Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:36 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:40 pm

Tiny Dancers: South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Just five seasons into their Division I existence, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits have made their first NCAA tournament.

Oh, it is glorious. How do you not love a name like Jackrabbits? College basketball is better because one day long ago a bunch of men and women came together and agreed upon such a moniker.

South Dakota State fought to an ugly overtime win in the Summit final Tuesday night over Western Illinois, another program that was trying to get into its first NCAA tournament. But South Dakota State gets there, and if they're rewarded with a decent seed and a shaky major-conference team, this could be an under-the-radar upset pick. The Jackrabbits went into Washington a week before Christmas and killed the Huskies, 92-73. Nate Wolters is a big point guard with a varied, reliable skill set -- that faulted him in the title game -- is capable of jacking up 35 like it's his business. He was just 5-of-22 for 14 points in the Summit final, though, and a repeat performance of that in the NCAAs means SDSU will be one and done.

And how about this: The appearance for South Dakota State means there is only state, Maine, that is yet to have a school be repped in the NCAA tournament at some point during the history of the event.

Player to know: Nate Wolters. And after I was roundly mocked by my colleagues at CBSSports.com for wanting to include Jackrabbits junior guard Nate Wolters on our Top 100 Players list in October, I have been avenged! And they are ruing that day! Rue it, Jeff Goodman! Wolters is exactly the kind of player who can make a nation fall in love with one performance. He's the team's point guard, but he accounts for so much of the offense.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-7 overall, 15-3 in Summit League
  • Most recent tournament appearance: N/A
  • We’re thinking: 14 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 49
  • Sagarin ranking: 59
  • RPI: 50
  • Best wins: at Washington, vs. Oral Roberts
  • Worst losses: at North Dakota, at South Dakota
  • Notable stat: The Jackrabbits aren't that fast (in fact, at 66 possessions per game, they're about average), but they do take care of the ball very well, and that's because of Wolters. Turning it over at a 15.7 percent rate, SDSU is No. 4 in the nation in protecting itself from offensive mistakes. 

-- Matt Norlander

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:12 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 1:33 pm

What-to-know tourney previews: Summit League

Leagues like the CAA and Missouri Valley have and will continue to get a lot of rightful pub and optimism about their tournaments this season.

The Summit League's bracket should be just as good.

When it comes to mid-major tournaments, really good teams and very dazzling players, the Summit boasts all in spades. It starts with Dominique Morrison, the league's player of the year who suits up for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles, a mainstay in the CBSSports.com Non-BCS Power Pyramid this season, is a group that went 17-1 in the regular season and has won 20 of its last 21 games. Oral Bobs is one of the best shooting teams in college basketball, putting up an effective field goal percentage of 54.2

ORU's only loss in-conference? At South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits have Nate Wolters, a junior point guard who does it all. Naters Gonna Nate. You know it well if you've followed the blog all season long. This is where it gets interesting. The site of the Summit conference tournament this year is Sioux Falls, S.D., meaning SDSU could and should have a home-court feel to it.

Morrison or Wolters getting to the tournament would be huge for the league. Both players are very capable of scoring 30 points and capturing a nation's attention on a Thursday or Friday afternoon or evening. Wolters does it all; he's a point guard, but the fact he can score in bunches doesn't indicate he's tunnel-visioned about it. His points come within the flow of the offense, and he's not turning the ball over much, either.

If you want an unfamiliar team with a good chance to steal a game, ORU or South Dakota State are the teams to root for. But third-place Oakland, which has point guard Reggie Hamilton -- also a fantastic player -- was in the NCAAs last year and gave Texas one of the most entertaining games on the first Friday of tournament play.

Nate Wolters has the ability to carry his team to a win over a big boy in the big bracket. (AP)
Beyond that, we could have some shakeups with fourth-place North Dakota State, fifth-place Western Illinois and No. 6 Southern Utah, but those teams don't have nearly the depth -- or offense to win three games in Sioux Falls. The top three seeds are all-top 30 offenses.

Also, if you want more information on this, we can't implore you enough to check this out.



Schedule: March 3-6

Title game: Tuesday, March 6 (9 ET ESPN2)


  1. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
  2. Reggie Hamilton, Oakland
  3. Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts
  4. Alex Young, IUPUI
  5. Frank Gaines, Purdue-Fort Wayne

Conference RPI: 16

KenPom.com rating: 18

Sagarin rating: 18

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances:

  • Oakland: 2011, 13 seed, lost 85-81 to Texas in first round
  • Oral Roberts: 2008, 13 seed, lost 82-64 to Pittsburgh in first round
  • IUPUI: 2003, 16 seed, lost to Kentucky in first round
  • IPFW: N/A
  • South Dakota State: N/A
  • UMKC: N/A
  • North Dakota State: 2009, 16 seed, lost Kansas in first round
  • Southern Utah: 2001, 14 seed, lost to Boston College in first round
  • Western Illinois: N/A
  • South Dakota: N/A

--Matt Norlander

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: March 9, 2011 12:22 am

Welcome to the Dance, Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Oakland steamrolled through the Summit League this season, going 17-1, with 10 of the wins coming by double-figures. The Golden Grizzlies completed their dominance of the conference by blowing out Oral Roberts in the conference championship game Tuesday night, 90-76. Keith Benson led the way down low, finishing with 28 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Reggie Hamilton provided most of the outside production, scoring 26 points and dishing out six assists.

Located in Rochester, Mich., Oakland burst onto the scene in 2005, when it made a run to the NCAA tournament despite a 12-18 record. The Golden Grizzlies have only been in Division I since 1999, but they are headed for their third Big Dance appearance. Oakland also dominated the Summit a season ago, but it couldn’t capitalize and advance out of the first round of the NCAA tournament. Head coach Greg Kampe, who has been at the helm since 1984, said in mid-February that this team is different, though. Playing seven potential NCAA teams in the non-conference season prepared them well.

Player to know: Keith Benson. Benson is one of the most dominant big men in the country, ranking amongst the best defensive rebounders and shot-blockers around. He racked up 19 double-doubles this season and 15 separate games of at least 20 points. Benson has also proven himself against big-time competition, averaging 15.9 and 10.7 boards against major-conference teams this season.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-9, 17-1 Summit
  • Team colors: Gold and black
  • We’re thinking: 13-seed
  • KenPom ranking: 69
  • RPI: 64
  • Best win: Tennessee (18-13)
  • Worst loss: Wright State (19-14)
  • Notable stat: The Golden Grizzlies rank second in the country in scoring offense, averaging 84.7 points per game. They are also ninth in blocks, with 5.8 per game.
  • Most recent tournament history: 2010. As a No. 14 seed, lost to Pittsburgh in the first round.

Photo: Getty

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2011 11:46 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 1:57 am

It's Oakland vs. Oral Roberts for Summit title

After two semifinal contests that only players’ family members could have enjoyed, the conferences’ two best teams will go at it Tuesday night for the Summit League tournament championship. Oakland (24-9, 17-1) has been a dominant force in the conference all season and it continued on Monday night as the Grizzlies overwhelmed South Dakota State to reach the finals. All five starters scored in double digits in the 110-90 victory and Oakland once again showcased that it is playing at its peak ability at the perfect time of the season. The Grizzlies have an athletic advantage over every team in the Summit and they have exploited it well all season, making them the prohibitive favorite on Tuesday night.

Their opponent will be Oral Roberts (18-14, 13-5), who defeated IUPUI 83-77 in the semifinals. The Golden Eagles led by a double digit margin for most of the game, before withstanding a late rally by the Jaguars to move to the championship game. Forward Dominique Morrison again continued his impressive play, scoring 26 points in the victory. As has been the case all season, when Morrison is able to be aggressive and get to the foul line (he had 13 free throws versus IUPUI), Oral Roberts creates matchup problems that make the team difficult to defend. Morrison was aided by the play of guard Warren Niles, who added 20 points, including two key baskets late to stop the IUPUI run.

Oakland and Oral Roberts have met two times this season and both games were battles until the end. The deciding factor in the meetings was the play of Grizzlies’ star Keith Benson, who averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds over the two games. Both of the first two matchups were decided within the final minute and in both games, Benson dominated play on both the offensive and defensive end. Benson is a future NBA player and the Grizzlies have not been able to find an answer for him throughout his career. 

Oakland believes this is the team's season to not only win the conference championship, but potentially pull a surprise in the NCAA tournament. But for that to happen, the Grizzlies must first win their third game of the season over Oral Roberts and not suffer the fate of the many other conference regular season winners who have been defeated in tournament finals thus far this postseason. 

Posted by MATT JONES

Posted on: March 4, 2011 8:08 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 8:12 pm

Summit League Tournament Preview

There is no conference tournament that is considered more of a foregone conclusion in most college basketball experts’ minds than the Summit League. Since the beginning of the season, the league’s bid into the NCAA Tournament has been considered safely in the hands of Oakland. Not only are the Grizzlies 17-1 in conference, but they hold a non-conference win over Tennessee and had close losses against Illinois, Michigan State and Valparaiso. Oakland is the class of the league, with only two teams, Oral Roberts and IUPUI truly legitimate threats to defeat it.

The biggest worry for Oakland (22-9, 17-1) going into the Summit League Tournament is to avoid looking forward to the NCAA Tournament. Many believe that the Grizzlies could be a dangerous 13 seed in March and they will be a popular upset pick amongst college basketball prognosticators. Oakland is led by Keith Benson, the best player in the conference and a likely NBA draft pick this Spring. He has been dominant all season and is an inside force rare at this level. The Grizzlies have also gotten major production from Reggie Hamilton, who is averaging 16 points a game while shooting for a high percentage as a perimeter player.

Oral Roberts (17-14, 13-5) has at times looked to be a viable contender against Oakland. The Eagles were involved in two battles with Oakland earlier this year and matchup well with the conference favorite. Oral Roberts struggled early in the year, but once Dominique Ferguson settled into his regular form, the Eagles’ play improved. Oral Roberts will not be scared if it meets Oakland in the championship game, but it isn’t clear that it will get there.

The team with the best shot at knocking off the champs is IUPUI (18-13, 12-6). When the Jaguars are playing at their best, they have the highest upside of any team in the league. Alex Young and Leroy Nobles give IUPUI the best one-two scoring punch in the league and at times have proven to be unguardable. However, the Jaguars also take games off and have fallen to teams like Southern Utah and South Dakota State too often. As with Oral Roberts, IUPUI can give Oakland a stiff challenge in the championship game, but is also capable of losing in the first round.

PREDICTION:  Oakland gets a stiff test from IUPUI in the championship game and finds itself down early. But after a late run, the Grizzlies get the victory and knock off a 4 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Top Three Players:

  1. Keith Benson, Oakland
  2. Alex Young, IUPUI
  3. Dominique Ferguson, Oral Roberts

Conference RPI: 21

Kenpom.com Rating: 19

Sagarin Rating: 17



Last Time in NCAA Tournament:

Oakland: 2010 (lost to Pittsburgh in first round)

Oral Roberts: 2008 (lost to Pittsburgh in first round)

IUPUI: 2003 (lost to Kentucky in first round)

IPFW: Never made NCAA Tournament

South Dakota State: Never made NCAA Tournament

UMKC: Never made NCAA Tournament

North Dakota State: 2009 (lost to Kansas in first round)

Southern Utah: 2011 (lost to Southern Utah)

Western Illinois: Never made NCAA Tournament

Centenary: Never made NCAA Tournament

Posted by MATT JONES

Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com