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Summit League moves on without ORU

When IPFW’s men’s and women’s basketball teams qualified in their initial attempts for the Summit League’s postseason tournament in 2007-08, it was Oral Roberts that eliminated both Mastodons teams in Tulsa, Okla.

The men lost in the semifinals, the women were beaten in the first round, and Oral Roberts eventually went on to win both championships.

But as IPFW begins its sixth season in the conference, its nemesis has moved on, leaving for the Southern League.

The departure opens the door for debate: Was ORU leaving a basketball step backward for the Summit League in need of a marquee university?

“There’s no question that that is a gut shot to the league,” Oakland men’s coach Greg Kampe said during a teleconference by the Summit League coaches Wednesday. “And maybe people don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.”

Over the past eight seasons, Oral Roberts has been one of the league’s more successful basketball schools. The men have won the regular-season championship five times and the postseason tournament three times, while the women’s teams have claimed two of each. In those eight years, Oral Roberts was the league’s representative in the NCAA tournaments on five occasions.

Last year, with a 27-7 regular season record, Oral Roberts’ men’s team had an RPI of 65, which far exceeded Oakland’s second-best of 135. In contrast, IPFW’s RPI was 281.

As a conference, the Summit League men ranked 16th in the RPI, a step below the Ivy League and one notch ahead of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“I think we’re one of the more underrated leagues in the nation,” North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips said. “You look at it, and our RPI has steadily climbed and climbed and climbed as a group.

“You lose Oral Roberts, you replace them with an Omaha; you give Omaha time and, given their location, given their resources, they’re going to be very, very good. This league is really moving in a positive direction. I don’t want to gloss that over.”

Added IPFW men’s coach Tony Jasick: “From a name recognition standpoint, they were one of the more notable programs in the league, but I still think that our league’s going to be a quality league this year without them in it.”

stwarden@jg.net

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