Checking In On… the MVCPosted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2011
The Week That Was
- The MVC/MWC Challenge Runs To A Draw: Over the weekend, the Missouri Valley and Mountain West Conferences played the third annual MVC/MWC Challenge games. With only eight teams left in the current Mountain West, there were only eight games played. Although Boise State played two MVC teams in the past few weeks, only one of those games was a part of the Challenge. The two biggest games involved Creighton and Wichita State. The Bluejays came back from 17 points down in the first half to escape San Diego State with a victory. On the other side of the coin, Wichita State destroyed UNLV behind Joe Ragland’s 31 points. The Challenge will finish out in the 2012-13 season.
- Valley RPI Rising: The MVC has been having some pretty good non-conference success this year. So good, in fact, that the Valley heads into this week with the seventh highest conference RPI. This is quite a difference from sitting at #11 last season at the same time. With Northern Iowa, Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State and Missouri State all in the top 41 in the RPI, things are looking great for multiple NCAA bids this year.
- Creighton In The Top Twenty: With several teams ahead of the Bluejays losing, Creighton moved up to #17 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll and they make their debut in the AP poll sitting at #19. In the AP poll, this represents Creighton’s first appearance since November 2006 and their highest ranking since March 2003.
- Ragland Has His Day: Wichita State’s Joe Ragland created a little history in the big win over UNLV. He was the first Shocker since 2006 that scored more than 30 points in a game. He was dead-on from behind the arc, going 8-9 against UNLV. In the two games this week, he was 14-18 from the field and 11-13 from behind the three point line.
- Creighton (7-0)— The Bluejays continue to win games in different ways. At San Diego State, Creighton was down 17 points in the first half before coming back to win. Against Nebraska, they struggled throughout, but got the win with a little help from Doc Sadler. They are also still one of the 15 teams in Division I undefeated. An upstart St. Joseph’s team is on the docket this week and the Bluejays will try to earn another difficult road win. Those types of wins could be huge once March rolls around.
- Northern Iowa (8-1) — The Panthers were dismissed a little after their early morning loss to St. Mary’s at the beginning of the season, but have quietly won every game since including the South Padre Invitational and against in-state rival Iowa State. Anthony James has been playing a lot better which is what Northern Iowa is going to need throughout the season. Johnny Moran is close to breaking the UNI record for games started in a career, needing only 12 more to do so. He is the workhorse for this team. Pollsters are starting to recognize the Panthers as they received some votes in the Others Receiving Votes section of both polls this week.
- Wichita State (5-2)— The Shockers got a significant win against UNLV on Sunday. At this point of the season, that is their biggest win after coming up short in the Puerto Rico Tipoff. Since then, Wichita State has gotten great play from guard Joe Ragland and some frontline development in Carl Hall. We’ve already talked a lot about Ragland, but Hall was named the MVC Newcomer of the week. While they knocked UNLV out of the polls, the Shockers still have some work to do before the pollsters buy in to their performance. Toure’ Murry continues to be the leader, taking some of the scoring pressure off of himself and getting his teammates involved.
- Indiana State (6-2)—The Sycamores may have hit a bump in the road against Boise State, but they still have looked pretty solid. Similar to last season, Indiana State is getting a lot of contributions from the bench in sophomore R.J. Mahurin and freshman Justin Gant. Their leading scorer is senior Dwayne Lathan, averaging almost 11 points a game. The problem for the Sycamores will be the health of Jake Odum. Odum is suffering from plantar fasciitis and that may limit his ability, especially at the point, as the season progresses.
- Missouri State (4-2)— Inexperience has finally caught up with the Bears. They struggled in the loss at Oral Roberts and then were out of the game from the beginning against New Mexico. Missouri State has Kyle Weems, but he can’t do everything by himself. Caleb Patterson has had some quality games, but they will need a couple more options to keep up with the Valley this season. Jamar Gulley and Nathan Scheer appear to be those guys. Luckily for the Bears, they still have a lot of opportunities to rebound from this past week before conference season starts.
- Drake (5-3)— The Bulldogs appear they are going to be up and down all season. After getting throttled by Boise State, they turned around and beat Air Force in the MVC/MWC Challenge game in a battle that went down to the wire. One key for Drake as the season goes along is their defensive intensity. But with the injuries they have had to deal with, the depth may be an issue down the line. Drake is also working on getting more students to their games.
- Illinois State (5-3) — Redbird fans are starting to get a little restless. UNC-Wilmington came into Normal and got their first victory of the season against Illinois State. There has been a lot of criticism of Tim Jankovich’s scheduling and blowing out Bethune-Cookman and Chicago State could easily give a false sense of how good the team really is. The bright spot out of the past week is Tyler Brown who shot 12-21 behind the arc, giving the Redbirds another scoring threat. Illinois State is about to begin an 11-day break between games. After their game on Wednesday against Morehead State, they will not play again until December 18.
- Evansville (3-4)—The Aces are having ups and downs similar to Drake. They win one, then lose one. Win one, then lose one. It is apparent that their frontline is the weakness of this team after watching them against North Carolina. Unless Colt Ryan is scoring a lot of points and getting to the free throw line in large numbers, the offense has a significant scoring challenge they are going to need to overcome. Evansville was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time when they went into Chapel Hill to take on UNC this week. They lost by 49.
- Bradley (4-4)— The honeymoon for Geno Ford is over. After starting out 3-0, the Braves have been on a slide, losing four of their last five and not necessarily in close fashion. In the loss against Wyoming, the Braves were 0-14 from three-point range, the first time in almost a dozen years that they did not connect on a triple. One odd thing is the lawsuit freshman reserve Devon Hodges has initiated against his former high school.
- Southern Illinois (1-3)— The Salukis have been just practicing since our last check-in and things have been a bit quiet in Carbondale. About the only thing going on right now is a toy drive for the holiday season. Southern Illinois has seven games in the next 18 days that will include a trip to the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
There are a few more chances this week for the MVC to get some signature wins, but also a light week.
- 12/7—Wichita State @ Tulsa (Local TV)— This game is the third game of a four-year series. This was supposed to be one of those games that could be viewed as a good win based on Tulsa’s history. Unfortunately, with the Hurricane sitting at 4-5, it is now more of the Shockers trying to avoid a bad loss.
- 12/7—Oklahoma State @ Missouri State (ESPNU)—There may be a lot more people watching this game on Wednesday night, as it moved from an exclusive game on ESPN3.com to ESPNU. This is the second game of a three-year series between these two teams. Missouri State needs to bounce back from its recent losses. This could be the game they need and it would be a big one.
- 12/7—Western Kentucky @ Southern Illinois (Fox College Sports)—We get to see Southern Illinois again after a 12-day break between games. Both schools have had some struggles as of late. But with the proximity of these two schools, it is one of those rivalry games that may determine the future of their season.
- 12/10—Creighton @ St. Joseph’s (Local TV in both markets)—The Hawks are surprising some people with their play this season, and they hope their home court advantage will be enough against the Bluejays. Where else can you watch a mascot have to wave their wings throughout the entire game? This series will continue for another two years after this.
- 12/10—Utah State @ Wichita State (No TV)—This game is the last signature game for the Shockers before they head into the conference season. A return game from the Bracketbuster a couple of seasons ago, the Shockers are looking to get another nice win to give them some breathing room when it comes down to MVC league play.
POY Stock Watch
Each week we will take a look at the top five players of the Missouri Valley Conference who are in contention for the league’s Player of the Year this season. Let’s look at the top candidates based on performance last week.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton—What do you say about McDermott? He earned another couple of double-doubles this week against San Diego State and Nebraska. The thing about McDermott is that he has such flexibility in his game — he can score on you in about any way possible, whether down low with a short hook or quick release, spotting up outside for the three, or running the court on a fast break. He is the first CU player since Rodney Buford to have six consecutive games with 20 or more points.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville— Ryan returns to the list as he had some great scoring games this week despite the loss against TCU. He had 31 points against the Horned Frogs, but the thing that makes him really tough is his knack for getting to the charity stripe. He shot 14-16 at the free throw line against TCU, and went 18-20 overall in his two games.
- Anthony James, Northern Iowa—James again had another nice week as he set a career high of 28 points on 11-18 shooting against Colorado State while also leading the team with eight rebounds. He also scored 17 points in the win at Iowa State.
- Ben Simons, Drake—Simons continues to be the bright spot for the Bulldogs. He is shooting over 50% from the field, averaging about 15 points per game. He will be the key if Drake starts making a run.
- Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State—Carmichael needs to be the leader for the Redbirds this season and his play on the court is one part of that. He averaged 14.3 points and nine rebounds in the two games he played this week and is sporting almost a 57% clip from the field.