Checking In On… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 4th, 2012
The Week That Was
- Wild Play Underway—As Missouri Valley Conference play started this week, you can pretty much throw everything away you learned in the non-conference season. Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa, who expect to be at the top of the league this season, have already lost home conference games. Only two teams were able to get through the first week unscathed—Missouri State and Evansville. Tis the season to focus on basketball.
- Evansville and Missouri State Leading The Way—After disappointing non-conference play, both the Purple Aces and the Bears are starting on the right foot in conference play. Evansville came back from behind to get a big road win at Northern Iowa while Missouri State shocked Creighton on their home court to open MVC play. The defending MVC champs got an MVP performance from Kyle Weems as he scored 25 of his career high 31 points in the victory over the Bluejays. That performance earned him some national honors this week.
- Creighton Still Ranked—Despite the loss against Missouri State at home, the Bluejays turned around and got themselves a big win on the road at the other MVC favorite, Wichita State. With that win, Creighton is still ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll at #24, while just falling out of the AP poll. If Creighton eventually falls out of the polls, don’t be surprised if you do not see another MVC team in the top 25 this season with the way conference season has started. However, some early bracketology projections have three MVC teams that could make the NCAA Tournament.
Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)
- Creighton (12-2, 2-1) (1)— With the week that was, Creighton is sticking in the top spot for this week. Although they lost to Missouri State, they came back to beat Wichita State on the road. Doug McDermott has been recognized more in conference play with each team focusing the defense on him. Grant Gibbs, however, continues to be the glue for Creighton. While most of the attention on him has been his passing ability, he turned up the scoring against the Shockers.
- Wichita State (10-3, 1-1) (2)— The Shockers are still sitting here as well even though Creighton beat them at home. They still had an impressive opening win on the road at Bradley and will get tested again on Wednesday night at Evansville. The biggest thing for Wichita State right now is that their seniors step up. They did not against the Bluejays. Wichita State has a tendency to rely too heavily on the three-pointer.
- Missouri State (9-5, 2-0) (5)— The Bears have made big jump this week. With their two wins this week against Creighton and Drake, they are showing they still will contend for the MVC this season solely sitting on Kyle Weems’ shoulders. Another bright spot has been the return of Keith Pickens who could have easily hung it up as a basketball player last season. The Bears’ story has a long way to go and they are off to a good start.
- Indiana State (10-3, 1-1) (3)— The Sycamores were not ready to play in their conference opener on the road against Drake. It took them until the second half to put things together to defeat Bradley. Jake Odum’s foot issues could be an issue all season and that may hurt them when it gets to the MVC stretch.
- Evansville (7-5, 2-0) (8)—You could classify Evansville and Missouri State in the same category that they are motivated after a subpar non-conference season. One thing to keep an eye on is injuries. They have already lost Jordan Jahr to a broken foot and now Ned Cox is having some issues with his knee.
- Northern Iowa (10-4, 0-2) (4)— The Panthers are in a lot of trouble. After failing in a comeback attempt against Illinois State in the conference opener, they blew a double-digit lead at home against Evansville to fall to 0-2 to start conference play. They need to prove to the rest of the league that they are not soft in the middle. In an unrelated story, Northern Iowa’s former ticket office manager was arrested of theft.
- Illinois State (9-4, 1-1) (6)— Illinois State has had too many close calls in their games. First was a 13-point lead against Northern Iowa with six minutes remaining that they almost blew. Then was the horrible performance against Southern Illinois.
- Drake (8-5, 1-1) (7)— Drake virtually has no frontline support at this point. They hoped to get one of their players back last week in Reece Uhlenhopp, but the stress fracture injury was aggravated and it is unknown how much they will get out of him the rest of the season. They will have to play 40 minutes of defense in order to win games.
- Southern Illinois (4-9, 1-1) (10)— Since the Salukis did get a win, they get to move out of the cellar for the week and may get another win against Bradley on Wednesday. But with Wichita State, Missouri State, Indiana State and Creighton next in line, it will still be a long season in Carbondale. If they continue to have turnovers, it will be even longer.
- Bradley (5-9, 0-2) (9)– Someone has to be last, and right now Bradley will be that team. They lost by 39 to Wichita State before rebounding somewhat in the loss against Indiana State. They could easily start 1-9 in conference play.
After the crazy first week, each game is one to keep an eye on, but here should be the best matchups:
- 1/4—Indiana State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV)—Both teams really need a win. Northern Iowa will be in a lot of trouble if they end up starting 0-3 in conference play. The Sycamores need some consistent play.
- 1/4—Wichita State @ Evansville (Local TV)—This has the makings for a battle. The Shockers are looking to get back to winning after losing at home and Evansville could be sitting up on top with a 3-0 start.
- 1/7—Northern Iowa @ Drake (Local TV)—The in-state matchup is always a battle. In addition, both of these teams are trying to stay out of the bottom half of the league.
- 1/7—Missouri State @ Indiana State (Local TV, ESPN3/ESPN Fu l Court)—Missouri State tries to continue its fast start in MVC play to get another big road victory against what many projected to be a top three in the league Sycamores.
- 1/10—Northern Iowa @ Creighton (ESPN3 Exclusive)—Turn on your computers or Xbox for this one. There still has to be mixed feelings about letting Doug McDermott join his father at Creighton instead of forcing McDermott to stick with his letter of intent.
- 1/10—Evansville @ Indiana State (Local TV)—Colt Ryan will look to continue to carry the load for the Aces in an in-state battle. Indiana State on the other hand hope that Jake Odum will be able to continue his play as of late despite dealing with plantar fasciitis all season.
- 1/10—Illinois State @ Wichita State (Local TV)—Wichita State lost several conference games at home last season which is a rarity in Koch Arena. With one loss already this season at home, the Shockers hope to turn that around against the Redbirds who are not looking to bad so far.
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. Here are the top 5 in non-conference play:
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State— The reigning Player of the Year in the Valley showed everyone why he is still in a Missouri State uniform. He had a career high 31 points against Creighton on the road and came back with another 22 points against Drake.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville— Ryan has been the key cog in Evansville’s early success. He has led the team in scoring in both of their wins (25 and 29 points, respectively). What is even more remarkable is that after being held scoreless in the first half on the road at Northern Iowa, Ryan was able to score all 29 points in the rally back to win the game.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton—It was a bit expected that teams would key in on McDermott once conference season started. McDermott was held to about half of his scoring average through the first couple of games in conference play. However, he is still making big plays as needed and Creighton will need him as they get farther into the conference.
- Jake Odum, Indiana State— Despite battling injuries, Odum has done a nice job for Indiana State, including a 24-point performance in the win over Bradley.
- Rayvonte Rice, Drake— Rice has been under the radar this season with Ben Simons getting a lot of the attention for the Bulldogs. However, Rice has come on as of late. He scored 22 in the win over Indiana State.