December 31, 2011
With 2011 on its way out, it's time to return back to Summit League play.
Now, with two weeks complete in league play, the picture is slowly beginning to appear and we're able to start ranking league teams. So, without further delay, here are the opening MMQ rankings for the 2011-2012 Summit League men's basketball season.
Current Summit League standings:
- South Dakota State, 4-0
- Oral Roberts, 3-0
- North Dakota State, 3-1
- Southern Utah, 2-1
- Oakland, 2-2
- Western Illinois, 1-2
- IUPUI, 1-2
- IPFW, 1-3
- UMKC, 1-3
- South Dakota, 0-4
MMQ Power Rankings Week 1 (12/31/11):
1. South Dakota State (12-4, 4-0 Summit)
Jackrabbits are off to a fast start in league play, defeating the likes of IUPUI, Western Illinois, Oakland and IPFW. SDSU has also rebounded well from a hideous 89-70 loss at North Dakota by winning three straight games (Washington, IPFW and Oakland) by a 22.3-point average margin.
What makes SDSU good is it has the talent to outduel gunslingers like IUPUI, IPFW or Oakland, and to survive the defensive tactics of Western Illinois.
It helps to have a player like Nate Wolters, who averages 21.2 points per game — and 21.2 in four league games this season, but the ‘Jacks shoot 38 percent from beyond the arc as a team and the team is third in the conference in rebounding margin.
The good shooting and rebounding is the reason SDSU leads the conference in scoring and why it has a perfect 4-0 record thus far in league play — and why the ‘Jacks will be feared down the stretch.
2. Oral Roberts (11-4, 3-0 Summit)
ORU is also undefeated in league play; Golden Eagles scratched past SUU in the waning moments of that one, then beat UMKC and South Dakota on the road in this week’s play. One of the league’s best scorers, Dominique Morrison, starred in the recent league wins, dropping a 27.5-point average in those games.
The Golden Eagles have won four straight and five of their last six, defeating conference outsiders Xavier and Texas Tech easily in the process.
Like SDSU, ORU is one of the best rebounding teams. In fact, the Golden Eagles entered Friday the league leaders with a +3.7 rebounding margin and are third in the Summit with a +6.6-point scoring margin.
But what makes ORU different from SDSU is defense. Though the ‘Jacks aren’t slouches at defending teams, the Golden Eagles strive on it. Teams facing ORU came into Friday averaging just 61.1 points against ORU and South Dakota scored just 67 points in its loss to the Golden Eagles Friday.
3. North Dakota State (10-3, 3-1 Summit)
During the ’08-09 season, North Dakota State had the best league team. Three years later, the Bison are now essentially the dark horse pick in an attempt to repeat that success.
NDSU, though relatively young as a team, is surprising efficient from the floor and that’s scary for anyone to face. The Bison entered Friday 10th in the country with a 50 percent field goal percentage — and went 24-for-51 from the floor in an 84-68 victory over IPFW Friday night. NDSU also shoots a robust 39 percent from 3-point range as a team, also best in the Summit.
The Bison have only three losses this season (to WIU, Minnesota and Arizona State) by a combined 11 points. That’s the reason NDSU leads the Summit League with a scoring margin better than 13 points per game this season. No other team has a double-digit margin in that category. NDSU is third in scoring and third in scoring defense.
But what makes the Bison so scary is they are in the top three for scoring offense, scoring defense, field goal percentage, assists, steals, assist-to-turnover ratio, defensive rebounds, rebounding percentage and that list continues to grow in more stats.
And don’t forget the name Marshall Bjorklund; he’s starting to become one of the best league players. The only thing NDSU seems to be unable to do is hit its free throws.
4. Oakland (8-8, 2-2 Summit)
Oakland has a fierce offense and one of the best mid-major players in the country, but its faltering defense is the reason the Golden Grizzlies’ dynasty could be over.
The Golden Grizzlies are one of the best offensive teams out there, averaging a little less than 79 points per game, but that means nothing if the Golden Grizzlies continue to struggle defensively; Oakland allows an average of more than 79.
Oakland is in the middle of a four-game losing streak, where the Golden Grizzlies opponents (Arizona, Western Michigan, NDSU and SDSU) scored 348 total points in 160 minutes. That’s an average of 87 points per game and 2.18 points per minute.
This appears to be a reoccurring issue because opponents are averaging 82 points in Oakland’s four conference matchups.
But even though Oakland can’t seem to stop anybody, it seems to be able to match numbers well. If the Golden Grizzlies can start getting more help for Reggie Hamilton, there’s still hope for Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies are still dropping 80 points per conference matchup.
Everyone knows defenses win championships and that’s how Oakland won the last two. Not having Keith Benson patrolling the paint may be a major issue for the Grizz.
5. Southern Utah (7-6, 2-1 Summit)
If SUU’s play within league play is indicative of anything, it’s that the T-Birds won’t be pushovers in their last season in the Summit, and that’s likely from the elevated play by Jackson Stevenett in league play and other inside presences.
Stevenett averages 12.8 points per game this season, but that number is substantially higher in the three conference games played this season. He’s averaging 20.3 points in those games, including a career-high 26 points at South Dakota Thursday, and just 10.6 points per non-league game. And another aspect of Stevenett’s game that isn’t getting credit is his job at the free throw line. He’s shooting 93 (28-of-30) percent from the charity stripe since Thanksgiving.
But he’s gotten help too. In Friday’s win, Ramell Taylor dropped 21 and Matt Massey added 19. SUU has notably struggled from 3-point range, but when the T-Birds have an inside attack that can outscore UMKC 52-34 in the paint and outrebound the ‘Roos 35-14, who needs 3-point shooting?
(On a side note, Damon Heuir and Stevenett are both shooting 38 percent from downtown)
SUU has a balanced attack led by Stevenett, Massey and Taylor, and have had contributions from guys like Damon Heuir, who has a season-high 33-point game, and Ray Jones, who entered Friday the league leader in assists per game.
The T-Birds entered Friday with a +3.0 rebounding margin, fourth best in the league, which definitely skyrocketed after a +21 rebounding margin in their win over UMKC.
Despite being last in 3-point percent, SUU is second in field goal percentage at 47.8 percent per game — another number that likely skyrocketed after a 63 percent performance from the field Friday.
6. IUPUI (7-8, 1-2 Summit)
Perhaps no team is hotter right now than the Jaguars.
IUPUI is on a five-game winning streak, including wins over Western Kentucky, Ball State, Valparaiso and Western Illinois. If this continues, IUPUI — like SUU — will likely improve in the standings.
Alex Young has been phenomenal lately, averaging 24 points in those five games, which has helped kick-start Young’s scoring numbers again, which were lackluster at times earlier this season. IUPUI’s game plan is simple, give the ball to Young and good things will happen.
The Jaguars, despite owning a below .500 record, entered Friday one of five Summit League teams with a positive scoring margin.
There are a couple of concerns IUPUI is still working to correct, which are field goal percentages and rebounding margins. The Jaguars are dead last in shooting from the floor.
7. Western Illinois (6-5, 1-2 Summit)
I like Western Illinois because it plays defense better than anyone in the league. The Leathernecks lead the conference in scoring defense and do a good job scrambling offenses and slowing game tempos down.
WIU has held Summit teams to 64.3 points per game in three matchups this season, which isn’t easy when they include holding SDSU to 67 points in a one-point game and defeating NDSU 55-51. When the Leathernecks defeated the Bison, that stingy defense stuffed NDSU to just 36 percent from the floor in the game.
WIU tanked last year when Ceola Clark went down, but the Leathernecks now have a balanced attack around the floor from a really good freshman class.
Though WIU is the lone team to rely solely on defense, I believe it should end up being enough to carry the Leathernecks back to Sioux Falls by season’s end.
8. UMKC (7-9, 1-3 Summit) 9. IPFW (7-6, 1-3 Summit)
I’ll try to combine IPFW and UMKC in my rankings here. They’re both similarly run teams, as in mainly undersized and rely on one scorer (Frank Gaines and Reggie Chamerberlain) to do all the work.
They’re also ninth and tenth in scoring margins and IPFW, like Oakland, struggles to defend opponents, even though the Mastodons are solid rebounders.
IPFW’s lone league win at the moment was a 93-87 victory over South Dakota, while UMKC defeated IPFW 81-66 for its lone league win at the moment.
Both have the ability to rise back, but both have major red flags.
Again, IPFW struggles defensively, allowing league teams to an average of 86.5 points per game in four games thus far. That’s a major issue.
UMKC just finished one of the largest rebounding differences I’ve ever seen in a game, as SUU out-boarded the ‘Roos 35-14.
The ‘Roos have the worst rebounding differential, the second to last field goal percentage and third-to-worst field goal defense. That’s a lethal concoction right there.
If neither team can improve its woes, one of these teams will miss the trip to Sioux Falls.
10. South Dakota (5-8, 0-4 Summit)
South Dakota has the pieces to win games, and I think it won’t go winless in its Summit League debut season.
If you look at league stats, South Dakota is in the middle of everything. The Coyotes aren’t trailing in major stats and they aren’t leading major stats — outside of blocked shots, and guards Louie Krogman and Charlie Westbrook have been great, that's for sure.
The Coyotes will win eventually, it just hasn’t happened yet.
With two weeks complete in league play, the picture is slowly beginning to appear and we're able to start ranking league teams. So, without further delay, here are the opening MMQ rankings for the 2011-2012 Summit League men's basketball season.