Dates: March 5-8
Site: Sioux Falls, SD
That’s really all you need to say about the Summit League this season. The Golden Grizzlies, led by a potential first round pick in 6’11” center Keith Benson, rolled to a 17-1 record in conference play, their lone loss coming to IUPUI on a night when Benson played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Benson averaged 17.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and 3.8 bpg this season — including some big performances against quality competition — but he is more JaJuan Johnson than he is Jared Sullinger. He’s got range on his jump shot and the reputation for having somewhat of a finesse game on the block.
That said, the Golden Grizzlies are far from a one man show. Point guard Reggie Hamilton averaged 16.8 ppg and 5.3 apg. Larry Wright averaged 9.9 ppg on the wing, but scored 19 and made a number of huge plays down the stretch in the upset at Tennessee. Will Hudson is a physical, aggressive forward that leads the team in offensive rebounding. This is most definitely not just Oakland riding Benson’s coattails.
There are a couple of threats, however. Oral Roberts won seven in a row to end league play and has a couple of capable front court players, including Dominique Ferguson. IUPUI has already knocked off Oakland, who was third in the conference behind Oral Roberts, has the league leading scorer on the roster in Alex Young. IPFW and and South Dakota State also notched double digit conference wins.
Championship game: March 8th, 9:00 pm, ESPN2
Player to watch: Dominique Ferguson, ORU
Ferguson is actually the second-leading scorer in the conference to Alex Young of IUPUI. The 6’6″ forward missed four games in the middle of the season, but his return has sparked the Golden Eagles. They closed the season with eight straight wins overall, and Ferguson averaged 20.6 ppg over that stretch.
There is no other prediction to make here. The Golden Grizzlies have the best team in the league. They have the best player in the league in Keith Benson. He has the best supporting cast in the league. They’ve beaten Tennessee at Tennessee.