Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Oakland 22-9 (16-2)
Oral Roberts 21-10 (15-3)
South Dakota St. 18-11 (11-7)
IUPUI 17-14 (9-9)
North Dakota St. 14-14 (8-10)
Southern Utah 13-16 (8-10)
Western Illinois 13-16 (6-12)
IPFW 11-18 (4-14)
UMKC 9-20 (4-14)
Centenary 6-23 (2-16)
Johnathan Jones (G), Sr, Oakland
Garret Callahan (G), Sr, South Dakota St.
Dominique Morrison (F), Soph, Oral Roberts
Jon Avery (F), Sr, IUPUI
Keith Benson (C), Jr, Oakland
6th Man.Hunter McClintock (G), Fr, Oral Roberts
Impact Newcomer. Larry Wright(G), Jr, Oakland. The junior transfer from St. John’s University, should have an immediate impact on the Summit League. Two years ago he led the Red Storm in three-point field goal percentage, and he should be the perfect replacement for Erik Kangas, The Oakland great who set the all-time single season mark last year with 145 threes. Wright’s long-range shooting could be the key to Oakland’s success.
What You Need to Know. The Summit League is like the little engine that could. Every year, it produces a scrappy team that creates some hype in the NCAA Tournament. Last year Ben Woodside and his rag-tag boys from North Dakota State challenged the defending national champs (Kansas), and just came up short 84-74. This year’s Summit League has the potential to produce a similar Cinderella story, with teams like Oakland and Oral Roberts reloading with some really talented players. Watch out for Oral Roberts and their newcomer Damen Bell-Holter (Mr. Alaska 2007, top 50 center prospect on Scout.com) who has the potential to dominate the lesser big men in the conference. Defense is the key to winning the Summit League. Last years champ NDSU held their opponents to 69.1 points per game, and Oral Roberts, in their three straight championships from 2006-08, held their opponents to 62.0, 64.9, and 68.1 points per game.
Predicted Champion. Oral Roberts (NCAA Seed: #14). With all the questions about age and inexperience with the Golden Eagles, it seems that Scott Sutton has the answers with his experience and skill level as a coach. Give him talented players, and his team will always compete. If Oral Roberts clinches another Summit league title, it will be their fourth championship in five years. I think a tough non-conference schedule (at Wake Forest, Missouri, New Mexico, Louisville,and Stanford) will be a trial-by-fire, and help their young freshmen mature quickly. The tough schedule also will help the NCAA Selection Committee give them a more favorable seed, especially if they win a couple of those big games (best bets are at home against New Mexico and Missouri). A #14 seed in the Big Dance will give Oral Roberts the Cinderella tag. A first round win is not out of the question for a Scott Sutton-led ORU squad.
Centenary was outrebounded in their last meeting with NDSU by 22. Although Redus had a strong game, Adams and Stallings combined for just 16 points. Expect the same defensive play from the bigger, better guards of NDSU.
(2) Oral Roberts vs. (7) South Dakota St.
Home state advantage could make this a much tighter game than it is on paper. Jackrabbit forwards Anthony Cardova and Kai Williams, the only players taller than 6’5 to see regular minutes, must come up with huge games on the glass. If Ford and Lewis are not accounted for, it’s over.
Everybody’s favorite to be the league rep in the Big Dance. Now the only question is what seed they will be pegged. Many bracketologists (I use that term oh so liberally) have the Bison as a 14th seed, some a 15th, no one else to my knowledge has them as anything different. With such a dynamite record, is a 13th seed really that much to ask? Back on the 21st the Bison tangoed with the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers in a scintillating BracketBuster match up for the ages. Check that, the only BracketBuster game anybody gave a flying squirrel about was Butler versus Davidson, and that game stunk. Do these one bid league teams really need to play an out of conference game during, uh, the conference season? I don’t think so. Plus, some of the BracketBuster match ups were a total waste of time, definitely not all created with equality in mind. But back to the task on hand, NDSU senior guard Mike Nelson tied a season high with 22 points. Senior point guard Ben Woodside was two rebounds short of a triple-double. NDSU concludes the regular season at 2nd place Oral Roberts on Feb.28th .
Update- NDSU clinched at least a share of the regular season title with a road victory over Centenary on Thursday (Feb. 26). Woodside and Winkleman combined for 66 points.
The Bison have not lost since falling to Oakland at the beginning of the month. Senior guard Ben Woodside is averaging 26ppg and 5 assists in the last 3 games. Even though senior guard Mike Nelson’s shooting %’s are down from previous year’s, he’s still the team’s 3rd leading scorer at almost 12/gm. This team may run away with the regular season crown.
Oral Roberts 8-11 (6-1)
Oral just lolls teams to sleep with good team defense and a deep but largely unspectacular scoring attack (5 players averaging at least 8ppg). A 5 game winning streak in which only one of their opponents scored more than 60 has allowed them to keep on the heels of NDSU. Something this team lacks is consistent outside shooting. No regular rotation player is shooting better than 33% from downtown.
SDSU - 2 days before Christmas the Jackrabbits beat Iowa State on the road by 7. While the Cyclones are anything but a powerhouse team, props to SDSU for getting this win and holding Iowa State’s second leading scorer to 5 points on 2-12 shooting.
IPFW - The Mastodons finally broke through for a W in league play with a 100-66 smackdown of South Dakota State (Jan.2). Former Kansas St. forward Deilvez Yearby scored 19, grabbed 9 boards and swatted 5 shots. Former Oakland forward David Carson scored 24.
Bad Santas.Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings. AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America. The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings. PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts. Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game. Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga. GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight. Would that have happened to UNC? Pitt? Duke? UCLA? Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally. Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year? Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior. So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games? Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise. Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March. Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line. The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch. If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.
The big story for the Bison so far is their 5’11 point guard Ben Woodside.
The performance of note (I’m sure you all have heard about it by now) came against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. North Dakota State lost by 1 in a triple OT, but Woodside scored the most points by a DI player since Arizona State’s Eddie House put up 61 in 2000. Having seen Woodside play live before, the outburst did not surprise me. If you haven’t been lucky enough to watch Woodside play before, think of him as a mix between a Chris Quinn streaky shooter type and as a sneaky drive to the basket and flip it up Tony Parker type player.
Ben is one of the few Summit League players that has a fighting chance at a NBA future.
Anyways, Ben scored 60 points, 30 of them were from the charity stripe. And even more impressive was the fact Woodside only made 2 three pointers.
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are in first place. Enjoy all of the perks that go with it, Thunderbird fans. But remember, Duke football got out to a cute little start this season and that didn’t end so well, did it?
This unfamiliar madness all started on Tuesday (Dec. 2) as the Southern Utah Thunderbirds kicked off Summit League conference play at home with an upset of epic proportion over Oakland. Alright, relax self, so maybe Oakland isn’t the UNC of the Summit League, but the 82-66 victory was somewhat of a surprise considering the Thunderbirds came into the game on a 4 game losing streak and, frankly, Southern Utah head coach Roger Reid wasn’t exactly feeling ecstatic about the match up with Oakland prior to the game,
Ryan Pravato of CollegeFastBreak is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Summit League Digest (NOV.21)
The first 10 days or so of the college basketball season has been refreshingly cosmic. My penchant has always been my college hoops fandom. It’s an impulse that will not die.
It’s like Rasheed Wallace snapping “Ball Don’t Lie” after an errant free throw.
It’s, you know, automatic.
Summit League Headlines
Two days before Oakland’s opener at Cleveland St., star guard/forward Derick Nelson injured his foot. He’ll be out until late Decemberish. A huge blow to not only Oakland, but also to the dozens of participants who selected Derick in their fantasy mid major only college basketball draft.
IUPUI senior guard Gary Patterson (12.9 ppg last season) has missed the team’s first 3 games because of a broken left hand he suffered in late October.
0-9. The Summit League’s record versus other DI teams before Oakland’s overtime win @ Oregon on November 17th. And it wasn’t as if Summit League teams were playing perennial powerhouses like UCLA or UNC every game. Some of these losses were against Kennesaw State (yes, they’re DI), San Jose State, Northern Illinois, Cleveland State and Northeastern. UMKC even lost to first year DI team North Dakota. So technically that’s a 0-10 DI record prior to the Oakland win.
Oral Roberts (1-1) So far in 2 games of action only Robert Jarvis is averaging double figures in points. Jarvis is also averaging 5.5 rebounds as well. Don’t expect that to continue.
Key upcoming games: Nov. 30 @ Mizzou, Conference opener Dec. 4 @ North Dakota State
UMKC (1-2) 5 days after losing to DI newbie North Dakota, the Kangaroos beat Wichita State on the road by 3. Sophomore guard Reggie Hamilton is averaging 15.3 ppg.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 30 @ Florida
IUPUI (1-2) 3 point loss at Indiana on the 18th. 6’5 freshman Alex Young is leading the squad in scoring with 15.7 so far. Good young nucleus needs veteran Gary Patterson back to seriously contend.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Western Michigan
IPFW (0-2) The Mastodons have played Xavier and Michigan State thus far and actually had a second half lead against the Spartans before succumbing to their freakish athleticism. Sophomore guard Ben Botts is the only player averaging double figures.
Key upcoming game: Conference opener Dec. 4 @ Southern Utah ( first of 7 straight road games)
North Dakota State (1-0) The Bison doubled up NAIA school Mayville State 128-64 on the 18th–7 players scored in double figures. Star guard Ben Woodside scored 28 in just 16 minutes.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Minnesota
Oakland (1-1) Upset Oregon on the road (17th) in overtime with the help of a phenomenal 32 point performance by junior point guard Johnathon Jones. Even more impressive was the fact that Jones only made one three pointer.
South Dakota State (1-2) Sophomore guard Clint Sargent is averaging 17.3 ppg and 8.3 rebs/gm. He’s 10 for 20 from downtown thus far.
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Central Florida.
Centenary (1-2) 6’1 senior guard Nick Stallings scored 31 in a Nov. 20th win against Troy. Guards Chase Adams and Gary Redus II are playing well early on too.
Key upcoming game: Conference opener Nov. 4 @ South Dakota State
Southern Utah (1-1) The Thunderbirds gave the Florida Gators a decent game on the 20th in a 14 point loss. Junior guard Davis Baker had 23 points and 8 rebounds. 6’10 senior John Clifford struggled mightily (fouled out, scored just 5). John wishes Southern Utah could play the likes of DII Mesa State more often (scored 24).
Key upcoming game: Nov. 29 @ Boise State.
The Summit League is what it is. The guard dominated league will pull off a few solid upsets in the coming weeks against those big school beasts, but along the way there will be plenty of blowouts, some camel spider cringe worthy.
WYN2K. Someone in PR at the Mid-Continent Conference decided that the league needed to be rebranded to effectively portray the goals and ideals of its member institutions. Hence, the Summit, which immediately reminds us of the orange and white monstrosity court at the University of Tennessee, but which league commish Tom Douple stated, represents “the top in athletics and academics.” Good luck with that, Tom. In the spirit of change, the league’s most well-known school (at least for hoops), Valparaiso, left for the Horizon League, while it added three new members – Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne (IPFW – shouldn’t it be IUPUFW?), North Dakota St., and South Dakota St. Of the three, only IPFW will be eligible for the league championship this season, as the Dakota schools will have to wait until 2008-09.
Predicted Champion. Oakland (#14 seed NCAA). We see four teams with championship credentials in this league, but Oakland stands out to us as the team most ready to take over the top spot from Oral Roberts. The small school from suburban Detroit (not California) returns three starters from a squad that finished second in both the regular season and tournament, and played ORU very tough in its last two meetings (Oakland won by 1 pt at home, but lost in the MCC championship game by 4 pts). Despite losing all-MCC player Vova Severovas, the Golden Grizzlies will have a superb backcourt led by Eric Kangas, an exceptional shooter who made 109 threes while shooting 43% from deep last year. Oakland is also expecting a big contribution from Rutgers transfer Dan Waterstradt, a 6’10 forward who possesses size and ability that most big men at this level do not have. We also like Oakland in close games – last year it’s ft% (76.9%) was third in the nation.
Others Considered. We’re not sure who will be the second-best team in the Summit, so we copped out and predicted a three-way tie among the next tier of teams – Oral Roberts, North Dakota St., and IUPUI. IUPUI is the media/coaches pick to win the league, with three of its top four scorers returning as well as guard George Hill, the presumptive best player in the league who had a broken foot that kept him out of action last season. Our main concern with IUPUI is whether Hill will be able to seamlessly transition into the backcourt after a productive first season from guards Austin Montgomery and Gary Patterson, the top two vote-getters for newcomer of the year. If things are rosy, IUPUI could make a run at the title. Another team we considered was North Dakota St., an independent last season who ran off twenty wins (20-8) including a win at Marquette (64-60) and near-misses vs. Texas Tech (81-85) and Kansas St. (81-83). NDSU isn’t eligible for the league title, but it returns four starters and seven of its top eight scorers. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they ended up with the league’s regular season crown? We’d be remiss if we didn’t also consider two-time defending league champion Oral Roberts as well. Scott Sutton returns a lot of players, but we can’t overlook the two he lost – Caleb Green and Ken Tutt, who combined for six all-conference selections, three POY awards (all Green), and scored over 4500 pts (!!!) for the program. If ORU’s depth, and there is plenty of that, can overcome the loss of those two stalwarts, we might just see the Golden Eagles in March again this year.
Games to Watch. The Summit will play a true round-robin of 18 games each, so there will be ample opportunity for each team to distinguish itself against the other good teams.
IUPUI @ Oral Roberts (01.17.08) & Oral Roberts @ IUPUI (02.16.08)
Oral Roberts @ Oakland (01.12.08) & Oakland @ Oral Roberts (02.07.08)
The Summit Championship Game (03.11.08) ESPN
RPI Booster Games. The Summit loves its Big 12 and Big 10 teams. Last year the league went 2-22 (.083) against BCS teams, with Oral Roberts pulling one of the biggest early-season shockers of last year (ORU 78, #3 Kansas 71) as well as defeating Seton Hall 76-74. There are some good opportunities this year, and several of them will be televised:
North Dakota St. @ Florida (11.09.07)
IUPUI @ Marquette (11.10.07) ESPN FC
UMKC @ Kansas (11.11.07) ESPN FC
Oral Roberts @ Texas A&M (11.13.07) ESPNU
Oakland @ Michigan St. (11.24.07)
Texas Tech @ Centenary (12.01.07) ESPN FC
North Dakota St. @ Minnesota (12.03.07)
Wichita St. @ UMKC (12.15.07)
Oral Roberts @ Oklahoma St. (12.20.07) ESPN2
Oregon @ Oakland (12.22.07) ESPNU
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Still none, although we wish they’d let NDSU into the Summit League Tournament just to see what might happen if they won.
Neat-o Stat. By most objective measures, Western Illinois was one of the worst teams in America last year. Its record was 7-23 and its offensive and defensive efficiencies were among the bottom fifty. However, it was also one of the unluckiest teams in America, losing two more games than would be expected by its overall statistical profile and losing eight games by four points or less, the most such instances in the nation.
64/65-Team Era. The history of the league shows that the MCC has had a tendency for one team to dominate for a while before ceding its power to another. From 1987-1990, Southwest Missouri St. won four consecutive NCAA bids. After a few years of several teams winning the league, Valparaiso started its run of seven NCAA bids in nine years in 1996. The last two years Oral Roberts has been winning the bids, with a great shot at a third straight this season. Over the 23-year era, the league has a solid low-major record of 8-23 (.258) in the NCAA Tournament, including two trips to the Sweet 16 (1986 – #14 Cleveland St.; 1998 – #13 Valparaiso). Unfortunately, in the nine years since that Bryce Drew-led run by Valpo, the league has lost its first round game (avg: #15.0 seed) by an average of 21.7 pts (excluding the 2005 PiG, where Oakland, with a 13-19 overall record, defeated Alabama A&M 79-69). Speaking of young Mr. Drew…
Note: video cannot be embedded, so double-click on the YouTube logo above to get it to play.
Final Thought. Notwithstanding the name change, the Summit appears to be a league in transition. Oral Roberts has already shown a commitment toward building a serious program by keeping Scott Sutton on board with a seven-year contract extension. Oakland and IUPUI have also shown signs of long-term progress, and a newcomer like North Dakota St. is well positioned to be competitive in the league immediately. Last year the league earned its highest computer rankings (mid-teens) of the last decade and even with the loss of Valpo, the conference should have enough talent in its top half to keep it among the best of the low majors.