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Mid-Continent Mid-Term Grades Are In

January 29, 2004

By Scott Keisler

  

Conference play hits the half-way point and it’s time to hand out mid-season report cards. There is still time to improve before the final exam (the conference tournament), but there is also plenty of time to falter. So don’t get comfortable, the final grade never lies.

 

Oral Roberts – Grade: A-

The Golden Eagles, 13-6 overall and 6-2 in conference play, have been the surprise of the

Mid-Con thus far. Head Coach Scott Sutton’s squad suffered several graduation casualties last season, and many expected 2004 to be a year of rebuilding. Not so.

 

With two of the conference’s premier freshman leading the way, Oral Roberts started strong and hasn’t looked back. Forward Caleb Green (6’7, 215) is among nation’s most productive freshmen. He is sixth in the Mid-Con in scoring (16.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (9.4rpg). His counterpart freshman guard Ken Tutt (6’1, 175) has been equally impressive, checking in at fifth in conference scoring (18.7 ppg) and second in three point field goals made (60).

 

The Golden Eagles rank 12th nationally among D-I schools in scoring offense (81.4 ppg), tops among Mid-Con teams. ORU also shoots 74.4 percent as a team from the free throw line, placing them among nation’s best (17th) in that category as well.

 

Oral Roberts has already notched key conference road wins at UMKC, Southern Utah, and Oakland. They rank no. 136 in the most recent RPI (strength of schedule no. 219).

 

IUPUI – Grade: A-

The Jaguars, 12-6 overall and 5-2 in conference play, are in many ways like ORU. They graduated several key players last season and many expected a down year in 2004. The defending conference tournament champions, however, are having none of it.

 

Senior forward Odell Bradley (6’4, 240) ranks 6th in the nation in scoring at 23.3 ppg, thanks in part to recent outbursts of 32 versus UMKC and 41 versus Oral Roberts. Bradley ranks first scoring in a conference full of potent scorers. He also ranks 4th in rebounds (8.5 rpg).

 

Senior guard Matt Crenshaw (6’2, 180), who last year hit the game-winning shot versus Valparaiso in the conference championship game, does a little bit of everything. Capable of scoring (20 points at Oakland), Crenshaw also comes up big in other areas. He averages 5.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per contest. Junior guard Akeem Clark (6’2, 210), has already scored 20 or more seven times – including 33 versus East Tennessee State. At 17.1 points per game, Clark ranks 7th in the conference in scoring.

Coach Ron Hunter’s club has accumulated an impressive list of wins, including non-conference victories over Wisconsin-Green Bay, Ball State, East Tennessee State, and Pepperdine, Key conference wins include wins at Valparaiso, at Oakland, versus UMKC, and versus Oral Roberts. IUPUI’s RPI ranking is no. 99 (strength of schedule no. 117). Currently they are ranked No. 24 in the latest Mid-Major top 25 poll.

 

Valparaiso – Grade: B

A month ago the Crusaders (8-9, 5-3) were failing, but this is Valpo we’re talking about. With Homer Drew back as head coach, this team won’t go quietly come March.

 

Senior forward Joaquim Gomes (6’9, 225) leads the conference in rebounding (9.9 rpg) and blocked shots (2.0 bpg) while scoring 12.6 points per contest. Junior guard Ali Berdiel (6’6, 197) is averaging 11.8 ppg and is second in the conference in assists at 6.6 a game. Valparaiso checks in this week with an RPI of 173 (strength of schedule 154).

 

Missouri-Kansas City – Grade: B-

The Kangaroos (9-9, 4-3) have dropped two key conference games in a row, after hopping to a quick start. Michael Watson is in a dog-fight atop the Mid-con for the scoring title, averaging 21.6 ppg.

UMKC saw it all come together earlier this season, destroying Big 12 opponent Kansas State 93-52. Coach Ron Zvosec’s team hosts the conference tourney in early March, so don’t overlook the Kangaroos – despite a dismal RPI rating of 284.

 

Centenary – Grade: C-

A new addition to the Mid Continent Conference, the Gents (9-8, 3-3) may be the toughest team to get a handle on in 2004. Coach Kevin Johnson’s club has managed to stay afloat thus far in Mid-Con play, and with wins versus Chicago State, at Southern Utah, and at Oakland, Centenary could remain a factor.

Senior guard Andrew Wisniewski (6’3, 180) has played as well as anyone in the conference, scoring better than 20 a game while dishing out nearly 5 assists per outing. The Gents RPI rating is 199.

 

Chicago State – Grade: C-

Chicago State (6-14, 4-2) has been hot lately having won five in a row. A surprising home win versus Oral Roberts has Kevin Jones his Cougars believing. This is remarkable considering prior to the current streak, Chicago State had dropped 34 of 35. The Cougars face a stern reality check, however, as they visit IUPUI this evening. A win tonight and this could end up one of the best turn-around stories of 2004…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

 

Oakland – Grade: D-

How can it be that a team with so much talent, the pre-season favorites, can play this badly? Mike Helms, Rawle Marshall, and Cortney Scott are all three all-conference caliber players, yet for some reason Coach Greg Kampe’s team is underachieving big time. Don’t count the Golden Grizzlies completely out because they are more than capable of putting together a run in the conference tourney. But what’s broken deep into the season usually doesn’t get fixed.

 

Southern Utah – Grade: F

The Thunderbirds seem to be in every game, they just can’t seem to find a way to win. Junior forward DeAngelo Newsom (6’5, 220) and senior forward David Palmer (6’7, 210) are can hurt smaller teams down low, but Coach Bill Evans hasn’t been able to find much help. With March Madness, however, you never know what will happen.

 

Western Illinois – Grade: F

If there were such a thing as an F-, one might be tempted to give one out here. The Leathernecks (3-16, 1-6) just aren’t any good. Based on the past few years, it seems first year coach Derek Thomas has his work cut out for him.

 

Scott’s All Conference Team (as of today)

First Team

F – Caleb Green (6’7, 215) Fr IUPUI

F – Odell Bradley (6’4, 210) Sr Oral Roberts

G – Rawle Marshall (6’7, 190) Jr Oakland

G – Mike Helmes (6’0, 195 Sr Oakland

G – Matt Crenshaw (6’2, 200) Sr IUPUI

 

Second Team

F – Cortney Scott (6’6, 260) Jr Oakland

F – Mike English (6’4, 215) Jr UMKC

G – Michael Watson (6’1, 185) Sr UMKC

G – Andrew Wisniewski (6’3, 180) Sr Centenary

G – Jonathan Bluitt (5’9, 160) So Oral Roberts

Honorable Mention

F- Joaquim Gomes (6’9, 225) Sr Valparaiso

F – DeAngelo Newsome (6’5, 220) Jr Southern Utah

G – Tony Weeden (6’2, 195) Jr Chicago State

G – Akeem Clark (6’2, 210) Jr IUPUI

G – Ali Berdiel (6’6, 197) Jr Valparaiso

 

All Freshmen

C – Jeleel Akindele (7’1, 240) Chicago State

F – Caleb Green (6’7, 215) Oral Roberts

G – Ken Tutt (6’1, 175) Oral Roberts

G – T.J. Gray (5’9, 160) Western Illinois

G- Royce Parran (5’9, 160) Chicago State

 

Player of theYear

Odell Bradley (6’4, 240) IUPUI

*All Stats are as 6:00 p.m. on January 29

Scott A. Keisler -

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