Maverick Maniac's Musings

March 28, 2011

Summit League Preview – Men’s Basketball

Filed under: The Summit League — Jon Green @ 11:03 pm

Since UNO is joining the Summit League, something new and unfamiliar to all of us, I thought it’d be helpful to take a look at the League and the Sports that they offer, and what UNO can expect.  For a list of all the posts on the different sports, please refer back to this intro.

Men’s Basketball History

Tournament and Regular Season History

Let’s start by addressing Regular Season History.  Western Illinois won the original conference regular season, going 9-3 in 1982-83.  They have not won a title since then.  Illinois Chicago would win the second year with a 12-2 record in 1983-84.  They would not win another title.  Cleveland State went back to back in 84-85 and 85-86, followed by 4 straight from Missouri State between 1986-87 and 1989-90.  The early 90’s saw 3 different teams win the title in 4 years.  Northern Illinois in 90-91, Green Bay in 91-92 and 93-94, and Cleveland State winning their 3rd title in 92-93.

Valparaiso had a long spell of dominance in the Summit League between 94-95 and 03-04.  They won the regular season every year except 1999-00, when Oakland won it.  Oral Roberts shared the title with Valparaiso in 98-99, while Southern Utah shared the title in 2000-01.

In the mid 2000’s, Oral Roberts rose to power winning 4 straight titles from 04-05 to 07-08.  IUPUI did share the title in 05-06.  North Dakota State won it in 08-09 followed by Oakland winning it the last two years.

The most wins in conference history is 17 by the 2009-10 Oakland team, who went 17-1.  No team has completed an undefeated Summit League Regular Season.   Valparaiso has won the most conference titles at 9.  Oral Roberts has 5, Missouri State has 4,  Oakland  and Cleveland State have 3, while Green Bay has 2.

The tournament was not held the first year of the league, but was held the next 4 years in Springfield, Missouri.  Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Cleveland State, and Missouri State won tournament titles.  Then in 87-88 it was not held again, before Missouri State won it’s 2nd straight title (over 3 years) at home in 88-89.

The tourney would visit 6 different sites in the next 6 years (Cedar Falls, Iowa, Green Bay, Wisconsin, Cleveland, Ohio, Dayton, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois, and Valparaiso, Indiana).  It also had 5 different champions, including 4 teams who won it at home (Northern Iowa, Green Bay, Eastern Illinois (in Cleveland), Wright State, Green Bay (in Chicago), and Valparaiso).

Valparaiso would go on to win the next 5 tournaments, the first 4 held in Moline, Illinois, the last held in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Valparaiso would get upset the next year in Fort Wayne by Southern Utah, before winning the final tourney in Fort Wayne before it moved to Kansas City.  In Kansas City the next year Valparaiso was upset by IUPUI before winning it the next year.

The tournament then moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, just as Oral Roberts was rising up. Oakland, the 7 seed (the lowest to ever win the conference tournament), upset Oral Roberts in the final the first year.  The next 3 years Oral Roberts held server at home.  The last 3 years the tournament has been held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The first year was won by North Dakota State, in their first year of NCAA Tournament eligibility.  The last two years have been won by Oakland.

Valparaiso has won a conference high 8 tournament titles, Oakland and Oral Roberts have won 3, Green Bay, Eastern Illinois, and Missouri State all won 3 conference tournament titles.  The conference tournament has been won 19 out of 26 tournaments, including 16 of the last 17.  The only time since 1993-94 when the conference tournament has been won by a team that didn’t win at least a share of the conference title was in 2004-05 when the 7th place team, Oakland, won the title.

Bryce Drew, famous for his shot to beat Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament, won 3 Conference Tournament MVPs while at Valparaiso (94-95, 95-96, 97-98). Only 2 other players have won 2 tournament MVPs, Ken Tutt of Oral Roberts in 05-06 and 06-07, Milo Stovall of Valparaiso in 98-99 and 01-02.  The conference tournament MVP has come from the tournament winner in all but 4 tournaments.

Award Winning Players

There has been only one player to win 3 straight player of the year awards, Caleb Green who played for Oral Roberts and won in 04-05, 05-06, and 06-07.  Keith Benson of Oakland has won the award the last 2 years, becoming the 4th player to win 2 straight (Bryce Drew of Valparaiso in 96-97 and 97-98, Tony Bennett of Green Bay in 90-91 and 91-92, and Jon Collins of Eastern Illinois in 84-85 and 85-86.

Several coaches have won multiple Coach of the Year Awards.  Homer Drew of Valparaiso and Greg Kampe of Oakland won four, Charlie Spoonhour of Missouri State won three,  Kevin Mackey of Cleveland State, Dick Bennett of Green Bay, Ron Hunter of IUPUI, and Scott Sutton of Oral Roberts won two.

Keith Benson won the 2010 Lou Henson Award, the Mid-Major Player of the Year.  Only two players in conference history have made a All-American Team (Bryce Drew of Valparaiso on the Basketball Times 3rd team in 97-98 and Ken McFadden of Cleveland State on the Basketball Weekly 5th team in 85-86.

Keith Benson was named to the 2009-10’s Lefty Driesell Defensive All-American Team.  Caleb Green and Ken Tutt of Oral Roberts were both named 3rd team Freshman All-American’s in 03-04.

15 Summit League Players have advance to the NBA, with 2 drafted in the first round (Bryce Drew of Valparaiso 16th overall in 1998 by the Houston Rockets and George Hill of IUPUI 26th overall in 2008 by the San Antonio Spurs).

NCAA Tournament History

The first team to make the NCAA Tournament from the Summit League was Cleveland State in 85-86.  Cleveland State was given the 14 seed in the East Region and matched up with Indiana.  In one of the bigger upsets in NCAA history, Cleveland State knocked off the 3rd seeded Hoosiers 83-79.  Cleveland State moved into a 2nd round match with the 6th seed, St. Joseph’s.  Cleveland State shocked everyone again, winning 75-69, becoming the lowest seed to ever advance to the Sweet 16.  In the Regional Semifinal they met the  7 seed, Navy, but came up just short 71-70.

In 86-87 Missouri State was the Summit League representative, placed as a 13 seed in the Southeast Region, and once again the Summit League provided an upset with the Bears knocking off Clemson 65-60 before falling to 5 seed Kansas.  Missouri State was back in 87-88, but this time was eliminated right away as the magic ran out and the 13 seed Bears lost to UCLA 54-50. Missouri State was again a first round victim in 89-90, losing 60-51 to Seton Hall as a 14 seed.

89-90 saw the league get two bids for the first time.  Northern Iowa won the automatic bid through the conference tournament and continued that run shocking Missouri as a 14 seed, 74-71.  They lost in the 2nd round 81-78 to 6 seed Minnesota.  Missouri State also got in, as a 9 seed, but lost 83-70 to North Carolina.  The league would have two teams in again in 90-91, but went 0-2 with 12 seed Green Bay losing 60-58 to Michigan State and 13 seed Northern Illinois losing 75-68 to St. John’s.

In 91-92 the league was back to one bid, Eastern Illinois as a sacrificial 15 seed.  They went down right away to Indiana 94-55.  In 92-93 it was even worse for the Summit League representative as Wright State was placed in as a 16 seed against Indiana and lost 97-54.

92-93 was a successful tournament for the Summit League as 12 seed Green Bay knocked off California 61-57 before losing to 4 seed Syracuse 64-59.  There was no representative in 93-94, and in 94-95 it was Valparaiso’s turn placed in as a 14 seed who was destroyed by Arizona 90-51. Valparaiso was back in 95-96 as a 12 seed losing 73-66 to Boston College.

96-97 was a magic year for the Summit League.  Fueled by a Bryce Drew 3 pointer at the buzzer against Ole Miss, the 13 seed Valparaiso knocked them off 70-69 to move into the 2nd round, where they met another upset team, Florida State – the 12 seed. In overtime Valparaiso prevailed 83-77 and moved into a Regional Semifinal against the 8 seed, Rhode Island.  This was the 2nd time a Summit League team had moved deep in to the tournament and faced a team who had pulled off a couple upsets.  Once again though the Summit League team lost in this match-up, falling 74-68.

The next years would see less success for Valparaiso.  They lost 82-60 as a 15 seed to Maryland and 65-38 to Michigan State as a 16 seed. In 00-01 Southern Utah, who had upset Valparaiso in the conference tournament, fell to Boston College 68-65 as a 14 seed.  In 01-02 Valparaiso was back and this time as a 13 seed.  Kentucky was the opponent and the Wildcats were far superior, winning 83-68.  Kentucky was again the opponent in 02-03, this time IUPUI the victim, and the seed 16.  The margin would be a 95-64 victory for Kentucky.

Valparaiso would be back in 03-04 as they were matched against another former tournament darling, Gonzaga, in the first round as a 15 seed.  Gonzaga defeated Valparaiso 76-49 to move on to the 2nd round.  In 04-05 Oakland was the Summit League representative, and for the first time in conference history, had to play in the Opening Round game.  They defeated Alabama A&M there and moved on to get their blowout against North Carolina, 96-68.

In 05-06 Oral Roberts won the auto-bid and moved up a bit from Oakland in the previous year, a real 16 seed, but still lost 94-78 in the first round.  The next year they moved up to a 14 seed but lost 70-54 to Washington State.  They took one step further up in 07-08 getting a 13 seed, but again couldn’t find any success losing 82-63 to Pittsburgh.  They haven’t gotten a chance since.

In 08-09 North Dakota State surprised everyone, winning the conference in their first year of NCAA Tournament Eligibility.  The prize?  A 14 seed and a date with Kansas in the first round.  North Dakota State put on a great show and nearly pulled it off, falling short 84-74 but gaining recognition nationally.  Oakland would be the 14 seed as well in 2010, playing Pittsburgh, but losing by 23, 89-66.

NIT (and other) Tournament History

Missouri State was given a NIT berth in 85-86, where they dispatched Pittsburgh 59-52 and Marquette 83-59 before being dispatched by Florida 54-53 in the Quarterfinals.  In 86-87 Cleveland State was in the NIT beating Tennessee-Chattanooga 92-73 and losing to Illinois State 79-77.  They came back to the NIT the next year and avenged their loss to Illinois State winning 89-84 in OT before losing 86-80 against Ohio State.

Green Bay made the NIT in 89-90, knocking off Southern Illinois 73-60 before losing to Saint Louis 58-54.  In 91-92 Green Bay was back, but lost 67-65 in the first round to Manhattan.

After a 11 year gap, the Summit League once again had a team in the NIT in 02-03.  Valparaiso made the field after losing the conference tournament and drew Iowa in the first round.  It was close, but the Hawkeyes prevailed 62-60.  Oral Roberts made it 2 in 3 years with a team in the NIT in 03-04 when they faced off with Maryland, but came up short 85-72.

Oakland played in the Tournament in 08-09, hosting and defeating Kent State 80-74 in the first round before losing 76-75 in the second round at Bradley.  IUPUI played in the CBI tournament in 2009-10, winning at Hofstra 74-60 before losing a home game to Princeton, 74-68 in 2OT.

2011 Season

The 2011 regular season was won by Oakland, who went back-to-back years at 17-1.  They were followed in the top half of the league by 13-5 Oral Roberts, 12-6 IUPUI, 11-7 IPFW, and 10-8 South Dakota State.  The bottom half featured 3 teams in the conference tournament, 9-9 UMKC, 8-10 North Dakota State, and 7-11 Southern Utah, and two teams not in (2-16 Western Illinois and 1-17 Centenary).

In the tournament higher seeds prevailed in every match-up in the first round except one (5 seed South Dakota State upset 4 seed IPFW 85-75 in the first round).   Oral Roberts won a close game 83-77 over IUPUI in the 2nd round to advance to meet Oakland (110-90 winner over South Dakota State) in the final.  In the championship Oakland knocked off Oral Roberts 90-76 to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

In the NCAA Tournament Oakland drew the 13 seed, matched up with 4 seed Texas.  They had their best showing yet but still lost 85-81 in a tight game. Oral Roberts was invited to the CIT ( Tournament) but lost in the first round at Southern Methodist, 64-57.

As far as individual players go, Keith Benson of Oakland won his 2nd straight Player of the Year award and his first Defensive Player of the Year award.  Oral Roberts’ Steven Roundtree was the Newcomer of the Year.  Oakland won the other 2 awards with coach Greg Kampe winning his 4th Coach of the Year award and Larry Wright winning the Sixth Man of the Year award.


One would have to imagine Omaha could push to host the tournament as Sioux Falls by all accounts has not been overly impressive.  That would be a nice get for the city and could be supported decently.  As far as success for UNO in the league, that will be interesting.  The league is obviously low on the totem pole in D1, but 6 teams finished with an above .500 record this year.  Of the 4 teams who had a record below .500, North Dakota State missed it by 1 game (and was in the NCAA tournament 2 years ago) and Southern Utah and Centenary are both leaving.  So the conference appears to have a decent set of teams for the future.  There will need to be some tournament success though to raise the conference’s profile as a whole.  I don’t foresee UNO joining this league and becoming dominant at all, but they can probably compete for top-half finishes fairly quickly.  It will probably be similarly competitive to the MIAA in the middle with a lot of teams closely packed between 3-8.

1 Comment »

  1. Do not underestimate the Summit League in men’s basketball. For 2010-11 it was rated 18th out of 33 conferences by Sagarin just below the MAC and ahead of conferences like Southern, Big Sky, and Sun Belt. And this is despite miserable seasons for Western Illinois and Centenary. And the conference gets stronger every year.

    I have not heard the same accounts about Sioux Falls being unimpressive hosting the conference tournament. It has been supported well in attendance and in backing by the community. However I agree that Omaha will be able to make a very strong case for hosting the conference tournament in the future but it will take a lot of support and sponsorships to get it out of the Dakotas. I think Omaha would be easier to get to compared to Sioux Falls although still a long trip for some members.

    Comment by Rick — April 2, 2011 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

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