Hanging out today at the Sheraton Hotel in Sioux Falls which is connected to the Sioux Falls Arena which is host for the next four days to the Summit League basketball tournament.
Brad Newitt and I will “do” the mens games on Midco Sports Net… Al Bahe and Juno Pintar will announce the women. 4 games Saturday, 4 Sunday, 4 Monday.
We’ve been catching coaches all day for interviews and chats. Some of them are very forthcoming and some are pretty tight-lipped even though there are not very many secrets left to keep at this point in the season.
Oral Roberts and IPFW play the first mens game on Saturday evening at 6:00. Scott Sutton is the ORU head coach… he is the son of Eddie Sutton of Oklahoma State fame. Scott’s older brother Sean is an ORU assistant. ORU is the #1 seed and the #1 seed has never lost in the first round of the Summit League tournament. ORU won the league tourney and advanced to the NCAA Big Dance in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and you get the sense that the Eagles feel the need to finish off a great regular season (26 wins, 17-1 in League) with a tournament title.
All that does not bode well for IPFW, the 8th seed that won its way into the tournament with a W at UMKC in the last regular season game. HOWEVER… the Mastodons have led ORU at the half in both of their meetings this season. IPFW led with 7 minutes to play on Feb. 15 in Fort Wayne, but ORU pulled it out in the end 75-71.
IPFW has Frank Gaines. He’s a cutter/slasher/mover/shaker and “not a fun guy to guard” according to IPFW coach Tony Jasick. Gaines was third in the League in scoring at 21 per game and had 28 last time out against ORU.
ORU has the League Player of the Year in Dominique Morrison, a senior from Kansas City who put up 38 against South Dakota State and 36 against North Dakota State this season.
South Dakota State takes on IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, I think) in the second game Saturday night.
The Jacks are the 2-seed and the only conference team to beat Oral Roberts. SDSU beat IUPUI 97-93 (highest combined point total in league) way back in December behind 32 points from Nate Wolters. State beat the Jags 75-64 just last week.
IUPUI has the best NBA prospect in the league in Alex Young, a 6-6 senior who is the NCAA’s active scoring leader right now. Jags coach Todd Howard says Young has gotten a lot of attention this season from pro scouts and was an early invitee to the NBA's Portsmouth Invitational Tournament which is coming up in April and brings together the "top" 64 college seniors and let's them show off. (Jeremy Lin of the Knicks played in it in 2010!)
South Dakota State has its own pro prospect (still up for debate) in Nate Wolters, just a junior from St. Cloud, Minnesota. Wolters has been incredible at times this season… 34 at Washington, 30 in 25 minutes against North Dakota State. The Jacks have won the last two games with him scoring under 20… he had 15 in SDSU’s win last week over IUPUI. But for SDSU to win this thing they’re gonna need a whole lot of Natin’ from Nate.
SDSU/IUPUI might be the most entertaining matchup in the first round.
Western Illinois and North Dakota State face off in the first game on Sunday night. WIU is the 4-seed, NDSU the 5. NDSU has lost 5 of its last 6 and were swept by WIU in the regular season.
I saw NDSU play six times this season and they were great in five of those, and less than great in a loss at South Dakota State, so I have no idea what to expect in the tournament. The Bison are really young (5 sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup some nights) so that may have something to do with their recent slide… but they have the Newcomer of the Year in point guard Lawrence Alexander and first-team all-league forward Taylor Braun. They have all kinds of talent, but they need to find it quick and put it together or they will be out in the first round for the third straight year.
Western Illinois is the only Summit League team in the Division One Top 50 this year in Defense… giving up only 60.6 per game. Leathernecks guard Ceola Clark is the Summit Defensive Player of the Year and Terrell Parks led the league in double-doubles. (dub-dubs, as the hip kids say)
The last game of the first round will feature one of the most exciting players in the country… Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton. The little man has put up the biggest numbers in the nation… 25.5 points per game to lead the NCAA universe. He’s scored at least 30 fourteen times. He had 41 against former League member Valparaiso this year. I saw him make his first 6 shots at South Dakota last week and then stop looking for his shot and still end up with 31. Oakland coach Greg Kampe says just because you have the best scorer in the league doesn’t mean you’re going to win… but it doesn’t hurt.
Hamilton is from Chicago and played his first two years at Missouri-Kansas City, but things soured for him in his sophomore year. Oakland had a guy named Jonathan Jones who knew Hamilton and the two talked about Hamilton going to Oakland, basically as a guy for Jones to work against in practice. Kampe made a call to UMKC, got Hamilton’s release and swooped him up without a whole lot of hoopla. And all Hamilton did this year was set a new Summit League single season scoring record (790), surpassing the gaudy number (766) put up by North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside in 2008-09.
Oakland is hot right now… winners of their last five games. The Grizzlies are 8-1 in Sioux Falls since the tournament moved here three years ago. Oakland has won the tournament the last two years. Kampe says those teams, with Keith Benson and Wil Hudson were tough, veteran, tested teams. He’s not sure about this year’s squad, but with Hamilton and fellow 3-point gunner Travis Bader, Oakland is probably the team nobody wants to play right now.
Oh… Oakland plays Southern Utah in the last game Sunday night… and it should be one worth sticking around to watch.