#rushthetrip: Wrapping Up 12 Games, 17 Days and 5,476 Miles on the Road

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on February 25th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

They say that all good things must come to an end, and so is the case for my 17-day journey through college basketball’s Western lands. Large cities and small towns alike took turns as temporary homes, while the miles of passing scenery morphed from desert to snowy mountains and back to desert again, with plenty of change in between. The whirlwind ride reinforced the breadth of variety in the towns, arenas, and fan bases that stand behind Divison I’s basketball programs — only further mythologizing the notion of a “typical college town.” They make you work out West (note to future college basketball road trippers: the Heartland will be far kinder to your car’s odometer), but the payoff was worth every exhausting mile. By the numbers and some personal favorites, here’s the story of my trip.

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It's Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It’s Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

#rushthetrip, By The Numbers

  • Days: 17
  • States: 10
  • Games: 12
  • OT Games: 3
  • Miles Driven: 5,476
  • Distance from Tucson, AZ, to Spokane, WA: 1,494 miles
  • Tickets Received: 2
  • Biggest Arena: BYU (capacity of 20,900, sixth in D-I)
  • Smallest Arena: Sacramento State (capacity of 1,200, 348th in D-I)
  • Most Points (Individual): Stephen Madison, 42 (Idaho)
  • Smallest Margin Of Victory: 1, Boise State over New Mexico
  • Largest Margin Of Victory: 15, Gonzaga over Pepperdine
  • Best Team (by KenPom ranking): Arizona (#1)
  • Worst Team (by KenPom ranking): Southern Utah (#351)

#rushthetrip Favorites

Best Venues

  1. The Pit, Albuquerque, NM
  2. Marriott Center, Provo, UT
  3. McKale Center, Tucson, AZ

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#rushthetrip Day Six: Division I Basketball, Off the Beaten Path

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 12th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

Last Thursday night, I was able to see the second best team in the country play – on their famed, raucous home floor, no less. Monday night I had a date with the second worst team in all the land, and we met up in the fourth smallest gymnasium in Division-1. This Southern Utah-Sacramento State matchup did stand out from all others on my itinerary (and probably not in the most flattering of ways), but games like this one cut to the core of why this trip exists. On their own, small-conference programs rarely find the spotlight (although Sacramento State can tell you that when they do, it’s kind of fun…), but college basketball would not be the same without them. The Tournament wouldn’t be the Tournament without 1991 Richmond, 2001 Hampton, or 2013 Florida Gulf Coast; consider college hoops without its flagship event, and the sport would certainly need some redefining.

Welcome To The Hornet's Nest, Home Of Sacramento State And Full-Court Buzzer Beaters

Welcome To The Hornet’s Nest, Home Of Sacramento State And, At Least For The First Night Of February, Full-Court Buzzer Beaters

My focus typically lies with the home team when I’m visiting a new venue, but the host Hornets had to share my attention with their visitors from Southern Utah last night. Yes, Rush the Court is fast becoming the Thunderbird Times, but don’t pretend that you could avert your eyes from a train-wreck in progress, either. Nick Robinson’s team entered Monday night with a Ken Pom ranking of 350 (out of 351), still seeking their first D-I victory of the season. When #351 Grambling snapped a 45-game D-I losing streak midway through the action in Sacramento, Southern Utah was suddenly facing a must-win if they sought to avoid the true basement of the rankings.

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We Salute You: Paying Homage to the Nation’s Winless Teams in League Play

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 4th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court and spent way too much time on these articles.

With the calendar turned to February and the meat of conference play upon us, the most dominant and least effective teams are showing their colors against equal competition. And with the halfway point of conference season rapidly approaching for many – and already here for others – now is a good time to take stock of both teams that are undefeated in conference and those who have yet to win a game. Today’s installment takes a look at the less fortunate teams among us, ranked from least to most likely to not win a game in conference play.

Note: All statistics dutifully harvested from kenpom.com.

Princeton (12-5, 0-3 Ivy League)

T.J. Bray and Princeton winless? Probably not. (AP)

Although things have been a struggle lately for T.J. Bray and Princeton, the chances of the Tigers going winless is zero. (AP)

  • Odds: 0.0 percent chance to go winless
  • Most likely wins: February 8 at home vs. Cornell, 97 percent; March 7 at Cornell, 91 percent
  • Biggest strengths: Top 15 in field-goal shooting, top 10 in defensive rebounding nationally
  • Achilles’ heel: Field-goal defense in bottom 100 nationally
  • Key player: Senior guard T.J. Bray (17.8 points per game, 5.7 assists per game, 55 percent field goal shooting; the nation’s most efficient player to use more than 20 percent of available possessions.)
  • Outlook: Perhaps it’s not fair to start off with an Ivy League team, given that the Tigers are only three games into their conference slate. But few teams have had more surprising collapses than Princeton, which squandered a 9-2 non-conference slate and talk of a possible two-bid Ivy League by losing games against Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth. Here’s the thing: Each game was on the road; Penn is an ancient rival; Harvard has athletes unlike the conference has seen in a generation; and Dartmouth, well, there’s probably not a ready-made excuse for that one, although it did happen in overtime. To get an NCAA Tournament bid now, though, the Tigers have to sweep their next 11 games and hope the Crimson lose twice aside from the teams’ head-to-head February 22 matchup, and then beat them in a one-game neutral-site playoff. That’s a tall order, even for one of the nation’s best offenses, and the one that shoots more three-pointers than any other. But failing to win a game in the Ivy League is not in question here. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Big Sky Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 18th, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC Correspondent for the Big Sky Conference. You can find him on Twitter @bigskybball.

Top Storylines

  • The Injury to Will Cherry – Cherry was the runaway favorite for Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, and one of the best perimeter defensive players in the country. However, he will miss the start of the year with a broken foot. The most likely scenario is that he misses the non-conference portion of the schedule and returns for conference play. However, nobody is sure if he will be 100%, and there has even been a little talk that he could redshirt if he can’t come back fully healthy this year. With Cherry, Montana is the favorite. Without him, the conference race is wide open.
  • Change is Everywhere – There are two new teams in the Big Sky, as North Dakota and Southern Utah join the fray. This brings the total number of teams to 11, and with each team playing everyone else twice, everyone will be playing 20 conference games. There will also be an increase from six teams in the Big Sky Tournament to seven teams this season. Three new coaches enter the league. Changes are all around (and more on them later).

Kareem Jamar Will Have To Step In As Will Cherry Recovers From Injury. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)

  • Life Without Damian Lillard – Lillard was the best player to come out of the conference in a long-time, as he was the sixth pick in the NBA Draft and arguably the best college point guard in America last season. Now, Weber State must move on. Either Jordan Richardson or Gelaun Wheelwright will step into the starting lineup, and they have big shoes to fill. They will need multiple people to step up and perform, and they will have the personnel to do it.
  • Weber State and Montana Reign Again – Heading into last year, these two teams were the media and coaches top two choices. Heading into this season, it will be more of the same. Simply put, they are the most talented and deepest teams in the conference, and they have continuity on the coaching staff. With the way they are recruiting, it won’t be a surprise if the two teams stay in the top two for a long while to come.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Weber State (17-3)
  2. Montana (16-4)
  3. Northern Colorado (13-7)
  4. Sacramento State (12-8)
  5. North Dakota (11-9)
  6. Montana State (10-10)
  7. Eastern Washington (9-11)
  8. Portland State (8-12)
  9. Northern Arizona (5-15)
  10. Southern Utah (5-15)
  11. Idaho State (4-16)

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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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