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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Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly Suspended

Posted by nvr1983 on December 21st, 2010

Kansas State announced earlier today that Jacob Pullen, its preseason All-American guard, and Curtis Kelly, its starting forward, would be suspended after being found to have received benefits (clothing) from a local department store. The suspensions were announced prior to the Wildcats’ game against UNLV tonight, leaving the team short-handed against the Rebels, although they are putting forth a strong effort, leading 40-34 early in the 2nd half at the time that this post was published. Pullen has been suspended for three games while the duration of Kelly’s suspension has not been determined yet. Through the first nine games of the season, Pullen is averaging 16.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.8 APG, and Kelly is averaging 10.3 PPG and 4.0 RPG.

Wildcat fans await the return of their two stars

The details of what they are reported to have received have not been released yet, but it sounds a lot like what happened with LeBron James in high school when he was suspended temporarily for receiving two throwback jerseys in return for posing for pictures to be displayed in a local clothing store. [UPDATE: According to Jeff Goodman it appears that they have gotten a very steep discount similar to what Peter Warrick and Laveranues Coles got at Dillard’s while at FSU.] While we await word from Kansas State on how long Kelly will be suspended, it is worth noting that after tonight’s game the Wildcats have an easy schedule with the two other games of Pullen’s suspension coming against UMKC and North Florida. We don’t expect Pullen to be out any longer than the stated three games, but the Wildcats could theoretically suspend Kelly (or Pullen) for four games and still have them both back in time for the start of Big 12 play when they play Oklahoma State on January 8th.

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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 December 4th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

Keith Benson racked up another Summit League Player of the Week honor—averaging 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks in three games this week. In Oakland’s overtime win against Austin Peay, Benson had 22 boards. That’s good for fifth all-time for a single game in conference history. Benson is getting serious looks from NBA scouts, and he is the sole reason Oakland is the best team in the conference at this point. Both OU and South Dakota State remain in the Mid-Major Top 25 this week. Oakland sits at #14, and South Dakota State lands at their school’s all-time high of #17. SDSU also leads the nation in three-point percentage (49.5%), but a better stat: they have won 100 percent of their games. The Summit League is currently ranked #16 best conference on the November 30 Sagarin ratings, but so far this season, they are 0-6 against top 25 teams.

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (4-3): One word; one name: Benson. You can take him to the bank, because this guy is money (yeah, I said it, so what—this is my column!). He is currently fifth in the NCAA with 12.8 rebounds a game, fifth in blocks with 3.5 BPG, and ninth in double-doubles with four. The team itself is stumbling a bit with a 4-3 record, but none of those losses came by the hand of a conference opponent, which is the only kind of loss that matters for Oakland. If Benson can’t be stopped in the Summit League then neither can Oakland.
  2. South Dakota State (6-0): Undefeated so far in the non-conference portion of the schedule, although they didn’t really play anybody. But a perfect record is a perfect record. They are the top scoring team in the conference and they just bomb you from three. But like I always say: if you live by the three, you die by the three. Can they keep shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc? I’m leaning towards no.
  3. North Dakota State (4-3): They score the third most points in the conference (78.6), just a point or so behind Oakland. They are third in the conference in rebounding, and first in field goal percentage. They rebound, pass, and shoot very well, and they have a legitimate post presence in Eric Carlson and a go-to-guy that knows how to win in Michael Tveidt. Though South Dakota leads in three point percentage, I think NDSU is the most dangerous team from three-land, and I think they will be more consistent throughout the season. They cracked the Mid-Major top 25 briefly before bowing out because of a loss suffered at the hands of Green Bay.
  4. Oral Roberts (3-4): They have played much better the past two weeks — knocking off Utah, staying close with Texas Tech, and winning big against Western Illinois. Dominique Morrison dropped 35 points against WIU, and he may be the second best player in this conference. They have young talent, and it will be a rollercoaster ride until they get Michael Craion back for good. The senior forward, who was a preseason first-team selection, made his season debut against WIU, playing nine minutes. But there is no guarantee that his foot will hold up. Even if he doesn’t play much this season, they may still be a half-decent team. One major problem: they can’t shoot free-throws, hitting only 63 percent as a team. That is bad enough for ninth in the conference. Just above Centenary.
  5. IUPUI (4-4): What have you done for me lately, Jags?  You lose to St. Louis by three, only putting up 55 points, and you beat Centenary, the worst team in the conference  by just eight points?  I picked them third in the conference; I thought they would be better. Maybe they are, and I just need to give it some time. But right now, I’m not really feeling any love for OOY-POOY.
  6. IPFW (4-2): Ben Botts has turned into a fine point guard. He scored 20 in the OT win against UMKC, but he can create a lot of opportunities for IPFW to surprise some teams, like they did against the ‘Roos. They were down big early in the second half, but they came all the way back to force overtime and escape with a win. They have winnable games against Southern Utah and Toledo coming up. We could see the Mastodons stay at the top of the Summit League for at least another week.
  7. UMKC (4-2): Big loss to IPFW. They had the game in the bag, and they let it get away. That is going to be a tough one to swallow. Joe Couisnard is 35th in the country with 20.3 points, and he leads the Summit League in scoring.
  8. Western Illinois (3-4): And here I thought they may have a legitimate shot to be a pretty decent team after they stood down Missouri and lost a heartbreaker. But alas, they got beat soundly by ORU, and have now lost four of their last five. Ceola Clark III, their star and preseason first-team selection, has struggled mightily. He has been a huge disappointment, averaging just eight points in the four games, but he hasn’t been fully healthy, so maybe he can pull it together with time.
  9. Southern Utah (2-5): They had the unfortunate obligation to play Oakland on Thursday—stopping Keith Benson is not exactly any Summit teams’ favorite thing to do. SUU lost the rebound battle 35-31, but that is only the second time all year they have been outrebounded. Their strength will be inside crashing the boards—which will keep them in games. Now they just need to find someone who can score the ball.
  10. Centenary (0-8): they won’t be winless forever. They stayed with IUPUI and lost by only eight points. In their final season as a Division-I school, it is all about the moral victories for the Gents. But you never can be too hard on an overmatched team that plays with heart every game.

A Look Ahead

  • Oral Roberts faces IUPUI on Saturday, December 4. It will be the first marquee matchup in the Summit League this season. Both teams are a threat to win the conference. Watch out for Dominique Morrison, as he is heating up and averaging 19 points a game.
  • Oakland will try and knock-off #21 Illinois on December 8. Keith Benson and the boys will attempt to get the Summit League its first victory against a ranked opponent this year—if they can avoid an onslaught from fire-breathing Demetri McCamey and ignore that crazed Illini student section.
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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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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part seven)

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Seven: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State – Miles starts his third year in Long Beach following a seven-year stretch at Boise State where he was the primary media relations contact for the basketball team.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.

Last time out we introduced you to the marketing side of mid-major basketball programs and its range of athletic budgets from the one-man Sports Information Department on up. This week, we’ll take a look at another big difference between mid-major programs: the size of the markets in which they play. When these schools compete in small college towns, they can be the talk of the town when things are going well, but for those schools in bigger markets, they are in danger of being overshadowed and potentially lost in the crowd no matter how well they’re playing at the moment.

With So Many Entertainment Options in Big Cities Like LA, Finding Fans Can Be Tough

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: I definitely think it is an advantage (to be in a smaller market), here in the state of Arkansas. I’m originally from Texas, the Houston area, and two schools in that area are in our conference: Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. They have at times been lost in the shuffle of everything else that is going on, because you’ve got professional sports franchises and other colleges in the city of Houston and high school football and they have sometimes voiced concerns with the amount of coverage they have gotten. There is just so much going on in the city from a sports perspective. At times, it’s just hard for those programs to get ample amount of coverage because there is just so much going on. You’ve got a lot of competition for coverage among those other entities, where in Little Rock its UAPB, its UALR and then that’s really it in the Little Rock area. You’ve got the Arkansas Razorbacks, but there aren’t any professional sports in the state, so there is probably more ability for the news outlets to cover local colleges.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It can go both ways playing in a small community. Our fans are very much diehard fans. We’ve got very hardcore fans, which is great if you’re winning, and if you’re losing, they let you know about it. It can work both ways, but I’d much rather be in this situation. Let’s say you’re a mid-major program in a big city, it’s tough, because you can easily get swallowed up from a media standpoint and a PR standpoint. In the newspaper, you might be on the sixth or seventh page, if at all, whereas when we do something good or bad, it’s going to be the lead story in our paper. No question, if we play tonight the lead story in the paper tomorrow is going to be about ETSU basketball. If you’re a mid-major in a big city, you probably have to flip to the back pages to see anything about your program. That would be something you fight. So I like the situation we’re in, but if you’re not winning, then it can obviously work the other way.

Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland: When you look at Gonzaga, as far as the city of Spokane, they are the biggest show in Spokane, by far. Portland is not the case, we’ve got the Blazers, we’ve got Portland State, we’ve got minor league baseball, we’ve got more nightlife, we’ve got more going on, which is good. But from a standpoint of getting corporate sponsorship and getting fans, if you’re a company in Spokane and you want to wine and dine your clients, you take them to a Bulldogs game, because there’s nowhere else to take them.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: We’re not a small market, so I actually think it is a little more challenging for a smaller school in a large market, as compared to some of our league opponents who are in smaller markets where there’s not as much competition for entertainment. I don’t necessarily think that we directly compete with the Kansas City Chiefs for fans. I think that we as a mid-major school compete with that dinner-and-a-movie crowd, that’s a little more comparable to what our price point is. But we do have to compete. There are so many entertainment options in Kansas City, from the art to the theater to the ballet to the movies to concerts at the Sprint center to football games to Royals games to Wizards games. There are so many options of things for people in KC to do, so we have to come up with creative ways to keep UMKC basketball at the top of their minds.

Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State: We’re obviously competing against UCLA, USC, everybody else in our league, the Lakers, the Dodgers… there’s so much to do here. Getting attention in a place like this is a lot harder here than it was at Boise State in terms of local media and stuff like that, but I would say it is probably an advantage in some areas too. You’re more apt to see North Carolina come and play us, or play UCSB like they did a couple of years ago than to see them visit, say some mid-major in a smaller market.

Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron: I would say we compete for the professional sports fan in Cleveland, no question about that. That might change a little bit with what has happened with the Cavs and LeBron and all that this summer but certainly the last five or six years, that has been something that we definitely fight. It is not something where football overshadows basketball or basketball overshadows football within our department, I don’t know that we have that issue, but maybe fighting some of those outside things for what people are spending their entertainment dollars on. Even with Ohio State, we’re just two hours north of Columbus, but most of the state is into Ohio State and Ohio State football, so that’s something that we fight as well. I’m not saying someone is not going to come to an Akron game because they are necessarily going to an Ohio State game, but maybe they’re going to stay at home and watch the Ohio State game on TV or go to a sports bar, or something along those lines. So that’s something that we fight and that something we take into consideration a lot of times in terms of how you are going to schedule a game or how we are going to market a game.

Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: There is no question that we compete with Virginia and Virginia Tech, as our town sits right in the middle between the two. Our philosophy has been for a long time, we’re not going to steal Tech fans or steal UVA fans, that would be a fruitless effort. But those fans don’t always have games at Tech or UVa on the nights that we are playing, whether that be football or basketball. We here are their hometown team and we reach out to them, that’s part of what I would say are our non-traditional fans, that we’ve really begun to grow our fan base with the success we’ve had. Those people are big sports fans and they come watch us. Does that mean they’re giving up wearing maroon and orange for Tech or blue and orange for UVA? No, it doesn’t mean that. But they become fans of ours. Ultimately, we’d love to think that some of them would become primarily Liberty fans, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to put on a good show and maybe they’ll come to our games on a night when their team isn’t playing.

Putting on a good show is often a goal for these mid-majors, not only getting their fans to come to the games, but making sure they have a good time so that they are more likely to come back. And one of the big things is to create a game atmosphere that is not only fun for the fans and the student base, but also an environment that could aid the basketball team. The first step is getting the fans there.

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part six)

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Six: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Athletic Communications Directory, Liberty – Brown is a graduate of Liberty University and former sports editor at the student newspaper, the Liberty Champion.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.

Our last topic in this series is marketing: how do mid-major programs get their name and their brand out there, how do they grow their program, how can they compete for fans in both large and small markets, and how does their limited budget affect their choices? To begin with, even though all of the schools we talked with are regarded as mid-majors, there are a wide variety of budgets and a wide variety of staff sizes even among this small sample, ranging from Arkansas-Pine Bluff on the very small end to Liberty on a larger scale. At UAPB, the full-time staff is extremely limited.

Marketing at Mid-Major Programs Requires Creativity

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Full-time? Just me. No interns at the moment. No graduate assistants at the moment. We have some individuals that come and help us out on game days, which is really where I need people’s help, whether running shot clock or running game clock, setting everybody up. But as far as week-to-week, day-to-day operations in the office, it is pretty much just me, handling 16 sports. It becomes something where you really have to pride yourself on good time management, doing stuff in the most efficient manner possible, just because when you’re small-staffed you have to be smart about it, the way you go about doing stuff, because you don’t necessarily have the manpower of a USC or Duke who have that SID office with eight or nine people full-time.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: I definitely, in my role as an individual at UMKC, have quite a bit more areas of responsibility than someone in a similar position at Kansas State, Kansas or Missouri. You can look at the staff directories and see that we have quite a few less people, so in our marketing department, which would be my area of external relations and marketing promotions, we have only three full-time staff members to handle fundraising, special events, ticketing, marketing, promotions, game atmosphere, licensing. If you add sports information in, then you add two more full-time staffers and beyond that we have two graduate assistants. Each individual has quite a bit more responsibility and areas of oversight than you would find at one of the bigger schools.

Eric Quinton Brown, Assistant Athletic Communications Directory, Liberty: I would say we’re not the typical FCS staff because we probably have more staff members than a lot of our counterparts do. We’re probably different in that we’re fortunate to be able to add positions in the last couple of years. I don’t know if there is a larger full-time sports information department in our conference than what we have. We have five full-time people. We have a director, an associate director and then three assistant directors and we’ll have a GA [graduate assistant].

And, as the sizes of the sports information or athletics communications departments vary, so too do the responsibilities that fall to the individuals in those departments. While at Liberty roles may be more clearly defined, at smaller schools there may be more of a do-everything culture.

Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: I oversee all external communications, but I spend a lot of my time in the marketing portion and I spell sponsorship. My two graduate assistant students who work for me are specifically focused in the area of marketing.

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RTC Conference Primers: #26 – Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Oral Roberts (15-3)
  2. Oakland (14-4)
  3. IUPUI (14-4)
  4. South Dakota State (10-8)
  5. North Dakota State (9-9)
  6. IPFW (8-10)
  7. UMKC (7-11)
  8. Western Illinois (6-12)
  9. Southern Utah (4-14)
  10. Centenary (2-16)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • Ceola Clark, III (G)Western Illinois (14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • Alex Young (G) - IUPUI (18.3 PPG)
  • Dominique Morrison (F)Oral Roberts (15.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
  • Michael Tveidt (F)North Dakota State (15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
  • Keith Benson (C) - Oakland (17.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.3 BPG)

6th Man

  • Reggie Hamilton (G) - Oakland (transfer from UMKC)

Impact Newcomer

  • Jake Lliteras (G) - Oral Roberts (14.8 PPG, H.S.)

What You Need to Know

The Summit League is not a power conference, and they have struggled in the NCAA Tournament, but the top teams continue to land big-time talent and improve as they seek respect from the big boys. When it was first assembled, the conference champs would end up a #16 seed in the Big Dance, but for the third straight year, the Summit League earned a #14 seed—not exactly Final  Four contention, but they certainly have the ability to wear those glass slippers when March Madness rolls around. The all-conference team I selected above might be the best mid-major talent we have seen in quite some time. Everyone on my all-conference team has one thing in common: if they go down, they go down swinging—that’s a must-have ingredient for a small school looking to compete on the big stage. I think this is the year we see the Summit League move past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and take down some giants during the regular season.

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Summer School in the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 5th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Around The Summit:

  • Dakota Invasion: The Summit League plans on joining the realignment-party beginning next season (2011-12) when Centenary will move down to Division-III, and the University of South Dakota will take their place. There has also been talks of adding an eleventh team, likely the University of North Dakota, joining the conference in the near future, which would mean FOUR teams from the Dakotas in the Summit. Good for rivalries, bad for the warm-blooded.
  • An Oak In Oakland: The top teams in the conference made some key additions that fit nicely into their team philosophies. Oakland is happy to have Summit POY Keith Benson back, but they also added a center for the future: 7’0, 220-pound Kyle Sykora. The big man shot 71 percent from the field and blocked 5.6 shots per game during his high school years in Miami. It’s not often a seven-footer comes to the Summit League, and the addition of Sykora will assure Oakland of big-man dominance for years to come.
  • New Guard: IUPUI and Oral Roberts also added some nice guard pieces to their depth.  P.J. Hubert (IUPUI) was an Associated Press honorable mention all-state selection in Indiana, and Jake Lliteras (ORU) was Player of the Year in the Carolina 9 conference. Both guys should have an immediate impact on the floor for two teams vying for a conference title. And last but not least, South Dakota made the most improvement when they picked up Rock Valley H.S. Stars Jordan Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra; both were given high grades by ESPN Insider.

Kevin Ford is gone, but the rest of the pieces remain intact for perennial favorite Oral Roberts

Power Rankings

  1. Oral Roberts – They lost one starter, and since they were a 20-win team last year (including victories over Stanford, #12 New Mexico, and Missouri) with only seven scholarship players healthy, the Golden Eagles have a golden opportunity ahead of them. They have won the conference title three of the past five seasons, and as long as Scott Sutton is still the head coach, this team will be one of the favorites. Known in the past for their strength at the guard position, ORU is especially strong there this year with five guards who have starting-five ability. Summit Newcomer of the Year Warren Niles leads the way.
  2. Oakland – Don’t sleep on the defending champs. Even though Oakland lost tournament MVP Derrick Nelson and the conference’s best guard, Jon Jones, the Golden Grizzlies return the Summit League POY Keith Benson and several key players from last year’s dominant squad that won 26 games, including 17 of 18 conference games. In a conference that only showcases three quality teams, Oakland has as good a chance as any to capture a second straight title, and they could replace ORU as the top team by the time the season starts, depending on how their recruits shape up. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summit League Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

2009-10 Summit League Standings

  • #1. Oakland                        23-8 (17-1)
  • #2. IUPUI                            22-9 (15-3)
  • #3. Oral Roberts               19-12 (13-5)
  • #4. South Dakota St.       14-15 (10-8)
  • #5. IPFW                              15-14 (9-9)
  • #6. North Dakota St.       11-17 (8-10)
  • #7. Western Illinois         13-16 (6-12)
  • #8.  UMKC                           12-17 (6-12)
  • DNQ   Centenary               8-21(3-15)
  • DNQ   Southern Utah     7-22 (2-16)

Here are my Season Awards; the Summit’s selections shouldn’t be much different…

  • Player of the Year - Keith Benson (C), Oakland (16.9 ppg, 10 rpg, 3.3 bpg). Benson edges out his teammate Jon Jones because his work on defense and his rebounding were so far above anyone else in the conference. He was a matchup problem every single night, and his averages against league opponents are worthy of POY.
  • Newcomer of the YearWarren Niles (G), Oral Roberts (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg). Niles is the highest scoring freshman in the conference, and he started the last sixteen games for ORU.
  • Defensive POY - Keith Benson (C), Oakland

Summit League First Team

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

League Standings

  1. Oakland                                               (12-1)    18-8
  2. IUPUI                                                     (11-2)    18-8
  3. South Dakota State                           (9-4)    13-11
  4. Oral Roberts                                        (9-5)    14-12
  5. IPFW                                                       (6-7)    11-12
  6. North Dakota State                           (6-7)      9-14
  7. UMKC                                                      (4-8)    10-13
  8. Western Illinois                                               (3-10)    10-14
  9. Centenary                                           (3-11)      8-17
  10. Southern Utah                                  (2-10)      6-17

Top Storylines

  • Two teams from the Summit made an appearance on this week’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll. Oakland (#14) and IUPUI (#22) were both rewarded for their dominant conference performances thus far.
  • WIU senior guard David Nurse was named to the ESPN the Magazine District V all-academic basketball team. Nurse is working on a masters degree in business and has a 3.8 GPA, proving that there are still students among the “student” athletes.

Last Week

We enter the final three weekends of conference play, and it seems like the top four seeds have already been decided. Oral Roberts dropped two conference games to Oakland and lowly Western Illinois. Unless they can pull off a miracle, you can stick a fork in this team. A fourth-seed in the tournament would mean playing both top-seeded teams in order to make the dance. The eighth and final conference seed is still up for grabs.  Western Illinois would like to have it, as they think they can upset anyone in the conference.

Team Breakdowns

  • Alpha Squads - Oakland, IUPUI
  • Longshots - South Dakota, Oral Roberts
  • Bottom Feeders IPFW, UMKC, North Dakota, Southern Utah, Centenary, Western Illinois. No one seems to have what it takes to win this league besides the top two teams.  Oral Roberts is too banged-up, South Dakota plays too small, and everyone else just doesn’t have enough.  If someone else not named Oakland or IUPUI ends up winning this conference tournament, it would be a Disney-style underdog story.

Team Capsules

  • Oakland – The only team that can beat this team is IUPUI. And they already faced them twice. You can pencil them in for a trip to the finals.
  • IUPUI - They have three very dangerous scorers (Robert Glenn–18.5 ppg, Alex Young –18 ppg, and Leroy Nobles–13.5 ppg), they will be a 20-win team, and could be Oakland’s Kryptonite. Remember at the beginning of the year? I said D wins the Summit League. They allow 67.8 points per game; I like love this team.
  • SDSU – The Jackrabbits live by the three-ball, and they die by the three-ball.
  • ORU - We keep talking about their close losses, five by three points or less, but at some point, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to make free throws and easy jumpers. ORU does neither.
  • NDSU – North Dakota relies on their execution of the offense and getting open looks in order to win games. They are not athletic enough to cut and slash. I don’t see this team going too far in the tournament. They have only nine wins and its mid-February.
  • UMKC – Will likely end up with the seventh seed, but could get as high as fifth. Then again, the Roos have IUPUI and Oakland coming up, so they could miss the tournament altogether.
  • WIU – The Leathernecks are somehow holding on to that final spot in the conference tournament with a 3-10 conference record.  This same record could also get you the eight seed in the Pac-10 tournament this year.
  • Centenary – Sure, they are on the outside looking in, but they aren’t that far out, and it’s never too late to turn the season around! They swept the season series against IPFW, and they have a chance to sweep Southern Utah and scoot into the conference tournament, with some help.
  • SUU – The Thunderbirds are 5-6 at home, and winless on the road (0-11). Next game: on the road at IPFW.

Games to watch

  • February 13: IUPUI @ Oral Roberts - This game lost any significant when ORU choked at home against the Leathernecks, but it’s still the best game of the week.
  • February 20: Oral Roberts @ Austin Peay (ESPN BracketBuster) – ORU needs this game if they want any confidence going into the conference tournament.
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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

The Summit League    (Conf. W-L  — Overall W-L)

  1. IUPUI                9-1                          16-7
  2. Oakland                9-1                          15-8
  3. Oral Roberts              7-3                          12-10
  4. South Dakota State          7-3                          11-10
  5. IPFW                 5-5                          10-10
  6. North Dakota State          4-6                          7-13
  7. UMKC               3-6                          9-11
  8. Western Illinois        2-8                          8-12
  9. Centenary         2-8                          7-14
  10. Southern Utah            1-8                          5-15

Top Storylines

  • Last Saturday, Oakland was able to tie the record for consecutive conference wins with 16, but they couldn’t beat the record, getting hammered by IUPUI 78-54. The Jags capture the top spot in the conference, and all of the sudden, it’s a four horse race for first.
  • Oakland center Keith Benson earned another Summit League Player of the Week award with his 22.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in two games against North Dakota and South Dakota. Pro scouts are starting to attend Benson’s games on a regular basis now, and he has a good shot at landing a seat on an NBA sideline.

Last Week

IUPUI crushed Oakland on Thursday, making them the front-runner in the conference. I have said all year long, Oakland does not impress me, and they are beatable on any night. The Jags are picking up momentum, and they are the best team in the Summit as of today. Oral Roberts dropped a close game to their crosstown rival, the Tulsa Hurricanes. The loss was a big punch to the gut of the Golden Eagles (usually blowing a 15-point second-half lead does that), but it may have been a blessing in disguise. Since that loss, ORU has rallied to win back-to-back conference games in blowouts, and they still have their eyes on first place.

  • Alpha-squads: Oakland, IUPUI, Oral Roberts
  • Contenders: South Dakota State
  • Long-Shots: IPFW, North Dakota State
  • Bottom-feeders:  UMKC, Western Illinois, Centenary, Southern Utah

Team Breakdowns

In my standings I have three alpha squads and one contender, but in reality, only three teams can win the conference.  Oakland, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts have a combined conference record of 25-5. The bottom seven teams? 24-44.

  • IUPUI—very impressed with the Jags. Not a single team has been able to stop Alex Young (18.1 points) and Robert Glenn (18.2 points), and having two guys that can carry the team is a really nice asset. They are my pick to win the whole thing.
  • Oakland–don’t get me wrong, I still like these guys, as they have the most talent in the conference and it should be their turn to make the Big Dance. But they just haven’t been able to close the deal as a favorite… ever. So I will believe it when I see it.
  • Oral Roberts—seven of their ten losses came by a combined 30 points. That’s 4.3 points per loss. A couple more buckets, a few more free-throws, fewer injuries, and this team could be 19-3, and might be a darkhorse favorite when the conference tournament rolls around. Don’t forget, #12 New Mexico, Missouri, and Stanford fell to this injury-depleted team. Oakland and IUPUI could as well.
  • South Dakota State—lost to Oakland by three on Saturday, and their only bad game in the conference came early in the season against IUPUI. I still think lightning could strike and they end up in the conference semifinals or heck, even the final, but there is no chance they win the conference.
  • IPFW—4-1 in their last five conference games (dropped a close one to SDSU 65-64), but their next two games are against IUPUI and ORU, so that run could come to a screeching halt.
  • North Dakota State—they can be dangerous if they are shooting well, but they just don’t have the guard power that is needed to contend in the Summit. Whenever they face an upper-level team, they get exposed by the better point guards.
  • UMKC– they haven’t showed me enough to even be considered a long shot. They don’t have the ability to score more than 60 or 65 points a game, and like most of the teams at the bottom of the conference, they lack depth on their bench. 3-6 so far in the conference, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone expected much more this year.
  • Western Illinois—they are 8-12, but their wins have come from Truman State, Central Arkansas, Greenville, Culver-Stockton, Savannah State, Centenary, and Southern Utah. I don’t think those wins will boost your RPI.
  • Centenary—the hot start had all the Centenary fans believing (4-2), but since that time they have gone 4-12. David Perez has cooled off considerably, with his scoring average dropping to 16.9 points. On defense they are giving up 81 points per game.
  • Southern Utah—the Thunderbirds still have eight games to turn this season around and make it respectable, but they have only won one game since Christmas, so those prospects are grim.

Games to Watch

  • February 6 – Oral Roberts @ Oakland – Oral Roberts’ last chance to close the gap on Oakland before the tournament.
  • February 13 - IUPUI @ Oral Roberts – IUPUI will be looking to put away ORU, and perhaps clinch the number one spot.
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