Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
- IUPUI (2-0) 8-3
- Oral Roberts (2-0) 6-6
- Oakland (1-0) 5-5
- UMKC (1-1) 5-4
- Centenary (1-1) 4-5
- North Dakota State (1-1) 4-5
- South Dakota State (1-1) 4-7
- IPFW (0-1) 3-5
- Western Illinois (0-2) 4-6
- Southern Utah (0-2) 3-8
The top story continues to be the mounting injuries for the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. After losing sixth-man Warren Niles to a broken hand, it looks like this year’s team just may be cursed or something along those lines. How else do you explain losing four players for the season, plus two more with broken bones, and one continuing to play with a sprained ankle? The rash of injuries is unprecedented, and it leaves ORU with only seven healthy/eligible players.
Oakland’s Center Keith Benson ranks among the nation’s top 10 in three individual statistical categories. He is fifth in blocks with 3.9 BPG, seventh in double-doubles with six and 10th in rebounding with 11.4 RPG. The man is simply unstoppable in this conference, and he will really take off once the weaker conference teams grace Oakland’s schedule.
Last week Oral Roberts showed some heart, upsetting Missouri in at home 60-59, a season defining win for a team that has half the team out with injury. Imagine how dangerous this team would be if they were full strength? They followed up the emotional win with two losses to Indiana State and a blowout to Louisville, the same for Oakland, who dropped hard against Michigan State. IUPUI took the liberty of establishing themselves as a real threat to win the regular season title, and an automatic berth in the NIT. I can now guarantee with unwavering confidence that there are only three teams that can win the conference title in March. Everyone else is simply awful. Oakland, ORU, and IUPUI have a combined conference record of 5-0. The remaining seven teams have a combined record of 4-9.
Alpha-squads– Oakland, ORU, IUPUI.
The Contenders– North Dakota State
The Long-shots– IPFW, UMKC, South Dakota State
The Bottom-Feeders– Western Illinois, Centenary, Southern Utah
Oakland — We still haven’t been able to see how dominant Oakland will be in the conference, having only played one game so far. They are still the favorites as the first half of the season comes to a close. Their Center, Keith Benson, continues his dominance, being named player of the week in the Summit. The junior is averaging 18/11 and 4 blocks a game.
IUPUI — The Jags are coming on strong, pushing their record to 8-3 and leading the conference right now. I like the way the Jags are playing, and they are going to be a tough team to beat going forward. They are getting big numbers from sophomore guard Alex Young and senior Robert Glenn, both combining for 36 PPG. They are my dark horse pick to win the whole thing.
Oral Roberts — Scott Sutton still has his team playing hard even though the team is completely decimated by injury. The big morale-boosting win at home against Missouri will give the remaining players some confidence. This team will be at the top until the end, but there is no way they are winning the conference with seven players who are mostly walk-ons and newcomers.
North Dakota State — North Dakota has a chance to move up in the conference and they could shock the top teams in this conference if Saul Phillips can keep his guys playing well. They have three guys in the top 15 in scoring. Their defense will have to improve if they want to compete with Oakland and IUPUI.
IPFW — The Mastodons are 1-4 on the road so far this season, and have given up 84 PPG to conference opponents. Next up: #12 Michigan State.
UMKC — The Kangaroos are still searching for an identity and someone to step up as a proven leader for this team. They are near or at the middle of nearly every statistical category, which means they are just an average team in this conference.
South Dakota State — Of all the teams in this conference, I am most disappointed with SDSU. Coming into this year I had high hopes for this team. They played well in the conference tournament, making a good showing by knocking off defending-champ ORU. But this year they started off sloppy. They are last in blocks, ninth in steals, and ninth in defensive rebounds. They also need Garrett Callahan to start producing more; their star is only averaging 12.5 points.
Southern Utah — They are going to struggle all year long, basically from a lack of talent. But they play hard every night, and that will keep them in some games. They will pull out a few wins during the long season. They stuck with #23 UNLV for at least a half.
Centenary — Centenary is not leaving Division I basketball quietly, continuing to battle hard, even though this will be their last year in the Summit League. Led by the Conference’s top scorer, David Perez (21.4 PPG), the Gents are 1-1 in the conference and 4-5 overall, hardly the worst team in the conference, as was predicted. It won’t last, but let’s give them their due for now.
Western Illinois — The absence of an offense leaves WIU in a sad state. Their top scorer, Matt Lander, is averaging a mere 10.9 PPG. Eastern Illinois could only scrape together 44 points and they still beat Western. What I am trying to say is… this team is bad.
Upcoming games to watch:
Saturday 12/19, 7:30 PM — Oakland @ Oregon. To me, this is a must win game for Oakland. This is a very beatable Oregon team.
Tuesday 12/22, 7 PM — Oakland @ #10 Syracuse
Wednesday 12/23 — #19 New Mexico @ Oral Roberts. This is the first ranked team to visit the Mabee Center since 1996.
With the midway point of the season approaching, this conference is Oakland’s to lose now that ORU is on the injured reserve. Keep an eye on IUPUI, as they may make Oakland work for a championship. Everyone else is playing for fourth.