Big East M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. There were definite ups and downs to be found during the marathon that was the first day of Big East play on Tuesday. While those within the conference will admit that the play on the court didn’t often set the basketball world on fire, there is still belief in the future of the league as a basketball power. Commissioner Val Ackerman cites past experience when discussing this topic: “When I was with WNBA, I remember saying it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The same should be said about the Big East. There’s a long history here, but with a new conference, what we do in the first year or two isn’t necessarily going to be indicative.” While Big East fans hope that the league makes a splash here in year one, the 10 programs aren’t going anywhere, and there is plenty of time for this new-look conference to get its legs under it.
  2. Creighton wasn’t great offensively in its first ever Big East game, but the Bluejays’ defense was able to stifle a struggling Marquette offense, leading to a 67-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Creighton only shot 40 percent from the floor, but they were able to known down 13 threes and kept up with a bigger Golden Eagles’ squad in the paint, where they were only outscored by four. While this win was huge for Creighton — its first-ever in a power basketball conference — the performance is perhaps more telling about Marquette, whose well-publicized offensive struggles seem to be getting worse, not better. The Eagles were the preseason favorite to win the league, but without improvement soon, Marquette will struggle to punch a ticket to the Dance come March.
  3. Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are going to become very familiar voices for Big East fans (if they weren’t already), especially those who watched the entirety of Tuesday’s basketball marathon.  The team called noon’s Xavier-St. John’s game in Cincinnati and then hightailed it to Indianapolis for Butler-Villanova at 7:30. The IndyStar spent time with Fox Sports 1’s top team on the bus between games, allowing the two to reminisce about some of their favorite Big East and NCAA Tournament memories. Spoiler alert: Butler fans are going to appreciate this far more than… say… Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Florida, or Wisconsin fans.
  4. In anticipation of Tuesday’s Creighton/Marquette clash, Andy from Anonymous Eagle and Jacob Padilla from The Creightonian got together for an enlightening Q&A discussion. Among the topics covered: Bluejay fans’ excitement for this season and the Big East conference; the importance of the McDermotts to the Creighton program; Marquette’s early season struggles; and the best places to get a beer and a bite to eat in Omaha. Even though it predates the game won by Creighton, both pieces are still fun reads. Check out Jacob’s answers here and Andy’s here.
  5. To round out a very ‘Creighton vs. Marquette’ heavy M5 this morning, we have footage from a raucous CenturyLink Arena crowd.  On one play, the sold out crowd belted out Neil Diamond’s stadium staple “Sweet Caroline” after the arena speakers had already cut off the song, and it seemed to throw off the Golden Eagles, who promptly turned over the ball. You can judge for yourself, but NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster seems to think the crowd played a part in the play.
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CIO… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2013

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Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Top Storylines

  • Realignment Strikes Again: The Summit League isn’t the first conference one typically thinks of when they hear about conference realignment, but the conference isn’t immune either. UMKC will join the WAC next year, ending a 20-year relationship with the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference) that could put the entire conference in jeopardy. According to The Kansas City Star, UMKC will not be the last team to pull the trigger on realignment. Oakland has been gunning for the Horizon League for years, and now not only do they have a spot available for them, but they could take IUPUI along as well. In fact, there is a good chance that pretty much everyone in the conference could be on the move sooner rather than later.
  • To The Nth Power: Nate Wolters is just about the only other piece of news getting national attention this year in the Summit League. He’s been incredible, averaging 22.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, leaving plenty of room to become the first player in NCAA history to average 20/5/5 in a season since the NCAA started tracking assists in 1983. Wolters is also third in the nation in scoring, and holds the NCAA season-high scoring mark with 53 points against IPFW. If you haven’t seen him yet, you absolutely have to catch him before his run ends.
In over 20 years as a Division-I team, UMKC has yet to hang a conference championship banner. The 'Roos hope that will change as they join the WAC.

In over 20 years as a Division-I team, UMKC has yet to hang a conference championship banner. The ‘Roos hope that will change as they join the WAC.

Power Rankings

  1. South Dakota State (21-9, 12-3): They are poised to repeat as champions of the Summit League, and Nate Wolters is trying to make history. Wolters is once again carrying the Jacks in chapter two of their cinderella story. His season reminds me a lot of Ben Woodside’s senior season at North Dakota State. That team had a real chance at immortality, but couldn’t climb over Kansas. The Jacks feel like that kind of team. They are not invincible, and have showed some weaknesses in the last two weeks, but we know that it would take a major upset to prevent this team from reaching their second straight NCAA Tournament and their first regular season title. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 24th, 2013

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Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Top Storylines

  • All Eyes On Wolters: Nate Wolters is still on pace for the improbable back-to-back 20-5-5 season. Wolters (as of 1/23) is averaging 20.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this seaon. It’s only happened five times in NCAA history, and he already owns one of those five seasons. If he keeps the pace, Wolters will be the only player in Division I history to average those numbers twice. Although there are questions about his ability to play at the next level, Wolters is having a historic college career, and it’s mostly gone unnoticed in the mainstream. Wolters is also one of 20 finalists for the Naismith Trophy, and he became the first player in SDSU history to reach the 2,000 point mark in a win over Western Illinois on January 17.
There Aren't Many Chances Left To Catch Nate Wolters In Action.. (AP Photo)

There Aren’t Many Chances Left To Catch Nate Wolters In Action. (AP)

  • The Summit League Rising: The Summit League has reached #16 in conference RPI as of January 22. With North Dakota State, Western Illinois and South Dakota State all reaching the mid-major Top 25 rankings, the Summit League seems to have been able to preserve the mid-major clout they had worked so hard to build in recent years despite realignment. We’re still looking for that Cinderella team to break through and get a win in March. This conference has had a strong candidate every season, and now it looks like the Summit has three strong contenders emerging from the ranks.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. North Dakota State (16-4, 7-1): Taylor Braun is having a fantastic season, averaging 15.2 points and five rebounds per contest while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, but it is the Bison defense that has improved drastically to propel them to the top of the Summit League. NDSU is  holding opponents to 56.2 points per game and under 38 percent shooting on the season. Their last loss was against Minnesota on December 11 before falling on Saturday to a very good Western Illinois team on the road. This team is doing its best to ruin the repeat party for South Dakota State. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO…the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2012

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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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Four Thoughts from Omaha…

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

In 2008, Omaha hosted NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games.  To be honest, none of those games that year were very significant.  All the teams that were supposed to win did, and they did so in large margins.  The great thing about the games this week four years later, it was the total opposite.  Each game played a significant part of the day — although some more than others.  Here are some thoughts from all four of Friday’s’ games.

  1. Norfolk State wins the folks of Omaha. Norfolk State got its first taste of the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Missouri.  What they didn’t know was that they were supposed to lay down for the Tigers to let Missouri get to the next round. You could tell right away just by the spirit squad and pep band came into the arena.  One thing about schools from the MEAC and the SWAC is that they have awesome bands. The advantage I had was that I was pretty much right next to them the whole game.  They were a vocal bunch as well.  That energy was also seen then from the players on the court. Kyle O’Quinn nailed a three-pointer midway through the first half from the top of the key. On his way back on defense he had this huge smile on his face. He knew that there was something special happening. The thing about Omaha is that the people there love big events.  The College World Series in baseball has been a mainstay for over 50 years and will be here for at least another 20. Big name concerts come to town and they fill the CenturyLink. The United States Swimming trials four years ago made such an impression that they will be back in Omaha again this summer, which is unprecedented. The Omaha community has also embraced the NCAA Tournament by selling out all sessions in the two most recent years it has come to town. Omaha fans took Norfolk State under their wing and helped create some history by facilitating something that had happened only four times in 109 tries before heading into the day. After Friday that win number went to six. Norfolk State had to wonder where they would stay since their hotel was booked for the rest of the weekend, but I guess that was a good problem to have.  What I am interested to see on Sunday is whether the Omaha crowd again embraces the Spartans in their game against Florida. If they do, it could be a very interesting environment.

    Kyle O'Quinn Became America's Favorite Player Overnight (AP/L. Hey)

  2. Kansas stomps its foe. After seeing Missouri lose earlier in the day and Duke losing to Lehigh soon after that, there was a buzz in the arena on whether the #2 seeds in the tournament were jinxed on Friday.  In the first 10 minutes of the Jayhawks’ game against Detroit, it looked like it could be another upset brewing.  But then after a timeout by head coach Bill Self with just under nine minutes left, Kansas got things going and went on a 34-7 scoring run over the next 16 minutes.  After that it was game over for the Titans, who really struggled to make any baskets much less getting any good looks in that stretch. While Duke and North Carolina get to play in their back yard most years, Kansas is beginning to like Omaha with its two trips here over the past four years. Other than Kansas City, Omaha is pretty close to being in their own backyard. Read the rest of this entry »
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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by EJacoby 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, Evan Jacoby (@evanjacoby) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Evan breaking down the Midwest Region here.

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 North Carolina (29-5, 14-2 ACC). The preseason #1 team in the country, UNC is among the elite on both sides of the ball with a roster full of NBA talent. The one 33-point loss at Florida State in January remains a massive aberration in this otherwise sterling season. Roy Williams knows a little bit about postseason success; he’s taken North Carolina to the Elite Eight or further five times in the past seven seasons.

An Injured John Henson Might Be The Only Blemish For A Loaded North Carolina Squad Favored To Win The Midwest (AP)

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (27-6, 16-2 Big 12). Kansas was on track for a #1 seed before a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Led by one of the two front-runners for National Player of the Year (Thomas Robinson), KU has been rock solid all season. The Bill Self era has included a National Championship as well as several early upsets. The makeup of this year’s Jayhawks leads us to believe they’re more likely to make a deep run than an early exit.

Overseeded: #11 NC State (22-12, 9-7 ACC). Not a whole lot of complaints with the seeding in this region, but NC State seems to have been rewarded a bit too much for its recent performance. The Wolfpack made a great run in the ACC Tournament and will be a difficult out in this Tournament, but they were squarely on the bubble just two days ago. A win over Virginia and close loss to North Carolina appears to have moved this team up from the potential First Four play-in game matchups to a solid #11, and it seems a bit unwarranted.

Underseeded: #8 Creighton (28-5, 14-4 MVC). Again, there’s nothing egregious in this bracket but Greg McDermott’s Creighton team got a really rough draw. Consider that the Bluejays won their conference tournament and finished with five losses while Gonzaga lost in the WCC finals and finished with six losses, both with a similar strength of schedule, and Gonzaga received the better seed. Creighton has a beef that it should be on the #7 line.

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