RTC Summer Update: Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 12th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The newest update comes from our Summit League correspondent, Charlie Parks.

Reader’s Take – Almost every team in the Summit has its star this year, but to win this conference and have a legitimate shot at upsetting a powerhouse in March, you need a #2 option that is just as reliable in a big situation.

IUPUI appears to have the most talent with Alex Young and Leroy Nobles, as either guy can get you 20-plus easy-looking points at any given moment. But keep in mind, its not just the most talented duo, but also the two guys that give you the best opportunity to win. What doesn’t always show in the stat column can and often does show up in the win column (that little bit of Bobby knight-wisdom was for free).

Summer Storylines

  • Coaching Carousel – There have been a few key coaching changes this offseason in the Summit League. The one that could affect the balance of power the most in the conference is the departure of Ron Hunter  from IUPUI. After 17 years leading the Jags, Hunter took the job at Georgia State. His longtime assistant, Todd Howard, was promoted to fill the vacancy. Hunter led IUPUI to its only NCAA berth back in 2003, but you could sense a change was needed and that Hunter had taken IUPUI as far as it was going to go under his direction. He is a solid coach, but the new scenery may be beneficial for the Jags.
  • More Carousel.  The other coaching change of note is the departure of Dane Fife from IPFW. Fife moved on to accept a position on Tim Izzo’s staff at Michigan State. The move is a big bummer for the Mastodons, who have been steadily improving over the last six years under Fife, culminating in last year’s 18-12 record. His baby-faced assistant, Tony Jasick, now has the challenge of taking IPFW to the next level. IPFW may have taken a small step back in its ongoing quest for a conference title.
  • Sutton Returns to Coaching.  One team that improved with a new coaching change has to be Oral Roberts who hired former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton. Sean served at ORU last year in an unofficial manner but he wasn’t able to really interact with players. But this year, the son of one of the legendary coaches in college basketball will try to bring the Golden Eagles back to the top. Sean was known as one of the best recruiters in the country during his long tenure as assistant coach under his father at Oklahoma State, so it will be interesting to see what kind of talent he will be able to attract to Tulsa.
  • Rolling Out The Welcome Mat – Two new teams have joined the Summit League, and Division I: South Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha. Personally, I was hoping for an already established D-I school to join the fray, but The Summit obviously has an agenda by grabbing these start-up teams. UNO is the new “ooey-pooey” of the Summit League, at least as far as nicknames go. South Dakota will begin play this year, whereas UNO will start next season.
  • Keith Benson Goes League – Keith Benson became the first Oakland player ever drafted when he was taken in the second round (48th overall) of the NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Reviews for Benson have so far been mixed, but he will definitely get his opportunities assuming the NBA plays basketball again.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

It’s been a crazy few weeks in the “race for the Summit.” Oral Roberts and UMKC have been gunning for IPFW’s shaky #2 spot, and I expect one of these three teams will have it locked up by early February, and South Dakota State is also in the mix as well. Oakland is still rolling, almost on a boring clip, still unblemished in league play. They set a league mark of 17 consecutive conference wins, and are now 34-1 in conference play the past 35 games, good for tops in the nation. I could pretend that there are four or five teams still in this race, but in reality, Oakland will win this with ease barring a Hindenburg-sized collapse. If the ultimate goal is a berth in the NCAA Tournament, Oakland is the only threat.  But there is still plenty of ball to be played, and a month to go in the season, so we will see how this thing continues to unfold.

Oakland fans will be pleased to know they were ranked #9 on the collegeinsider.com mid-major poll– Just one spot below their preseason rank. Keith Benson was also named player of the week for the Summit League, his third such award this season.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (11-0, 16-8)— they have won 34 out of the last 35 conference games, and they are closing in on all kinds of conference records. Keith Benson is not the only stud on this team, as Reggie Hamilton and Will Hudson have been stellar, and they clearly have no excuse to lose a conference game. But if you are one of those pessimistic Oakland fans (likely a Detroit resident), then let’s look at the ORU game.  A three-point home win against an inferior ORU team is hardly dominant or impressive. It is just a little seed of doubt in the minds of the players and fans, and it is motivation for the next time—should they face each other in South Dakota. But that is just getting picky. They get scoring from all over the floor. Hopefully Larry Wright will be healthy for them down the stretch. Any lengthy absence from him could be damaging.

2. IPFW (8-3, 14-7)—I still don’t think the Mastodons can hold on to second place. They are just not a very good team. They got run by SDSU 87-52. Good teams don’t get blown out.  They have been looking to Ben Botts to carry them, but it seems that every night someone else steps up to give them just enough punch to pull out a win (as in their three-point victory over Oral Roberts). But how long can that last?  For awhile, it looked like IPFW was on the brink of a collapse. Two games up with eight to go, plus now holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Oral Roberts is a strong lead.

3. Oral Roberts (6-5, 9-14)—there were three positives ORU could take away from the loss at Oakland: 1) It was a three-point loss on the road to a seemingly unbeatable conference foe. What will the game be like the third time they play, this time on neutral ground? 2) They got great production from both of their guards –Warren Niles and Ken Holdman—a big reason they have won four of their last six games. They have clearly become a more complete team since their 5-10 start. 3) They appeared to have solidified their low post presence, which has been a difficult task since the loss of Mike Craion to injury. The one glaring problem still remaining for ORU is the defense. Scott Sutton is a defensive coach, but it seems like his players are not buying in to his system.  It’s definitely crunch time after their loss to IPFW late. One other note: where is the leadership coming from on this team? It’s hard to lead from the bench, so that cancels out Kyron Stokes and Craion. Who will step up for this team?

4. UMKC (6-5, 13-9)—they showed us what they are capable of last week, beating IUPUI in double-overtime on the road, and nearly shocking ORU in a thriller. In my eyes, they surpassed SDSU with a rare road win on Thursday. Continuing their month of close games, the ‘Roos went on to drop a double-overtime thriller at North Dakota State. They try beating you with the three-point shot. If those are off target, they slash inside with Jay Couisnard, with Spencer Johnson crashing the boards. Their lack of size will likely keep them from winning this conference, but nobody in the Summit really wants to face the Kangaroos.  They are tied with Oral Roberts with one more home game against them in two weeks—never say never.

5.  South Dakota State (6-5, 14-8)— The numbers would suggest they have just as dangerous an offense as Oakland, but they have had some very tough losses in the conference so far. Nate Wolters and Clint Sargent can carry them; but they both have to be bringing their best for SDSU to beat the top 5 teams. Simply put: this is a dangerous offensive team, but they lack experience and defensive problems have dragged them down as of late.

6. IUPUI (7-3, 13-10)— This team has really underachieved in most Summit fans’ minds. They have the scoring thing down, but to win in the Summit, you need good defense and solid guard play. They have the guard play, now they just need to add the defense. Surrendering just 45 points against Western Illinois was a nice start, but not much to glean into considering the Leatherneck’s struggles. They’re third in the conference standings, but haven’t been impressive.

7. North Dakota State (4-6, 10-10) —it is virtually impossible for this team to get a win on the road, but credit the Bison for halting a four-game skid and then edging out the ‘Roos on Saturday. Wins over Centenary and Oral Roberts this week could bring them closer to the top of the middle-tier. This team is one of the better three-point shooting squads in the conference, so NDSU fans, pray for the basketball gods to send rain.

8. Southern Utah (3-8, 6-15)—at this point, SUU just needs to stay above Western Illinois and hope the weather in Montana is better than the Dakotas next year.

9. Western Illinois (2-8, 7-14)— A half-game behind SUU and still a month remaining in the season.  The Hunt for March! It’s on!

10. Centenary (0-11, 0-23)—The gents are currently 0-22, and closing in on many, many NCAA records.  and their manhood was recently brought into question with this ESPN article. The Centenary Gents, in my opinion, are by far the worst D-I team in the history of basketball as they bring up the rear of KenPom’s rankings.  We are all witnesses.

A Look Ahead

Almost every game from here on out is an important one in the Summit, especially with everyone bunched together in the middle. Keep an eye on IPFW’s schedule; they take on IUPUI February 3 and they get a crack at Oakland February 12. If they knock off IUPUI, the race for second could see an early end. On February 10, ORU will visit UMKC for a rematch of their OT thriller from a couple weeks ago, and IUPUI will visit South Dakota State on the same night. We should see some pretty decent basketball here in the Summit over the next two weeks.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Oakland is the sole representative of the Summit League in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, moving up to #11. They have now won 23 of the last 24 conference games. Who knew this team would be better without Derick Nelson, Johnathon Jones, and Eric Kangas? It must be the shoes…or maybe it’s all Greg Kampe.

Caught On Film:

This Alex Young Dunk made SportsCenter’s Top 10:

Oral Roberts basically saved their season with a big road win against SDSU, despite not having Dominique Morrison or Mike Craion. The win kept them from falling to 2-4 in the conference, and bought them some more time to get healthy. Things may be looking up for the Golden Eagles.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (11-8, 6-0)–Nothing new here, the Golden Grizzlies are still the best team. They should have no problem finishing undefeated. They can even afford to drop a couple conference games in a worst case scenario (i.e. major injury), but Greg Kampe will keep his team running hard through the finish line.

2. Oral Roberts (7-12, 4-3)– They lost first-team selection Mike Craion for the season and the second best player in the conference, Dominique Morrison, for three weeks to a meniscus tear. It looked like ORU was done. But a 90-82 victory against South Dakota State basically saved the Golden Eagles’ season. Back-to-back conference wins without their two stars proves this team is still dangerous. Improved guard play is the main reason they have risen in the rankings. They also have the schedule working in their favor, with basically only one unwinnable game left — at Oakland.

3. South Dakota State (12-5, 4-2)—This is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference, but if you live by the three, you also die by the three. Cold shooting days are bound to come. I hesitate to keep this team near the top because of how far they can swing. However, with four conference wins so far, they have given themselves a great opportunity to finish in the top two or three. Clint Sargent is a huge distraction for defenses, and Nate Wolters is arguably the best point guard in the conference. He leads the conference in scoring with 19.3 PPG. And thanks to some SDSU fans, I have finally settled on a nickname for the young man; he is now Nate “the Lane Train” Wolters. Don’t hate it.

4. IUPUI (10-9, 4-2) — Their two conference losses came against the top two teams, and even those were close games. The Jags have two big-time threats in Leroy Nobles and Alex Young–both guys are in the top eight in scoring. Coaching is what wins close games late in the season and in the conference tournament, and Ron Hunter deserves to be mentioned with the Kampes and the Suttons of the world.

5. IPFW (11-5, 5-1) — I know they are 5-1 in conference play, but I just can’t keep them above the big boys. They have one impressive conference win so far (at ORU). They also have the toughest part of their conference schedule remaining, starting off Saturday against Oakland. How will they weather the storm?

6. North Dakota State– (9-7, 3-3) In reality, this team is right in the middle of the race for the #2 seed, but the loss to IUPUI really hurt those chances. The Bison have two quality wins against SDSU and ORU, but two disastrous losses to UMKC and Southern Utah.

7.  Southern Utah–(4-12, 1-5)– Southern Utah runs a beautiful offense — a ton of plays that they run with such precision — but the T-birds just don’t have the firepower to overcome the more talented teams. If only they could recruit some ballers…SUU should be a top team in the Big Sky Conference sooner than you think.

8. UMKC–(10-7, 3-3)– they split against the Dakotas and followed that up by taking care of business against Southern Utah and Centenary. Spencer Johnson is second in rebounding, and Jay Couisnard is fifth in scoring; It’s been the difference for UMKC.

9. WIU–(1-5, 6-10) their only conference win came in a six point squeaker against Centenary, and they just lost to SDSU by 31. Turn the lights out.

10. Centenary– (0-18, 0-7)– 0-31: that’s the combined records of the Centenary men’s and women’s basketball teams.

A Look Ahead

This is moving week for the Summit, and it seems like everyone is playing in a big game. UMKC at Oral Roberts, Oakland at IPFW, and SDSU at IUPUI on January 17 will have some big-time effects on the overall standings…MLK Day will be a great day for Summit Fans.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

The “race to the Summit” (as the conference likes to call it) has begun. Or should we say, there is one team already at the Summit and they are rolling boulders down on everyone else trying to get to the top. Oakland asserted itself as the king of the hill on Thursday night with a convincing 85-77 win against Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before the season started, ORU was ranked second, and a threat to dethrone Oakland (ashamedly, I thought they had what it took). But ORU has faltered, thanks to the season-ending foot injury to the 2009 newcomer of the year and preseason first-team selection, Michael Craion. Oakland can more or less put the bus on cruise control from here on out. Barring major injury, this will be an easy three months for the Golden Grizzlies.

In other news: IPFW has flexed its muscles, beating up ORU on the road and then taking care of business against Centenary. They will be an interesting team to watch if you are a Summit League fan.

IUPUI’s John Ashworth was also named among 66 candidates for the 2011 Bob Cousy Award, honoring the nation’s top point guard.

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (9-8, 4-0)—they survived the brutal non-conference schedule, now it’s all downhill. Greg Kampe will make sure they keep the pedal to the metal—all the way to March Madness. All five of Oakland’s starters scored double figures against ORU. It is clear now that no team can stop them. Will this be the easiest road to the NCAA tournament for any team in the nation?
  2. IPFW (9-4, 4-0)—Once a fine basketball program during the Mid-Con days, we knew this team would put it together eventually. After about a four-year hiatus, they are once again in the hunt. The victory at ORU was their coming out party, and it was their show-us-what-you’ve-got moment of the season.  A well deserved #2 spot. They lead the league in defensive rebound percentage (.708). Keeping teams to one-and-done on the offensive end is a big reason this team is rolling.
  3. South Dakota State (9-4, 1-1)— This team is like watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie. He’s made a couple good movies, but he has also made several movies that made my eyes bleed. What is he, a terrible writer/producer or a good one?! Leave me alone M. Night! The loss to North Dakota State may have been just a bump in the road for SDSU, and the UMKC blowout was more their style. Or perhaps it is the other way around? It’s really hard to read this team. Can we get them a good matchup already?!  Have I mentioned Nate Wolters just might be the best point guard in the conference? I’m still trying to find a nickname for him.
  4. Oral Roberts (5-10, 2-2) — the Golden Eagles have four players in the top 20 in scoring for the conference, more than any other  team. But back-to-back home losses tell us a lot about this team: either the loss of Michael Craion has completely thrown them for a loop, or the team is just packing it in. Whatever the case, ORU is a long, long way from their preseason #2 selection. This team has zero ability to stop anyone on defense, which is usually the signature of a Scott Sutton team. It’s still early, and they are still 2-2 in the conference, but Michael Craion is not walking through that door—and the way they defend and shoot—the Golden Eagles look just about done. They have missed 116 free-throws in 15 games. Let that sink in… At least you have baseball season to look forward to, ORU.
  5. IUPUI (8-8, 2-1)—they have started to play better, almost upsetting #7 San Diego State, but they still rely way too much on Alex Young and Leroy Nobles to carry them offensively. If Young and Nobles are the only guys capable of scoring, then the rest of the team needs to start playing better defense for them to win.
  6. UMKC (8-6, 1-3)—Spencer Johnson had a huge game against NDSU, pulling down 21 rebounds in a two point victory. This team was starting to rise before they got throttled by South Dakota State. Let’s see if Jay Couisnard and Johnson can keep them in postseason contention.
  7. Western Illinois (5-7, 1-2)—their biggest problem is scoring points. They have shown the ability to play good defense, so far allowing a Summit best 59 points per game. However, their scoring margin is only +1.5, which means they couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. They have actually scored less than Centenary—whose scoring margin is -24.2.
  8. North Dakota State (7-6, 1-2) — already with two conference losses: one to UMKC, and one to Southern Utah. If you want to be considered a serious contender you have to beat both of those teams. They are third in the conference in scoring (78 points per game), less than a point behind Oakland. But guess what—Oakland plays defense, NDSU does not.
  9. Southern Utah (4-9, 1-2)—They get to play South Dakota State next, and if they can handle them, we might be able to talk about Southern Utah making a move to the top 5 in the rankings. Why not? They would have a better record than ORU and IUPUI (man does this conference have a lot of letters or what?).
  10. Centenary (0-4, 0-15)—  Maxx Nakwaasah is the Gents’ leading scorer, and he is averaging just over 10 points per game. No one else is close to double digits.  Keep playing hard, Centenary, you can’t lose them all…right? Maybe your coach will buy you all snow cones at the end of the season (bad joke, ok, I’m done)—Rest in peace, gentlemen.

A Look Ahead

The next couple of weeks will be pretty quiet in the Summit League. The only major game of note will be UMKC at Kansas, on Wednesday, January 5, at 7 P.M. (CST)… it more than likely won’t be a good game, but it will be another opportunity for the Summit League. Thursday, January 6 will be IUPUI vs. Oakland, in Rochester… IUPUI is one of the few teams that pose any real threat to Oakland, so it will be interesting to see how that one plays out.

Oakland is the sole representative for The Summit League in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. They are ranked at No. 21. North Dakota State received eight votes and South Dakota State received one.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Oakland finally gets their upset—an 89-82 road victory over the #7 Tennessee Volunteers.

It will be known from now on as the program’s signature win, just the second top 25 win in Oakland history. Keith Benson was fantastic—draining mid-range jumpers and even two three pointers on his way to a 26/10 night. One observer said he looked like Amare Stoudemire with his mid-range game. He proved to be more than just a post presence; He is an all-around, NBA-ready, mid-major star.

Benson Was Dominant

In case you missed it, this was Oakland’s close call earlier in the week against Michigan State.

In other news: Oral Roberts got pounded in their rubber-match with Missouri, 81-62, in a game the #12 Tigers called “a revenge game” after the Golden Eagles shocked them in the final seconds last year. It was close early, with the Golden Eagles up 22-19, but the Tigers used an 18-2 run before halftime to put them away. Oklahoma used a similar first-half run in Oral Roberts previous game to put them to bed early. Apparently, the ORU coaching staff thinks halves last 15 minutes.

Power Rankings:

  1. Oakland (6-5, 2-0) —Surprise! Imagine if they had beaten Michigan State the other night, would they crack the top 25 this week? Oakland has three players averaging double figures; they are the best offense in the Summit League, despite little production from one of their main guys, starting guard Larry Wright. They have the best coach in the conference, and the best player to ever play in the Summit League/Mid-Con conference (apologies to George Hill, Bryce Drew, and Caleb Green). By the way, I am predicting Keith Benson will be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. In fact I will go as far to say top 10 to Detroit. This is not Hyperbole. If you were able to see this guy in the Big East every night on ESPN, you would be saying the same thing. Benson dismantled the Vols—posting a 26 point 10 rebound and zero turnover night. He is only the fifth player in 15 years to do that against a ranked opponent. The other four: David Noel (UNC, 2005-06), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame, 1999-00), Brad Miller (Purdue, 1997-98), and Raef LaFrentz (Kansas, 1996-97). It’s time to sit back and enjoy this, Summit fans, because I don’t think you will see a player like Benson for quite a while. You heard it here first.
  2. North Dakota State (7-3, 1-0) —I love this team. They are like a mini version of Oakland. They score a lot of points (second in the conference with 79.3, 36th in the NCAA), and they play good defense (68 points allowed per game), those numbers are similar to past champions. They are just a well-rounded group. The Bison have been quietly gaining experience and confidence, and this team is a somewhat of a dark horse to make a run. They just dismantled their cross-tundra rival, North Dakota, 81-55, and they already beat the previous #2 team in the conference, South Dakota State. It’s still way too early, but they look good. Did I mention they have the fifth-highest three-point field goal percentage in the nation? Okay, just checking.
  3. Oral Roberts (4-6, 2-0) — let’s face it, the Golden Eagles are good, but they’re not Oakland-good. That doesn’t necessarily mean this team can’t win the conference title—anything can happen in a conference tournament—but it means they will have to be near-perfect if they want to beat a mature, complete team like The Golden Benson’s (err, I mean, Golden Grizzlies). Oral Roberts has the talent to win the conference, but it is young, raw, talent (that’s code for: “why the hell did they just do that!?”). Right now, I would describe the Golden Eagles as a team in search of its soul. Don’t count them out, they have over 200 wins, 16 NCAA Tournaments appearances and two final four appearances on the bench between Scott and Sean Sutton. Dominique Morrison is steady leader, fourth in scoring with 17.3 points per game (less than a point behind Keith Benson), but it may take more to rise above Oakland.
  4. South Dakota State (7-2, 0-1) —You see the 7-2 record and the 79.3 points per game and think this team might have something. They had two nice wins against Iowa and Nevada—but so far, they really haven’t beaten anyone. They have lost two of their last three (the win came against Mayville State). If you are an SDSU fan, fourth-best is not a bad spot to be right now with guys like Nate Wolters (17.2 PPG, 48% from three) and Clint Sargent (13.1 PPG).
  5. IPFW (7-2, 2-0) — They are sitting on top of the Summit standings—but they beat the teams at the very bottom to get there. Until they face and beat a tougher opponent (like one of the teams above them on this list) this is where they deserve to be ranked. Valparaiso, Purdue, and ORU await the Mastadons. Let’s see how they look after that.
  6. IUPUI (5-6, 1-1) —Ooey-Pooey beat Ohio, and they gave Ohio State everything they could before fading late and losing by 11. However, they did lose at home to ORU. This team was the preseason #3 in the Summit, and I still think it will shake out that way, but right now they just look mediocre at best. They play good defense, which will have to be their mantra for the season. Ron Hunter is relying solely on Alex Young and Leroy Nobles to carry this team offensively; they are combining to average 34 of the team’s 66 points per game.
  7. Western Illinois (5-5, 1-1) — Every once in a while, they will show flashes of goodness, especially on defense. But they struggle to score points, posting only 61 per game. Matt Landers is second in the conference in scoring with 17.9 per contest, and when they start getting production from their all-conference first team selection, Ceola Clark, they will stay competitive in most of their games.
  8. UMKC (5-4, 0-2) — The Roos have fallen pretty far down the list, losing both conference games. But I expect them to bounce back, especially with their duel threat in Spencer Johnson and Jay Couisnard. Right now, I see UMKC battling for that fourth-to-sixth place in the conference tournament for the rest of the year.
  9. Southern Utah (3-7, 0-2) — They lost to Weber State by six, the best in the Big Sky Conference, which is the silver lining in the dark storm clouds. What does that mean? Maybe nothing, but it could mean the Summit League is better than the Big Sky Conference. Let the debate begin!
  10. Centenary (0-2, 0-11) — No one should lose them all, but right now, Centenary is in danger of doing just that. The Summit League has been improving steadily, and it will be extremely difficult for this team to escape with a win or two. You can’t blame them; they just don’t have D-I talent. I hate watching teams suffer like this, so let’s just ignore the situation.

A Look Ahead

  • Saturday, Oakland takes on Michigan in Ann Arbor. Oakland could really get heads turning if they could deal with the Wolverines on the road. Then on Thursday, December 30, Oakland will go on the road to take on ORU in Tulsa. Both of these teams should be undefeated in the conference going into this game, and it will be the best the Summit League has to offer. If you only watch one Summit League game a year, this should be it.
  • The Summit League is ranked #16 in the December 14 Sagarin Ratings. Oakland is currently #12 on the collegeinsider.com top 25 mid-major poll, while South Dakota State is #18, but I suspect both of those will change. Oakland will be in the top 10, especially after the win at Tennessee.
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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Standings

South Dakota State 3-0
UMKC 2-0
North Dakota State 2-1
Western Illinois 2-1
IPFW 1-1
IUPUI 1-1
Oakland 1-1
Southern Utah 1-1
Oral Roberts 0-2
Centenary 0-3

A Look Back

The Summit League has had a pretty good start to the non-conference season. The Dakotas notched impressive wins over the defending Big West champs UC Santa Barbara, and Big Ten opponent Iowa. NDSU won by eight over UC Santa Barbara, and SDSU took a 10-point win at Iowa. Oakland slammed MAC favorite Ohio, and Western Illinois barely lost to #14 Missouri. With more upset opportunities coming up for the Summit teams, this could be a breakthrough year for the conference. In other news, Oakland star Keith Benson was ranked #5 by Rivals.com at the center position. The man is simply unstoppable, and we may get to see some history in the Summit League, because no one has anything close to a big man capable of slowing him down.

Power Rankings:

  1. Oakland: Life couldn’t be better for the Golden Grizzlies. Sure, they have encountered some setbacks due to injury and suspension, but does that even matter right now? Keith Benson can’t be stopped in the Summit League, and Oakland just came away with a pretty decent win over Ohio, the MAC favorites. They got two highly touted local Michigan recruits, and they are led by perhaps the best coaching staff in the conference. With Oral Roberts in a state of turmoil right now, and IUPUI lacking an inside presence, Oakland looks solid at the top.
  2. IUPUI: Leroy Nobles and Alex Young are two of the best guards in the conference, and they did their best to right the ship against Indiana-Northwest after dropping the season opener to #11 Gonzaga. They never trailed in the game, which shows they are executing well—they’ll be around all year.
  3. South Dakota State: They’re 3-0, so heck, they deserve to be #3, but more importantly, it is how they got to be 3-0. Blowout wins at Eastern Illinois, Iowa, and SW Minnesota State… not exactly intimidating schools (although Iowa is an impressive win), but it is getting the job done, more than you can say about most teams in this conference to this point. They nailed the recruiting trail and came up with some excellent talent this summer. They are reaping the harvest now.
  4. Oral Roberts: In their defense, the Golden Eagles are missing first-team selection Mike Craion, and his inside presence is greatly missed, to say the least. Not having him on the court gives ORU virtually no chance against the tougher schools with legitimate big men like Tulsa and Missouri State. But the problems for the Golden Eagles extend beyond the big man positions. Right now, they don’t have a guard that isn’t a liability on the floor. All three of their starting guards—Warren Niles, Ken Holdman, and Rod Pearson—have regressed so much since last year you wonder if Scott Sutton should go to his highly-touted freshman Hunter McClintock to run the offense. Terrible guard play, spotty defense, and little to speak of from the big men have the Golden Eagles one home loss to Indiana State away from panic mode. They still have more talent than everyone in this conference (with Oakland being the exception), but they need to stop making me look like a fool for picking them to win it.
  5. North Dakota State: I have plenty of respect for NDSU, and they are on the cusp of breaking the top three. They barely lost to Oregon in a shootout, 97-92, and they defeated UC Santa Barbara and Denver easily. Michael Tveidt is averaging 18.7 points per game in the early going, and he can create his own shot anytime. They can pound it down low with Eric Carlson, and there is no reason they couldn’t beat any of the teams above them. They are #5 on my power rankings, but take it easy, NDSU readers; they can beat anyone on this list.
  6. UMKC: This is where it gets shaky—Yeah, they are 2-0 and have one of the conference’s leading scorers in Jay Couisnard, and Spencer Johnson had a fabulous game against Central Arkansas—but they only won by two? And like I said last year, if you beat Truman State—well, you beat Truman State. Show me something more, Roos.
  7. Western Illinois: They only lost to Missouri by five? You have my attention, Leathernecks.
  8. IPFW:  Zach Plackemeier has shown some promise thus far for the Mastadons, but their only win was by 15 against SIU-Edwardsville (which coincidentally is exactly how many letters are in Zach Plackemeier’s name).
  9. Southern Utah: They lost to California Baptist by 10… no way they rise higher than eight at this point. They beat Cal State Bakersfield by just eight points, I didn’t even know Bakersfield had a basketball team.
  10. Centenary: Three games: Memphis, UT Martin, Arkansas Monticello—three losses by a total of 99 points. Makes you wonder who built another Monticello in Arkansas.

A Look Ahead

Oral Roberts is in desperate need of a win. They have Indiana State coming up on Saturday, November 20. Oakland takes on #9 Purdue, Sunday, November 21, a major opportunity for the Golden Grizzlies. The Summit League is currently ranked #18 in the Sagarin Ratings, and they are 9-7 so far in non-conference play. Oakland is #12 in the mid-major top 25 poll.

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