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In its first year under a new name, the Summit League – formerly the Mid-Continent Conference – was one of the most underrated conferences in the country. It featured a tight two-team race at the top of the league, with Oral Roberts edging out preseason favorite IUPUI by one game. ORU started 13-0 but faltered somewhat down the stretch, while IUPUI won 10 of its 11 league games to make it close. Two other teams finished above .500 with two more going 9-9.
Favorites: Although Oral Roberts finished just one game ahead of IUPUI in the standings, the fact that the conference tournament is in Oklahoma gives the edge to the Golden Eagles as the favorite. They lost three of their final six games of the season, including a 13-point defeat in the season finale at North Dakota State. Furthermore, leading scorer and star guard Robert Jarvis missed the last two games of the season with a high ankle sprain and could be out. Adam Liberty is a very solid point guard, while Moses Ehambe can really shoot. Shawn King is very good defensively and on the glass. IUPUI came into the season as the favorite to win the league, and it still might be the most talented team in the conference. George Hill is one of the best guards in the country; he can carry this team to a league title. Austin Montgomery and Gary Patterson are two more big-time scorers, and both players can really shoot the ball well from deep. Jon Avery is the go-to-guy down low. The Jaguars are the hottest team in the league.
Contender: Oakland rebounded from a 4-4 start in league play to win seven of its last 10 and get the third seed in the conference tournament. The Golden Grizzlies might have the best trio in the conference, with playmaking guard Johnathon James and shooter Erik Kangas sniping away from the perimeter with efficiency, and forward Derick Nelson dominating inside. A win over Oregon earlier in the season shows this team can play with anyone.
Sleeper: Although it plays IUPUI in the first-round, Missouri-Kansas City has played well lately and could put a scare into the Jaguars. UMKC has won three of its last five after starting 6-18 overall, and 3-10 in the conference. The Kangaroos are led by an outstanding perimeter trio of Dane Brumagin, Tim Blackwell and Reggie Hamilton. If they are hot from outside, look out for the ‘Roos.
Prediction: Oral Roberts and IUPUI split their first two games this season – expect the rubber match to come in the conference finals. ORU has an advantage with the game being played in Tulsa, but the availability of Robert Jarvis is a major question. If he can’t go, IUPUI could win fairly easily. The Jaguars have George Hill and plenty of scorers on the perimeter. Without Jarvis, ORU just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with them. If Jarvis is able to play, that would be a different story – high ankle sprains are usually nagging injuries, though, and I don’t see him returning at full-strength. IUPUI gets the auto-bid.
Excuse me, but did you know that North Dakota State is in this conference? They finished 4th last year and return the most of any team. I'd put them 2nd behind Oakland...ReplyDelete
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