Checking In On… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2012
The Week That Was:
- McDermott Continues To Impress—Doug McDermott continues to be on the radar of most major college basketball lists, especially with his 44-point performance against Bradley on Saturday night, which is tops in college hoops this season and the most for an MVC player since 1999. Jay Bilas of ESPN even tabbed McDermott as the mid-season Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see ultimately how McDermott handles all of this attention.
- Look out for Illinois State—Illinois State has been criticized the past few seasons due to how coach Tim Jankovich scheduled his team in non-conference play. The schedule was upgraded slightly this season and it may be paying dividends in conference play. They have won six of their last eight, including a last second three-pointer by Jackie Carmichael, his first of his career, to defeat Evansville (video below). Illinois State also gave Wichita State everything they could handle on Tuesday night.
- Scoring In Bunches—In addition to McDermott’s career night this week, there have been several other players that had big outings. Colt Ryan of Evansville scored 31 points against Wichita State and 25 against Illinois St., the Shockers’ Garrett Stutz had 29 points against Evansville and Rayvonte Rice (Drake) and Anthony James (Northern Iowa) went 27 and 26, respectively, against each other in their game this week. A lot of individual performances are arising this season in a conference that is generally known for its defense.
After the first week of MVC play, a lot of positions changed in the power rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses).
- Creighton (14-2, 4-1) (1)—Creighton had two wins this past week against Drake and Bradley, but one area they need to watch out for is in the turnover category. They had 35 turnovers in those wins. Luckily for them, they were able to outscore the competition and players other than McDermott are making an impact, especially Grant Gibbs. The defense locked down against Northern Iowa on Tuesday and they pulled out a tight win at home.
- Wichita State (13-3, 4-1) (2)—The Shockers had a few close calls this week, winning a squeaker against Evansville, notching a 10-point win over Southern Illinois and holding off a late rally against Illinois State. To their credit, two of those wins were on the road. If they protect at home, the road wins are a bonus. The rebounding is what makes them strong this season. The Shockers also made some minor changes to their starting lineup to get a little more defense on the court with Toure Murry and David Kyles coming off the bench.
- Missouri State (11-6, 4-1) (3)—Missouri State hit a bump this week with a loss to Illinois State at home. For the first time in 22 years, the MVC does not have one of its teams start 3-0 in conference play. After Kyle Weems’ big performance at Creighton he has been somewhat average. A key to this team will be the play of Jamar Gulley and Anthony Downing, both of whom will determine how far the Bears will go.
- Northern Iowa (12-5, 2-3) (6)—Ben Jacobson knows how to schedule. Luckily, the Panthers have not played anyone ranked #200 or worse in the RPI this season, so despite some losses, the RPI still stays strong and Northern Iowa stays in the hunt even after they started 0-2 in conference play before breaking a three-game losing streak. They have turned things around and will likely be in the mix. The key to the Panthers is the scoring of Anthony James. When he is on, Northern Iowa is tough to beat.
- Illinois State (11-5, 3-2) (7)—The Redbirds are on the rise. They got a big road win against Missouri State and the buzzer-beater against Evansville. This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now and they are looking forward to playing with the “Big Boys.” They have a chance to prove themselves against Creighton on Friday night.
- Indiana State (11-5, 2-3) (4)—The Sycamores were projected to be a top-three team coming into this season, but have started conference play 2-3. The MVC losses on the road have been blowouts as teams have played a more up-tempo style against them. The NCAA qualifier from the Valley last season, Indiana State needs to get on the winning track again to hop back into the Valley race.
- Drake (9-7, 2-3) (8)—Drake has been suffering as of late against the upper teams in the MVC allowing opponents to shoot 60.4%, 60% and 55.3% in the three games prior to their win against Bradley on Tuesday night. Turnovers have also been a problem, especially when point guard Karl Madison had five against Northern Iowa. Seth VanDeest and Reece Uhlenhopp are out for the rest of the season due to their injuries.
- Evansville (7-8, 2-3) (5)—Evansville can’t catch a break. Three games in a row went down to the wire and they did not win one of them. Confidence has to be an issue now. Right now, they are just trying to stay healthy and make up for their lack of height in the post.
- Southern Illinois (5-11, 2-3) (9)—There are signs of life in Salukiville. Southern Illinois at least has a couple of conference wins to their credit. It is a close-knit community in the MVC when opposing coaches used to be college roommates together. To some it appears that Southern Illinois has all the pieces in place to return to success.
- Bradley (5-12, 0-5) (10)—Bradley’s interior defense cannot stop most Valley teams. They will struggle the rest of the season without anyone in the middle. They have lost eight games in a row now and it will be a long season for the Braves that have a lot of history and a lot of knowledgeable fans.
The Valley is in a stretch of four games in eight days. Here are some of the best matchups over the next week:
- 1/13—Creighton @ Illinois State (ESPN3 only)—Illinois State feels like they have been overlooked and will be a team to contend with during conference play. This could go a long way to getting them a look if they can beat the Bluejays.
- 1/13—Missouri State @ Northern Iowa (FSN/ ESPN3 & ESPN FC) –This game is always a good matchup. Northern Iowa wants to pay back the Bears for beating them on their home floor last season. Watch for the matchup between Anthony James and Kyle Weems.
- 1/15—Evansville @ Missouri State (No TV)—It is unfortunate this game is not on TV. Kyle Weems and Colt Ryan will try to duel each other for the best performance in this one. Evansville needs this win to stay in the Valley race.
- 1/15—Wichita State @ Indiana State (ESPNU)—The expectations have been high for the Sycamores and frankly they haven’t produced. At the same time, Wichita State needs to get this win on the road to keep their resume high.
- 1/15—Southern Illinois @ Creighton (Local TV / ESPN3 & FC)—This was a great rivalry game in the early 2000’s, but has now been more of a whimper the past few years. You never know, this could be the farewell tour for Chris Lowery in the Valley.
POY Stock Watch (last week’s rankings in parentheses)
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (3)— McDermott has so many different ways to score whether it is down in the post or out at the three-point line. The one thing missing is being a lockdown defender. If he can do that while he is at Creighton, then NBA scouts will be knocking on his door.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State (1)— Weems averaged 16 points and eight rebounds over the past couple of games. After a slow start to the season, he is putting up more consistent numbers. He has been in double-figures in every game this season except for the season opener.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (2)— Ryan continues to score in bunches for Evansville. He had at least 25 points in each league game except for the game against Indiana State on Tuesday night. Most of his damage continues to be at the free throw line. He has missed only six attempts at the charity stripe in the last nine games.
- Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State (NR)—Carmichael has been the one constant for Illinois State this season. He averaged 12 points and almost nine rebounds this week, but has been putting these numbers up all season for a team with no seniors. The Redbirds will be a team to look out for.
- Anthony James, Northern Iowa (NR)—James is the key to the Panthers offense. When he is on, Northern Iowa wins. Over the past two games, he has averaged 21 points and four assists. In three of their four losses, James was held to an average of less than six points a game. You stop James, you stop Northern Iowa.