Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the MVC and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week Rank):

  1. Illinois St. (10-0) (1)
  2. Creighton (8-2) (2)
  3. Drake (9-3) (4)
  4. Evansville (8-2) (3)
  5. Missouri St. (7-3) (5)
  6. Northern Iowa (6-5) (7)
  7. Bradley (5-5) (6)
  8. Wichita St. (5-5)  (9)
  9. Southern Illinois (4-6) (8)
  10. Indiana St. (2-8) (10)

The non-conference season for the Missouri Valley Conference basically ended this past week with conference play starting next Sunday.  The non-conference games left for the Valley this coming week are most teams playing lower level competition that should result in wins for the Valley.  Since Conference play will have started by the time I report for RTC, here is a little recap of what I expected versus what we got from the Valley in the Non-Conference.

SURPRISES

Evansville (8-2, predicted 7-3)—Evansville really has been a surprise for me this season.  Yes, their two losses have been against higher level teams, but really Evansville has not shown that there was reason to think they would be a contender ever in the Valley.  Watching them play North Carolina the other night, although they lost by almost 20, the Aces really looked pretty good.  UNC is just that good.  Things are going so good for Evansville right now; even the City Council in Evansville is recommending building a new 11,000 seat arena in downtown Evansville for Aces to play in replacing Roberts Stadium.  They will be this year’s Drake for the Valley.  One concern though is the fact that the 8 wins so far have all been at home and the 2 losses on the road.  Not good if that is the case in conference play.

Drake (9-3, predicted 10-2)—Speaking of Drake, I have them as a bit of surprise because of how much they lost last season with Keno Davis taking off while he could and Adam Emmenecker running the team.  Yes, I predicted they would be 10-2 and it doesn’t seem like a surprise, but I guess I really thought they would be a one year wonder.  After tough losses to Butler, Vanderbilt in Cancun and the surprising loss to Stephen F. Austin, they were still able to sweep Iowa and Iowa State for the 3rd straight year which has never happened at Drake before.  Iowa is a Bulldog state once again.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Bradley (5-5, predicted 8-2)—This team is confusing me about as much as it is for Jim Les.  Though Bradley lost a lot from last season, I thought they really had a program in place that would be a team to contend with. Jim Les is in his 7th season and this program is to the point that there is more expected in Peoria than ever before.  Bradley has slipped from 2nd round of the NCAAs to the NIT to the finals of the CBI last season.  However, without Andrew Warren setting foot on the court this season and the loss of Will Egolf at center has caused a setback for this team.  However, they can still make a noise in the Valley.

Southern Illinois (4-6, predicted 9-2)—Correct me if I am wrong here, but this is supposed to be the Southern Illinois reload and not rebuild juggernaut that it has been for the past several years.  However now for the last two seasons, it has been a struggle for this team to live up to past history.  The other glaring thing is that it is head coach Chris Lowery’s fifth season at the helm and at this point it is completely the players he and his staff have recruited.  It appears the groundwork that Bruce Weber and Matt Painter set for recruiting didn’t follow along with Lowery.  The lack of home games hasn’t helped this team either.   Duke, UCLA, St. Mary’s, Western Kentucky, Nevada  and now St. Mary’s away from home makes a nice resume if they could have won a few of those games.   This could be a long season for the Salukis.  One positive note– Guard Bryan Mullins is averaging a league-best seven assists per game, ranking sixth best in the nation.

CHUGGING ALONG

Illinois St. (10-0, predicted 10-0)—Illinois St. isn’t going to win any awards for their non-conference schedule this season (322), but they have won as expected.  In the meantime, Osiris Eldridge and Champ Oguchi have looked like players to watch out for from this team.  However, one thing to note is that this team is not very deep with 5 players playing more than 23 minutes (3 over 30) a game and only two others outside of that playing more than 15 minutes a game.   This could hurt this team once conference play starts.  Also, since they are the only Valley team to not play a BCS team in the non-conference schedule has given them little to no exposure other than being undefeated.  Not much of a resume builder in the non-conference.  Coach Tim Jankovich can live in his own little world, but if Illinois St. does finish second in the Valley this season , then there will likely be only one Valley bid.

Creighton (8-2, predicted 9-1)—I should have known that Creighton would hit some bumps in the road in the non-conference season and I figured they wouldn’t hit it as early as they did with losses at Arkansas-Little Rock and Nebraska.  I expected they would get beaten by St. Joseph, but with those early road losses have come back to look very solid now.  But then I bet several would be surprised that the guy playing the best for the Bluejays would be Booker Woodfox instead of  P’Allen Stinnett.  Well, that is the case at this point.  He is fifth in the country in 3-point shooting at 53.9 percent. Woodfox has buried 26 of 49 attempts.   Creighton’s  performance in Las Vegas this week will be very telling about this team.

JURY IS STILL OUT

Wichita St. (5-5, predicted 7-3)—This team can’t seem to get the close win at this point.  In all of the Shockers losses this season, they have all been within 9 points or less.  They looked quite competitive in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving, but could only get out of there with a win against a Siena team that is really not living up to expectations.  But moral victories are not satisfactory to this team or to the fans and media.  In fact, Wichita St. guard Ramon Clemente has resorted to posting messages on his facebook  account to try and calm down the fans and media and also to make himself feel better.

Northern Iowa (6-5, predicted  8-3)—So far, this season has really gone about how I expected it although I thought they would at least take out Iowa St., especially since they had that game at home.  This team has suffered with injuries this year (ankle injury U) and now little used guard Jon Montgomery has decided to leave the team.    Ironically an injured ankle in early December has caused him to not see the court since and thus left to seek more playing time elsewhere.

Missouri St. (7-3, predicted 7-3)—Bears fans have given me a hard time because I have been listing them as “struggling” or not much positive to say about them.  Well basically, they have played exactly how I have predicted they would this year.  Not great, but not bad.  Up and down.  Those same fans have said they don’t believe that Missouri St. will only get 4 conference wins this season…ok so here they are—Wichita St., Northern Iowa, Indiana St. and Evansville all at home.   I’m waiting for this team to prove differently to me.

MAYBE NEXT YEAR

Indiana St. (2-8, predicted 8-2)—Wow, I guess I underestimated or didn’t take into account the loss of Marico Stinson (left right as the season started) and Harry Marshall (academically ineligible) would have on this team.  Right now this team will be playing spoiler in the conference race and hopefully they can build for next year.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

Other than Creighton playing in the Las Vegas Classic to start the week, the rest of the conference is either off or have games that should be winnable this week.  Sunday starts conference play.  Here are the early conference season matchups of interest coming up on Sunday.

  • 12/28—Wichita St. @ Creighton (Local TV in both markets)-Many see Southern Illinois/Creighton as the rivalry in this conference, but really these two teams have quite a rivalry.
  • 12/28—Southern Illinois @ Bradley (Local TV)—Two teams that had high expectations coming into the season trying to start off right in conference play.
  • 12/28—Drake @ Evansville (Fox Sports Net)—The surprising Purple Aces against the rising Bulldogs.
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