Missouri Valley Wrap & Tourney PreviewPosted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2011
Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament will be a dogfight this season as a lot of teams feel like they have a great chance at winning it all. The top six seeds all have legitimate shots at winning. Games are not always about who has the best players, but who ultimately gets the best matchups.
- Who’s Hot—Missouri State is definitely the team to beat. They are on a roll with six straight conference wins to end the season. A lot of teams have troubles matching up with the Bears as Kyle Weems plays more like a guard than a forward. If everything goes like it has the past couple of seasons in the MVC, then you will see Missouri State heading to the NCAA Tournament.
- Who’s Not—Northern Iowa is definitely the team who, despite the decent seed, is really struggling right now. Ad nauseam we have talked about the loss of O’Rear to the Panthers, but it is apparent they have not found someone to patrol the paint like he did. Losing six of their last seven doesn’t help either. If Creighton uses their frontcourt to their advantage, then the Panthers will likely be out after the first round.
- Watch Out For—Indiana State. The Sycamores are tougher than people are giving them credit for and could surprise Wichita State as both teams are incredibly deep and match up well with each other. Indiana State took them to triple-overtime at Koch Arena, which is as tough as any place in the nation to win a game. The Shockers have struggled to finish out the season, and were a few seconds away from finishing the season 0-3.
- Tournament Prediction—In what could be considered another down year for the Missouri Valley Conference, there is a small chance that if Missouri State and Wichita State met in the finals of the MVC Tournament that both teams might make it into the NCAA Tournament. However, with their conference tournament occurring a week before all the major conferences play their conference tournament, it is very likely the selection committee will have forgotten by then about the MVC tournament runner-up.
If you listen to the experts’ odds, they have Wichita State with the best chance of winning it all at Arch Madness. In the end, it will be a one bid conference and I expect to see Missouri State and Indiana State in the finals with the Bears continuing the trend of a dual regular season and tournament champions. It would be the fourth season in a row that this will happen (Drake, Northern Iowa twice).
A Look Back
- Preseason Picks Come Through—At the beginning of the season in our Rush the Court Missouri Valley Conference preview, we predicted that Missouri State would edge out Wichita State for the conference crown, while many predicted Wichita State to run away with the conference championship. It turns out that we were right. Missouri State swept the season series from the Shockers and won their first conference championship in school history. The Bears joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1990. It has been quite a rise from last to first over the past two seasons. Cuonzo Martin could be a hot commodity during the offseason.
- The Surprise—What wasn’t expected this season was the performance of Indiana State during the conference season. Many picked the Sycamores to finish as bad as last after news in early June that head coach Kevin McKenna was heading to Oregon to be an assistant with former Creighton head man Dana Altman. McKenna did not leave the cupboard bare and assistant Greg Lansing was quickly named head coach. Although they had a rocky non-conference season, the Sycamores came together as a team and overcome injuries to secure a top three conference finish.
- Injuries Derail Season—Bradley was predicted to be in the top half of the league with a lot of returning veteran players, but preseason all-conference selection Taylor Brown was out before the season started with a potential cardiac condition and all-conference point guard Sam Maniscalco was out for the season after only six games with a troubled ankle. From there, the season went south for the Braves. Northern Iowa started rolling in conference play going into a streak of winning nine of ten games before Lucas O’Rear went out for the season with a fractured ankle. From there, things went south for the darlings of last season’s NCAA Tournament as the Panthers finished up the regular season losing six of seven games. Indiana State, on the other hand, suffered injuries to Dwayne Latham and Jake Kelly, but developed depth for when they returned. Creighton lost Casey Harriman and Ethan Wragge for the season, but it was a blessing in disguise for the emergence of Doug McDermott. McDermott won more newcomer of the week awards than anyone else in Missouri Valley Conference history, became a huge leader for the Bluejays, and was second in the league in rebounding. Head coach Greg McDermott had seriously considered redshirting his son. I bet he is glad he did not.
- Hot Seats—The two veteran coaches of the league, Jim Les of Bradley and Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois, have to really be concerned for their jobs. Yes, Bradley suffered the injuries to their two starters, but for a team that has never finished higher than fourth in Les’ career at Bradley, this year was supposed to be the year that they contended for a top three finish. Instead, they finished dead last. Southern Illinois has tumbled quickly from a team that dominated the MVC to what looks to be three straight seasons with no postseason play including two losing seasons and a season at .500. Both fanbases are getting restless especially when you consider the history of both programs.
All-Conference Team—Here is your Missouri Valley Conference First Team, based on the regular season:
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State– 16.3 PPG, 7 RPG 50.7% FG
- JT Durley, Wichita State—11.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 48% FG. Top 15 in five categories.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton—14.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, led the conference in double-doubles.
- Andrew Warren, Bradley–19 PPG, 1.7 SPG, 87.8% FT
- Antoine Young, Creighton—13.6 PPG, league leader with 141 assists. 2.2:1 assist-turnover ratio to lead the league for the second year in a row. 35.9 MPG
Player of the Year—Kyle Weems, Missouri State
Newcomer of the Year—Doug McDermott, Creighton
Coach of the Year—Greg Lansing, Indiana State
Final Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week rank)
- Missouri State (23-7) (15-3) (2)— As mentioned before, the Bears won their first MVC regular season title last Saturday in the season finale against Wichita State. Missouri State has been on a roll down the stretch. Whil they stumbled in the BracketBuster against Valparaiso, Missouri State won their last six conference games of the season and are poised to be the favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this week. If they do get the automatic bid, I would expect them to be placed as a 12-seed in the Big Dance.
- Wichita State (23-7) (14-4) (1)— The Shockers had a decent record last season, but their non-conference schedule really hurt them when it came to tournament time. This season, they did beef up the non-conference schedule, but faltered in all the tough games on the road. They stumbled against Connecticut in Maui sending them to the losers bracket, lost at San Diego State, and against Virginia Commonwealth in BracketBusters. Once conference season came around, Wichita State was around the top all season, but lost both games against conference champ Missouri State. I’m sure the Shockers would like one more crack at Missouri State in St. Louis. Had they won a few of those games, they might have had an opportunity at an at-large bid, but now have to get the automatic bid. The thing about Wichita State is that they may have too many guys playing and the right combination is not on the court during key points of a game. Although it has worked most of the season, it may not as the postseason arrives.
- Indiana State (17-13) (12-6) (4)— The Sycamores have been the surprise of the season. If not for the struggles in the non-conference season, Indiana State would be looking pretty good right now. Jake Odum was the key in the Sycamores success once conference season came around and they finished winning five of their last six games. If they can get a couple wins in St. Louis, they could be looking at one of the last teams into the NIT, but will likely get some sort of postseason opportunity. Either way, it is a historic season for Indiana State.
- Creighton (18-13) (10-8) (5)—The Bluejays had to adjust to a new coaching staff this season after Dana Altman left town and continue the legacy he left. However, the blessing behind the new coaching staff was a new recruit in Doug McDermott who exceeded everyone’s expectations this season garnering a ton of Newcomer of the Week awards and being amongst the league leaders in scoring and rebounding. Creighton’s struggles have been on the road this season. The Bluejays were 3-10 in away and neutral competitions. A lot of fan expectations were put into waiting for Gregory Echenique to become eligible and that the thought that the Bluejays could take the MVC tournament title in St. Louis to get into the NCAA Tournament—a way they have gotten to the NCAA Tournament many times. But if they come up short in St. Louis, they could still get an opportunity to participate in the CBI or the CIT like they did last season.
- Northern Iowa (19-12) (10-8) (3)— Northern Iowa has won the last two MVC regular season and tournament titles and it looked like they had a great opportunity to do it again down the stretch. However, they lost what was probably their heart and soul of the team, Lucas O’Rear, to a fractured ankle and the Panthers have not been the same losing six of their last seven games. They face Creighton in the first round of the MVC tournament on Friday and if the season finale where the two teams played each other on Saturday is any indication, then it may be a tough road for them to win the MVC Tournament. There is still a possibility that they could be involved in some sort of postseason tournament but things are muddled for them and they may not accept an invitation to the CBI or CIT.
- Evansville (15-14) (9-9) (6)— Marty Simmons has done a nice job building the Evansville program into a conference contender. We had projected them as low as ninth place at the beginning of the season, but were able to finish sixth. They are sort of a sleeper when it comes to the MVC Tournament—dangerous enough to beat Indiana State in the first round as they have had their number during the regular season winning both games against the Sycamores. Evansville history will continue to be made next season in a new arena.
- Drake (13-17) (7-11) (7)— Since Mark Phelps has taken over the helm at Drake, the Bulldogs have never gotten out of having to play Thursday night in the MVC Tournament. Again, they enter the opening round of Arch Madness and face Bradley to try and get a shot at Wichita State. Drake lost both regular season matchups with the Shockers and will need a lot of help to win four games in four days. Although Phelps has had the top rated recruiting classes in the MVC the past two seasons, those classes have not brought great results, but a good thing is that there was only one senior this season. There have been rumors that star freshman Rayvonte Rice might want to leave Des Moines. Not a good sign for the Drake program.
- Southern Illinois (12-18) (5-13) (8)—Southern Illinois has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2007 and no postseason play since 2008. Fans have had to endure three very trying seasons where a lot of players transferred, losing records, and personnel problems. In what appeared to be a great opportunity to get back to their roots, everything backfired with the team quitting on the court during games, players getting suspended and a very warm seat for coach Chris Lowery. The Salukis finished their season with a fourth straight senior day loss.
- Illinois State (12-18) (4-14) (10)—The Redbirds started conference season 0-8 before winning three in a row and going on another streak finishing the season 1-7. It has not been easy for Tim Jankovich with eight players seeing an NCAA court for the first time this season, but it may help build for the future in Normal. The fact that the fans were so excited about Illinois State beating rival Bradley and they stormed the court, it looks like the fans have accepted the results of this season.
- Bradley (11-19) (4-14) (9)— Bradley is one of the more historic programs in the NCAA, but has probably suffered one of its worst seasons in a long time that will ultimately lose 20 games—only done by four other teams in the 107-year history of the program. The Braves looked strong at the start of the season going 4-0 including a win against USC. With Taylor Brown already out, Sam Maniscalco was having some troubles with an ankle he had surgery on during the offseason. Maniscalco soon joined the disabled list and Bradley went on to lose 16 of their next 18 games including starting 0-11 in Missouri Valley Conference play. They also lost both games against their bitter rival Illinois State. It could be a long offseason for Bradley including the possibility of looking for a new coach.