Checking In On… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011
The Week That Was:
- Teams Being Sneaky: While the focus has been on Creighton by the media for most of the season, a couple of other teams are making some noise without a whole lot of fanfare. Northern Iowa has won eight games in a row since the loss at St. Mary’s while Wichita State has a five-game winning streak of their own including wins over UNLV, Tulsa and Utah State. The Bluejays may be slightly favored, but once the MVC gets into conference play, all bets are off. This could be the year the Valley has been waiting for.
- An RPI Update: The Missouri Valley Conference has four teams in the top 33 of the RPI this week. Northern Iowa leads the way at #4 followed by Creighton (#16), Wichita State (#32), and Indiana State (#33). With these top four teams continuing to play well, heads will continue to turn.
- Southern Illinois at Rock Bottom: After an 11-day break and a chance to regroup with their 1-3 record, the Salukis came out this week and lost at home against Western Kentucky and on the road at Western Michigan in two more uninspiring outings. This once proud team is hitting rock bottom. The bigger question now is whether Chris Lowery will make it through this season. It is possible for SIU to be 1-7 when they head out to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.
- Northern Iowa (9-1)—Northern Iowa switched spots with Creighton this week based on their great play and because their only loss was against St. Mary’s who currently ranks atop the RealtimeRPI. The Panthers have quietly had a nice run and have steadily improved over the past three weeks. Their sweep of Iowa and Iowa State make them the state champion among the four Division I Iowa schools. In addition, only Northern Iowa and Kentucky have wins over the Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East this year. Jake Koch is keeping the Koch tradition in being an impact player for Northern Iowa. He came up with 21 points in the win over Milwaukee and has continued to improve as the season has gone along. His brother Adam was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in the 2009-10 season.
- Creighton (7-1)— Creighton suffered their first loss this past week against St. Joseph’s and although they are still in both polls this week, there are some questions on whether Creighton can handle being ranked. The Bluejays have looked a little different over the past few games, but they have been facing tougher opponents. Antoine Young became the 35th player in Creighton history to score over 1000 points. Doug McDermott’s 773 career points puts him just ahead of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and McDermott’s former high school teammate Harrison Barnes as the nation’s leader in points among the active sophomores.
- Wichita State (7-2)— The Shockers have been making the most noise recently and have probably developed a little more than even the Panthers or the Bluejays. In their win against Tulsa, they had six players in double figures and they seem to be aging gracefully with their five seniors. As they hit conference season, they will be needed to lead Wichita State to the postseason. Garrett Stutz has been one of those seniors making strides this season, upping his rebounding average from 3.5 a game a season ago, to 7.1 this season.
- Indiana State (7-2)— The Sycamores struggled a bit against D-II Maryville last weekend before pulling away for the victory. With all the games Indiana State has played in the last 24 days along with travel, they have enjoyed a little extra time they have had. One of the things they have worked on lately is defense. Good defense ends up in wins for the Sycamores. If they hold their opponent under 63 points a game, then they are 20-0 with Greg Lansing as their head coach.
- Drake (6-3)— Drake has been coming on as of late with the insertion of freshman Jeremy Jeffers into the lineup. Ben Simons continues to be the most consistent player on the team scoring at least 14 points in eight of their nine games. Head coach Mark Phelps spends a lot of time in his office preparing for the next opponent. The Bulldogs hit the road against Iowa in their yearly matchup. But it sounds like Iowa won’t be coming back to play Drake in Des Moines next season.
- Illinois State (6-3)—The Redbirds got a needed win at Morehead State last week, where they almost blew a 17-point lead, ending a six game road losing streak. They will look to finish out the non-conference season on a winning note with home games against Norfolk State and Arkansas-Little Rock. Illinois State has part of their schedule for next season as they will take part in the South Padre Invitational. Jackie Carmichael is leading the way getting double-doubles in the past two games.
- Missouri State (5-3)— Oklahoma State came into JQH Arena and the Bears had them exactly where they wanted them and a chance to get a nice victory over the Big 12. However, they blew a 12 point lead in the second half and ended up losing. They rebounded nicely on the road at Arkansas-Little Rock, but the loss against the Cowboys kept them from being in the top part of the league. Kyle Weems will get the numbers, but Caleb Patterson is the key for the Bears. When the Bears win, he averages 15.4 points a game. When they lose, he only averages 9 points. Anthony Downing, Michael Bizoukas and Jamar Gulley have all had their moments. If they can all come together, the Bears will make a run.
- Evansville (4-4)—After the dismantling by North Carolina, there were some questions on how that would affect the Aces. But they did rebound to get a win against North Carolina A&T and are looking forward to finishing their non-conference season on a high note against Tennessee Tech and Miami-Ohio. However, there has to be a concern on the amount of minutes Colt Ryan is logging on the court. He leads the Valley, averaging over 36 minutes a game. Unfortunately, they need his scoring power. One good thing is that there is some rest at the free throw line where the Aces are getting a lot of opportunities including 26-of-28 in their last game.
- Bradley (4-4) – The Braves broke a four game losing streak with a road win over Northeastern. But fans are wondering why Shayok Shayok has struggled so much since looking so good in the preseason and exhibition games. It is most likely due to the freshman transition. However, making up for it is Taylor Brown and Jordan Prosser cleaning things up on the board combining for 17 rebounds a game. Bradley has not had a duo to have more than 8 rebounds each per game since the late 70’s.
- Southern Illinois (1-5)—It isn’t enough that Southern Illinois has struggled on the court, but the Salukis have had some issues off the court as well. Senior Justin Bocot was investigated for an alleged sexual assault. He will be held out of action while the investigation is going on. With Bocot out, Kendal Brown-Surles out the first part of the season because of academic issues, and freshman Dantiel Daniels out with a pulled groin, most of the players available are first year players and inexperience will be something SIU will have to deal with all season.
With finals week for most schools, there are not many compelling games on the schedule. But here are the best.
- 12/17—Indiana State @ Vanderbilt (CSS/ESPN3/ESPN Full Court)— Indiana State gets a chance at a ranked team and a chance to take advantage of this one-time game. It is a must win for the Sycamores if they want to hop into the conversation of the top teams in the MVC.
- 12/17—Drake @ Iowa (Big 10 Network)—Enjoy this game as this will probably be the last game in the home-and-home series between these two schools. Iowa is looking to end the series with the two MVC teams in the state (Northern Iowa) and schedule more of a neutral site venue with all four D-1 teams in Iowa. This is a disappointing development in a series many thought there were laws in place that required these teams to play each other every year.
- 12/19—Creighton @ Tulsa—Coming into the season, Tulsa was a name team that has always been pretty tough. So far every team they played has taken that to heart and the game against Creighton loses a little luster with the Hurricane sitting at 4-6. MVC brethren Missouri State and Wichita State have already beat Tulsa, so it is pretty important that Creighton gets themselves another win on the road.
- 12/20—Ohio @ Northern Iowa—Ohio was one of the darlings of the NCAA Tournament a couple of years ago and last season ended up in the CIT. This year, Ohio is sporting just one loss (against Louisville) and was a late addition to the schedule for the Panthers. The one thing to look out for in this one is tired legs. Northern Iowa plays D-III Loras College the night before.
POY Stock Watch
Each week we will take a look at the top five of the Missouri Valley Conference who could be in contention for the league’s Player of the Year. Let’s look at our top five this past week.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton—Despite the loss at St. Joseph’s, McDermott continued his torrid pace putting in 26 points and 10 rebounds. He has had four straight games now with a double-double. The last person in a Creighton uniform to do that? Nate King in the early 1990s.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville—Ryan continues to be the scoring leader for Evansville notching 29 points against North Carolina A&T to go along with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. He continues to get to the free throw line making 10-of-10 in that game. For the season, Ryan has gone to the charity stripe 71 times, shooting 30-of-32 in the last three games.
- Jake Koch, Northern Iowa— Koch replaces Anthony James in this week’s listing and the latest player to step up for the Panthers. Koch averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in Northern Iowa’s wins over Iowa and Milwaukee. But he was also a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe. The big three of Johnny Moran, Anthony James and Koch could take Northern Iowa a long way this season.
- Joe Ragland—Wichita State—Ragland joins the list for his consistent play. After scoring 31 points against UNLV, Ragland has followed up with averaging a team-leading 15 points in Wichita State’s wins over Tulsa and Utah State. He also averaged five rebounds per game.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems has returned with a vengeance. He had 24 points and 12 rebounds against Oklahoma State on Wednesday before getting 14 points and eight boards on the road against Arkansas-Little Rock. But like we have said before, the Bears will need more than him to be consistent.