Missouri Valley Tournament PreviewPosted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010
Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
PRESEASON vs. ACTUAL RESULTS
As you can see from the preseason predictions I made on the Missouri Valley conference back in October versus how things ended up, the MVC turned out to be difficult to predict this year as none of the teams performed as expected other than Northern Iowa and Wichita State.
I originally was not sold on the Panthers, but as the season wore on, I could see the cohesiveness and all the little things this group of players do to win games. Even with the suspension of Jordan Eglseder in three of the final four games, they were able to rally for the most part and continue their dominance in the Valley. Wichita State may have surprised some, but the Shockers appear to be back in the Valley picture after a few year absence from relevance. The work Gregg Marshall has done to build this team back up from scratch has paid off. The question now is whether it is enough to get to an NCAA Tournament postseason.
HELLO SAINT LOUIS
The Missouri Valley Conference tournament will take place this coming week at the Scottrade Center in downtown Saint Louis. Rush the Court will be live in St. Louis this week to keep you updated on the things going on at Arch Madness. Here is how the bracket shapes up:
Teams to watch in the MVC Tournament
It looks that if Northern Iowa wins the MVC tournament for the third straight year, the MVC will be a one-bid league. The only way that the Valley will get two teams into the NCAA Tournament is if someone knocks off the Panthers. If that is going to happen, here are the teams to watch:
- Wichita State—For the first time in conference tourney history, there will be two teams entering with 23 or more wins. Northern Iowa is one and the Shockers are the other. Both teams have split their season series against each other and it is possible the rub will come in the tournament finals. It could be quite a battle. However the loss of David Kyles for the season could create some depth problems for the Shockers.
- Illinois State—For the first time since 1992, two players from the same team have led the conference in scoring (Osiris Eldridge) and rebounding (Dinma Odiokosa). Add in the third option of Lloyd Phillips and the Redbirds are hoping the third time is a charm as they have appeared in the last two tournament finals.
- Creighton—Coach Dana Altman has a history of gearing his teams up for the conference tournament. Creighton owns the most MVC tournament titles with ten, the last coming in 2007. Despite the rocky season the Bluejays have had, they have won three in a row (their first three-game streak all season) heading into the tournament
- Missouri State—The Bears have been the overachievers in the conference this season with the best record heading into conference play. Since then, they have been up and down. They are the first team since the MVC tournament expanded with more than 17 wins to play in the Thursday night play-in game. Don’t be surprised if the Bears get a couple of wins and really be a threat to the higher seeded teams.
TEAM EVALUATION and POSTSEASON OUTLOOK
After playing in Saint Louis this week, some teams will have their season come to an end while others will make appearances in the postseason. With the assumption Northern Iowa wins the conference tournament, here is the outlook for the other Valley teams.
- Northern Iowa (Projection—NCAA Tournament)—We must mention Northern Iowa in the unlikely chance they lose in the MVC Tournament. If the Pac-10 gets two teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, then the MVC should get two teams in as well. If you do a comparison statistically, both conferences are really pretty much the same this season. If Northern Iowa loses their first round game, then they may need to panic, but for a team that has been ranked a good part down the stretch, they should still be in a good position to make the tournament. We also know that the MVC Player of the Year will come from Northern Iowa, but the question is, who will it be?
- Wichita State (Projection—NIT)—The Shockers have had a nice season and their 23 wins are nice to look at. However, they missed opportunities when they lost at Northern Iowa and allowed Evansville to get their first conference win of the season against them. They also went 4-4 down the stretch which isn’t as impressive as it could be. The lost great opportunities against Pitt which made them miss out on playing Texas in the CBE Classic and the rest of the non-conference opponents were not great competition, but scheduling was done well for this team that had not had very much success the past couple of seasons. They should be a lock for the NIT.
- Illinois State (Projection-NIT)—The Redbirds have been the hottest team in the Valley down the stretch, winning six of their last seven games. Unfortunately that one loss was against conference champion Northern Iowa on Senior Day. As it has been documented before, the Redbirds did not have a top-notch non-conference schedule. However, they have been a solid team and could warrant an invite to the NIT with a couple wins in the MVC Tournament. Things could be electric if they meet Northern Iowa again in the conference tournament.
- Creighton (Projection—CBI or CIT)—The Bluejays have probably been one of the bigger disappointments in the Valley this season. They had toughened the schedule, but they were all on the road. Injuries (Justin Carter), illnesses (Casey Harriman), and distractions (P’Allen Stinnett) could be some of the excuses that this team was not successful, but instead it has just been lack of toughness and players willing to step up. Chad Millard, who transferred from Louisville four years ago, also feels like injuries kept him from being a better contributor. Coach Altman has focused things on the future as the starting lineup for the last three games (which have been wins) has included two freshman, a sophomore and a junior to play along Justin Carter. Kenny Lawson is probably the only player on the Bluejays this season that warrants all-conference consideration. A couple wins in the MVC Tourney and they can extend their current 13 consecutive seasons to the postseason.
- Bradley (Projection—none)—The clock is ticking on Jim Les’ future in Peoria. For the fifth straight year, the Braves are playing in the 4 vs. 5 game in the MVC Tournament and have not risen back to the glory of going to the Sweet 16 four seasons ago. They have been 5-5 in the last ten games of the season. They lost at Creighton for the twelfth straight time on Saturday. Unless the Braves get to the tournament final, there is not a postseason to be had for this team. Their performance in the non-conference was not very good and they lost to teams they shouldn’t have.
- Indiana State (Projection-none)—Indiana State really had a decent season and Kevin McKenna is helping to get this team relevant again in the Valley. The Sycamores lost Jake Kelly early in the conference season and then lost leading scorers Dwayne Latham and Harry Marshall at about the same time down the MVC stretch run. Marshall was able to come back for the season finale against Missouri State and lead the team to a win with a 33-foot shot at the end of the game. With a large core of players again coming back next season with a couple seasons under their belt, there could be some higher expectations going into next season.
- Missouri State (Projection—CBI or CIT)—The Bears have the opportunity for being rewarded for an outstanding season. After last season, it appeared Missouri State had a lot more rebuilding to do than they realized and were not projected to do that well this season. After a strong run out of the gate, this team played some great defense while at the same time having some stellar offense from Kyle Weems and Adam Leonard. After losing on a last second shot Saturday against Indiana State, the Bears get an extra game by playing on Thursday night in Saint Louis which could garner them their twentieth win of the season. That could be enough to get them to some postseason play.
- Drake (Projection-none) –Drake’s season turned out pretty much as I had predicted. They are still trying to reach the level they attained two seasons ago by winning the conference regular season and tournament titles. Josh Young is leaving as the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer. Their season low came against SIU-Edwardsville who defeated the Bulldogs on their home court in their own tournament. That was definitely a black eye for the conference. Drake does have the number one rated recruiting class for the Valley coming in next season. We will have to see if that turns into results.
- Southern Illinois (Projection-none)—Although the Salukis will finish the season at .500 or better, it still probably does not meet the expectations of the fans down in Carbondale. After going to the postseason for ten straight seasons, they will not go to the postseason for the second straight year. In the season finale, the Salukis got a “butt-beat.” Many are questioning Chris Lowery’s recruiting while some wonder if he will head out of Carbondale over to Depaul. Either way, the Lowery tenure may not be lasting that much longer and he probably has one more season to show Saluki fans what he can do.
- Evansville (Projection-none)—The Purple Aces had to rebuild from scratch this season. The bright spot—Colt Ryan and Denver Holmes. These two players are building the foundation for the future and if the last few games of the season were any indication, this team may look a lot better heading into next season. After starting the conference season 0-13, they went 2-1 in the final three conference games. With everyone back for next season, the Aces will not finish last.