 75— Alex Young goes off, IPFW can’t find an answer.

Monday, March 7:

  • Oakland 88, South Dakota State 85—What a great matchup this would be… Oakland has too much firepower, and outpaces The Jackrabbits in a nail-biter.
  • Oral Roberts 81, IUPUI 71—Oral Roberts is playing like a team that wants it just as bad as anyone else. They will get revenge on last year’s elimination by the Jags.

Tuesday, March 8:

  • Oakland 80, Oral Roberts 79—It will come down to who has the deeper bench, the smarter players, and the more reliable players in crunch time. Oral Roberts has one or two guys like that. Oakland has four or five. The experience will be the difference. We knew it would come down to these two since day one. I think we are in for a classic battle. Winner goes dancing, loser goes home. See you at the Summit.

Power Rankings and Postseason Preview

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Share this story

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.
Share this story

Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

It’s been a crazy few weeks in the “race for the Summit.” Oral Roberts and UMKC have been gunning for IPFW’s shaky #2 spot, and I expect one of these three teams will have it locked up by early February, and South Dakota State is also in the mix as well. Oakland is still rolling, almost on a boring clip, still unblemished in league play. They set a league mark of 17 consecutive conference wins, and are now 34-1 in conference play the past 35 games, good for tops in the nation. I could pretend that there are four or five teams still in this race, but in reality, Oakland will win this with ease barring a Hindenburg-sized collapse. If the ultimate goal is a berth in the NCAA Tournament, Oakland is the only threat.  But there is still plenty of ball to be played, and a month to go in the season, so we will see how this thing continues to unfold.

Oakland fans will be pleased to know they were ranked #9 on the collegeinsider.com mid-major poll– Just one spot below their preseason rank. Keith Benson was also named player of the week for the Summit League, his third such award this season.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (11-0, 16-8)— they have won 34 out of the last 35 conference games, and they are closing in on all kinds of conference records. Keith Benson is not the only stud on this team, as Reggie Hamilton and Will Hudson have been stellar, and they clearly have no excuse to lose a conference game. But if you are one of those pessimistic Oakland fans (likely a Detroit resident), then let’s look at the ORU game.  A three-point home win against an inferior ORU team is hardly dominant or impressive. It is just a little seed of doubt in the minds of the players and fans, and it is motivation for the next time—should they face each other in South Dakota. But that is just getting picky. They get scoring from all over the floor. Hopefully Larry Wright will be healthy for them down the stretch. Any lengthy absence from him could be damaging.

2. IPFW (8-3, 14-7)—I still don’t think the Mastodons can hold on to second place. They are just not a very good team. They got run by SDSU 87-52. Good teams don’t get blown out.  They have been looking to Ben Botts to carry them, but it seems that every night someone else steps up to give them just enough punch to pull out a win (as in their three-point victory over Oral Roberts). But how long can that last?  For awhile, it looked like IPFW was on the brink of a collapse. Two games up with eight to go, plus now holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Oral Roberts is a strong lead.

3. Oral Roberts (6-5, 9-14)—there were three positives ORU could take away from the loss at Oakland: 1) It was a three-point loss on the road to a seemingly unbeatable conference foe. What will the game be like the third time they play, this time on neutral ground? 2) They got great production from both of their guards –Warren Niles and Ken Holdman—a big reason they have won four of their last six games. They have clearly become a more complete team since their 5-10 start. 3) They appeared to have solidified their low post presence, which has been a difficult task since the loss of Mike Craion to injury. The one glaring problem still remaining for ORU is the defense. Scott Sutton is a defensive coach, but it seems like his players are not buying in to his system.  It’s definitely crunch time after their loss to IPFW late. One other note: where is the leadership coming from on this team? It’s hard to lead from the bench, so that cancels out Kyron Stokes and Craion. Who will step up for this team?

4. UMKC (6-5, 13-9)—they showed us what they are capable of last week, beating IUPUI in double-overtime on the road, and nearly shocking ORU in a thriller. In my eyes, they surpassed SDSU with a rare road win on Thursday. Continuing their month of close games, the ‘Roos went on to drop a double-overtime thriller at North Dakota State. They try beating you with the three-point shot. If those are off target, they slash inside with Jay Couisnard, with Spencer Johnson crashing the boards. Their lack of size will likely keep them from winning this conference, but nobody in the Summit really wants to face the Kangaroos.  They are tied with Oral Roberts with one more home game against them in two weeks—never say never.

5.  South Dakota State (6-5, 14-8)— The numbers would suggest they have just as dangerous an offense as Oakland, but they have had some very tough losses in the conference so far. Nate Wolters and Clint Sargent can carry them; but they both have to be bringing their best for SDSU to beat the top 5 teams. Simply put: this is a dangerous offensive team, but they lack experience and defensive problems have dragged them down as of late.

6. IUPUI (7-3, 13-10)— This team has really underachieved in most Summit fans’ minds. They have the scoring thing down, but to win in the Summit, you need good defense and solid guard play. They have the guard play, now they just need to add the defense. Surrendering just 45 points against Western Illinois was a nice start, but not much to glean into considering the Leatherneck’s struggles. They’re third in the conference standings, but haven’t been impressive.

7. North Dakota State (4-6, 10-10) —it is virtually impossible for this team to get a win on the road, but credit the Bison for halting a four-game skid and then edging out the ‘Roos on Saturday. Wins over Centenary and Oral Roberts this week could bring them closer to the top of the middle-tier. This team is one of the better three-point shooting squads in the conference, so NDSU fans, pray for the basketball gods to send rain.

8. Southern Utah (3-8, 6-15)—at this point, SUU just needs to stay above Western Illinois and hope the weather in Montana is better than the Dakotas next year.

9. Western Illinois (2-8, 7-14)— A half-game behind SUU and still a month remaining in the season.  The Hunt for March! It’s on!

10. Centenary (0-11, 0-23)—The gents are currently 0-22, and closing in on many, many NCAA records.  and their manhood was recently brought into question with this ESPN article. The Centenary Gents, in my opinion, are by far the worst D-I team in the history of basketball as they bring up the rear of KenPom’s rankings.  We are all witnesses.

A Look Ahead

Almost every game from here on out is an important one in the Summit, especially with everyone bunched together in the middle. Keep an eye on IPFW’s schedule; they take on IUPUI February 3 and they get a crack at Oakland February 12. If they knock off IUPUI, the race for second could see an early end. On February 10, ORU will visit UMKC for a rematch of their OT thriller from a couple weeks ago, and IUPUI will visit South Dakota State on the same night. We should see some pretty decent basketball here in the Summit over the next two weeks.

Share this story

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.

Share this story