Checking in on… the MVCPosted by jstevrtc on December 28th, 2009
Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Current records and my standings (Last Week):
- Wichita State (11-1) (2)
- Missouri State (10-1) (1)
- Northern Iowa (9-1) (3)
- Southern Illinois (7-2) (4)
- Illinois State (9-2) (5)
- Indiana State (8-3) (6)
- Evansville (6-4) (7)
- Bradley (5-5) (8)
- Creighton (5-6) (10)
- Drake (5-7) (9)
STORIES OF THE WEEK
Valley wins the first MVC-MWC Challenge — Northern Iowa defeated Wyoming to take the Valley to win 5-4 the first ever MVC-MWC Challenge. UNI, Illinois State, Missouri State, Indiana State, and Wichita State were the winners while Creighton, Southern Illinois, Bradley, and Drake lost. But you look at who they lost to (New Mexico, BYU, San Diego State, and UNLV) and it still provides some questions on which conference is actually better. But for this season, the Valley can claim they are better than the Mountain West Conference.
Surprises at the top — A year ago, you would not have seen Missouri State and Wichita State at the top of the conference with Creighton and Bradley towards the bottom. But this is how the crazy Valley non-conference season has gone so far. The Valley is an impressive 80-32 (.714) in non-conference play with some nice wins against top level conferences that have been missing over the past few seasons.
Conference Play starts this week — Missouri Valley Conference play starts with each team playing three games over the next week. It will start out fast and furious and there will be some teams that will jump out of the pack early, but will be down to the wire this season as most teams feel that they can win the conference.
- Missouri State – 10-1 is a lot better than the 6-5 record I predicted before the season started. The Bears have been the surprise of the Valley so far this season. It has been behind the solid play of Kyle Weems and Eastern Kentucky transfer Adam Leonard. They have wins over Auburn, Tulsa and Air Force with their only blemish being an overtime loss to close out the non-conference at Arkansas last week. The conference slate starts fast for them with Evansville, Illinois State and Northern Iowa this week.
- Wichita State — The Shockers are not much of a surprise to me because they have done exactly how I expected them to this season. Fans in Wichita are excited about seeing what they were expecting when Gregg Marshall came in to run the program after Mark Turgeon left. Wins over Iowa, Texas Tech, and TCU are their big wins with a loss to Pitt in the CBE Classic their only faltering. A trip to Illinois State awaits and then they host Drake and Bradley this week to open Valley play.
- Northern Iowa — After losing against Depaul in the opening round of the Paradise Jam, many were skeptical that the Panthers could be as good or better as they turned out to be last season. However, they turned things around rather quickly and have garnered wins over Boston College and Siena and swept the State of Iowa series against Iowa St. and Iowa. They are on an eight game winning streak as they visit Creighton to open conference play before hosting Evansville and Missouri State.
- Southern Illinois – At times, Southern Illinois look like they are back on track this season. They haven’t gotten key wins against UNLV and St. Louis to make me feel like they are the Salukis of old. They will be tested early as Indiana State comes to town, then they hit the road to Bradley and Illinois State.
- Evansville — With all the rebuilding Evansville has had to do this season, they are actually playing like I expected with their 6-4 record. They took Butler and Western Kentucky to the limit, but came up a little short in those upset bids. The Purple Aces, however, could start off 0-3 in the conference with Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Creighton on the slate.
- Indiana State — The Sycamores are an interesting team sitting at 8-3. They won against Colorado State, Western Kentucky and Oral Roberts, but then lost winnable games against Coastal Carolina and Ball State. With the on-again/off-again suspension of point guard Harry Marshall, the rollercoaster season could continue. Three of the first four games are on the road in MVC play with Southern Illinois, Creighton and Drake on the slate this week.
- Bradley — Expectations were high in Peoria to start the season, but while a season-opening road loss at BYU and another to Oklahoma State in Las Vegas were somewhat expected, their three game losing streak to close out the non-conference season was not. Injuries have plagued the Braves but there are enough veterans on the team to pick up the slack. A win against Illinois will look nice down the line and will help the Valley as a whole, but their non-conference record will hurt them in the long run. Bradley will try to get back on track with a game at Drake, but then next up on the slate is Southern Illinois and Wichita State. I still question whether a Bradley team can finish in the top four in the Valley.
- Creighton — Creighton has probably been the most disappointing team in the Valley so far this season with the highest expectations. Creighton scheduled up this season by playing in a solid Old Spice Classic field and going on the road against Dayton, George Mason and New Mexico. Unfortunately all of those road games turned into losses. What made it even worse is that all of those games were winable and Creighton had leads late in the game that they couldn’t close out. Their five wins at home have been against patsies like Houston Baptist, Savannah St. and Florida A&M. So unless Creighton end up winning the Valley decidedly, there is a chance they will not fulfill the annual expectation of a 20-win season. They open up with Northern Iowa at home and then hit the New Year’s road trip to Evansville and Illinois St.
- Illinois State — Many were skeptical about the Redbirds’ non-conference slate again this season to really know how tough this team might be. Well, the gravy train stopped with a loss against the Bracketbuster return game with Niagara and then the next game at Ohio. Illinois State learned from those losses with a nice road win at Utah as part of the MVC/MWC Challenge. The Redbirds host Wichita State and Southern Illinois and then head over to Missouri State this week. Will they start 3-0, 0-3 or somewhere in between?
- Drake — Drake shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone how they have been this season. Other than their dream season a couple of years ago, Drake has performed at its normal bottom-of-the-conference ways. Losing to SIU-Edwardsville in Drake’s own tournament was the low point so far, and losing to Iowa who has struggled heavily this season really doesn’t make the Bulldogs look very good. Bradley, Wichita State and Indiana State start the conference season for them.
WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH
Conference season goes into full swing this week and there are some intriguing matchups to kick things off.
- 12/29, Northern Iowa @ Creighton (Local TV)—This is the first time the top two conference teams from the previous season have met to kick off the following conference season in about 20 years. Creighton needs to get off on an early start against the conference favorites and needs the win at this point in the season more than the Panthers.
- 12/29, Wichita State @ Illinois State—This will be a key early matchup between two teams who want to be in the conversation at the end of the season. The Shockers have had problems on the road in conference play. They will need to turn that around to be in the race.
- 1/1, Southern Illinois @ Bradley—Both teams are going in opposite directions and it will be interesting to see if Bradley can rebound from a disappointing non-conference season.
- 1/1, Illinois St. @ Missouri State—The Bears are undefeated at home this season so far and the surprise team of the Valley gets its first big conference test.
- 1/3, Missouri State @ Northern Iowa—Both teams are in the running for the MVC crown at this point. The Panthers want to prove that they are the cream of the Valley.
- 1/3, Southern Illinois @ Illinois State—Already after one week, one of these teams could be in a lot of trouble after this game is over as both teams have a challenging first week of conference play.