The League Slate (Saturday 1/7): All Eyes On Tulsa
The League Slate is our preview series that looks at the conference games of the night. It is posted on the morning of league games (usually Thursdays and Saturdays). Games are listed in order of start time.
Every team is in action tonight, but all eyes will be on Tulsa where 5-0 South Dakota State visits 5-0 Oral Roberts. This one is generating national interest due to its implications in the race for the league title.
Western Illinois (3-2) at IPFW (3-3)
2:30 p.m. ET
We wrote earlier this week that this week would prove huge for IPFW as it had three home games to attempt to dig itself out of a 1-3 start to league play. Well, the team has come up big with wins over SUU and IUPUI already this week and Western Illinois awaiting. The Dons have been getting it done with much better defensive effort. If that trend continues, we might expect a tough-as-nails game between them and the improving Leathernecks in this afternoon tilt.
Terell Parks (WIU) vs. Mario Hines (IPFW)
IPFW's center Trey McCorkle left Thursday's game early with a hip injury, so if he is limited in this game then we might expect JUCO transfer Mario Hines to spend some time on WIU's breakout JUCO transfer, Terell Parks. Hines has been a solid rebounder for the Dons thus far this season (5.5 boards in 19 minutes per game in league games), but in the last two games he's increased his shot attempts and remained efficient, culminating in a 7-for-9 night against IUPUI. He and Parks look to be the top two junior college transfers in the league this year.
IUPUI (2-3) at Oakland (2-4)
6:00 p.m. ET
This one features two teams that are used to being near the top of the standings but find themselves fighting for a spot in the middle this season. Oakland, which has been nearly unbeatable at home over the last few seasons, has dropped two home games this week. IUPUI remains a work in progress, but it had won six straight prior to its Thursday loss to IPFW. The Jaguars have yet to win a road game this season, and the Golden Grizzlies have been uncharacteristically bad at home over the last few weeks. This could be a strange one.
Mitchell Patton (IUPUI) vs. Kyle Sikora (OU)
Though he doesn't play starters minutes, sophomore center Mitchell Patton has been starting for the Jaguars of late. He gives the team a few points and chips in a couple of rebounds during his relatively short stays on the court. On Saturday he'll likely match-up against freshman Kyle Sikora, a 7-footer who earned his first start in Oakland's last game. While they may only played 10 minutes or so each, it will be intriguing to see if their respective teams attempt to get them involved offensively since they match-up so well against each other on paper.
South Dakota State (5-0) at ORU (5-0)
8:05 p.m. ET
SDSU and ORU have successfully navigated their first five league games, setting up this great showdown between the league's lone undefeated squads. Over the last week the Golden Eagle offense has hit new highs, while the SDSU defense has continued to improve on a per-possession basis. So while this match-up would have been a battle of offensive firepower (SDSU) and defensive intensity (ORU) a week ago, it is now setting up to be more of an evenly-matched game.
Nate Wolters (SDSU) vs. Rod Pearson (ORU)
There may be more intriguing match-ups in this one, but this one provides an opportunity to write more about Rod Pearson's great play as of late. Since conference play resumed in late December, the senior point guard has 30 assists (7.5/game) to 10 turnovers, which is a great sign for a guy who has never been an assist machine nor a paragon of ball control. With such high assist totals in the last few games, Pearson is now tied with Nate Wolters for most assists per game in the conference in league games. Hopefully we'll see a lot of great ball movement between these two players in Tulsa tonight.
South Dakota (0-5) at UMKC (1-4)
8:05 p.m. ET
Can South Dakota come together as a squad to pick up its first conference win of the young season? That might be the top storyline in this match-up of the conference's two most overmatched teams thus far in 2011-12.
Charlie Westbrook (USD) vs. Reggie Chamberlain (UMKC)
A battle between one guard who many thought would be a top player in the Summit League (Westbrook) and another who is quietly putting up big numbers with great efficiency for a losing team (Chamberlain).
North Dakota State (3-2) at SUU (2-3)
9:30 p.m. ET
The late game of the night features two squads that will have their mental toughness challenged. The Bison put together an incredible second half at Oral Roberts, but even an 18-of-23 shooting performance from the field in that half was not enough to take down the Golden Eagles on their home court. Can this young team put the loss behind them to pick up a win out in Utah? Meanwhile, Southern Utah's league schedule has done the team no favors thus far, but after dropping its first conference home game, it needs to win this one to keep its hopes afloat.
TrayVonn Wright (NDSU) vs. Ramell Taylor (SUU)
This is a nice match-up of athletic power forwards who are capable of putting together a big scoring performance on any given night but have struggled to do so consistently.