Checking In On… The Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2012

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • How Far Can Oral Roberts Go?: In their final season as a member of the Summit League, the Golden Eagles are enjoying one of their best runs in the past 30 years. The Golden Eagles are on a seven-game winning streak that started with the trashing of Xavier. They have dismantled the Summit League on their way to a top-50 RPI, and depending on how they fare in the ESPN BracketBuster, could even position them for the unthinkable—an at-large bid.  Don’t laugh, Oral Roberts could potentially be a 25+ win team with another top-50 RPI win (depending on the BracketBuster), hell, why not shoot for a an 11-seed? ORU’s play has gotten national attention from the talking-heads of college basketball, and it’s time we give them their due here as well. Scott Sutton has had his squad in this position before, and it hasn’t panned out they way they hoped. This one looks different. Beware, Cinderella is on the loose.
  • League Growing In Respectability: The Summit League is rising fast thanks to Nate Wolters and Alex Young turning NBA-heads, coupled with ORU’s nearly flawless play and strong seasons from the rest of the teams in the Summit. The conference is now ranked #12 in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI (rpiratings.com) and #15 in the Sagarin Ratings—that’s about six places higher than it was last season. I expect the Summit League may take a big hit in the rankings next season when ORU departs, but for now, they are one of the top mid-major conferences in 2012.

The Run Jim Molinari (right) Is Putting Together With The Leathernecks Doesn't Go Unnoticed. (AP/Tony Ding)

Power Rankings

  1. Oral Roberts (14-4, 6-0) — You expected ORU to eventually take its place at the top, but how the Golden Eagles have done it was unexpected. The way they grabbed the #1 spot from South Dakota State and North Dakota State was just dominant, and it has propelled them into the national spotlight. They won’t be giving up first any time soon, and they made that abundantly clear. There are a lot of factors that have gone into the Golden Eagles’ success this season. For one, they are relatively healthy for the first time in three years. Dominique Morrison, as reliable as he is, has played at a level no one has ever seen him, and I cannot help but think the addition of Sean Sutton as an assistant coach has not factored into this as well. But what is the biggest difference about this year’s team? One name—Mike Craion. The senior forward redshirted last season for medical reasons, and the Golden Eagles struggled without him. He is not the best player on the team, that honor goes to Morrison, and he may not be the flashiest player, but he is the most important piece on the ORU squad. Craion is a defensive rock that has great vision. He has the ability to outrebound bigger players and score when it is needed. His stats don’t accurately tell the story (11.1 PPG/6.7 RPG). He doesn’t need the ball, and his maturity on the floor brings that team together. He has single-handedly won games with his defense and big plays. If he is not a first-team All Summit League selection it will be a crime. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Ed. Note – This post was written in advance of Wednesday’s action.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton was named as the Lou Henson Award national player of the week (the Award presented to the top Mid-Major Player in Division I college basketball) by CollegeInsider.com.  This is very good publicity for the Summit League and Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies are trying to show once again that they are the best team in the conference, and Reggie Hamilton just might will them to another championship with the way he is performing.
  • Alex Young is on the verge of 2,000 career points, and as the current active points leader in the NCAA, it is worth noting. This is a huge accomplishment for Young, who will join just 10 other players in conference history to reach 2,000 points. Young will likely finish in the top five all-time in Summit League history.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider debates who is the better point guard, Nate Wolters or Reggie Hamilton. We have a chance to find out very soon (see “Looking Ahead”).

Reggie Hamilton Of Oakland Is Off To An Outstanding Start (AP)

Power Rankings

Records reflect only games against Division I opponents.

  1. Oakland (8-6, 2-0) — The only reason I still have Oakland at the top is because nothing has changed as far as conference standings go in the past two weeks. Because of the Holidays there have been very few games played by anyone, but the next two weeks could decide the conference altogether. Back-to-back blowout losses to Arizona and then Western Michigan had me worried. There are other teams like ORU and South Dakota State playing much better. But I could not move them down when Reggie Hamilton continues to dominate the NCAA (23.0 PPG, .423 FG%, .893 FT%), placing him third in the nation in scoring, right behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who may just be the next Jimmer, and is making his own case for Player of the Year. If Hamilton was in the Missouri Valley, he may be getting the same attention as well. Hamilton has Oakland ranked no. 24 in the country in overall offense and the Golden Grizzlies continue to prove they have lost little from the past two dominant seasons.
  2. Oral Roberts (9-4, 1-0) — The Golden Eagles enjoyed one of their best two weeks of success in team history—a half court heave that won the game against UALR, followed by a slim loss to a very good Gonzaga team, and capped off with blowout wins against No.15 Xavier and Texas Tech. The Golden Eagles looked shaky at times during their tough non-conference schedule, but the bottom line is they’re now at 10 wins, all against quality opponents, and very high confidence going into the conference. I expect the Golden Eagles to chew up the Summit. Although they have a brutal upcoming two weeks against the Dakotas and Oakland. They need these next few games badly. The conference will in fact be locked up by somebody in late January, and the Golden Eagles have hit their stride at the right time. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Summit Continues To Rise: Last week, I thought the conference had reached its peak when it hit #14 in the RPI and Sagarin Conference rankings, but today the Summit sits at #12. Incredible, considering the Summit closed out last season ranked #21. This could mean something in March when the selection committee is deciding what seed the Summit champion will receive. So keep an eye on the rankings.
  • Featured Scorers: The Summit League entered the week with more players in the nation’s top 25 in scoring than any other conference. IPFW’s  Frank Gaines is ranked 9th, Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton 20th, South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters is 21st, and IUPUI’s Alex Young comes in at 23rd. Hamilton, Wolters and Young also rank in the top 10 for overall points.

Damen Bell-Holter Paces Oral Roberts And Hit A Buzzer-Beater To Sink Arkansas-Little Rock. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (6-4, 2-0) — They gave up a winnable game against Ohio at home, and they never had a chance against Michigan in a shootout. Those games are a little disheartening if you are Golden Grizzly fans, but there is no reason to panic. Oakland owns the best scoring offense in the conference, and is among the top 25 in the nation.  They have the tops scorer in the conference in Reggie Hamilton, and they play much better defense than the other top scoring teams like South Dakota State and North Dakota State. The next few weeks will be key for Oakland. If they can take care of business against NDSU and SDSU, this conference could be decided by the end of January. They play Oral Roberts twice next month, and they are the only serious contender right now. Get ready for some early fireworks in the Summit League. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 2nd, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Reader’s Take 

The Week That Was:

  • Climbing Up The Charts:  The Summit League hit a new all-time high at #14 in the November 28 Sagarin conference Ratings. The league was 18th in the preseason, but has risen steadily in the past couple weeks. There is no doubt the conference has likely reached its apex in the eyes of the mainstream college basketball fans with Oakland, Oral Roberts, and North Dakota State playing so well. Unfortunately, this won’t last with Oral Roberts departing next season and being replaced by Nebraska-Omaha. Enjoy the respect while it lasts!
  • Oakland Tops Tennessee…Again: The Volunteers fell to the Golden Grizzlies 89-81 on Monday for the second time in two seasons, and now it is clearly safe to say Greg Kampe and Company own the University of Tennessee. Will the Volunteers ever schedule Oakland again? The win marked just the third time in the 30-year Summit League history that a “power six” conference lost a game in back-to-back seasons to a Summit League team. Wow.
  • Racking ‘Em Up: IUPUI’s Alex Young is currently leading the nation as the NCAA active points leader with 1,753 to start the week, and he will likely close out his career with over 2,000. Right now he is ranked 18th in conference history, and could close in on the top ten by the end of the season.

The Golden Grizzlies Will Be The First To Tell You That Beating Tennessee Doesn't Qualify As An Upset.

Power Rankings

  1. Oakland (4-2) – The Golden Grizzlies beat down Tennessee again, this time at home with Reggie Hamilton dropping 35, and he is among the leaders the conference in scoring with 20.7 points per game. Oakland has been much better than most expected, and they have ripped off four consecutive wins. The Tennessee win was huge for their confidence. They trust themselves, and they know they can get the job done without Keith Benson. Keeping this mentality will be crucial once the conference grind begins. Oral Roberts is a force, and they are hungry, but it has been a long time since Oakland lost to Oral Roberts, and they still hold a slight edge.
  2. Oral Roberts (5-2)-The Golden Eagles had a huge 68-63 win against Missouri State at home on November 30. The way they won was impressive—pulling down offensive rebounds, hitting free-throws and playing tough defense. They are starting to get that Scott Sutton look. The Golden Eagles have so many weapons on offense, especially since Damen Bell-Holter is finally back although he is not quite 100 percent. There are four guys who can shoot beyond the arc, and at least that many who can bang around down low. This might be the most complete team in the Summit League, and we will find out if this is the case when they play Oklahoma next week.
  3. North Dakota State (5-0) — NDSU has a big-time streak going, they have a chance to really make a statement with games against Western Illinois and IUPUI coming up. I’m not buying the perfect start until I see how they show up in a battle with a conference foe. They are winning because they are shooting lights out. They rank 29th in the nation in field goal percentage which is mostly due to sophomore big-man Marshall Bjorklund, who is shooting 72% from the field and leading the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game. If they keep this up they will be 8-0 going into the December 10 showdown with Arizona State.
  4. South Dakota State (4-3)—The Jacks are still looking for that consistent second option to compliment Nate Wolters. Unlike their rivals in the North, South Dakota State is struggling mightily to shoot the ball, which is uncharacteristic of this team. Wolters himself may be struggling the most; he is shooting just 27% from three and 40% overall. A little help from his friends may take some of that pressure off his shoulders. They have the same upcoming schedule as North Dakota State, so we will get a chance to see where both of these teams stand in comparison early on in the season.
  5. Western Illinois (1-2) – Their 59-55 loss to #15 Michigan opened some eyes. The Leathernecks are a much more athletic than anticipated with freshman Obi Emegano emerging as a star. Ceola Clark seems to have hit his stride as well, and the duo has formed a dangerous one-two punch. Western has a lot of holes, but right now they have some confidence and are looking forward to a big matchup with North Dakota State.
  6. IPFW (0-2) – The ‘Dons haven’t picked up a Division I win yet, but they could get a nice head start in the conference standings when they face UMKC and South Dakota this week. Frank Gaines in playing out of his mind right now, averaging 23 points per game (7th in the nation), and the team is 41st in the nation with 75 points per game. They are one of the better scoring teams in the conference, and they have played some tough opponents— losing to #14 Xavier and Iowa. It is still early, and the ‘Dons have a strong overall game. Let’s see what they can do at the start of this conference schedule.
  7. UMKC (2-4)— Losing to Northwest Missouri State, barely escaping Nebraska-Omaha, and then Getting dismantled by #11 Wisconsin by 46 points was bad for the Kangaroos look. They have the worst scoring offense in the Summit League, and two big conference games against IPFW and Oakland loom. Reggie Chamberlain has been the lone bright spot for UMKC this season, averaging 17.1 points per game. It is always a hard transition when you lose two great seniors like UMKC did, but the Kangaroos will need to play with a lot more energy if they don’t want to end up at the bottom of this conference.
  8. Southern Utah (2-3) – They have looked rough to start the season.  Despite shooting 48% from the field, they are scoring just 69 points per game. Their two wins against Division I schools have come against Bryant and UC Davis, and they have been close games at that. But other than the blowout loss to San Diego State, the Thunderbirds losses have been winnable games coming down to the final possession. Their height and rebounding ability has really become a problem and they sit 236th in the NCAA for total rebounds with 34 per game. They are about to face Oral Roberts, maybe the best in the Summit, then square off against Weber State, who may be the best in The Thunderbirds new conference. Thunderbird fans have little to be optimistic about in the coming weeks.
  9. IUPUI (1-5)- As bad as the bottom half of the Summit League has looked in the opening month, the Jags have looked so much worse. IUPUI is pulling down just 33.9 rebounds per game and scoring 68.3 points per game—despite having the most talented player in the conference in Alex Young. Even Young is struggling—averaging 17 points per game off 38% shooting.   IUPUI hosts the Dakotas before traveling to Louisville to get hammered by the Cardinals. This could get worse. Much worse. I don’t see them contending for a conference championship this season. There are just too many teams in the Summit that are playing better than they are at this point in the year.
  10. South Dakota (0-3)—The Coyotes are still looking for their first Division I win, and they may be looking a little longer with Oakland and IPFW coming up next. They have the second-lowest scoring offense in the conference, but they have at least been competitive in their three losses. The wins will come for South Dakota, but they should view this season as a growth period as they transition into Division I.

Looking Ahead

  • North Dakota State at IUPUI, December 3— North Dakota State will look to continue their undefeated streak against the struggling Jags. This is an important game for teams that are headed in opposite directions. IUPUI needs this win to get on track, while North Dakota State needs this to compete with Oakland and Oral Roberts down the stretch.
  • Oral Roberts at Oklahoma, December 8— This is an important matchup for Oral Roberts. They are still looking for their annual power conference upset, and this is the perfect game for them to do it. Oklahoma looked strong early in the season, but were dealt their first loss of the season by Saint Louis over the weekend.
  • #15 Michigan at Oakland, December 15— Oakland got embarrassed last season by Michigan right after the Golden Grizzlies upset #7 Tennessee, will the tables be turned in this year’s rematch?

POY Stock Watch

  • Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (20.7 PPG, .891 FT%)—Trending: UP. The team is on a roll thanks to Hamilton’s back-to-back 35-point games. He is one of the leading scorers in the conference so far, and he is playing to prove to everyone that he doesn’t need Keith Benson on his team for them to shine.
  • Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts (17.6 PPG, 44% FG)—Trending: HOLD.  When Oral Roberts needs a big basket they go to Morrison. It seems like he can drop 30 points at any time, but he is content to move the ball and create good offense for his teammates.
  • Stephen Roundtree , Oral Roberts (13.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG)—Trending: UP. He exploded onto the scene last year leading all NCAA freshmen in scoring, and this season he has turned into a dominant presence inside for Oral Roberts. He has an array of low post moves, and his hustle and determination on the glass is what sets him apart.
  • Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (20.4 PPG, 6.1 APG)—Trending: DOWN. Wolters has struggled to shoot the ball, and his team is in a funk.
  • Alex Young, IUPUI (17.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG)—Trending: DOWN. Shooting just 38% from the field has hurt Young in the early going. His team is in shambles, and Young has his work cut out for him if he wants to bring his team back into contention.
  • Frank Gaines, IPFW (23.0 PPG)— Trending: UP. Gaines leads the conference in scoring and he has put IPFW in position to contend for a conference title this season.
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RTC Conference Primers: #22 – Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League. You can find him on Twitter at @CharlieParksRTC

Ed. Note — yesterday’s Summit League primer was actually a re-publish of the summer update.  We apologize for the error.

Reader’s Take I

For the Summit League, having someone win Player of the Year may be the ticket to a title. Five of the last seven conference champions have also been the home of the Summit League Player of the Year.

 

Top Storylines

  • Realignment Hits the Summit: Word got out recently that Oral Roberts was flirting with the Southland Conference. ORU bolting could be a devastating move for the Summit League, which would lose one of its few premier teams. The Summit would take a definite step back. As for ORU, the Southland Conference isn’t exactly an upgrade — in fact, it is probably a downgrade in RPI and level of competition — but the move just makes sense. The Southland offers more natural conference matchups with teams from Arkansas and Texas, and better local recruiting opportunities. Let’s face it; no one from Oklahoma wants to travel to North Dakota in January to play a conference game. Also, Pat Knight just took the head job at Lamar. The Suttons and Knights have always been pretty close, and they have a long history together in college basketball. Scott Sutton versus Pat Knight would be a nice “new” rivalry. But unless the Southland pays the Summit League’s $250,000 buyout for Oral Roberts, this move couldn’t happen until 2014.
  • Bears With Bugs: Has the injury bug found its way to the Golden Grizzlies? Reggie Hamilton and Drew Valentine underwent some recent surgeries; Hamilton shouldn’t miss any time, but what about Valentine? It was a minor knee operation, but knives, knees and basketball don’t go well together at all. Oakland fans should keep a close eye on the situation, but I see no reason for panic… yet.

Predicted Order of Finish

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 26th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!

While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.

At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.

The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

The Summit League standings were shaken up one final time as the regular season comes to an end. All eight teams clinched a spot this week in the tournament, and Oakland became the first conference regular season champion of 2011. The win guarantees them a spot in the NIT should they falter in the conference tournament. The Golden Grizzlies were also bumped all the way up to #6 on the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, just one spot behind Gonzaga and six spots ahead of last year’s NCAA runner-up, Butler. But perhaps the biggest winner in the weekend drama was ORU. Thanks to a dominant 18 point drubbing of IUPUI, the Golden Eagles locked down the coveted #2 seed—which quite frankly—almost gives them an easier road to the Conference Championship game than top-seeded Oakland. It was the final big momentum swing that has now aligned us for a fantastic Championship weekend.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (21-9, 16-1)—There have been grumblings among Summit fans who think Oakland has lost a little of their edge— they have been involved in some close games against conference foes, including a loss to IUPUI—but I don’t think there is really anything for this team to be concerned about until the conference championship game. The only team Oakland could have trouble with would be ORU.  Simply because ORU is the only team that could match their size and depth. However, Oakland won’t face them again until the championship game—so until then, rest easy Golden Grizzly fans. Oakland is nearly unstoppable on offense—they are third in the country in scoring and eighth in field goal percentage.  Even in their one conference loss to IUPUI, they scored 88 points. To beat Oakland, you have to get their big men in foul trouble, and hope you can outlast them in a shootout.

2. Oral Roberts (16-14, 12-5)—They are on a seven-game win streak and are playing better than any team in the conference, including Oakland. They have dominated their opponents by an average of 13 points per game during the win streak. They have been brought back to life by the vastly improved guard play, and a renewed team focus.  Veteran guard Kyron Stokes was also cleared to play basketball by his neurologist after suffering what seemed to be career-ending concussions earlier in the year. But He is back, head gear and all, not a moment too soon. Not only is he the best perimeter defender and most experienced player Scott Sutton has, but he is also one of the vocal leaders on the team.  Adding guys like that only make you better. We will see how it pans out next week as they push for the championship.

3. IUPUI (17-13, 11-6)—They had a great chance to clinch the #2 seed, and it looked like they would after defeating Oakland  by  12 on February 5, but a blowout loss to Oral Roberts gave them their third loss in five games. It is nothing short of a monumental collapse that will haunt the Jags. They have an NBA-material forward in Alex Young, but he can’t carry a team alone. This team really struggles to play defense, and their point guard play is less than impressive. Two elements they must have to make it to Championship weekend.

4. South Dakota State (18-10, 10-7)—They salvaged the season a bit down the stretch, winning five of their last seven with losses to the two best teams in the conference. They will likely get the four-seed, which will match them against IPFW in the first round, a team they dominated twice in the regular season.

5. IPFW (10-7, 17-11) — IPFW finally collapsed down the stretch like I predicted. There were too many times during the year when you looked at their roster and said “how are they winning?” They were too small and too streaky to stay on top forever. Looking back, the best team the Mastodons beat all year was ORU. The last month they struggled in the Conference, going 3-4 in the month of February, and they failed to score 80 points against any conference opponent in that span.

6. UMKC (16-12, 9-8)—The Roos, like IPFW, have somehow competed hard despite having no size to work with. There was a stretch in January where no one really wanted to play UMKC—taking ORU, IUPUI, and NDSU to five overtime periods combined. But recently they have been getting demolished by the top teams, and have slowly faded into the pack. They are still a dangerous team when they shoot well, but it won’t be enough to win three days in a row next week.

7. North Dakota State (13-14, 7-10)—Despite the record, I am sure Oral Roberts would rather play Southern Utah in the first round than North Dakota State. No matter what their seeding, NDSU is going to be a tough out. They still have Michael Tveidt, who was a key member of their Cinderella run from a couple years ago, so if anyone has an upset left in them it is NDSU. They are limping into the tournament, but sometimes the most dangerous animal is a wounded animal—and they have nothing to lose.

8. Southern Utah (11-17, 7-10)—Southern Utah will have an interesting next couple of week. On Saturday, they play Oakland in the final regular season game, and then face them again in the first round of the Conference tournament. Is that an upset I see on the Horizon? (Nah).

9. Centenary (1-28, 1-16) — No one deserves to lose them all, and Centenary avoided infamy by defeating Western Illinois 73-60—ending a 33-game losing streak.  This team might be the worst team in NCAA history, but tonight, they are winners. That convincing win is good enough to bring them out of the cellar for the first time all season, at least in my poll.

10. Western Illinois (2-15, 7-21)—they will always be remembered as the only team to lose to the worst team of all-time…by 13.

A Look Ahead

The Summit League conference championship starts Saturday March 5, for the men and women, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s all high-stakes basketball from here on out. Win, you advance with dreams of making the Big Dance; lose, and you go home with nothing to show for it.  Don’t you love mid-major basketball?  A Conference Championship preview is coming up next week.

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ATB: Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen

Posted by jstevrtc on February 25th, 2011

The Lede. Who doesn’t love a nice thick Thursday full of excellent college hoops storylines? We’ve got 17 more days to talk bubble teams and seed lines, and we’ll get to the big boys here soon enough. Tonight we start the ATB in the only place even considered for the honor, a 3,000-seat gym in Shreveport, Louisiana. Gold Dome. 0-28. Centenary.

Nakwaasah Was One of Two Gents Who Put Up Career Highs Tonight

Your Watercooler Moment. This entire season has been a lame duck endeavor for the Centenary Gentlemen. This is their last season in Division I, and not only are they demoting themselves, they’re sublimating straight to Division III after this year. For weeks they’ve been the only D-I team without a win. All season long up until a couple of weeks ago, while we were worried about undefeated squads, Centenary was unvictorious. As evening began to fall on the college season, prognosticators began glancing at Centenary’s schedule, wondering if a win was going to happen for the Gentlemen, and which game presented the most likely chance. We mean no disrespect to any supporters of the Western Illinois Leathernecks, the school, or the team itself, but when you looked at the records of Centenary’s upcoming opponents and you noticed that WIU, on its own floor, had only beaten the Gentlemen by six back on December 4th, the return game on February 24th was the one at which you pointed as a possible win for CC. The nation wanted it. It takes a lot of guts for kids to lose 28 times in a row, go through the practices and hear the whispers for an entire year, and still show up night after night.

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Checking in on… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 12th, 2011

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

A Look Back

  • The cream has risen to the top in the Summit League, finally, and it looks like there are four teams that have a legitimate shot to win a title. IUPUI resurfaced in the Summit after knocking off the top two teams, and Oral Roberts asserted itself with a dominating win against UMKC, keeping them in the mix of elite teams. Oakland fell in the mid-major Top 25 to # 12 after losing to IUPUI, and likely lost what little chance they had of getting an at-large bid by sweeping the conference regular season. But this should be of no concern for Oakland fans. The loss may even have helped the Golden Grizzlies in the long run to stay focused on the task at hand.
  • This is an interesting article from  Indystar.com that suggests the Jaguars’ Alex Young may be on his way to the NBA.

Power Rankings

1. Oakland (12-1, 17-9) — their conference win streak was ended by IUPUI, but there is nothing for the Golden Grizzlies to really be concerned about.  If they stay focused and keep the goal in sight, they will be fine. For Oakland fans, this is perhaps the only mistake Coach Kampe has made all season.

2.  IPFW (9-4, 16-8)—they are holding on to that number two spot, and my predicted collapse is not happening. They can even afford to give another game away and still finish in second. They are in the best position out of all the contenders right now.  Ben Botts doesn’t get mentioned very often, especially since he shares the spotlight with guards like Nate Wolters and Leroy Nobles, but he deserves to be. How many more wins before we are convinced IPFW is for real?

3. Oral Roberts (9-5, 12-14)—They made a big statement going into UMKC and dominating that game from wire to wire and scoring triple digits for the first time in seven years. They have received two career games from guard Rod Pearson, and it will be good for the Golden Eagles to have some stability at that position going into the final stretch of the conference schedule. They are getting hot at the right time, and their big men are second only to Oakland. They need that #2 seed to have any chance at a title, so every game is a must-win from here on out.

4. IUPUI (9-4, 15-11)— they were coming on strong with victories over the top two teams, taking over the #2 spot in the standings briefly before getting crushed by South Dakota State —though I think the game was more of a fluke than a reflection of things to come.  The Jackrabbits shot 53% from the field in the victory over the Jags—even Oakland is losing that game if SDSU shoots that well against them.  Led by Alex Young, IUPUI is my favorite right now to leap into the #2 position.

5. South Dakota State (8-6, 16-9) — When they shoot lights-out from three, there is nothing you can do to stop them. Clint Sargent hit seven threes against IUPUI, and Nate Wolters added 21. When they are off, they tend to blow big leads by shooting themselves to death (i.e. at Oral Roberts).  They have the ability to drive the ball inside with Wolters, and if they can find that healthy balance in the offense down the stretch, they will be dangerous.

6. UMKC (7-6, 14-10)—They have been putting up some solid performances against the top teams in the conference, but the loss to ORU was crushing. They were dominated every way possible in that game.  Their shortcomings may not be so much a disparity of talent, but more a lack of preparation. That fault lands on the coaches. I still think they can pull it together and finish in the top five.

7. North Dakota State (7-7, 13-11)—They have won four of their last five games, and have started to look pretty confident. I know the fans of both teams will hate this, but they play a very similar style to SDSU. Both teams like to settle back behind the three once they get good lead, and they try to shoot teams out of the building.

8. Southern Utah (4-9, 8-16)— Three of their four conference wins have come against Western Illinois and Centenary. Their last four games will be against the top four teams in the conference. I think it is safe to say they have reached their potential.

9. Western Illinois (2-11, 7-17) — I can cut Centenary some slack, they are a D-III team in transition, but Western may be just as bad. They have the worst scoring offense in the conference, and they put up a measly 48 against North Dakota State. They showed promise at the end of last year, and they failed to build on that.

10. Centenary (0-14, 0-26)—The coaches and players don’t ignore the fact that they are a Division-III team playing in Division-I. This team is not going to win a single game this season, and they could very well go down in history as the worst team of all time alongside the Savannah States and NJIT’s.

A Look Ahead

And down the stretch they come…four big conference games remain on everyone’s schedule. This time of year, fantastic basketball is always played by mid-major teams with their tournament lives on the line.

  • Though Oakland just about has the conference wrapped up (with a three-game lead and five games to go), there’s a 1-2 battle between the Golden Grizzlies and IPFW taking place on the 12th.
  • For the Summit, high-stakes games will take place on February 17, when South Dakota State faces IPFW, and on February 24, IUPUI comes into Tulsa to face Oral Roberts.  These rivalry games will have massive implications for the conference tournament.
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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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The Unvictorious

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2011

After Florida State’s victory over Duke last night, there are but four undefeated teams left in D-I college basketball: San Diego State, Kansas, Syracuse, and the heir apparent to the #1 ranking on Monday, Ohio State. You’ve probably heard about that today just as much as you’ve heard the analysis about how hard it is for a team to go undefeated any more (no kidding). Soon, we’ll make our predictions on when the remaining four undefeateds will lose. Because they will.

Kyle Randall and UNCG Have Made It Just Past the Midpoint of Their Schedule Without a Win

But what about the other side — the unvictorious? It’s been three seasons since a school has gone through the entirety of their schedule without a single win, an ignominy achieved by the 2007-08 New Jersey Tech (NJIT) Highlanders, God love ‘em, and their 0-29 run as an independent. Last year, two teams came close, when Marist and Bryant both went 1-29. Marist rung in 2010 by beating Manhattan, 72-66, on January 2nd. Bryant, however, had everyone holding their breath late into the season until, with only four games left, they finally snagged that first victory on February 18th — a 53-51 squeaker at Wagner.

This season, there are still two teams without a victory. UNC-Greensboro is 0-15 with 14 regular season games left on their schedule. And even though they may have one of the best nicknames in the game — the Gentlemen — Centenary is 0-17 with 13 games remaining.

The future is a tad brighter for UNCG than it is for Centenary, it would seem. The oracle that is KenPom projects the Spartans to finish at 4-25 and has them winning their first game on January 20th against Georgia Southern,  a game that also represents their best chance at a victory (75%). Unfortunately for the Gentlemen, it’s pretty dire. KenPom’s projection relegates them to the dustbin of history, a perfectly unvictorious 0-30, with their best chance for a win coming on February 24th against Western Illinois — a mere 15% chance, at that. We should note that Centenary, the smallest D-I school in the country,  is playing with lame duck status. They’ll move back down to Division III next season.

Good luck, fellas, and we’ll be watching. We hope you both get at least one before season’s end!

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