Checking In On… the Summit LeaguePosted 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.