Favorites: IUPUI was expected to contend for the title last season, but star guard George Hill broke his foot five games into the season, and the Jaguars were not the same. However, Hill is back and is immediately the favorite for Player of the Year. It also helps that Oral Roberts lost Caleb Green and Ken Tutt to graduation. Joining Hill in the best backcourt in the conference will be Austin Montgomery and Gary Patterson, both all-conference candidates and very good all-around players. Up front, Jon Avery and Fred Kounkorgo will likely start, although Billy Pettiford and Bill Van Senus will push for time. Sixth man Craig Swoope is also back. Oral Roberts, as mentioned earlier, loses both Green and Tutt, both of whom were all-conference players three years in a row. Green was the Player of the Year three years in a row, as well. However, the Golden Eagles return three starters and will still be right there for the title. Adam Liberty leads the way in the backcourt, with Marchelo Vealy and Moses Ehambe anchoring the wings after coming off the bench last season. Shawn King is the best big man in the league, and Yemi Ogunye returns as a starter up front. Kansas State transfer Curtis Allen and Portland transfer Marcus Lewis will push for time.
Contenders: North Dakota State, in its first season in the Summit, is led by the highest-scoring trio in the conference. Ben Woodside is an underrated point guard nationally, while Mike Nelson is a solid all-around player next to him in the backcourt. Up front, Brett Winkelman is likely going to be an all-conference performer due to his scoring and rebounding abilities. Lucas Moormann also returns down low. Expect Freddy Coleman and Sam Sussenguth to fight for the last spot. Oakland is another team that has the talent at the top of its roster to contend with anyone. Jonathon Jones runs the point, and is one of the best at his position in the conference. On the wings will be all-conference performers Eric Kangas and Derick Nelson. Kangas is a terrific shooter, while Nelson prefers getting to the basket. Up front, Patrick McCloskey can rebound, and Rutgers transfer Danny Waterstradt will make an impact.
Sleepers: UMKC loses three starters from a year ago, and do not return any stand-out performers. However, the Kangaroos have a solid wing combo of Brent Stephens and Dane Brumagin, who combined to average almost 19 points per game last season. Tim Blackwell can really shoot the ball. Up front, 7-1 Alex Pledger will start, and Florida International transfer Kenny Simms will push for a starting spot. Expect redshirt junior Akeem Hemingway to start at the point. Southern Utah is another team that lost three starters from last year, but the Thunderbirds have a good deal of talent in the arsenal. Orlando Griego returns up front; he is a solid rebounder. Nurudeen Adepoju, the team’s leading scorer, and Tate Sorenson, an efficient finisher, also return. However, new coach Roger Reid brought over five players from his old stop, Snow College, and that quintet will fight for starting spots. David Marek is the only returnee in the backcourt. IPFW finally has a home in the Summit after being an independent school for seven seasons. Dewitt Scott is looking forward to carving out a niche in his new territory. The 6-6 forward is a very good shooter who can also get to the basket. Combining with him in the frontcourt is Jaruan Burrows, a solid scorer and rebounder. Zelijko Egeric will start in the post. On the wings will be Jakari Johnson and Oakland transfer David Carson, while Demetrius Johnson also returns in the backcourt.
Rounding out the Pack: Centenary might have won a combined 17 games over the past three seasons, but the Gents still return one of the best players in the league, guard Tyrone Hamilton. He can really fill it up, and is also a good passer. Chase Adams joins him in the backcourt, while Nick Stallings is a solid defender and athlete. Up front, Lance Hill is primed for a big year, while freshman Tim Price and sophomore Jerald Bonham will fight for a starting spot. Western Illinois finished tied for last in the league a season ago, but will look to move up this year. David Jackson returns on the wing as an all-conference candidate, while Chris Gonzales and James Washington will also start on the perimeter. Jerryck Ownes-Murrey returns in the frontcourt, and could be poised for a breakout season. Louis Johnson will also start. South Dakota State has only been in Division-I for four seasons, with this being the first in the Summit. The Jackrabbits return three starters, led by Kai Williams, an all-conference candidate at forward. Starting next to him, will be Ben Beran, who sat out last year, and either returning forward Michael Loney or Mohammed Berte, who was suspended last season. Garrett Callahan is the main man in the backcourt, but needs help.
Prediction: The Summit League will feature a solid race at the top in its inaugural season, and could have a tough mid-major in the NCAA Tournament when March comes around. IUPUI has a terrific perimeter group and the best player in the conference in George Hill. Oral Roberts loses Caleb Green and Ken Tutt, but still have a formidable line-up. North Dakota State, despite the fact that it’s their first season in the Summit, has talent and Oakland has a good trio. Down the stretch, though, guard play is what counts and IUPUI has that in spades. Look out for the Jaguars in the postseason.
Player of the Year: George Hill, G, IUPUI
G- George Hill, IUPUI
G- Ben Woodside, North Dakota State
G- Tyrone Hamilton, Centenary
G- Erik Kangas, Oakland
C- Shawn King, Oral Roberts
G- David Jackson, Western Illinois
G- Austin Montgomery, IUPUI
F- DeWitt Scott, IPFW
F- Brett Winkelman, North Dakota State
F- Derick Nelson, Oakland