Checking in on the… Missouri ValleyPosted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2009
Current Records and my standings (Conference Record)(Last Week Rank)
- Creighton (23-6)(12-4) (2)
- Northern Iowa (18-10) (12-4)(1)
- Illinois St. (22-6) (11-5)(3)
- Bradley (16-12) (9-7) (4)
- Evansville (16-11) (7-9) (5)
- Drake (17-12) (7-9) (7)
- Wichita St. (14-14) (7-9) (6)
- Indiana St. (9-19) (6-10) (8)
- Southern Illinois (11-17) (6-10) (9)
- Missouri St. (11-17) (3-13) (10)
This weekend all 10 teams took part in the annual ESPN Bracketbusters event. Though the league went 7-3 in its games, 2 of the top three teams in the league suffered losses. The MAAC was not friendly to the Valley as Illinois St. lost to Niagara and Northern Iowa continued its slide losing to Siena. However, Creighton scored a nice win against George Mason to get talk going about a possible at-large berth.
BATTLE FOR THE TITLE
The battle for the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship has come down to the final week. 3 teams are still in the race and anything could happen this week as Creighton, Northern Iowa and Illinois St. battle it out. There are several scenarios that could have any of the three win the conference outright or even end in a 3-way tie. The MVC tournament could be really interesting.
Speaking of the Missouri Valley Tournament, I will be down in St. Louis as a fan, but also covering for Rush the Court the goings on in the Tournament from press row. This should be a lot of fun.
As we view the final week:
Creighton (2-0 this week)—Creighton continued its surge this week with wins over Evansville and George Mason. Creighton now has an 8-game winning streak. If no one has heard about Booker Woodfox by now, the nation got a taste of his shooting in the win against George Mason. Woodfox leads the nation in 3-point percentage and was 8-9 this week in the two wins. Creighton now heads to Missouri St. on Tuesday where the Bears have not lost on “Senior Day” in 19 years. Then, the Jays host Illinois St. on Saturday afternoon which could very well be for the Valley regular season championship
Northern Iowa (0-2 this week)—Northern Iowa looked like it was going to run away with the Missouri Valley championship while riding an 11 game winning streak and a three game lead in the standings. However, since then, the Panthers have gone 1-4 and allowed Creighton to move up into a tie with them. This bad stretch also included 2 home losses where losing at home cannot happen in this conference. The slow start against Siena really hurt UNI this weekend in the Bracketbuster. They were so far behind that even scoring 22 points in the final 2:40 of the game was not enough. This should make for an interesting week.
Illinois St. (1-1 this week)—The Redbirds kind of control their own destiny this week as they take on both Northern Iowa and Creighton for the final two games. If they can win these two games, they can win the conference by ending in a three-way tie for first with a 3-1 record against the top two teams. However, their play at Niagara in the Bracketbuster makes one wonder if they have enough in the tank to win the final two games. Niagara’s fans storming the court didn’t set too well with the Redbird players.
TEAMS YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE IN THE MVC TOURNEY
The teams below are ones that have struggled throughout much of the season, but have been playing really well as of late and if they can avoid the Thursday night play-in games in St. Louis, they could be a bad matchup against one of the higher seeds.
Wichita St. (1-1 this week)—The Shockers have been playing well the second half of the season going 8-3 in the past 11 games. The only mark on Wichita St. through this process is that the 3 losses have come on the road. Not a good road team, but you never know what could happen in St. Louis. One other advantage is that if Wichita can win their final 2 games, they may be able to avoid the MVC play-in games on Thursday night. With Southern Illinois and Indiana St. as the final two games and being in the bottom of the league this season, it is possible. Though Wichita didn’t want to play in the Bracketbuster game against Cleveland St. but playing the game helped their confidence even more.
Indiana St. (2-0 this week)—Indiana St. has put together a nice string of 5 straight wins, their longest winning streak in over 2 years. They too have a slight possibility to avoid the MVC play-in games as well playing Missouri St. and Wichita St. in their final 2 games. 3 of the 5 wins in this streak for the Sycamores have come on the road. Jay Tunnel has just been on fire for Indiana St. during the streak.
These teams have key games against the top of the league this week that could help decide the conference champion.
Evansville (1-1 this week)—Evansville gave Creighton a scare this week with Jason Holsinger and Shy Ely on fire scoring 30 and 26 points respectively, but came up just short. However in the Bracketbuster win against Miami (OH), Ely and Holsinger had 21 and 20 points of Evansville’s 75 points. This combination of Senior leadership could create matchup problems that Valley teams haven’t been able to really get a handle on the past few games. The win against Miami guaranteed a winning season for Evansville. Evansville finishes up the season Saturday against Northern Iowa and could play the spoiler knocking Northern Iowa out of winning the conference.
Missouri St. (1-1 this week)—Missouri St. will finish last in the conference, but can have a hand in deciding the conference champion. Creighton comes in this week on senior night where, as mentioned before, they have not lost on senior night in 19 years. Their last second victory against Tennessee-Martin gives this team a lot of confidence going into the Creighton game.
These teams are sitting in the middle of the conference race and could make some unexpected noise.
Bradley (2-0 this week)—Bradley has been very inconsistent losing 4 in a row but then winning the past 3. This team has some good talent and games against Evansville and Drake to end the season could put Bradley in any number of seeds which with the right matchup in the tournament could let them make some noise.
Drake (2-0 this week)—Drake is no stranger to being a sleeper, being the big dog last season in the Valley. The growing pains of a new coach and new expectations have caused Drake to be inconsistent like Bradley mentioned above. There are a couple of veterans on this team including Josh Young and Bucky Cox that could bring this team together for the conference tournament. The celebration of the 1969 Final Four team could help too.
PACK IT IN
Southern Illlinois (0-2 this week)—Southern Illinois has been the disappointment of the Valley this season. High expectations were there for the incoming class and the leadership of Bryan Mullins was expected to keep Southern Illinois in the top of the Valley and the schedule was one of the most competitive in years. Unfortunately, the Salukis are going to have their first losing season in 10 years and this team has packed it in. Mullins’ career at SIU has ended with a foot injury and they have lost 7 of their last 9. People in Carbondale have high expectations and this is not sitting well with them. The Salukis are playing with a sense of urgency but it might be too late for this season.
GAMES OF INTEREST THIS WEEK
The games with the top 3 will decide the conference champ.
- 2/24, Creighton @ Missouri St. (Local TV)—Final road test for Creighton. Will they be looking forward to Saturday against the Redbirds?
- 2/24, Northern Iowa @ Illinois St.—Northern Iowa has an opportunity to take Illinois St. out of the conference picture. Too bad this one isn’t on TV.
- 2/28, Illinois St. @ Creighton (ESPN2)—This will decide the MVC championship
- 2/28, Evansville @ Northern Iowa (Fox Sports Net)—Final game of the MVC regular season.