Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

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Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

MY STANDINGS (current records)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Injuries, Illness and Suspensions—The Valley has started out with several injuries, illnesses and suspensions this season, causing some teams to play without some veteran leaders including:

  • Bradley lost Dodie Dunson for the season with a broken arm suffered in their game against Idaho State while Taylor Brown is serving a suspension for  an offseason battery charge.  Brown was the team’s leading scorer during the Labor Day trip to Brazil. 
  • Creighton lost Justin Carter to an MCL tear for 2-4 weeks, Casey Harriman was hospitalized with swine flu that turned to tonsillitis that turned to strep throat that turned into mononucleosis, while Chad Millard has been out with a foot injury since September.
  • Drake was without Josh Young due to a hip pointer injury.
  • Wichita St. was without Clevin Hannah for the first three games (including the upcoming CBE Classic game against Pittsburgh) due to a “paperwork” error on his amateur status

Early season impressions—If the MVC wants to say they are back in the national picture, they need to start winning some games with name recognition above, as Kyle Whelliston calls it, the “Red Line.”  MVC teams had games against Dayton, LSU, Depaul, Iowa State, BYU, UNLV and Butler without walking away with a win.  The only win for the Valley against the Red Line was Missouri State’s win against Auburn.   The Valley has several more opportunities this week with Bradley, Wichita State and Creighton getting a chance to make noise. 

Tournaments—As mentioned above, the holiday tournaments are upon us.  Wichita State is getting ready for Pittsburgh and Texas/Iowa to start the week in the CBE Classic while Creighton faces off against Michigan (Thanksgiving Day) and Xavier/Marquette (Black Friday) in the Old Spice Classic with a third opportunity in (Baylor, Florida State, Alabama or Iona) on Sunday.  Bradley travels to Vegas for the Las Vegas Invitational to go against Oklahoma State Friday with Illinois or Utah waiting for them on Saturday.  

RTC Live—To start off your week right, join us for live coverage from courtside of the CBE Classic with Wichita St/Pittsburgh and Texas/Iowa Monday night with the consolation and championship games on Tuesday evening from Kansas City. 

INITIAL TEAM IMPRESSIONS

  • Missouri State—Who would have thought Missouri Statea would be the team that started off the season on the right foot above the rest of the Valley at 4-0?  With an opening night win against an “ultra-athletic”  Auburn team, the Bears are the only ones in the Valley who have beaten a name school.  Kyle Weems is building off of his freshman season and Eastern Kentucky transfer Adam Leonard is hitting big shots for Missouri St.    Their next big test comes Saturday as they host Tulsa. 
  • Southern Illinois—Southern Illinois was looking to rebound from last season’s disappointment and they got on track with easy wins over Tennessee-Martin and D2 Indianapolis, but went into Las Vegas to take on UNLV in the MVC-MWC Challenge and missed out on an important win for them.   Iowa transfer Tony Freeman is going to be an important piece to the puzzle for the Salukis this season.  SIU is off for a week before hosting Illinois-Chicago. 
  • Indiana State—The Sycamores have a lot going for them after the first week of competition.  In the opening round of the Preseason NIT, they gave LSU a big scare holding the Tigers to 0-15 from three point range but just coming up short in the win column.  But they bounced back to beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee the next night.  They have the only win for the Valley in the MVC-MWC Challenge, beating Colorado St. this past Friday.   Dwayne Lathan started out the season going 10-10 from the field in the first two games and led the team in the win against the Rams.   Keep Lathan’s name in the back of your mind as an impact player for the Valley.  Coastal Carolina and Western Kentucky are on the slate in the consolation rounds of the Preseason NIT this week.
  • Wichita St.—Gregg Marshall knows that expectations are high this season and with Kansas City in the back of their minds came out and beat the teams they were supposed to in Fairleigh Dickinson and D2 Arkansas-Monticello in the early games of the CBE Classic.  JT Durley looks like a different player this season and they will need him to be dominant on the boards.  They now head to KC to face Pitt Monday in the championship rounds and either Texas or Iowa Tuesday night.  But with Clevin Hannah out for the Pitt game finishing his 3-game suspension, will the Shockers still have the pieces needed to get by the Big East whose teams have lost only a couple of games to start the season? RTC Live will be there to see. 
  • Illinois State-Again Illinois State has started undefeated, and again the schedule is light on top-notch competition to see how this team functions without the supporting cast that was there last season.  The two wins against SIU-Edwardsville and North Florida were against teams that were in the 330s of D1 basketball last season.   Even the local ISU sportswriters aren’t too pleased with how this team has looked so far.  But you have to give them credit that two of the first three games are on the road with a trip to Illinois-Chicago early this week before hosting their own three-day round robin tourney over Thanksgiving weekend. 
  • Creighton—A somewhat shorthanded Creighton had Dayton on the ropes with a chance to get a great win to start the season.  RTC’s coverage of the game reflected the exciting game that took place.  However, the Bluejays came up a bit short.  They were able to come back and take out Florida A & M and Arkansas-Little Rock at home.  One big positive is that the newcomers of Wayne Runnels, Darryl Ashford and Ethan Wragge have stepped up big time and have led the offense for the Bluejays.   The other good news is that heading into this week the MASH unit that was the Creighton roster might be almost back to full strength.  This week is the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and an opening round game against the top 15 Michigan Wolverines. 
  • Bradley—The Braves started the season with a tough assignment to take on BYU on the road as the opening game of the MVC/MWC Challenge.  They almost pulled it off, but the Braves probably learned a lot about themselves after that game.  Bradley also received some bad news in their win against Idaho St. as Dodie Dunson suffered a broken arm and is now out for the season.  Bradley survived against Wofford Sunday night and finishes hosting the first two rounds of the Las Vegas Invitational this week against Presbyterian before heading out to Vegas over the weekend for a date with Oklahoma St.  
  • Northern Iowa—There is a reason I did not pick the Panthers to win the Valley this season.  It ended up showing as they lost to Depaul (picked last in the Big East) by only shooting 22% in the second half and scoring one basket in the last seven minutes of the game.  They might have been looking ahead to the potential matchup with Tennessee.  Instead they got East Carolina who they came back to defeat and will play Boston College on Monday to close out the tourney.   Then they are off until they meet Northern Illinois next Saturday.
  • Evansville—For everything that Evansville lost personnel-wise, they have been able to start the season off on a good note by winning against D2 Oakland City and D1 transition team SIU-Edwardsville.  Then they were able to compete with Butler but came up just a bit short.  Evansville may surprise more people than we realize.  The Aces take their first road trip after Thanksgiving to play Miami (OH) on Saturday. 
  • Drake—Keno Davis picked a good time to leave two seasons ago after their dream season as the Bulldogs are basically back to where they were before that magical run.  They are 1-4 after getting blown out by Iowa State at home and losing to IUPUI,  Akron and Central Florida as a part of the Glenn Wilkes Classic.  Playing five true freshman extended minutes will cause Drake to endure some growing pains.  Drake now has to regroup before heading on the road to Austin Peay next Saturday. 

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The Valley has not helped itself by losing games it should not lose and not coming up big against the  BCS conference teams.  However, there are several opportunities over this next week for the Valley to get some good wins.

  • 11/23—Northern Iowa vs. Boston College (Paradise Jam)—Northern Iowa tries to salvage their appearance in this event.  After missing out on the opportunity to play Tennessee, they at least did enough to get a chance to play the Golden Eagles. 
  • 11/23 and 11/24—Wichita State @ CBE Classic—Wichita State faces Pittsburgh in the championship round semifinal at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  A spirited “home” crowd should be a factor for the Shockers.  The hope for fans and players is that they get the opportunity to play Texas the next night rather than play Iowa who probably shouldn’t even be there.  But a win against a name team is a win against a name team, right?  Anyway, I will be down at this event for RTC Live both nights. 
  • 11/25—Indiana State. vs. Western Kentucky—In the consolation rounds of the Preseason NIT in Bowling Green, the Sycamores get a chance for a nice win.  The Hilltoppers have several MVC teams on their schedule this season and should just join the Valley. 
  • 11/26, 11/27 and 11/29—Creighton @ Old Spice Classic.  (ESPN Family of Networks)—Creighton missed out on a big win at Dayton, but now they get to focus on three days of games against name teams.  The first opportunity will be against top 15 Michigan on Turkey Day and then either Xavier or Marquette on Black Friday.  Alabama, Florida St., Baylor or Iona will await the Bluejays on Sunday.  Justin Carter may be back for these games.
  • 11/27 and 11/28—Bradley vs. Oklahoma St. (Las Vegas Invitiational)—Bradley gets the opportunity to play the Cowboys from the Big 12 out in Las Vegas.  The following day, the Braves will get Illinois or Utah.  Unfortunately both games will not be on TV and the best you can do is watch it online or join the Bradley-sponsored viewing parties.  Both of these games will be important for Bradley to make a name for themselves this season.
  • 11/28—Missouri St. vs. Tulsa—The Bears are hoping to continue the early success by hosting a tough Tulsa team.  Get this win and many fan and media opinions may change on the Cuonzo Martin rebuilding project. 
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