The annual Summit League men’s basketball tournament is never void of story lines. But with all due respect to the previous seasons, 2012’s tourney is in shape to top them all.
The scoring prowess in the conference has reached an all-time high, with five players amongst the top 15 in the nation in points per game, led by the nation’s scoring leader Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton. SDSU’s Nate Wolters ranks seventh at 21.4 points per contest, IPFW’s Frank Gaines is ninth, IUPUI’s Alex Young is 11th and Dominique Morrison of Oral Roberts is 15th.
ORU would be the runaway favorite to make it to the Big Dance if the tournament was not being held in Sioux Falls. At 17-1 in the league this year, the Golden Eagles have conquered everyone this season, except the Jackrabbits in Brookings, when SDSU handed ORU a 15-point loss on Feb. 2. While a neutral site, the Jackrabbits will have an advantage at the Sioux Falls Arena with their fan base in the house.
“To be 15-3 and still finish two games out of first tells you how good Oral Roberts is. It’s hard to ask for much more than what our kids have given us at this point,” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said.
Throw in red-hot Oakland, the two time defending tournament champions who are surging late in the season and will have the third seed in the four-day event, making the league finale quite the interesting finish.
A pair of recent rematches will take place in the first round with SDSU and IUPUI meeting on Saturday night and NDSU and Western Illinois meeting in the battle between the fourth and fifth seeds on Sunday. Both matchups are repeats of the final weekend of the regular season. A third Oakland and Southern Utah is a rematch of the first round from last season but the Golden Grizzlies were the top team last year.
For the Jacks, the good news is they are likely playing their best basketball at the end of the year. The bad news is that they will have the toughest road to the title, through IUPUI, Oakland and Oral Roberts, if the high seeds hold. All three have been where SDSU wants to be: the NCAA Tournament.
The pressure is on Oral Roberts. They, along with Southern Utah who is headed to the Big Sky, are leaving the conference for the Southland and would be able to make their lasting mark and punch their fourth tournament championship ticket during their time in the Summit League.