Summit League 2007-08 Preview
The Mid-Continent Conference is no more. As of June 1, the conference that used to bear that name is now the Summit League, although the name change isn’t all that is different this season. It’s just the most notable one, for obvious reasons.
Valparaiso, a charter member of the conference, has left to join the Horizon League. Valpo was also the conference’s most visible member for many years thanks to its success, especially in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, IPFW is now a full member and eligible for the conference tournament, and new Division I programs North Dakota State and South Dakota State join the league and are eligible for the tournament next season. The league wasted little time in making one of the new schools prominent in announcing that after this season’s league tournament in Tulsa, the next two will be held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. North Dakota State arrives having already had some Division I success.
Last season, Oral Roberts won its second straight conference tournament as senior stars Caleb Green and Ken Tutt finished outstanding careers. That established the Golden Eagles as the dominant team in the league right now, and they won’t be going away anytime soon. However, a couple of teams that haven’t been in the league quite as long are poised to be contenders on a regular basis, as IUPUI and Oakland, the team Oral Roberts knocked off in the conference title game, have established themselves as solid programs. And with North Dakota State’s early Division I success, they should be in that mix on a regular basis before long as well.
Three teams have new head coaches this season, and it would not have been a surprise if there were two more as one coach was offered another job and another was rumored to be a candidate for a couple of openings. North Dakota State saw Tim Miles leave to become the head coach at Colorado State and replaced him with former assistant Saul Phillips. UMKC fired Rich Zvosec after six years at the helm, replacing him with former West Virginia assistant Matt Brown. Southern Utah welcomes Roger Reid, who has done plenty of winning in that state. He replaces Bill Evans, an alum who had been the head coach for 15 years.
Player of the Year: George Hill, IUPUI
Top Newcomer: Robert Jarvis, Oral Roberts
Top Freshman: Ceola Clark, Western Illinois
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn King, Oral Roberts
Best NBA Prospect: Shawn King, Oral Roberts
George Hill, Jr. G, IUPUI
Erik Kangas, Jr. G, Oakland
Shawn King, Sr. C, Oral Roberts
Austin Montgomery, Sr. G, IUPUI
Ben Woodside, Jr. G, North Dakota State
IUPUI Jaguars (15-15, 7-7 Summit)
Sr. G Austin Montgomery (13.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Jr. G Gary Patterson (11.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.4 apg)
Jr. G George Hill (redshirt)
So. F Jon Avery (4.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
So. F Billy Pettiford (3.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Schedule Highlights: The Jaguars have six home games in non-league play, highlighted by UMass coming to town on December 1 and a three-game home stretch later that month that is highlighted by a visit from MAC favorite Western Michigan. They open the season at Marquette and later play in the Top of the World Classic and at Saint Louis. The non-league schedule also features a home-and-home with former league member Chicago State. In league play, five of their first seven games (including one in December) are on the road, but after that are four straight home games.
Outlook: Head coach Ron Hunter was offered the Ball State job, but decided to stay and got a new contract. It should be a good move as he has a team well-positioned to contend not only this season, but next as well. Hill’s injury certainly didn’t help the team last season, but what they gained from playing without him will almost certainly help them with his return this time around. He joins an excellent perimeter trio that leads the way on a team that returns many of its key players from last season. Montgomery was the league’s top newcomer last season, and he and Patterson give them two dangerous shooters. The frontcourt similarly has solid depth without stars, and should be more than serviceable. If there’s a concern, it’s that there doesn’t appear to be a true point guard and the Jaguars had 59 more turnovers than assists last season. Newcomers such as freshman Adrian Moss or junior Kyle Savely may be able to help remedy that problem. With the Jaguars’ perimeter attack and overall depth, they could be the team to beat.
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (23-11, 12-2 Summit)
Sr. G Adam Liberty (6.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.9 apg)
Sr. G-F Moses Ehambe (7.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Jr. G-F Marchello Vealy (7.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.0 spg)
Sr. F Yemi Ogunoye (2.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Sr. C Shawn King (7.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 bpg)
Schedule Highlights: The non-league slate is highlighted by an appearance in the NIT Season Tip-Off, where they play at Texas A&M and then against either UTEP or Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in College Station. The rest of the road slate is challenging, as they play at Southland contender Lamar, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma State (in the All-College Classic) and Utah State. They have four home games on tap, highlighted by Tulsa and a BracketBusters game. Although the bulk of Summit League play starts with three straight on the road in January, the Golden Eagles have a three-game home stand to begin February and two plus the BracketBusters game later in the month.
Outlook: The Golden Eagles may have lost the two best players in the program’s (and arguably the league’s) history, but don’t expect them to fall far if at all as everyone else is back. Last season’s team had plenty of talent besides Green and Tutt, and now we will get to see it on this senior-laden team. Liberty is a steady floor leader who still has good scoring options, especially Ehambe and Vealy on the wings as both can shoot the ball. Vealy is very athletic and mainly needs to shoot the ball more consistently, but he was suspended during the early weeks of practice. Ogunoye should get better with an expanded role, while King led the league in blocked shots and was quietly a key to last season’s success. The frontcourt has a good deal of size in a league that doesn’t have much, which gives them another advantage. As if that’s not enough, they add impact transfers like guard Curtis Allen and forward Marcus Lewis along with junior college transfer Robert Jarvis, who will be another perimeter scorer. Freshman forward Andre Hardy was a late addition who will add more frontcourt depth. Although there’s not the same star power as last year, there’s plenty of talent and winning experience on this team to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
North Dakota State Bison (20-8)
Jr. G Ben Woodside (16.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.5 spg)
So. G Austin Pennick (2.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.5 apg)
Jr. G Mike Nelson (15.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.9 apg)
Jr. F Brett Winkelman (16.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg)
Jr. C Lucas Moorman (4.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg in 15 games)
Schedule Highlights: The Bison open a challenging non-league slate on the road in the Blue Ribbon Challenge, playing at Florida and Rutgers, then hosting North Carolina Central and playing at Tennessee Tech. The most noteworthy of their four home games is against Colorado State and former head coach Tim Miles on December 15. Other road games include Wisconsin-Green Bay, Minnesota and two games in the Golden Bear Classic against Bucknell and either host California or Long Beach State.
Outlook: Although they are ineligible for the league tournament this year, don’t be surprised if the Bison are a thorn in everyone’s side right away. They have most of their key players back from last season’s team that won 20 games and hired one of last season’s assistants to replace Tim Miles, ensuring continuity. Woodside immediately becomes one of the best guards in the league, while Nelson and Pennick complete a solid perimeter unit. Winkelman should immediately be one of the best post players in a league that is certainly not full of them, and Moorman might be the second-best center right away. There is also good depth, as guard Josh Vaughan and forward Sam Sussenguth got experience right away as freshmen last year and junior forward Lorenzo Riley was a key reserve as well. There isn’t a senior on the roster, so this season will give league fans and opposing teams a taste of what the Bison will be capable of once they are eligible for the tournament next season.
Oakland Grizzlies (19-14, 10-4 Summit)
So. G Johnathon Jones (9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.1 spg)
Jr. G Erik Kangas (12.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.4 apg)
Sr. G Brandon Cassie (4.3 ppg)
Jr. F Derick Nelson (10.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Sr. F Patrick McCloskey (3.6 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: Five home games are on tap in a challenging non-league slate, with an additional game at The Palace in Auburn Hills against Oregon in December. An early three-game home stand includes a matchup with Duquesne. They open the season at Wisconsin-Green Bay, then later head to Michigan State, Xavier, Michigan and Toledo. When Summit League play begins in earnest in January, they don’t get many favors as five of the first seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Oral Roberts. On the plus side, they can gather some late momentum with three straight home games in February.
Outlook: Fresh off a tough loss in the league title game, the Grizzlies bring back a team that should be in contention once again this season despite a couple of key frontcourt losses. That’s because they return sharpshooter Kangas and constantly improving floor leader Jones, who will form one of the better backcourts in the league. Nelson will anchor the frontcourt despite being undersized, as he plays bigger and is solid defensively, while McCloskey will be asked to do more and 6’10″ Rutgers transfer Dan Waterstradt should also make an impact. It’s not an accident that Greg Kampe won Coach of the Year honors last season, and he has a team that will be right there in the running for the title again this season.
IPFW Mastodons (12-17)
Sr. G Chris Perkins (6.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Sr. G Demetrius Johnson (6.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.9 apg)
Jr. G Jakari Johnson (6.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 spg)
Sr. F DeWitt Scott (11.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Sr. F Jaraun Burrows (8.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Mastodons have four non-league home games, highlighted by the home opener against old Summit League foe Valparaiso. They open the season at Wisconsin, then later travel to Indiana State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Marquette and Kent State. In December, they have two early Summit League home games, then have a three-game home stretch in January and three straight on the road at one point in February.
Outlook: Although the Mastodons are a senior-laden team that finished last season by winning five of seven, they will be new to playing a full league slate this year and aren’t as talented as some others. Johnson will run the show alongside Perkins and Johnson, while Scott is the best all-around player as he is an excellent shooter. Don’t be surprised if freshman Ben Botts gets plenty of minutes in the backcourt right away, as well as Nick Luttrell in the frontcourt as the Mastodons were out-rebounded by almost four per game last season. Dane Fife is the youngest head coach in Division I, and his program will likely grow with him in due time.
Centenary Gents (10-21, 3-11 Summit)
So. G Chase Adams (5.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.8 spg)
Jr. G Tyrone Hamilton (15.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.1 spg)
Jr. G Nick Stallings (8.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.3 spg)
Jr. F Lance Hill (5.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
So. F Jerrald Bonham (2.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: Three home games are on tap in non-league play, highlighted by Texas Tech during a four-game home stretch that includes two early Summit League games. Northwestern State begins that four-game stretch. The Gents will open the season at the Iowa State Tournament, where they will play Lipscomb in the opener and could play the host in the second game. Other notable road games include SMU, Baylor, improved Louisiana Tech, Georgia Tech and Hawaii. Once Summit League play begins in earnest in January, it starts tough with contenders Oral Roberts (home) and Oakland (away), and later in the month they play three straight on the road.
Outlook: The Gents will be very young this season despite possibly starting three juniors, as ten of the 14 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores. Hamilton is who they are built around, and he’s one of the better players in the league. That makes him a good starting point, and Adams could develop into a good player as well, while Stallings is the complement on the perimeter. Inside is where the trouble likely is, as the Gents very little in the way of proven players there but have some size with six players being 6’7″ or taller. Four of those players are freshmen, clearly brought in to address the need for size indicated in part by being out-rebounded by more than six per game last season. With Hamilton the only returning double-digit scorer, defense is the first area where improvement can mean wins, especially after they allowed over 75 points per game last season.
UMKC Kangaroos (12-20, 6-8 Summit)
Sr. G-F Tim Blackwell (5.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
Jr. G-F Dane Brumagin (9.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
Sr. F Brent Stephens (9.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
Jr. F Brian Gettinger (4.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Jr. C Alex Pledger (5.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Kangaroos open up the season with a real challenge, as they start off at Kansas in the Jayhawk Invitational, then two games later go to Northern Arizona and Arizona. After that, six of the next seven non-league games are at home, with Summit League games at Oakland and IPFW mixed in. They also play at Missouri in early January. Once league play starts in earnest in January, they have three straight home league games, then later have a three-game road stretch.
Outlook: The Kangaroos don’t lack talent, but with a new coach and their two best players from last season having finished their careers, they are likely to struggle some initially. Not helping is that there isn’t a holdover point guard, leaving a gaping hole at that crucial position. On the plus side, there are some capable shooters, which should help since new head coach Matt Brown is a John Beilein disciple, meaning he comes from a system that needs shooters. Blackwell, Brumagin, Stephens and Gettinger are all capable from long range, so they could use a four-out, one-in system with Pledger, the tallest player in the league, staying inside. Rebounding will be a concern since they were out-rebounded by almost five last season and aren’t really hurting for size.
Western Illinois Leathernecks (7-23, 3-11 Summit)
Fr. G James Washington (redshirt; 5.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg in six games)
Sr. G David Jackson (12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.1 spg)
Jr. G David Dubois (junior college transfer)
Sr. F Jerryck Owens-Murrey (9.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Sr. F Chris Gonzalez (4.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The non-league slate features five home games, including consecutive games to close it out. Road games include Kansas State, Missouri and UCLA, and they have an in-season home-and-home with Texas-Pan American where the two games will be played five days apart. In league play, they get a four-game home stand about halfway through, then close the regular season with three straight on the road.
Outlook: Last season had its share of tough losses, as the Leathernecks lost eight games by four points or less. That means they weren’t very far away from being about .500 overall, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get there this season as they have eight new players. They have good perimeter building blocks in senior David Jackson, a good player hidden away on a struggling team, and Washington, who showed some potential before an injury forced him to redshirt last season. There are plenty of options to join them on the perimeter, with newcomers David Dubois and David Nurse each having Division I experience before going to a junior college. Owens-Murrey is a good complement to Jackson, while Gonzalez needs to get better for this team to have a chance inside unless some newcomers contribute right away. The Leathernecks allowed opponents to shoot better than 46 percent from the field last season, including nearly 40 percent on three-pointers, and allowed over 70 points per game, three statistics that indicate a need for defensive improvement.
Southern Utah Thunderbirds (16-14, 6-8 Summit)
Jr. G Nick Livi (junior college transfer)
So. G David Marek (2.8 ppg)
Sr. F Nurudeen Adepoju (9.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Sr. F Orlando Griego (8.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.3 apg)
Jr. F Tate Sorenson (7.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: Five home games are on the non-league schedule, including three straight early on that includes Big West contender Cal Poly and Boise State, the former of which is part of one of two in-season home-and-home series (the other is with Cal State Fullerton). They open the season at Utah State and later travel to play New Mexico and Brigham Young. In league play, five of their last seven games are at home, but they won’t be easy: of the first four, three are against North Dakota State, Oral Roberts (one of the road games) and Oakland.
Outlook: Reid has done a lot of winning in the state of Utah, so the Thunderbirds seem to have made a statement in hiring him to lead the program. Reid was most recently the head coach at Snow College, and he has since brought a lot of attention and support to the program as two record donations have come in since his hire. For good measure, he also brought five players from Snow along with him, including junior college All-American Geoff Payne, who should get good minutes right away and may push one of the holdover forwards out of the starting lineup. The holdovers include several regulars from last year, all of whom should benefit from Reid’s tutelage but will have to get better to stay in the lineup. Seniors Adepoju and Griego look to be the best bets to remain regulars, while Sorenson may be able to move out of the middle if 6’10″ John Clifford, another player Reid brought along, is able to produce right away. With only six holdovers, this team won’t look much like last year’s, but with Reid at the helm and his career of success, the Thunderbirds will be in good shape even if this isn’t their year.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits (6-24)
Sr. G Mackenzie Casey (3.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
So. G Garrett Callahan (8.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.5 apg)
So. F Thomas Bassett (4.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Sr. F Michael Loney (7.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
So. F Kai Williams (12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 apg)
Schedule Highlights: The non-league slate features six home games, including the first two of the season with the second being against Big Sky favorite Montana. Northern Iowa and Horizon League contender Wisconsin-Green Bay are also coming to Sioux Falls, and they have a home-and-home with Idaho. The toughest road games look to be at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Minnesota. After league play begins in earnest, they play three straight on the road in late January, then end the regular season with three straight at home.
Outlook: Expect the Jackrabbits to have their struggles out of the gate, but they do have something to build with in the sophomore class. Williams and Callahan look like a nice duo and should only get better, and they should be the primary building blocks, while Loney looks like the senior leader to help the young guys develop. Six freshmen and five sophomores dot the roster, so this group will experience the growing pains of conference membership in Division I together.
There’s a new name and three new teams, but things might not change at the top just yet. While IUPUI looks like the favorite with who they return, they won’t be prohibitive favorites by a long shot. Oral Roberts isn’t about to fall off the map anytime soon with so many players back and a couple of excellent additions, in addition to Scott Sutton staying in Tulsa. Oakland is a dark horse if some help arrives in the frontcourt, as they are solid on the perimeter. And while North Dakota State isn’t eligible for the tournament yet, the Bison will be a factor this year as they could very easily play spoiler late in the season. The teams picked in the bottom half largely appear to be in transition in some way, either with a new coach or having a roster loaded with new players.