RTC Summer School: The Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 2nd, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Today, the Summit League.

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.

Reader’s Take

 

Key Storylines

  • Southern Utah and Oral Roberts Head For Greener Pastures: Southern Utah made its long-awaited transition to the Big Sky while Oral Roberts made a quicker exit to the Southland Conference, ending the most successful stretch of sustained competition for Summit League basketball. With the League favoring the Dakota teams and a move northward, ORU made a business decision: Cut ties and shift its focus south to more natural competition and recruiting. ORU was the most successful team in the recent history of the Summit League, but it was clear that league officials had a vision for the direction of the conference that ORU wasn’t too thrilled with.
  • IPFW and Oakland Lobby For Open Horizon League Spot: Speaking of new directions, this story came out a couple months ago reporting that Oakland was interested in filling Butler’s vacated spot in the Horizon League. Oakland has been courting that conference for a long time, but it is not likely they will get their wish; there hasn’t been any movement on the Horizon’s end in several months, if at all. Even IPFW kicked around the idea of moving up in the world to join the Horizon. The Horizon could use a mid-major like Oakland to give it back some of the firepower they lost in Butler, but IPFW should get comfortable with its spot in the Summit. They aren’t going anywhere.

Point Guard/Advanced Stats Community Dreamboat Nate Wolters Shines For The Jackrabbits. (South Dakota State Photo)

How They Stack Up

  1. South Dakota State: Oakland closed the gap a little bit with their recruiting haul, but South Dakota State still boasts the best player and arguably the best front court of any team in the conference. Its recruiting class wasn’t as flashy as in years past, but it addressed several holes they had and added some depth. The Jacks should still be the favorites heading into the season. Notable additions: Jacob Bittle, point guard; Connor Devine, center.
  2. Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies impressed the most out of all the teams with their recruiting class, adding two transfers that can help right away in Tommie McCune (West Virginia) and Ralph Hill (Dayton). They also added Lloyd Neely, The Detroit Public School League MVP from 2012 and Mr. Basketball finalist. The Golden Grizzlies had to find a way to replace Reggie Hamilton, the 2012 NCAA scoring leader, and it looks like they are well on their way. Notable Additions: Tommie McCune, guard; Lloyd Neely, forward, Michigan Mr. Basketball finalist. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Thoughts From Albuquerque…

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Looking back at Thursday’s games in the Albuquerque regional from a Friday night perspective, my thoughts turn more to Montana, Harvard, South Dakota State, and UNLV than the teams that advanced from those first round games. We will have plenty of time to enjoy Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Baylor, and Colorado on Saturday afternoon and evening, but for right now, let’s talk about the good things that these four teams, whose seasons ended on Friday, did on Thursday and throughout the year.

  1. After struggling through a non-conference schedule, everything came together for Montana in conference play, where they ripped off 15 wins in 16 games and then swept to the Big Sky’s automatic bid in relatively easy fashion. And on Thursday, for roughly 18 minutes, they gave Wisconsin a battle. They came out hot early, scored 18 points on the first 13 possession against a stingy Badger defense and had the numerous Grizzly fans who made the trip down to support their team dreaming of big things. There were forced turnovers, acrobatic finishes and lots of excitement created early for an undermanned team. However, once the Wisconsin defense locked down, the Grizzlies went cold and headed home early. Still, this is a program that has made three straight postseasons (including two NCAA bids) under head coach Wayne Tinkle and returns 66.3% of its scoring from this year, including talented backcourt combo Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. And clearly, Tinkle’s got the community buying into the team and is well on the way to making Montana as much a basketball school as it is a football power.
  2. What can you say about this Harvard team? First NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 60 years, a sparkling 26-4 record and at least a piece of the regular season Ivy League title for two years running. Better still, this is a program that shows all the signs of being in it for the long haul. Head coach Tommy Amaker is building for the future here, not just taking advantage of a flash in the pan. And, perhaps best of all, this has been a truly entertaining team to watch. I saw them in person twice this season and came away feeling good about the Crimson on both occasions. Amaker loses big man Keith Wright and hyper-efficient guard Oliver McNally, but they return plenty of experienced players for a team that should be the favorite in the Ivy again next year. Sophomore Laurent Rivard is an absurdly entertaining and confident shot-maker who earned the respect of Vandy’s players and fans by knocking down three after ridiculous three in the face of excellent defense. Junior forward Kyle Casey may be a bit undersized, but he cleans the glass for Amaker and just seems to be around the ball to make plays on a regular basis. Junior point guard Brandyn Curry is one of the best assist men in the nation and a scrappy defensive playmaker, while freshman Wesley Saunders is an athletic ball of energy with loads of upside. Add in the fact that Amaker has made Harvard a legitimate destination for recruits and it appears that the Crimson are on the verge of being an every-year type of team.
  3. South Dakota State may have been the darling of the Albuquerque Thursday. Not only did the scrappy Jackrabbits battle a clearly athletically superior Baylor team tooth and nail for 40 minutes, but their fans, supporting a team from the state of South Dakota in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, were an asset to the entire atmosphere in The Pit. Just as Baylor’s team showed up expecting to advance to the next round on the basis of their talent alone, the Bear fans strolled in from the parking lot at a leisurely rate, not even filling up their section until SDSU had run out to an early 12 point lead. Meanwhile, Jackrabbit fans made their way into the arena as early as the possibly could (the doors weren’t opened for the second session until 30 minutes before tip-off), loaded up their section and then some, and were loud and supportive throughout the game. They had plenty to cheer for as junior guard Nate Wolters led an inspired effort against one of the biggest, most athletic squads in Division I. Even after they booted away that 12-point first-half lead in a flurry of first half turnovers and seemed destined for a blowout, the Jackrabbits, fans and team alike, responded strong in the second half and at least put a good scare into the Bears. While Wolters gets most of the press, guys like sophomore reserve wing Chad White (15 points, five threes in 30 minutes), senior forward Griffan Callahan (seven points, two steals in a full 40 minutes of action), sophomore forward Jordan Dykstra (five points, three boards), junior forward Tony Fiegen (two points, five boards, five assists) and sophomore guard Brayden Carlson (nine points, five assists) deserve at least a mention, with Callahan, Fiegen and Dykstra all deserving extra props for contending with, and generally containing, the imposing Baylor frontline. In the end, it was a 27-8 record on the year for the Jackrabbits, the best in the history of the school. And with everyone but Callahan expected to return next year, South Dakota State could again claim a spot on the national stage.
  4. Lastly, there’s UNLV, the most celebrated of the four losers on Thursday night. While Montana, Harvard and South Dakota State can all come away from their NCAA Tournament experience feeling okay about their seasons, for the Runnin’ Rebels, this is a disappointment, not solely because they were upended by a lower seed. This marks the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament loss for the proud program and sends seniors Oscar Bellfield, Chace Stanback, and Brice Massamba off to graduation without a tournament win on their resume (fellow senior Kendall Wallace redshirted last season and was a small part of the 2008 team that beat Kent State in the first round). And, for the third consecutive year, this was a Rebel team that played its best basketball of the season in November and December and never improved as much as the other teams around them. And, perhaps most galling of all for a proud fanbase, the UNLV supporters were out-traveled and out-voiced throughout the game by Colorado fans, relative upstarts. Things need to change in Vegas next season. And the good news is, all the parts are there for the change to be made. Head coach Dave Rice will be heading into his second season as a head coach and should be able to build upon his experience this year. Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall, the first and third leading scorers on this team should return (provided Moser doesn’t do anything stupid and declare for the NBA Draft), along with plenty of other strong parts, including Division I transfers Bryce Jones and Khem Birch. Marshall will take over the leadership role for this team once and for all (a role he battled with Bellfield and Stanback over this year), and the team should be better for that. And, there is a buzz about the program that has been largely missing since the days of Jerry Tarkanian. In short, the future is bright in Las Vegas, even if the present is full of regrets over missed opportunities on Thursday.
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Rushed Reaction: #3 Baylor 68, #14 South Dakota State 60

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Great start… In the early minutes of the game, South Dakota State was all energy while Baylor was flat as a pancake. The Jackrabbits made their first four baskets and scored 19 points on their first 12 possessions. Meanwhile, the Bears were just standing around on offense, blowing layups and turning the ball over (four turnovers on their first eight possessions) and it looked like we would be in for a surprise as South Dakota State built up a 12-point lead. Even the crowd support was a blowout with the upstart Jackrabbit fans loud and proud while Bear fans were still wandering in from the parking lot.
  2. But…  The athletic mismatch in this game was apparent from the start. When the teams first walked on the court, the size disparity was obvious and astounding. While some of the more high profile Bears struggled through the game, they had enough talent to find players to make plays. Junior point guard Pierre Jackson was the first Bear to take charge, getting to the rim and playing with fire, while senior Anthony Jones came off the bench and chipped in 11 points in a perfect (4-4 FG, 1-1 from 3-point range, 2-2 FT) first half. Throw in Brady Heslip who dialed in the range from deep on his way to 17 points and Baylor has a lot of weapons.
  3. Hibernating Bears. They are the all-airport team. They are amazing in the pregame layup line. And NBA scouts drool over their potential. And then they get out on the court and there’s no energy, unfocused offense, sloppy defense and unforced turnovers. They are your Baylor Bears, folks. They have the potential to be as good as anybody in the country, but for all the good things they do, often seemingly effortlessly, there are far too many minutes where they seem literally without effort. Perry Jones III, for all the talent in his 6’11” frame, scored just two points and did little to distinguish himself, while Quincy Acy was a mess, struggling to handle the ball and getting beat on the glass by less athletic South Dakota State players.

Star of the GameNate Wolters, South Dakota State. Even in a losing effort, Wolters wowed. All of the Jackrabbit offense ran through him, he spent time dogging Heslip in the first half and Jackson in the second (the halves during which those players were quiet) and he scored 19 points, handed out four assists and grabbed four boards. Sure, he turned it over five times and too often got suckered into some bad three-point attempts, but he was primarily responsible for helping South Dakota State keep this game fairly interesting.

Sights & Sounds. My god. Those uniforms. My eyes! Andy Katz calls them “the highlighters,” the day-glo yellow unis that Baylor sported, replete with fluorescent socks and shoelaces, definitely took a while to get adjusted to. Maybe that’s an excuse the Bears can use for their slow start, but those things definitely took a few minutes (or more) to adjust to.

Wildcard. On the season, Heslip has shot roughly 79% of his field goal attempts from behind the three-point arc. Tonight, it was 100%, as he shot ten balls from deep and made five, all in catch-and-shoot situations. The interior talent for the Bears is apparent, but a gunner like Heslip could make a big difference in this potential Baylor run.

What’s Next? Baylor will face the winner of the nightcap in Albuquerque between UNLV and Colorado on Saturday. If it’s the Buffs, the Bears will be playing in front of a hostile crowd, while if it is the Rebels they will face a team that has at least a similar caliber of athlete.

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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by KDoyle on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Kevin Doyle breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Kevin breaking down the South Region here.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC). Shouldn’t really need much of an explanation here. The most talented team in the nation — unquestionably — the Wildcats will be the odds-on favorite to not just emerge from the South Region, but also to cut down the nets in New Orleans. Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones spearhead a terrifyingly good starting five.

The Length And Athleticism Of Terrence Jones and Kentucky Are Just One Of Many Issues That Teams Face

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-6, 13-3 ACC). Austin Rivers does not play like a typical freshman and while Duke has its flaws on defense (perimeter defense, especially), the Blue Devils are more apt to make a run to the Final Four due to their balance on offense. Rivers and Seth Curry are prolific shooters/scorers in the backcourt, while the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. Much of Duke’s success hinges on junior Ryan Kelly’s health (sprained ankle). Kelly, while not a lockdown defender by any means, is 6’11″ and really helps in defending the three-point line for Duke. Even without a healthy Kelly, Duke still has an easier road to the Sweet Sixteen than other contenders in the South Region.

Grossly Overseeded: #11 Colorado (23-11, 11-7 Pac-12). Clearly, the committee thought higher of the Pac-12 than many others did. First, there was much debate whether this power six conference — far from “powerful” this season — would even receive an at-large bid, but they did in California. Secondly, Colorado was not on anybody’s radar prior to the Pac-12 Tournament as it stood at 19-11 with seven losses in conference play. Yet, winning the conference tournament propelled Colorado to a very respectable seed at #11. Many prognosticators had the Buffaloes at a #13 seed going into Selection Sunday.

Grossly Underseeded: #14 South Dakota State (27-7, 15-3 Summit). It is too big of a stretch to say that South Dakota State is “grossly” underseeded, but I do believe they were worthy of a #13 seed. When comparing the Jackrabbits to the #13 seed in this region, their resume is every bit as good, if not better, than New Mexico State: SDSU has a better overall record, higher RPI, more wins against the Top 100 RPI, and a more challenging non-conference schedule. Not to mention South Dakota State’s thrashing of Washington 92-73, even though the Huskies are not a Tournament team, is very impressive.

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Bracket Prep: St. Mary’s, Western Kentucky, Detroit, and South Dakota State

Posted by EJacoby on March 7th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week (the second half of Championship Fortnight, of course), we’ll continue to bring you these short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. In this post, we’ve got the WCC, Summit, Horizon, and Sun Belt winners from the past two nights…

St. Mary’s

Matthew Dellavedova (And His Mouth Guard) Are Dangerous (AP/ Tony Avelar)

  • WCC Champion (27-5, 16-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #25/#43/#35
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +11.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #6-#8

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. St. Mary’s has been a nationally-recognized mid-major for a number of years now, but the Gaels program did something this year that it had never done before, and especially not in the Mark Few/Gonzaga era — win both the outright regular season WCC title and the conference tournament championship. Whether this is a notable achievement en route to a nice run in the NCAA Tournament or something that represents the highlight of the season remains to be seen, but there’s no question that this group has the team chemistry, coaching, and talent to do some damage in the coming week. Two years ago, the Gaels rode a red-hot Omar Samhan past two perimeter-oriented teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and if the matchups break favorably for them again, Randy Bennett‘s team certainly has the capability of breaking through again.
  2. The straw that stirs the Gaels’ drink is WCC Player of the Year, Matthew Dellavedova. The sneaky-quick Australian point guard can score (15.6 PPG), shoot (59 threes, 36.0% 3FG), dish (6.4 APG) and board (3.3 RPG), but more than any of that, it is his ability to successfully run Bennett’s offensive sets that makes him invaluable. St. Mary’s has an elite offense (#20 nationally), which is roughly on par with the Sweet Sixteen team of two seasons ago. Where it struggles, of course, is on the defensive end. As exhibited on nights against athletic teams when the shots aren’t falling, the Gaels have trouble keeping the game close enough to grind out a victory.
  3. As good as Dellavedova and his senior compatriot Rob Jones are (14.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG), the duo struggles against superior athletes. Jones was harassed into a rough outing against the waves of rangy athletes that Murray State threw at the Gaels in their Bracketbuster game last month, while Dellavedova was bumped into a 3-10 shooting performance (1-8 from three) against Baylor earlier in the season. This is why matchups are absolutely key for St. Mary’s next week. If they come up against a first game opponent that can out-run and out-jump them at most positions, they’re probably in big trouble — Connecticut or Mississippi State comes to mind — but if they instead find themselves matched up against a team that plays under the rim like they do — say, Harvard or Purdue — they have a great shot to advance one or two rounds.

Western Kentucky

  • Sun Belt Champion (15-18, 11-9)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #193/#192/#203
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = -2.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16 (First Four)
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ATB: Madness Ensues During Four Classic Conference Tournament Finishes Monday Night

Posted by EJacoby on March 6th, 2012

Last Night’s Lede – Not a single power conference team played on Monday night and there were only 12 total games played, yet it ended up being one of the best nights of the entire season. Why’s that? Because it was the first full night of Championship Week, in which all games taking place from here on out will come during postseason tournaments. Monday saw four conference tournament finals take place – two at 7:00 PM ET, two at 9:00 PM ET – on ESPN or ESPN2, and each game came down to the final possession. The four championships were decided by 13 total points and included three overtime sessions. There was also important action taking place in other mid-major tournaments, so let’s jump right into it…

Your Watercooler MomentVCU Returns to the Tournament

Brad Burgess and VCU Shot Their Way Back to the Big Dance (Washington Examiner/L. Alvarez)

Last year’s unbelievable Cinderella story has guaranteed itself a place in the Big Dance once again this year. Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams were squarely on the bubble heading into Monday night’s CAA Tournament final, as was their opponent, Drexel. A hard-fought game in which VCU led by double-digits for much of the game wound up being close at the end and came down to the final possession when Drexel guard Frantz Massenat’s three for the tie hit the back iron. VCU earned itself an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and there’s not a single team in the bracket that wants to face Shaka Smart’s team in the first game next week. The Rams got 16 points, five assists, four rebounds, and five steals from Darius Theus while their star Brad Burgess had just six points. Drexel, which had just eight assists compared to 18 turnovers, now must sweat it out on Selection Sunday with a very strong conference showing but some weak overall profile numbers such as the #226 strength of schedule that won’t be pleasing to the NCAA Tourney committee. Don’t be shocked, though, if Drexel ends up making it so that you’ll see both of these teams playing again next week.

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Summit League Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2012

Charlie Parks is the Summit League correspondent for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Summit League Tournament Glance

Looking Back

  • One Big Year: This was an unforgettable season for the fans that follow the Summit League. Reggie Hamilton leads the nation in scoring; Alex Young is the NCAA active scoring leader and is looking to move on the NBA; Dominique Morrison led Oral Roberts to a school-best 26-5 record to go along with a crisp 38 RPI to get at-large talk going, and Nate Wolters and company are a serious dark horse contender for an NCAA tournament run with a 24-7 record. The Summit League is making a move into the best-mid-major-conference-talks, something that was unthinkable two years ago.
  • Where Does The Summit Go From Here: With ORU and Southern Utah leaving and Nebraska-Omaha on the way in, the future of the conference and its status in the basketball world is still to be determined. If North Dakota State and Oakland are able to rise up and take the place of ORU, the league can pick up where they left off. However, if things stay the same, and South Dakota State is the only real powerhouse, then the conference could take a step back. Regardless of what lies ahead in 2013, there is still a lot of basketball left in 2012. So here are my regular season awards and a quick preview for the upcoming Summit League tournament …

Conference Accolades:

  • Coach of the Year – Jim Molinari, Western Illinois: With all due respect to Scott Sutton and the amazing job he did this year, I have to go with Jim Molinari from Western Illinois. A year ago, Western Illinois was 7-23 with a 2-16 conference record after finishing the year with 13 straight losses. Molinari has turned things around and has the Leathernecks playing defensive-minded basketball. The Leathernecks offense is more efficient, and the addition of freshman Obi Emegano has helped Western Illinois capture the five-seed in the Summit League tournament.
  • Player of the Year Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: My pick for Player of the Year was really a no-brainer. Dominique Morrison was not only the best player in the conference, but one of the best in the nation over the course of the entire season. His 20.3 points per game becomes even more impressive by the fact that he shot 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from beyond the arc. On top of all that, he was clutch. Say what you want about the term “clutch”, but when a bucket needed to be made or when the game was on the line, he found a way. He was the total package this year. Morrison is going to be one of those guys Scott Sutton and the ORU fans will never forget.

Oral Roberts' Dominique Morrison (45) Made The Summit League His Personal Playground. (AP)

All-Conference Team:

  • Forward: Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: He will finish his career, along with everyone else on this All-Conference Team, in the top ten in scoring with well over 2,000 points.
  • Forward: Alex Young, IUPUI (20.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG): Young will leave IUPUI as the highest scorer in school history, and the fifth-leading scorer in conference history. He’s a first-round NBA draft pick if I ever saw one.
  • Guard: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (21.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.1 APG): The man can flat out play, and he is going to be Summit League Player of the Year next year. The question is, will he be looking to lead South Dakota State to their first ever conference title or a repeat?
  • Guard: Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (25.5 PPG, 5.1 APG): In case you thought this guy was a ball hog, just take a peek at those assist numbers. Put Hamilton on the list of current Summit League players that deserve a shot in the NBA. He’s quick, can run the point, and has deep three point range. Oh, and I forgot to mention he leads the nation in scoring.
  • Center: Jordan Dykstra, South Dakota State (11.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG) I have to give a shout-out to the big men, and he is the best one in the conference. Just a sophomore, Dykstra is going to be a dominant force in the years to come.

Alex Young, Nate Wolters, Reggie Hamilton and Jordan Dykstra Rounded Out Our RTC Selections for Summit League All-Conference First-Team

As I’ve mentioned before, I will take my starting five over your five starting five any day of the week. I don’t care if it is ACC All-Conference or Big East All-Conference, the Summit League can ball with the best of them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… The Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2012

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Collision Course: Oral Roberts and South Dakota State have set the stage for a fantastic final two weeks in regular season play. After splitting the season series, the Jackrabbits are just a game behind the Golden Eagles. Both teams are in the top-60 in RPI, both are ranked in the mid-major Top-25 , and both have an NBA-level talent in Dominique Morrison and Nate Wolters. This is setting up nicely for a  rubber match in Sioux Falls on March 6.
  • Mo’ D-Mo: Morrison is closing in on 2,000 points for his career, which is some rarefied air in the Summit League. Just 11 players in the 30-year history of the conference have reached 2,000. IUPUI’s Alex Young was the latest to do so, and he is the active points leader in the nation with 2,142. This season has been opportunity to showcase some of the most impressive talent this conference has ever seen.
  • Competition To Come: Oral Roberts will face Akron in one of the 13 nationally televised ESPN BracketBuster games on February 18. Before the loss to South Dakota State, I would have said this game had big at-large implications, but now the Golden Eagles will really just be playing spoiler for the Zips. I think Oral Roberts should still be considered a contender for an at-large, and saying otherwise shows some major disrespect for the Summit League. However, I am not on the selection committee. A win will be good publicity for the Summit League, but Oral Roberts still needs to win the conference tournament to go dancing. Keep an eye out for South Dakota State on ESPNU as well.

IUPUI's Alex Young Has A Loyal Following Of Pro Scouts.

Power Rankings

Records reflect only games against Division I opponents through Wednesday.

  1. Oral Roberts (21-5, 13-1) — South Dakota State is a tough place to play, and losing to the Jackrabbits is not as bad as it looks. They landed a haymaker against the Jacks in the Mabee Center back in January and SDSU answered back with one of their own. The Golden Eagles bounced back with a road win against the third-place Bison, gaining some confidence for the home stretch. No one has ever finished the regular season perfect in the Summit League, and you knew they had to lose eventually. The Jacks were actually the best conference team they could have lost to. The Golden Eagles’ RPI actually went up after the loss. ORU is hot right now, shooting just under 50% as a team, good enough for tenth in the nation.
  2. South Dakota State (19-6, 11-2) —Their last big test of the season will come against North Dakota State, and it could be the difference between ORU sealing the conference or South Dakota State sneaking in the back door for that all-important top seed. The Jackrabbits are in the top-15 in the nation in scoring and are nearly unbeatable when they get hot. Barring a stunning upset, it looks like both ORU and South Dakota State will finish the last two weeks undefeated and appear fated to meet in the postseason, which would be one of the most intriguing matchups during this championship week. Both teams have the DNA to topple a prolific Power Six team. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Bracketbuster Preview and Analysis

Posted by IRenko on January 31st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. You can normally find him kicking off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

In this special mid-week edition of The Other 26, we take a look at all of the premier (read: televised) Bracketbuster matchups that were announced on Monday and offer a guide to the uninitiated on what to watch for. The annual mid-major hoops feast typically offers a host of compelling contests, and this year is no different. In roughly descending order of interest/excitement:

Main Event — St. Mary’s at Murray State (2/18, 6 PM, ESPN or ESPN2) — I was hoping we would get a double main event with St. Mary’s at Creighton and Wichita State at Murray State. Perhaps the Bracketbuster selection committee didn’t rate Wichita State that highly or was intent on giving the undefeated Racers a ranked opponent against whom they could prove their quality. So they sent top 20, 21-2 St. Mary’s to Murray, Kentucky, to set up the undisputed headliner of this year’s Bracketbuster event. Murray State will have a clear advantage from playing at home, but apart from that, this looks like a very close matchup. Offensively, both teams rely heavily on the two lines — the three-point line and the free throw line. Defensively, both teams are pretty good at not giving up many attempts from either of those lines, with the notable exception of Murray State’s tendency to foul too much. Both teams are also somewhat turnover prone, but only the Racers play the kind of defense that is likely to exploit such a weakness. Finally, the Gaels may look to get easy points off of the offensive glass, as defensive rebounding is a liability for Murray State. Which, if any, of these games within the game will determine the outcome? Only one way to find out:  tune in at 6 PM on February 18.

Can St. Mary's End Murray State's Undefeated Season?

Battle of the Supporting Casts — Long Beach State at Creighton (2/18, 10 PM, ESPN2) – Most eyeballs will be trained to watch Casper Ware and Doug McDermott, two of mid-major hoops’ most recognizable players. But I hope that fans will also tune in to get a glimpse of the extent to which these conference-leading teams depends on their supporting casts. LBSU has three other players who average in double figures — Larry Anderson (who also stuffs the stat sheet with 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 44% from three-point range), T.J. Robinson (who adds 10.2 rebounds a game), and James Ennis. Creighton, meanwhile, has discovered that they can be just as potent, maybe even moreso, when McDermott scores less than 20 a game. Antoine Young’s dribble penetration, Greg Echinique’s inside banging, and the marksmanship of Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat make the Bluejays a much more multi-dimensional team than they’re often portrayed to be. It’s worth noting, too, that each of these teams will be trying to bolster their at-large bona fides in the event that they don’t win their conference tournaments — an especially distinct possibility for Creighton, who will have to get through three games in the always tough MVC to cinch an auto bid.

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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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Cousy Award Finalists Announced: Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor Still On the List

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2012

The Bob Cousy Award list was whittled down from its original 60+ names in the preseason to a more manageable 20 on Wednesday afternoon. In case you’ve lost track of what the Cousy is specifically for, it is the award given to the nation’s top point guard/floor general in college basketball. Often that player will also be in the running for National Player of the Year honors, as in the recent cases of Jameer Nelson (2004), Ty Lawson (2009), and Kemba Walker (2011). Last year, you might recall that Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor was somewhat infamously left off the February list of 10 finalists, causing the Naismith Hall of Fame brass to reconsider and eventually reinstating the All-America Badger onto the list where he advanced to become one of the five finalists before Walker was selected for the award. To be clear, this version represents the preliminary finalists before the super-finalists before the super-duper-finalists list. The committee will make two more cuts over the next eight weeks before awarding the prize to the winner during Final Four weekend in New Orleans.

The Cousy Award Is Prestigious Because It Is Given By the Naismith HOF

Let’s take a look at the current list, and signify using (10) or (5) the players who we expect to advance further. A few notes follow after the jump:

  • Pierre Jackson, Baylor
  • Shabazz Napier, UConn (10)
  • Ray McCallum, Detroit
  • Seth Curry, Duke (10)
  • Erving Walker, Florida (10)
  • Scott Machado, Iona (5)
  • Casper Ware, Long Beach State
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Trey Burke, Michigan (10)
  • Dee Bost, Mississippi State (10)
  • Phil Pressey, Missouri
  • Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (5)
  • Aaron Craft, Ohio State
  • D.J. Cooper, Ohio
  • Zack Rosen, Pennsylvania 
  • Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
  • Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
  • Damian Lillard, Weber State (5)
  • Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin (5)
  • Tu Holloway, Xavier (5)

A few notes:

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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2011

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

Ed. Note – This post was written in advance of Wednesday’s action.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton was named as the Lou Henson Award national player of the week (the Award presented to the top Mid-Major Player in Division I college basketball) by CollegeInsider.com.  This is very good publicity for the Summit League and Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies are trying to show once again that they are the best team in the conference, and Reggie Hamilton just might will them to another championship with the way he is performing.
  • Alex Young is on the verge of 2,000 career points, and as the current active points leader in the NCAA, it is worth noting. This is a huge accomplishment for Young, who will join just 10 other players in conference history to reach 2,000 points. Young will likely finish in the top five all-time in Summit League history.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider debates who is the better point guard, Nate Wolters or Reggie Hamilton. We have a chance to find out very soon (see “Looking Ahead”).

Reggie Hamilton Of Oakland Is Off To An Outstanding Start (AP)

Power Rankings

Records reflect only games against Division I opponents.

  1. Oakland (8-6, 2-0) — The only reason I still have Oakland at the top is because nothing has changed as far as conference standings go in the past two weeks. Because of the Holidays there have been very few games played by anyone, but the next two weeks could decide the conference altogether. Back-to-back blowout losses to Arizona and then Western Michigan had me worried. There are other teams like ORU and South Dakota State playing much better. But I could not move them down when Reggie Hamilton continues to dominate the NCAA (23.0 PPG, .423 FG%, .893 FT%), placing him third in the nation in scoring, right behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who may just be the next Jimmer, and is making his own case for Player of the Year. If Hamilton was in the Missouri Valley, he may be getting the same attention as well. Hamilton has Oakland ranked no. 24 in the country in overall offense and the Golden Grizzlies continue to prove they have lost little from the past two dominant seasons.
  2. Oral Roberts (9-4, 1-0) — The Golden Eagles enjoyed one of their best two weeks of success in team history—a half court heave that won the game against UALR, followed by a slim loss to a very good Gonzaga team, and capped off with blowout wins against No.15 Xavier and Texas Tech. The Golden Eagles looked shaky at times during their tough non-conference schedule, but the bottom line is they’re now at 10 wins, all against quality opponents, and very high confidence going into the conference. I expect the Golden Eagles to chew up the Summit. Although they have a brutal upcoming two weeks against the Dakotas and Oakland. They need these next few games badly. The conference will in fact be locked up by somebody in late January, and the Golden Eagles have hit their stride at the right time. Read the rest of this entry »
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