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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.