Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

The Summit League standings were shaken up one final time as the regular season comes to an end. All eight teams clinched a spot this week in the tournament, and Oakland became the first conference regular season champion of 2011. The win guarantees them a spot in the NIT should they falter in the conference tournament. The Golden Grizzlies were also bumped all the way up to #6 on the Mid-Major Top 25 poll, just one spot behind Gonzaga and six spots ahead of last year’s NCAA runner-up, Butler. But perhaps the biggest winner in the weekend drama was ORU. Thanks to a dominant 18 point drubbing of IUPUI, the Golden Eagles locked down the coveted #2 seed—which quite frankly—almost gives them an easier road to the Conference Championship game than top-seeded Oakland. It was the final big momentum swing that has now aligned us for a fantastic Championship weekend.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (21-9, 16-1)—There have been grumblings among Summit fans who think Oakland has lost a little of their edge— they have been involved in some close games against conference foes, including a loss to IUPUI—but I don’t think there is really anything for this team to be concerned about until the conference championship game. The only team Oakland could have trouble with would be ORU.  Simply because ORU is the only team that could match their size and depth. However, Oakland won’t face them again until the championship game—so until then, rest easy Golden Grizzly fans. Oakland is nearly unstoppable on offense—they are third in the country in scoring and eighth in field goal percentage.  Even in their one conference loss to IUPUI, they scored 88 points. To beat Oakland, you have to get their big men in foul trouble, and hope you can outlast them in a shootout.

2. Oral Roberts (16-14, 12-5)—They are on a seven-game win streak and are playing better than any team in the conference, including Oakland. They have dominated their opponents by an average of 13 points per game during the win streak. They have been brought back to life by the vastly improved guard play, and a renewed team focus.  Veteran guard Kyron Stokes was also cleared to play basketball by his neurologist after suffering what seemed to be career-ending concussions earlier in the year. But He is back, head gear and all, not a moment too soon. Not only is he the best perimeter defender and most experienced player Scott Sutton has, but he is also one of the vocal leaders on the team.  Adding guys like that only make you better. We will see how it pans out next week as they push for the championship.

3. IUPUI (17-13, 11-6)—They had a great chance to clinch the #2 seed, and it looked like they would after defeating Oakland  by  12 on February 5, but a blowout loss to Oral Roberts gave them their third loss in five games. It is nothing short of a monumental collapse that will haunt the Jags. They have an NBA-material forward in Alex Young, but he can’t carry a team alone. This team really struggles to play defense, and their point guard play is less than impressive. Two elements they must have to make it to Championship weekend.

4. South Dakota State (18-10, 10-7)—They salvaged the season a bit down the stretch, winning five of their last seven with losses to the two best teams in the conference. They will likely get the four-seed, which will match them against IPFW in the first round, a team they dominated twice in the regular season.

5. IPFW (10-7, 17-11) — IPFW finally collapsed down the stretch like I predicted. There were too many times during the year when you looked at their roster and said “how are they winning?” They were too small and too streaky to stay on top forever. Looking back, the best team the Mastodons beat all year was ORU. The last month they struggled in the Conference, going 3-4 in the month of February, and they failed to score 80 points against any conference opponent in that span.

6. UMKC (16-12, 9-8)—The Roos, like IPFW, have somehow competed hard despite having no size to work with. There was a stretch in January where no one really wanted to play UMKC—taking ORU, IUPUI, and NDSU to five overtime periods combined. But recently they have been getting demolished by the top teams, and have slowly faded into the pack. They are still a dangerous team when they shoot well, but it won’t be enough to win three days in a row next week.

7. North Dakota State (13-14, 7-10)—Despite the record, I am sure Oral Roberts would rather play Southern Utah in the first round than North Dakota State. No matter what their seeding, NDSU is going to be a tough out. They still have Michael Tveidt, who was a key member of their Cinderella run from a couple years ago, so if anyone has an upset left in them it is NDSU. They are limping into the tournament, but sometimes the most dangerous animal is a wounded animal—and they have nothing to lose.

8. Southern Utah (11-17, 7-10)—Southern Utah will have an interesting next couple of week. On Saturday, they play Oakland in the final regular season game, and then face them again in the first round of the Conference tournament. Is that an upset I see on the Horizon? (Nah).

9. Centenary (1-28, 1-16) — No one deserves to lose them all, and Centenary avoided infamy by defeating Western Illinois 73-60—ending a 33-game losing streak.  This team might be the worst team in NCAA history, but tonight, they are winners. That convincing win is good enough to bring them out of the cellar for the first time all season, at least in my poll.

10. Western Illinois (2-15, 7-21)—they will always be remembered as the only team to lose to the worst team of all-time…by 13.

A Look Ahead

The Summit League conference championship starts Saturday March 5, for the men and women, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s all high-stakes basketball from here on out. Win, you advance with dreams of making the Big Dance; lose, and you go home with nothing to show for it.  Don’t you love mid-major basketball?  A Conference Championship preview is coming up next week.

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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 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 jstevrtc on December 4th, 2009


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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