Checking In On… The Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2012

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • How Far Can Oral Roberts Go?: In their final season as a member of the Summit League, the Golden Eagles are enjoying one of their best runs in the past 30 years. The Golden Eagles are on a seven-game winning streak that started with the trashing of Xavier. They have dismantled the Summit League on their way to a top-50 RPI, and depending on how they fare in the ESPN BracketBuster, could even position them for the unthinkable—an at-large bid.  Don’t laugh, Oral Roberts could potentially be a 25+ win team with another top-50 RPI win (depending on the BracketBuster), hell, why not shoot for a an 11-seed? ORU’s play has gotten national attention from the talking-heads of college basketball, and it’s time we give them their due here as well. Scott Sutton has had his squad in this position before, and it hasn’t panned out they way they hoped. This one looks different. Beware, Cinderella is on the loose.
  • League Growing In Respectability: The Summit League is rising fast thanks to Nate Wolters and Alex Young turning NBA-heads, coupled with ORU’s nearly flawless play and strong seasons from the rest of the teams in the Summit. The conference is now ranked #12 in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI (rpiratings.com) and #15 in the Sagarin Ratings—that’s about six places higher than it was last season. I expect the Summit League may take a big hit in the rankings next season when ORU departs, but for now, they are one of the top mid-major conferences in 2012.

The Run Jim Molinari (right) Is Putting Together With The Leathernecks Doesn't Go Unnoticed. (AP/Tony Ding)

Power Rankings

  1. Oral Roberts (14-4, 6-0) — You expected ORU to eventually take its place at the top, but how the Golden Eagles have done it was unexpected. The way they grabbed the #1 spot from South Dakota State and North Dakota State was just dominant, and it has propelled them into the national spotlight. They won’t be giving up first any time soon, and they made that abundantly clear. There are a lot of factors that have gone into the Golden Eagles’ success this season. For one, they are relatively healthy for the first time in three years. Dominique Morrison, as reliable as he is, has played at a level no one has ever seen him, and I cannot help but think the addition of Sean Sutton as an assistant coach has not factored into this as well. But what is the biggest difference about this year’s team? One name—Mike Craion. The senior forward redshirted last season for medical reasons, and the Golden Eagles struggled without him. He is not the best player on the team, that honor goes to Morrison, and he may not be the flashiest player, but he is the most important piece on the ORU squad. Craion is a defensive rock that has great vision. He has the ability to outrebound bigger players and score when it is needed. His stats don’t accurately tell the story (11.1 PPG/6.7 RPG). He doesn’t need the ball, and his maturity on the floor brings that team together. He has single-handedly won games with his defense and big plays. If he is not a first-team All Summit League selection it will be a crime. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summit League Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 5th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. Tournament action tips Saturday in Sioux Falls, so get up to speed on all things Summit League and get a leg up on your Big Dance upset research.

Summit League Tournament Predictions

Saturday, March 5:

  • Oakland 91, Southern Utah 72Keith Benson and company will make a statement in the opening game, leaving no doubt who the top dog in the conference is.
  • Oral Roberts 77, North Dakota State 70—Michael Tveidt, in his swan song, will do his best to help his Bison rise up one last time. In the end, ORU is just too deep and too much to handle.

Sunday, March 6:

  • South Dakota State 82, IPFW 75—the first upset of the conference tournament. Home cooking and a “why not us?” mentality carries South Dakota State to victory.
  • IUPUI 80, UMKC 75— Alex Young goes off, IPFW can’t find an answer.

Monday, March 7:

  • Oakland 88, South Dakota State 85—What a great matchup this would be… Oakland has too much firepower, and outpaces The Jackrabbits in a nail-biter.
  • Oral Roberts 81, IUPUI 71—Oral Roberts is playing like a team that wants it just as bad as anyone else. They will get revenge on last year’s elimination by the Jags.

Tuesday, March 8:

  • Oakland 80, Oral Roberts 79—It will come down to who has the deeper bench, the smarter players, and the more reliable players in crunch time. Oral Roberts has one or two guys like that. Oakland has four or five. The experience will be the difference. We knew it would come down to these two since day one. I think we are in for a classic battle. Winner goes dancing, loser goes home. See you at the Summit.

Power Rankings and Postseason Preview

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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 January 16th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Oakland is the sole representative of the Summit League in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, moving up to #11. They have now won 23 of the last 24 conference games. Who knew this team would be better without Derick Nelson, Johnathon Jones, and Eric Kangas? It must be the shoes…or maybe it’s all Greg Kampe.

Caught On Film:

This Alex Young Dunk made SportsCenter’s Top 10:

Oral Roberts basically saved their season with a big road win against SDSU, despite not having Dominique Morrison or Mike Craion. The win kept them from falling to 2-4 in the conference, and bought them some more time to get healthy. Things may be looking up for the Golden Eagles.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (11-8, 6-0)–Nothing new here, the Golden Grizzlies are still the best team. They should have no problem finishing undefeated. They can even afford to drop a couple conference games in a worst case scenario (i.e. major injury), but Greg Kampe will keep his team running hard through the finish line.

2. Oral Roberts (7-12, 4-3)– They lost first-team selection Mike Craion for the season and the second best player in the conference, Dominique Morrison, for three weeks to a meniscus tear. It looked like ORU was done. But a 90-82 victory against South Dakota State basically saved the Golden Eagles’ season. Back-to-back conference wins without their two stars proves this team is still dangerous. Improved guard play is the main reason they have risen in the rankings. They also have the schedule working in their favor, with basically only one unwinnable game left — at Oakland.

3. South Dakota State (12-5, 4-2)—This is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference, but if you live by the three, you also die by the three. Cold shooting days are bound to come. I hesitate to keep this team near the top because of how far they can swing. However, with four conference wins so far, they have given themselves a great opportunity to finish in the top two or three. Clint Sargent is a huge distraction for defenses, and Nate Wolters is arguably the best point guard in the conference. He leads the conference in scoring with 19.3 PPG. And thanks to some SDSU fans, I have finally settled on a nickname for the young man; he is now Nate “the Lane Train” Wolters. Don’t hate it.

4. IUPUI (10-9, 4-2) — Their two conference losses came against the top two teams, and even those were close games. The Jags have two big-time threats in Leroy Nobles and Alex Young–both guys are in the top eight in scoring. Coaching is what wins close games late in the season and in the conference tournament, and Ron Hunter deserves to be mentioned with the Kampes and the Suttons of the world.

5. IPFW (11-5, 5-1) — I know they are 5-1 in conference play, but I just can’t keep them above the big boys. They have one impressive conference win so far (at ORU). They also have the toughest part of their conference schedule remaining, starting off Saturday against Oakland. How will they weather the storm?

6. North Dakota State– (9-7, 3-3) In reality, this team is right in the middle of the race for the #2 seed, but the loss to IUPUI really hurt those chances. The Bison have two quality wins against SDSU and ORU, but two disastrous losses to UMKC and Southern Utah.

7.  Southern Utah–(4-12, 1-5)– Southern Utah runs a beautiful offense — a ton of plays that they run with such precision — but the T-birds just don’t have the firepower to overcome the more talented teams. If only they could recruit some ballers…SUU should be a top team in the Big Sky Conference sooner than you think.

8. UMKC–(10-7, 3-3)– they split against the Dakotas and followed that up by taking care of business against Southern Utah and Centenary. Spencer Johnson is second in rebounding, and Jay Couisnard is fifth in scoring; It’s been the difference for UMKC.

9. WIU–(1-5, 6-10) their only conference win came in a six point squeaker against Centenary, and they just lost to SDSU by 31. Turn the lights out.

10. Centenary– (0-18, 0-7)– 0-31: that’s the combined records of the Centenary men’s and women’s basketball teams.

A Look Ahead

This is moving week for the Summit, and it seems like everyone is playing in a big game. UMKC at Oral Roberts, Oakland at IPFW, and SDSU at IUPUI on January 17 will have some big-time effects on the overall standings…MLK Day will be a great day for Summit Fans.

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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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