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.
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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.

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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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