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 Year – Warren 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.
The Face of the 2009-10 Season. #4 Kentucky 64, #12 Connecticut 61. Ladies and gentlemen, if there was any doubt whatsoever about who the face of college basketball was, is, or will be this season, consider it no more. The buzz was already there. There have been sketchy highlights of Johnathan Hildred Wall from Raleigh, NC, dressed in a Kentucky uniform and easily floating game-winners over Miami and Stanford; there have been a couple of filthy dunks and drives against North Carolina that had you out of your seat shaking your head when you saw them on SportsCenter; but there wasn’t this. No, not this. This being a nationally-televised game with no other competition on the tube where the too-young-to-know-how-good-he-is Mr. Wall emphatically and with reckless abandon introduced himself to the sports world beyond the hoops diehards, shouting from the top of New York’s Empire State Building to the rest of the world… “I am College Basketball.” Dramatic? Possibly. Truthful? Absolutely.
Sure - Why Not??
John Wall (25/2/6 stls) scored twelve of the last fifteen points of the game for his team, and as our RTC Live correspondent Ballin is a Habit put it at the game, “Garden security should kidnap Wall and throw a Nate Robinson jersey on him. Who will know?” That’s the point. Wall is probably nearly as good as anyone on the Knicks (or Nets) roster, and the star-studded NYC crowd was electric tonight as they knew this was but a first glimpse of WonderWall and that they would be seeing this kid play for a very long time at the Garden. When it came down to the last five minutes of the game tonight, the scoring went back and forth, but as you were watching the action you already knew where the ball was going when Kentucky got it. You also knew what the result would be — several clutch jumpers followed by a strong and-one when Wall drove from the left side, absorbed contact, and still finished the play to put UK up two with a half-minute left. After a Kemba Walker (12/8/6 assts) miss and Ramon Harris FT for Kentucky, UConn took and missed a couple of threes to finish the game and push Calipari’s team to 9-0 and John Wall into hype overdrive.
We’re just as guilty as anyone of being awed by the guy, but the last time we saw a freshman player who was so spectacular (must-see tv) was when Kevin Durant was dominating everyone in his path at Texas. You tuned in because you sensed that anything could happen when Durant had the ball, and people are starting to sense that about John Wall as well. One key difference in their careers at this point – Wall has already won three games down the stretch by himself. We’re not sure that even Durant did that before Christmas of his freshman season! John Wall — the 2009-10 Face of College Basketball.
Upset of the Night. Green Bay 88, #23 Wisconsin 84. Students RTC’d after the Fighting Phoenix of Green Bay upset the flagship university of the state in overtime tonight (send pics or vids!) in a classic trap game for Bo Ryan’s Badgers. Bryquis Perine (22/3/3 stls) and Randy Berry (13/12) led the way for UWGB, who, despite having ten fewer boards than Wisconsin were able to force 18 turnovers from normally surehanded Badgers to grit out the win. For the Phoenix, this was the first win in their last fifteen games against Wisconsin, and the Badgers will now face home games against Marquette and UW-Milwaukee in the next two weeks to try to regain state supremacy.
Another Upset. Oral Roberts 60, Missouri 59. We had a feeling that this would have upset written all over it, and sure enough it did (complete with a mini-RTC at the end – see below video). Missouri fans have to be beating themselves up over this one, though, as the Tigers had a ten-point lead on the road with just over five minutes remaining and they couldn’t close out the game. Michael Craion’s layup with 0.9 seconds remaining (first video) capped a 15-4 closing run for ORU that gave the Golden Eagles their second win over a BCS team this season (although a considerably better one than Stanford). ORU got 21/7/4 assts from Dominique Morrison and 10/13 from Kevin Ford, and it was just enough for Scott Sutton’s program to pull off the upset tonight. One major concern for Mizzou has to be that they only attempted three FTs tonight (making one), which signals a lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end.
And a Third. Harvard 74, Boston College 67. Is this an upset after how well Harvard has been playing and especially after last year’s Harvard win at BC? Well, it is still Harvard, so we’ll say yes. Jeremy Lin continues to impress, dropping 25/3/4 assts just a few nights after ripping the Connecticut defense up for thirty, and BC is at some point going to have to realize that winning a single ACC game doesn’t mean they can take the next night off (as they did last year as well). The Crimson shot 50% from the field, held BC to 38%, and stood toe to toe with the bigger Eagles on the boards. Furthermore, when crunch time came around, Harvard, especially Lin, calmly walked up to the line and sealed the win, which is something winning programs tend to do. It’s been a foregone conclusion that Cornell would once again own the Ivy League this year, but could Harvard challenge the Big Red in the Ancient Eight?
We have a pretty big weekend scheduled for you here at RTC Live, with arguably the best game on Friday night (Oral Roberts @ Wake Forest), the best two games on Saturday (Creighton @ Dayton and Davidson @ Butler), and a pretty good tilt on Sunday (FIU @ Tulsa) scheduled.
As for Friday night, the ‘real’ opening night for approximately 252 teams, Oral Roberts brings a team that coaches and media are picking to finish second in the always-competitive Summit League to Wake Forest, a team that is searching for its identity after losing draft picks Jeff Teague and James Johnson to the NBA. Wake has plenty of big young talent in Tony Woods, Tony Walker and Al-Farouq Aminu, but it’ll be up to point guard Ish Smith to re-establish a leadership role as he did prior to Teague’s ascent as an all-ACC guard last year. ORU counters with preseason all-Summit forwards Dominique Morrison and Kevin Ford, two talented but undersized players who head coach Scott Sutton is expecting to have breakout years this season. It should be an interesting game in the Dash tonight as ORU visits the Demon Deacons at 8pm ET tonight.
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Oakland 22-9 (16-2)
Oral Roberts 21-10 (15-3)
South Dakota St. 18-11 (11-7)
IUPUI 17-14 (9-9)
North Dakota St. 14-14 (8-10)
Southern Utah 13-16 (8-10)
Western Illinois 13-16 (6-12)
IPFW 11-18 (4-14)
UMKC 9-20 (4-14)
Centenary 6-23 (2-16)
Johnathan Jones (G), Sr, Oakland
Garret Callahan (G), Sr, South Dakota St.
Dominique Morrison (F), Soph, Oral Roberts
Jon Avery (F), Sr, IUPUI
Keith Benson (C), Jr, Oakland
6th Man.Hunter McClintock (G), Fr, Oral Roberts
Impact Newcomer. Larry Wright(G), Jr, Oakland. The junior transfer from St. John’s University, should have an immediate impact on the Summit League. Two years ago he led the Red Storm in three-point field goal percentage, and he should be the perfect replacement for Erik Kangas, The Oakland great who set the all-time single season mark last year with 145 threes. Wright’s long-range shooting could be the key to Oakland’s success.
What You Need to Know. The Summit League is like the little engine that could. Every year, it produces a scrappy team that creates some hype in the NCAA Tournament. Last year Ben Woodside and his rag-tag boys from North Dakota State challenged the defending national champs (Kansas), and just came up short 84-74. This year’s Summit League has the potential to produce a similar Cinderella story, with teams like Oakland and Oral Roberts reloading with some really talented players. Watch out for Oral Roberts and their newcomer Damen Bell-Holter (Mr. Alaska 2007, top 50 center prospect on Scout.com) who has the potential to dominate the lesser big men in the conference. Defense is the key to winning the Summit League. Last years champ NDSU held their opponents to 69.1 points per game, and Oral Roberts, in their three straight championships from 2006-08, held their opponents to 62.0, 64.9, and 68.1 points per game.
Predicted Champion. Oral Roberts (NCAA Seed: #14). With all the questions about age and inexperience with the Golden Eagles, it seems that Scott Sutton has the answers with his experience and skill level as a coach. Give him talented players, and his team will always compete. If Oral Roberts clinches another Summit league title, it will be their fourth championship in five years. I think a tough non-conference schedule (at Wake Forest, Missouri, New Mexico, Louisville,and Stanford) will be a trial-by-fire, and help their young freshmen mature quickly. The tough schedule also will help the NCAA Selection Committee give them a more favorable seed, especially if they win a couple of those big games (best bets are at home against New Mexico and Missouri). A #14 seed in the Big Dance will give Oral Roberts the Cinderella tag. A first round win is not out of the question for a Scott Sutton-led ORU squad.
Centenary was outrebounded in their last meeting with NDSU by 22. Although Redus had a strong game, Adams and Stallings combined for just 16 points. Expect the same defensive play from the bigger, better guards of NDSU.
(2) Oral Roberts vs. (7) South Dakota St.
Home state advantage could make this a much tighter game than it is on paper. Jackrabbit forwards Anthony Cardova and Kai Williams, the only players taller than 6’5 to see regular minutes, must come up with huge games on the glass. If Ford and Lewis are not accounted for, it’s over.
Everybody’s favorite to be the league rep in the Big Dance. Now the only question is what seed they will be pegged. Many bracketologists (I use that term oh so liberally) have the Bison as a 14th seed, some a 15th, no one else to my knowledge has them as anything different. With such a dynamite record, is a 13th seed really that much to ask? Back on the 21st the Bison tangoed with the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers in a scintillating BracketBuster match up for the ages. Check that, the only BracketBuster game anybody gave a flying squirrel about was Butler versus Davidson, and that game stunk. Do these one bid league teams really need to play an out of conference game during, uh, the conference season? I don’t think so. Plus, some of the BracketBuster match ups were a total waste of time, definitely not all created with equality in mind. But back to the task on hand, NDSU senior guard Mike Nelson tied a season high with 22 points. Senior point guard Ben Woodside was two rebounds short of a triple-double. NDSU concludes the regular season at 2nd place Oral Roberts on Feb.28th .
Update- NDSU clinched at least a share of the regular season title with a road victory over Centenary on Thursday (Feb. 26). Woodside and Winkleman combined for 66 points.