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 December 4th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Keith Benson racked up another Summit League Player of the Week honor—averaging 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks in three games this week. In Oakland’s overtime win against Austin Peay, Benson had 22 boards. That’s good for fifth all-time for a single game in conference history. Benson is getting serious looks from NBA scouts, and he is the sole reason Oakland is the best team in the conference at this point. Both OU and South Dakota State remain in the Mid-Major Top 25 this week. Oakland sits at #14, and South Dakota State lands at their school’s all-time high of #17. SDSU also leads the nation in three-point percentage (49.5%), but a better stat: they have won 100 percent of their games. The Summit League is currently ranked #16 best conference on the November 30 Sagarin ratings, but so far this season, they are 0-6 against top 25 teams.

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (4-3): One word; one name: Benson. You can take him to the bank, because this guy is money (yeah, I said it, so what—this is my column!). He is currently fifth in the NCAA with 12.8 rebounds a game, fifth in blocks with 3.5 BPG, and ninth in double-doubles with four. The team itself is stumbling a bit with a 4-3 record, but none of those losses came by the hand of a conference opponent, which is the only kind of loss that matters for Oakland. If Benson can’t be stopped in the Summit League then neither can Oakland.
  2. South Dakota State (6-0): Undefeated so far in the non-conference portion of the schedule, although they didn’t really play anybody. But a perfect record is a perfect record. They are the top scoring team in the conference and they just bomb you from three. But like I always say: if you live by the three, you die by the three. Can they keep shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc? I’m leaning towards no.
  3. North Dakota State (4-3): They score the third most points in the conference (78.6), just a point or so behind Oakland. They are third in the conference in rebounding, and first in field goal percentage. They rebound, pass, and shoot very well, and they have a legitimate post presence in Eric Carlson and a go-to-guy that knows how to win in Michael Tveidt. Though South Dakota leads in three point percentage, I think NDSU is the most dangerous team from three-land, and I think they will be more consistent throughout the season. They cracked the Mid-Major top 25 briefly before bowing out because of a loss suffered at the hands of Green Bay.
  4. Oral Roberts (3-4): They have played much better the past two weeks — knocking off Utah, staying close with Texas Tech, and winning big against Western Illinois. Dominique Morrison dropped 35 points against WIU, and he may be the second best player in this conference. They have young talent, and it will be a rollercoaster ride until they get Michael Craion back for good. The senior forward, who was a preseason first-team selection, made his season debut against WIU, playing nine minutes. But there is no guarantee that his foot will hold up. Even if he doesn’t play much this season, they may still be a half-decent team. One major problem: they can’t shoot free-throws, hitting only 63 percent as a team. That is bad enough for ninth in the conference. Just above Centenary.
  5. IUPUI (4-4): What have you done for me lately, Jags?  You lose to St. Louis by three, only putting up 55 points, and you beat Centenary, the worst team in the conference  by just eight points?  I picked them third in the conference; I thought they would be better. Maybe they are, and I just need to give it some time. But right now, I’m not really feeling any love for OOY-POOY.
  6. IPFW (4-2): Ben Botts has turned into a fine point guard. He scored 20 in the OT win against UMKC, but he can create a lot of opportunities for IPFW to surprise some teams, like they did against the ‘Roos. They were down big early in the second half, but they came all the way back to force overtime and escape with a win. They have winnable games against Southern Utah and Toledo coming up. We could see the Mastodons stay at the top of the Summit League for at least another week.
  7. UMKC (4-2): Big loss to IPFW. They had the game in the bag, and they let it get away. That is going to be a tough one to swallow. Joe Couisnard is 35th in the country with 20.3 points, and he leads the Summit League in scoring.
  8. Western Illinois (3-4): And here I thought they may have a legitimate shot to be a pretty decent team after they stood down Missouri and lost a heartbreaker. But alas, they got beat soundly by ORU, and have now lost four of their last five. Ceola Clark III, their star and preseason first-team selection, has struggled mightily. He has been a huge disappointment, averaging just eight points in the four games, but he hasn’t been fully healthy, so maybe he can pull it together with time.
  9. Southern Utah (2-5): They had the unfortunate obligation to play Oakland on Thursday—stopping Keith Benson is not exactly any Summit teams’ favorite thing to do. SUU lost the rebound battle 35-31, but that is only the second time all year they have been outrebounded. Their strength will be inside crashing the boards—which will keep them in games. Now they just need to find someone who can score the ball.
  10. Centenary (0-8): they won’t be winless forever. They stayed with IUPUI and lost by only eight points. In their final season as a Division-I school, it is all about the moral victories for the Gents. But you never can be too hard on an overmatched team that plays with heart every game.

A Look Ahead

  • Oral Roberts faces IUPUI on Saturday, December 4. It will be the first marquee matchup in the Summit League this season. Both teams are a threat to win the conference. Watch out for Dominique Morrison, as he is heating up and averaging 19 points a game.
  • Oakland will try and knock-off #21 Illinois on December 8. Keith Benson and the boys will attempt to get the Summit League its first victory against a ranked opponent this year—if they can avoid an onslaught from fire-breathing Demetri McCamey and ignore that crazed Illini student section.
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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 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer School in the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 5th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Around The Summit:

  • Dakota Invasion: The Summit League plans on joining the realignment-party beginning next season (2011-12) when Centenary will move down to Division-III, and the University of South Dakota will take their place. There has also been talks of adding an eleventh team, likely the University of North Dakota, joining the conference in the near future, which would mean FOUR teams from the Dakotas in the Summit. Good for rivalries, bad for the warm-blooded.
  • An Oak In Oakland: The top teams in the conference made some key additions that fit nicely into their team philosophies. Oakland is happy to have Summit POY Keith Benson back, but they also added a center for the future: 7’0, 220-pound Kyle Sykora. The big man shot 71 percent from the field and blocked 5.6 shots per game during his high school years in Miami. It’s not often a seven-footer comes to the Summit League, and the addition of Sykora will assure Oakland of big-man dominance for years to come.
  • New Guard: IUPUI and Oral Roberts also added some nice guard pieces to their depth.  P.J. Hubert (IUPUI) was an Associated Press honorable mention all-state selection in Indiana, and Jake Lliteras (ORU) was Player of the Year in the Carolina 9 conference. Both guys should have an immediate impact on the floor for two teams vying for a conference title. And last but not least, South Dakota made the most improvement when they picked up Rock Valley H.S. Stars Jordan Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra; both were given high grades by ESPN Insider.

Kevin Ford is gone, but the rest of the pieces remain intact for perennial favorite Oral Roberts

Power Rankings

  1. Oral Roberts – They lost one starter, and since they were a 20-win team last year (including victories over Stanford, #12 New Mexico, and Missouri) with only seven scholarship players healthy, the Golden Eagles have a golden opportunity ahead of them. They have won the conference title three of the past five seasons, and as long as Scott Sutton is still the head coach, this team will be one of the favorites. Known in the past for their strength at the guard position, ORU is especially strong there this year with five guards who have starting-five ability. Summit Newcomer of the Year Warren Niles leads the way.
  2. Oakland – Don’t sleep on the defending champs. Even though Oakland lost tournament MVP Derrick Nelson and the conference’s best guard, Jon Jones, the Golden Grizzlies return the Summit League POY Keith Benson and several key players from last year’s dominant squad that won 26 games, including 17 of 18 conference games. In a conference that only showcases three quality teams, Oakland has as good a chance as any to capture a second straight title, and they could replace ORU as the top team by the time the season starts, depending on how their recruits shape up. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Standings

  1. Oakland                                               12-7       (6-0)
  2. IUPUI                                                     12-7       (5-1)
  3. South Dakota State                         9-8          (5-1)
  4. Oral Roberts                                      9-9          (4-3)
  5. UMKC                                                    8-8          (2-3)
  6. North Dakota State                         5-10       (2-3)
  7. IPFW                                                     7-9          (2-4)
  8. Centenary                                           6-11       (2-5)
  9. Western Illinois                              7-9          (1-5)
  10. Southern Utah                                  5-12       (1-5)

Top Storylines

  • IUPUI beat Oral Roberts at home 90-87. You can now legitimately argue that IUPUI is just as good as Oakland, if not better, and the Golden Grizzlies will be looking over their shoulder the rest of the way.
  • Oakland is on a 12-game conference win streak right now, dating back to late last year. The record is held by Cleveland State with 16. The way things are going for Oakland, they are going to blow that record away.
  • In Thursday night’s game, both IUPUI coach Ron Hunter and ORU coach Scott Sutton went an entire game shoeless to draw awareness to Samaritan’s Feat, a nonprofit organization that accepts shoe donations and distributes them to needy children worldwide.

    Last Week

    The Summit was quiet last week, with only four games played. However we still learned a couple new things: 1) IUPUI is good. Oakland is still better, but how much better? I can’t wait until these two meet again.  The power struggle between these two will be the top storyline going forward this year. 2) Maybe ORU can’t overcome the bad hand they have been dealt by injuries. It’s a shame, because it was looking like IUPUI, Oakland, and ORU were going to battle until the end. ORU just can’t win on the road, and even though the two losses to Oakland and IUPUI were by a combined six points, it’s still clear that they are on the outside looking in.

    Alpha Squads: Oakland, IUPUI

    Contenders: South Dakota, Oral Roberts

    Long Shots: North Dakota, UMKC

    Bottom FeedersIPFW, Centenary, Southern Utah, Western Illinois

    Team Breakdowns

    In a nutshell, there are three teams that can win the conference from this point in the season and South Dakota State and Oral Roberts are fighting for that third position. The Golden Grizzlies and the Jags are rolling while Oral Roberts is reeling, but they can bounce back. It is going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.

    • Oakland: Still Rolling.  I am really impressed with preseason player of the year, Jonathan Jones. Is it safe to change his name to Jon Jones yet? This guy is a man, and he owns every guard in this conference. He is clearly the number one player. His stat line is not huge, just 12/6/2 stls, but he doesn’t have to score with all those weapons available to him at Oakland.
    • IUPUI: Hear those footsteps? That‘s IUPUI closing the gap on Oakland.  Big conference win over Oral Roberts at home. People are paying attention now.
    • South Dakota: The enigma team. They shouldn’t be doing this well, but they are. It probably has something to do with having three players shooting 82% or better from the line. No other team has more than one. That can get you wins in close games they might have lost in the past.
    • Oral Roberts: Their three conference losses came from the three teams above, does that mean they are the fourth best team? Maybe, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish right here in fourth.  Scott Sutton is a great coach, but no coach in America can survive a long season after losing half his team.
    • UMKC: Just a little short on talent to compete with the big boys, but on a good night, they could squeak by South Dakota and Oral Roberts.
    • North Dakota State: They are a long way from the days of Ben Woodside. 5-10 is not where you want to be to say the least.
    • IPFW: I had a fan ask me during one Summit League game “what is a Mastodon (the IPFW mascot) anyway?” I said, “kind of like an elephant.” They could use an elephant in their roster; they’re too small to be a serious threat to anyone.
    • Centenary: The Gents are already having a better season than last year, and although his production dropped, David Perez is still scoring 17 points a game.
    • Southern Utah: They lost to IPFW and only managed to score 56 points. They are in serious need of offensive production.
    • Western Illinois: They blew out Centenary by 19, so we know they can still win. I hate to see teams play poorly, so I hope they can start getting things together in the second half of the season.

    Games to Watch

    • Tulsa @ Oral Roberts, Wednesday, January 20. 7 p.m. – Rumor has it that this game is already sold out. Over 11,000 fans expected for this one, and it should be split right down the middle. Crosstown rivals will be battling for the Mayor’s Cup, and city pride on the line. This game is always good, and both teams want to win it and can.
    • Oakland @ South Dakota State, Saturday, January 23, 7:30 p.m. - I cant imagine Oakland losing this one, but its #1 vs. #3 in the conference, and it could be a great opportunity for South Dakota to prove something.
    • North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts, Thursday January 28, 7 p.m. - Oral Roberts is looking to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss at home that won the Summit League regular season crown for NDSU. There is a lot of bad blood between these two schools, and no Ben Woodside to save NDSU. Expect a good, close game.
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    Checking in on… the Summit League

    Posted by jstevrtc on January 9th, 2010

    Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

    Standings:

    1. Oakland   10-7 (4-0)
    2. South Dakota State   8-8 (4-1)
    3. IUPUI   10-7 (3-1)
    4. Oral Roberts   8-8 (3-2)
    5. UMKC   8-7 (2-2)
    6. Centenary   6-9 (2-3)
    7. North Dakota State    5-9 (2-3)
    8. IPFW   6-8 (1-3)
    9. Southern Utah   5-10 (1-3)
    10. Western Illinois   6-8 (0-4)

    Top Stories:

    • 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.

    Last Week:

    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.

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    Checking in on… the Summit League

    Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2009

    checkinginon

    Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

    Standings:

    1. IUPUI  (2-0)  8-3
    2. Oral Roberts  (2-0)  6-6
    3. Oakland  (1-0)  5-5
    4. UMKC  (1-1)  5-4
    5. Centenary  (1-1)  4-5
    6. North Dakota State  (1-1)  4-5
    7. South Dakota State  (1-1)  4-7
    8. IPFW  (0-1)  3-5
    9. Western Illinois  (0-2)  4-6
    10. Southern Utah  (0-2)  3-8

    Top Stories:

    The top story continues to be the mounting injuries for the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.  After losing sixth-man Warren Niles to a broken hand, it looks like this year’s team just may be cursed or something along those lines.  How else do you explain losing four players for the season, plus two more with broken bones, and one continuing to play with a sprained ankle?  The rash of injuries is unprecedented, and it leaves ORU with only seven healthy/eligible players.

    Oakland’s Center Keith Benson ranks among the nation’s top 10 in three individual statistical categories.  He is fifth in blocks with 3.9 BPG, seventh in double-doubles with six and 10th in rebounding with 11.4 RPG.  The man is simply unstoppable in this conference, and he will really take off once the weaker conference teams grace Oakland’s schedule.

    Last week Oral Roberts showed some heart, upsetting Missouri in at home 60-59, a season defining win for a team that has half the team out with injury.  Imagine how dangerous this team would be if they were full strength?  They followed up the emotional win with two losses to Indiana State and a blowout to Louisville, the same for Oakland, who dropped hard against Michigan State.  IUPUI took the liberty of establishing themselves as a real threat to win the regular season title, and an automatic berth in the NIT.  I can now guarantee with unwavering confidence that there are only three teams that can win the conference title in March.  Everyone else is simply awful.  Oakland, ORU, and IUPUI have a combined conference record of 5-0.  The remaining seven teams have a combined record of 4-9.

    Alpha-squads– Oakland, ORU, IUPUI.

    The Contenders– North Dakota State

    The Long-shots– IPFW, UMKC, South Dakota State

    The Bottom-Feeders– Western Illinois, Centenary, Southern Utah

    Oakland — We still haven’t been able to see how dominant Oakland will be in the conference, having only played one game so far.  They are still the favorites as the first half of the season comes to a close.  Their Center, Keith Benson, continues his dominance, being named player of the week in the Summit.  The junior is averaging 18/11 and 4 blocks a game.

    IUPUI —  The Jags are coming on strong, pushing their record to 8-3 and leading the conference right now.  I like the way the Jags are playing, and they are going to be a tough team to beat going forward.  They are getting big numbers from sophomore guard Alex Young and senior Robert Glenn, both combining for 36 PPG.  They are my dark horse pick to win the whole thing.

    Oral Roberts — Scott Sutton still has his team playing hard even though the team is completely decimated by injury. The big morale-boosting win at home against Missouri will give the remaining players some confidence.  This team will be at the top until the end, but there is no way they are winning the conference with seven players who are mostly walk-ons and newcomers.

    North Dakota State — North Dakota has a chance to move up in the conference and they could shock the top teams in this conference if Saul Phillips can keep his guys playing well. They have three guys in the top 15 in scoring. Their defense will have to improve if they want to compete with Oakland and IUPUI.

    IPFW – The Mastodons are 1-4 on the road so far this season, and have given up 84 PPG to conference opponents. Next up:  #12 Michigan State.

    UMKC — The Kangaroos are still searching for an identity and someone to step up as a proven leader for this team. They are near or at the middle of nearly every statistical category, which means they are just an average team in this conference.

    South Dakota State — Of all the teams in this conference, I am most disappointed with SDSU.  Coming into this year I had high hopes for this team.  They played well in the conference tournament, making a good showing by knocking off defending-champ ORU.  But this year they started off sloppy.  They are last in blocks, ninth in steals, and ninth in defensive rebounds.  They also need Garrett Callahan to start producing more; their star is only averaging 12.5 points.

    Southern Utah — They are going to struggle all year long, basically from a lack of talent.  But they play hard every night, and that will keep them in some games.  They will pull out a few wins during the long season.  They stuck with #23 UNLV for at least a half.

    Centenary — Centenary is not leaving Division I basketball quietly, continuing to battle hard, even though this will be their last year in the Summit League.  Led by the Conference’s top scorer, David Perez (21.4 PPG), the Gents are 1-1 in the conference and 4-5 overall, hardly the worst team in the conference, as was predicted.  It won’t last, but let’s give them their due for now.

    Western Illinois — The absence of an offense leaves WIU in a sad state.  Their top scorer, Matt Lander, is averaging a mere 10.9 PPG.  Eastern Illinois could only scrape together 44 points and they still beat Western.  What I am trying to say is… this team is bad.

    Upcoming games to watch:

    Saturday 12/19, 7:30 PM — Oakland @ Oregon.  To me, this is a must win game for Oakland.  This is a very beatable Oregon team.

    Tuesday 12/22, 7 PM — Oakland @ #10 Syracuse

    Wednesday 12/23 — #19 New Mexico @ Oral Roberts.  This is the first ranked team to visit the Mabee Center since 1996.

    With the midway point of the season approaching, this conference is Oakland’s to lose now that ORU is on the injured reserve.  Keep an eye on IUPUI, as they may make Oakland work for a championship.  Everyone else is playing for fourth.

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    Checking In On… the Summit League

    Posted by jstevrtc on December 4th, 2009

    checkinginon

    Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

    Current Standings (Overall Record/League Record):

    1. IUPUI  (6-2/1-0)
    2. Centenary  (4-2/1-0)
    3. Oral Roberts  (4-4/1-0)
    4. North Dakota State  (3-3/1-0)
    5. Oakland  (3-4/0-0)
    6. IPFW  (2-3/0-0)
    7. UMKC  (3-3/0-1)
    8. Western Illinois  (3-4/0-1)
    9. Southern Utah  (3-5/0-1)
    10. South Dakota State  (2-5/0-1)

    Top Storylines:

    • Whatever could go wrong has gone wrong for Oral Roberts University to start this season.  After getting an emotional win against Stanford, everything came crashing down to earth when they discovered that their junior point guard Rod Pearson became the third player THIS YEAR to suffer a season-ending ACL tear.  To make matters worse, the third string point guard, sophomore Beloved Rodgers, quit the team last week as well.  Apparently he was not happy with the minutes he was seeing.  So Scott Sutton was forced to activate his fourth-string emergency guard, redshirt freshman Mikey Mangum.  Who knew the most valuable player of the Golden Eagles season would not be a player at all, but the personal trainer?  Here is a suggestion:  stretch before games.
    • Oakland continues to roll, with Keith Benson earning player of the week honors, averaging 20/11/5 blocks in three games last week.  Also, Oakland guard Jonathan Jones became the conference’s all-time assist leader when he dished out 11 in a win over Central Arkansas on November 28; he now has 639 for his career.  The previous record holder was Valparaiso legend Bryce Drew (626).
    • The non-conference schedule is wrapping up for most of the Summit League, with only IUPUI, Centenary, and UMKC coming out on top with winning records.  Oral Roberts and Oakland remain neck and neck according to their records, but in reality, Oral Roberts has fallen back even further with the loss of four key players.  It’s never good when your second-string shooting guard, Kyron Stokes, now becomes your first-string point guard.  The Summit is still the 20th or 21st best conference in the country, so the one coveted bid will hinge on the conference play.  Anything can happen at this point, and this week will be a good indicator as to who are the true contenders.

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