BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — As part of his rotation across the eight members of the conference, Summit League commissioner Tom Douple found his way Thursday to the University of South Dakota.
Sitting high up in the DakotaDome seats, Douple chatted briefly with the Press & Dakotan during halftime of USD’s men’s basketball game against Omaha.
What’s your impression of the basketball season so far?
It’s been the best men’s basketball season we’ve had in the history of the league. We’re as highly rated as we’ve ever been. The women are having a great year too. We got as high as 14 in the RPI, now we’re fluctuating between 14 to 16 in a lot of the polls. We’ve really made some strides.
More of those high-profile wins certainly help, I would imagine? (NDSU men beat Notre Dame, SDSU women beat Penn State, Fort Wayne women beat Michigan State, etc.)
Absolutely; those are great for our league. The other thing that stands out, we’re beating teams we should be beating. Our non-conference wins have really picked up. Our coaches are scheduling better non-conference games, which helps increase your RPI. Those are all things we put into a plan and you hope everyone implements them. That helps us in our seeding for the NCAA, and helps you with bids in the CIT or the CBI, or whichever tournament.
Is the league inching toward multiple NCAA Tournament bids?
We’re definitely inching that way. Right now, NDSU (men) was 45, so they’re on the cusp, we would hope. Those are the things that you look at. If we can continue to average four or five teams in post-season play, all that rolls into building a good image for your league.
How has the addition of Denver helped?
We’re ahead of the Sun Belt in the RPI, and same with the WAC. So this is the highest league they’ve been in. They’re a great fit, no question. I don’t know what our numbers will eventually get to, but you’ve got to concentrate on who you have. Last year everyone thought the sky was falling down, but we’ve got to take care of business.
You probably get the expansion question a ton, don’t you?
It’s non-stop, definitely. We’re out there talking to folks, and I forsee us continuing to be active in expansion. I don’t want our folks to get caught up in, ‘You’ve got to have a set number.’ We have eight solid members right now. We want the right fit, that’s the most important thing. We’ve opened up a lot of eyes.
It seems like that’s been a consistent message with expansion, ‘finding the right fit.’
Denver was the right fit for us. A great market, a great program, great academics. That’s a good fit. Getting Oral Roberts back, obviously, that’s a right fit. Everybody knows, we could expand to 14 tomorrow, but that’s not the way we want to approach this. Not every school would be the right fit for us at this time. There are probably some out there, obviously, that would be the right fit for us. And we’ll continue to explore those.
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