ATB: Referees Deny Colorado At The Buzzer, USC Upends Stanford and The CAA’s Wretched State…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 4th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Pac-12 Takes Center Stage. Last season, the Pac-12 made history by becoming the first Big Six conference not to send its regular season champion to the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid. The downward spiral that lead to this unfortunate circumstance began in non-conference play, where the league squandered nearly all of its big match-ups, which deflated the Pac-12’s RPI and set up a vicious cycle whereby teams had no shot of upward movement on the NCAA bubble shuffling line. This year, the league is marginally better. The high-end quality, starting with UCLA and Arizona, is light year’s ahead of where it was last season, but the league as a whole isn’t all that much improved. Three momentous Pac-12 matchups – Cal at UCLA, Colorado at Arizona and Stanford at USC – highlighted tonight’s slate, each of which allowed for valuable observation and analysis. Without giving away the rest of tonight’s ATB, I’ll reveal this much: the Pac-12 isn’t horrible!; which is to say, the regular season champ, whoever that may be, should be on solid footing come Selection Sunday.

Your Watercooler Moment. Apparent Buzzer-Beater Waved Off To Deny Colorado Huge Road Win At Arizona.

In truth, I’d love to discuss the way Colorado went out and fought Arizona for 40 minutes (and OT), the way Tad Boyle’s team got five players in double figures and played remarkably resilient hoop against the No. 3 team in the country in a tough road environment, the way the Buffaloes proved the Pac-12 race is far from the foregone conclusion many envisioned after the Wildcats’ veritably peerless non-conference work. But I just can’t. The biggest talking point is unavoidable – Sabatino Chen’s buzzer beater that wasn’t. Debate will rage on for days about whether or not Chen’s banked-in three was released before the buzzer, and whether the officials had enough evidence to overturn the initial ruling (a made bucket, a Colorado win). For a closer look, assuming you’re not satisfied with the real-time footage provided above, check out this GIF segmenting Chen’s release into discrete steps. The controversy will intensify if this ultimately leads to Colorado’s NCAA Tournament denial. But seeing as Colorado took the undefeated Wildcats to the absolute brink – and did so without a productive scoring night from star forward Andre Roberson (nine points on 3-of-7 from the floor) – this team looks very capable of making noise in the Pac 12 title chase and earning an at-large bid without sweating Selection Sunday. Besides, an event as controversial and contentious as this often has a galvanizing effect on a team. This could springboard Colorado into a substantial winning streak; the opposite effect – a demoralizing defeat that leads to a downward losing spiral – is a possibility, but I’m not betting on Colorado feeling sorry for itself. Tad Boyle will have his bunch playing inspired basketball when they take the floor at Arizona State in three days. Fairly or unfairly officiated, it’s a total drag to see such a tight game come down to an official’s whistle. When two of the Pac 12’s best teams meet up, I think we can all agree the teams, not the referees, should be the ones settling the final score.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Wolverines Dispel B1G Road Game Theory. The common perception about this year’s Big Ten is that every road game, save a few locales, will be a chore. That’s been the look of things so far, with Illinois losing to Purdue Wednesday night, and Indiana just barely hanging on at Iowa on New Year’s Eve. Michigan had no such trouble on its trip to Northwestern. The Wolverines trounced Bill Carmody’s team on the strength of 44 combined points from backcourt duo Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Burke got anything he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted it. The Wildcats, already without defensive specialist JerShonn Cobb (suspension) and perimeter weapon Drew Crawford (injury), were without leading scorer Reggie Hearn, which turned an already undermanned lineup into coterie of inexperienced freshmen and marginal role players. Whether or not Northwestern was at full strength, Michigan wasn’t losing this game. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a team in the country that can beat the Wolverines when they shoot 59 percent from beyond the arc and just under 60 percent overall. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Bluegrass Battle Produces Drama, UNC Steps Up Against UNLV, and One Excellent Day For Kevin Ollie….

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 31st, 2012

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend’s Lede. Commonwealth Rivalry Lives Up. It doesn’t get any bigger than Louisville-Kentucky. There are little rivalries that make for great shows of organic competitiveness and bitterness, but they have nothing on what took place Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. Each year, no matter the disparities in talent or experience, these teams come to play in this rivalry game. The emotional baggage makes the Commonwealth clash an event in itself. When you get two Top 25 sides trading jabs, two coaches with well-established personal gripes – one of whom has navigated the delicate balance of a blue-to-red partisan conversion – there’s added drama to throw on top of the natural hatred. One side (Louisville) entered with more talent, experience and depth, but as is the case in most rivalry games, the final outcome was decided based on who could execute better in crunch time (and who could convert from the free throw line). Whatever your allegiance, or if your viewing interest was of the impartial variety, it’s hard to begrudge the sheer quality and entertainment factor of Saturday’s contest. Louisville-Kentucky was the massive event overshadowing the rest of the weekend, but there were a few other interesting games on tap. Time to wrap up the final weekend of non-conference play.

Your Watercooler Moment. Harrow Doesn’t Break Under Pressure.

Considering he was facing the most relentless ball-pressuring backcourt in the country, Harrow managed the big stage with unexpected poise (photo credit: Getty Images).

Considering he was facing the most relentless ball-pressuring backcourt in the country, Harrow managed the big stage with unexpected poise (photo credit: Getty Images).

The biggest question mark looming over Kentucky’s slow start was the comfort and progression of point guard Ryan Harrow. No one ever said he was going to be Derrick Rose, or even Marquis Teague – the Calipari point guard dynasty is a tough standard to maintain – Harrow simply needs to operate at a level that allows the Wildcats to maximize the talents of Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin on the perimeter, and enable Nerlens Noel to capitalize on easy lobs and putbacks. Even that seemed like a pipe dream for Harrow following a mysterious four-game absence in November. He’s made huge strides over the past three weeks, and had his best game (23 points on 10-of-17 shooting) just over a week ago in an 82-54 win over Marshall. That was a small step. In Louisville, Harrow was walking into one of the best defensive backcourts statistically-speaking in NCAA history (its 80.0 adjusted defensive efficiency entering Saturday’s game ranks among the best marks in Ken Pomeroy’s database, dating back to 2003), and few believed he was ready to handle the type of pressure Russ Smith and Peyton Siva were going to throw at him. Harrow jumped into the biggest spotlight of his career and performed like a point guard of Calipari’s recent vintage. Not only did Harrow score 17 points and help spearhead a furious second-half rally, but he committed zero turnovers, found ways to ward off the active hands and smothering pressure of Siva and Smith, and commanded Kentucky’s offense with aplomb. The scoreboard reflects a Kentucky loss, a short-term disappointment. In the long term, if Harrow’s performance is a barometer for his development and maturation in Calipari’s system, Saturday was a huge win. With a capable point guard puppeteering the offense, the future is bright for Kentucky.

Also Worth Chatting About. Don’t Count Out UNC Yet.

The Tar Heels Looked locked-in defensively against the talented Rebels (photo credit: Getty Images).

The Tar Heels Looked locked-in defensively against the talented Rebels (photo credit: Getty Images).

If any team needed a statement win heading into conference play, it was North Carolina. Besides a puzzling loss at Texas (and even that, given the Longhorns’ defensive chops, is not a fatal misstep) The Tar Heels hadn’t exactly dropped the ball in non-conference play – they lost to two very good teams from the state of Indiana, one an offensive juggernaut (IU) and one a vaunted perfectionist (Butler) in the art of sizing up and beating down more talented opponents – but they hadn’t exactly looked like the ACC front-runner many expected them to be. The visiting UNLV Rebels offered a prime opportunity to hold court against a top-20-level outfit, and build some serious momentum for ACC play in the process. UNC’s stifling defense and balanced scoring overwhelmed the Rebels, who suffered a brutal five-minute field goal-less streak in the second half and received an uncharacteristically inefficient showing from freshman wunderkind Anthony Bennett (15 points on 6-of-16 shooting). Neither team was at full strength – Mike Moser played just 12 minutes in his return from an elbow injury, and Reggie Bullock was scratched with a concussion – but UNC seized its last big chance to make a splash before ACC play. And with a brutal six-game stretch featuring games against Virginia, Miami, Florida State, Maryland and NC State up next, the Tar Heels needed a momentum boost in the biggest way. The proud fans in Chapel Hill can breathe, for now, and feel better about this season not mimicking a 2009-10 campaign that saw the Tar Heels follow up the Hansborough-Lawson-Green-Ellington supergroup with an NIT appearance.

Your Quick Hits….

  • Santa Clara Tests Duke. It is a fundamental truism of the 2012-13 college hoops season that Gonzaga will win the West Coast Conference. In fact, I’m willing to go ahead and bet the Zags will have created enough distance from other challengers by February 1 to have rendered the word “race” completely and utterly moot. The rest of the league is far less certain. St. Mary’s is the logical favorite to claim the No. 2 spot. Loyola Marymount is always a tough out. And you can never discount BYU and the daunting road trip that is Provo, Utah. Time to insert a new name in the conversation: Santa Clara. The Broncos went into Cameron Indoor Saturday night and put a scare into the No. 1 Blue Devils, their upset bid powered by 29 points from senior guard Kevin Foster. That’s the kind of confidence-building performance that pays dividends in conference play, when you can rest assured Santa Clara will ride into any road environment exuding confidence and poise.
  • Ollie Gets First Win With New Job Title. Hours before Cincinnati’s Saturday night tipoff with visiting Washington, ESPN’s Andy Katz reported UConn had signed Kevin Ollie to a five-year contract extension, thus eliminating the interim tag and granting the long-term security most believed Ollie had earned after leading the Huskies to a 9-2 start and creating a smooth transitory bridge from Jim Calhoun’s fiery coaching style to a new era of UConn basketball. Losing your first game after receiving a big financial commitment from AD Warde Manuel would have been a bad look. The Huskies’ talented backcourt trio of Shabazz Napier, Omar Calhoun and Ryan Boatwright ensured their new coach had a win to back up his new job title, with each posting double-figure scoring totals in an eight-point victory over Washington. UConn may not have postseason motivations on its side, but what it does have, thanks to Saturday’s extension, is a huge incentive to help lay the foundation for Ollie’s tenure and a return to national relevance. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: The Mountain West Enters the Spotlight

Posted by IRenko on December 29th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

The action was light during this past holiday week, but the Mountain West’s finest took advantage of the lull to thrust themselves into the spotlight with two exciting contests, a pair of one-point games against top 10 teams decided by last-second blocks. In the final of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, San Diego State fell just short against third-ranked Arizona, losing 68-67 when Xavier Thames’ potential winning shot was blocked by Arizona’s Nick Johnson as time expired. Two days later, New Mexico visited eighth-ranked Cincinnati and emerged with a hard-fought 55-54 victory that was sealed by a last-second block from sophomore Alex Kirk. What was most impressive about these hard-fought contests is how both teams showed that even if you take away some of their key weapons, they are deep and versatile enough to compete.

(Getty Images)

Alex Kirk Led a Tough New Mexico Performance Against Cincinnati (Getty Images)

The Lobos distinguished themselves not just with a victory, but the way they earned it. They are accustomed to racking up points at the free throw line, but reached the charity stripe at only a 20 percent rate, far below their season average and good enough for just six points. But they gritted out the win by patiently moving the ball against Cincy’s high-pressure halfcourt defense to find open shooters and cutters. Junior point guard Kendall Williams turned in a performance befitting of a team leader, stepping up to hit several big three-pointers and finishing the game with a team-high 16 points. But it was Kirk who set the tone with his lunch bucket performance, fearlessly hurling himself into battle against Cincinnati’s imposing frontline and surviving with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, and three blocks, including a game-clinching rejection of a Sean Kilpatrick three-point shot.

The Aztecs, too, can be proud of the fight they showed in Honolulu despite coming up short. Leading scorer Jamaal Franklin was held to just nine points, his lowest output of the season.  But Franklin found other ways to contribute, pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out six assists. And San Diego State found other players to carry the scoring load. Chase Tapley, who had already poured in 46 points in the first two games of the tournament, dropped 19 against Arizona to push his season scoring average to 15.8 PPG. And the Aztecs showed how strong their defense is, holding the Wildcats to 37.3 percent shooting.

This Saturday, UNLV will have a chance to intensify this week’s spotlight on the Mountain West when they travel to North Carolina. In a year when the conference seems as deep as any in the country, the only lingering doubt heading into this past week was whether they had the heavyweights to compete with the nation’s best teams. But as the final week of non-conference play comes to a close, the conference’s top teams are leaving little doubt that they can.

Top Ten Rankings

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CIO…the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2012

CIO header

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Top Storylines

  • Oh, Pioneers—The University of Denver accepted an invitation to join The Summit League next season, rounding out the conference to 10 members. It’s a good move geographically for Denver, but besides a money saver on road trips, it doesn’t make much sense from a college basketball standpoint. Denver’s bad move could end up dissolving the WAC, as CBS’ Jeff Goodman pointed out in his short write-up about the move. Realignment will surely never end.
  • Nate Wolters’ march towards history—No player in college basketball history has ever averaged 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in two separate seasons. Only five players have ever done it once—Norris Cole (Cleveland State 2010-11), Evan Turner (Ohio State 2009-10), Ricky Minard (Morehead State 2003-04), Speedy Claxton (Hofstra 1999-2000), and Nate Wolters (2011-12). Right now, Wolters is on the edge—averaging 19.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. It is an impressive stat that speaks volumes to this guy’s talent level and consistency. Something we will be keeping tabs on the rest of the season.
  • Mid-Major Rankings—For the second consecutive week, two Summit League teams are ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. South Dakota State is threatening to break into the top-10 if they keep the pace, rising to #13 this week. North Dakota State remains at #25. It’s a welcome sight for Summit League fans, who have suffered through an abysmal season so far, with six teams posting a record well below .500.
Four-year runs like the one Nate Wolters is putting together happen very rarely. (South Dakota State Photo)

Four-year runs like the one Nate Wolters is putting together don’t come our way very often. (South Dakota State athletics)

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. South Dakota State (5-3, 1-0) — To be fair, South Dakota State hasn’t done much this season to be put on Cinderella watch. They showed some major weaknesses in their 27-point flop against Belmont, ending a three-game win streak against Montana, Cal State Bakersfield and NAIA opponent Dakota State. Their best win was a 78-77 nail biter against Marshall, a middle of the pack Conference USA team. On the bright side, the Jacks have one of the best point guards in the country, and as long as he is on the floor, they are going to dominate this conference. They aren’t as talented as they were last season, but neither is the rest of the league. Their next test comes against #16 New Mexico, but a more impactful matchup will take place on December 29th against their closest rivals in the Summit League—the North Dakota State Bison. We will know by then how ready the Jacks are to defend their title. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2012

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. You can follow him on Twitter at @elilinton.

Top Storylines

  • Out With The Old, In With The New: As most fans of the conference already know, Southern Utah and Oral Roberts are long gone, which makes this season an interesting one to watch in the Summit League. South Dakota State is the heavy favorite to win this conference, but there is now room for new contenders to fill the void. Replacing teams like Southern Utah and Centenary with South Dakota and Omaha has the potential to create more natural rivalries. But there is still room for more new members and with teams like Oakland and IPFW sniffing around for a new conference, there may be more change ahead for the Summit League.
  • Has The Summit Seen Its Best Days? In the past four or five years the Summit League has steadily improved, rising all the way to the 16th-ranked conference in the country. But with the departure of ORU, the talent level has now gone down in the Summit. Outside of Oakland and South Dakota State, there isn’t a nationally competitive team. That the Summit League was unable to keep Oral Roberts around, whether that was by design or not, is going to hurt the conference in the long run. Unless another team can surprisingly rise up and become competitive, the Summit League has likely already seen its best days.

Is This The Year Nate Wolters Gets The National Publicity He Deserves? Leading A Mid-major Favorite In South Dakota State Could Be Enough.

  • Naters gonna Nate: Ever since his 34-point beatdown against Washington and the unprecedented run to the NCAA tournament by South Dakota State last season, Nate Wolters has been getting a lot of time in the national spotlight. From CBS Sports to ESPN and everyone in between,basketball writers are jumping on the Wolters bandwagon, and why not? He is the best player the conference, and being the only player in division I to average 20/5/5 last season, he is arguably one of the best players in the country. He overpowers other guards with his 6’4” frame, getting whatever he needs around the rim, although Doug Gottlieb could still use some convincing. DraftExpress writer Joey Whelan already had Wolters as a mid-second round draft pick back in 2011, so you have to think his stock will continue to rise if he has another monster season. The Summit League has gotten a lot of exposure because of the Wolters cult-heroism, and they get a chance to display some more of their talented players as the troop of NBA scouts follow Wolters from city to city. Guys like Nate are helping make the Summit League relevant to the rest of the country.

Reader’s Take I

 

Predicted Order of Finish 

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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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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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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • League Continues To Impress: If you still underestimate the Summit League, I have some news for you. On January 24, The Summit League was ranked No. 15 in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI (rpiratings.com) and No. 17 in the Sagarin Ratings. The Summit League has a winning percentage of .500 or better against 15 of the 17 mid-major conferences its teams have played this season, a .506 winning percentage against non-league Division I opposition and a .585 winning percentage against all non-league competition. Still not convinced? How about five players currently among the NCAA’s Top 15 in scoring average, more than any other Division I conference. IUPUI’s Alex Young owned the nation’s highest single-game scoring total this season (43), and he is the active points leader in the nation. Oral Roberts is making the most noise nationally, but whomever emerges from the conference will be a challenge for anyone in the Big Dance.

    Can Dominique Morrison Lead The Golden Eagles To An Undefeated Conference Mark?

  • Golden Eagles Flying High: Oral Roberts enters the week having won 17 consecutive Summit League games dating back to last season, The Golden Eagles are closing in on Oakland’s record of 20 games set during the 2009-11 seasons.

Power Rankings

  1. Oral Roberts (18-4, 10-0) — Dominique Morrison has led the Golden Eagles to one of the best starts in school history, but they have a daunting road trip ahead when they travel to the Dakotas for back-to-back games. If they can survive early February without a blemish, they’ll have a strong chance to finish with the first undefeated record in conference history.
  2. South Dakota State (13-5, 8-1) — They have not lost since the meltdown at ORU, and although that game made them fade into the background, they are still a talented and dangerous team. ORU is in the top-45 in RPI, but the Rabbits are right on their heels in the top-60. Golden Eagles beware; there are no free-passes.
  3. North Dakota State (11-6, 6-3) — They have now lost to the top two teams in the conference, but they are still very much in the mix as well. When Taylor Braun plays well, the Bison have a chance to beat anyone. He’s averaging 16.2 points per game and 7.1 rebounds. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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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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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2011

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:

  • Summit Continues To Rise: Last week, I thought the conference had reached its peak when it hit #14 in the RPI and Sagarin Conference rankings, but today the Summit sits at #12. Incredible, considering the Summit closed out last season ranked #21. This could mean something in March when the selection committee is deciding what seed the Summit champion will receive. So keep an eye on the rankings.
  • Featured Scorers: The Summit League entered the week with more players in the nation’s top 25 in scoring than any other conference. IPFW’s  Frank Gaines is ranked 9th, Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton 20th, South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters is 21st, and IUPUI’s Alex Young comes in at 23rd. Hamilton, Wolters and Young also rank in the top 10 for overall points.

Damen Bell-Holter Paces Oral Roberts And Hit A Buzzer-Beater To Sink Arkansas-Little Rock. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (6-4, 2-0) — They gave up a winnable game against Ohio at home, and they never had a chance against Michigan in a shootout. Those games are a little disheartening if you are Golden Grizzly fans, but there is no reason to panic. Oakland owns the best scoring offense in the conference, and is among the top 25 in the nation.  They have the tops scorer in the conference in Reggie Hamilton, and they play much better defense than the other top scoring teams like South Dakota State and North Dakota State. The next few weeks will be key for Oakland. If they can take care of business against NDSU and SDSU, this conference could be decided by the end of January. They play Oral Roberts twice next month, and they are the only serious contender right now. Get ready for some early fireworks in the Summit League. Read the rest of this entry »
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