Checking In On… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2012
The Week That Was
- Battling in the Middle—Last week, we talked about Creighton and Wichita State being in a two-team race to the finish. This week, take a look at the five teams after them. Nobody really wants to rise above the rest except for possibly Evansville. The Aces were the only ones in that group to go undefeated this past week while the other four went 1-1. Drake has a big opportunity to separate itself this week while hosting the Bluejays and the Shockers.
- Colt Ryan Flying Under the Radar—Speaking of Evansville, Colt Ryan is someone that casual fans need to keep an eye on. With Creighton’s Doug McDermott getting most of the attention this season, Ryan has continued to improve, especially during conference play, to become a bigger scoring machine. He now sits at fifth in the nation in scoring (21.2 PPG). It helps when you can score 39 against Bradley and 20 against Illinois State in the two games he played in this week.
- Bracketbusters—The Bracketbusters match-ups will be announced early next week and the MVC looks like they could be featured in two of the top three games. The question now remains who the opponents will be. Creighton will likely get a game against either St. Mary’s or Long Beach State while Wichita State looks to travel to Murray State or Iona. The match-ups will determine whether Creighton and Wichita State will be playing for possibly a better NCAA Tournament seed or if they are matched up with teams that are hoping for a signature win for their resume. For the remaining MVC teams, the Bracketbusters could actually be a benefit this year more than it has been in the past.
Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)
We are halfway through the Missouri Valley Conference season, but it appears that the table is set for the battle between Creighton and Wichita State for the regular season crown.
- Creighton (18-2, 8-1) (1): The Bluejays escaped Missouri State with a win after having several opportunities to lose the game in the final minute. They turned around and ushered Indiana State out of the CenturyLink Center. Could the Bluejays be a sleeper Final Four team? That is yet to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise either. There have been some comparisons to this season’s Creighton team to the 2002-03 season—the senior year of future Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
- Wichita State (17-3, 8-1) (2): Toure’ Murry is embracing his last season as a Shocker by taking over games, especially last week against Northern Iowa. For the season his minutes are up (27.5), points per game is up (12.2) and field goal percentage is up (42.3%) compared to last season. In the last five games, WSU is 87-of-112 (77.6%) from the free throw line. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of 7-footer Garrett Stutz. Some back problems may limit his effectiveness as the season plays out. The Shockers are really close to cracking the Top 25.
- Missouri State (12-9, 5-4) (5): The Bears have felt like nothing has gone their way in the past week with the close game at Northern Iowa and the thriller against Creighton. Although they were shut down on offense by Bradley, they willed their way to a much needed win to stay in the top half of the league. It will be tough with five of the final nine games on the road.
- Drake (12-8, 5-4) (3): This will be big week for Drake. They could make a statement with home games against Creighton and Wichita State. A couple wins here and all of a sudden, the Bulldogs get some talk in the MVC race. The key to their better play has been the play of seniors Kurt Alexander and Kraidon Woods. Alexander scored almost half as many points in three games compared to the first 14 games. Woods has been big on the rebounding side of things.
- Evansville (10-9, 5-4) (8): The Aces have had the best week outside of the top two. Although it was against Bradley and Illinois State, it is enough to give them some confidence. They also had the best of both worlds. After Ryan’s performance against Bradley, he was shut down against Illinois State, but others like Ned Cox and Troy Taylor stepped up to help the Aces get the win. They will need that the rest of the season.
- Northern Iowa (13-6, 4-5) (4): Northern Iowa has a great opportunity to move up in the MVC race this week against Indiana State and Missouri State. The win at Drake with some ratcheted up defense was big for them taking them one step closer. Johnny Moran set a Northern Iowa record for games started. He has started all 122 games in his career. School spirit is always important. Panther fans get excited doing their ‘Interlude Dance’ as it turns into a nationwide movement.
- Illinois State (12-8, 4-5) (6): Illinois State continues to stumble losing four of their last five. Part of their problem has been giving up big leads early. In their recent loss to Evansville, the Redbirds fell behind by 23 and were never able to recover. If Illinois State can be ahead at halftime, they are pretty successful at 10-0 this season.
- Southern Illinois (7-14, 4-6) (9): The Salukis have been on both sides of the coin this week, including their worst loss in school history against Wichita State the other night. Their victory against Bradley is a positive for them as they had lost five of their last six games before Tuesday night. It would have been interesting to see if things would have been different had some players like Davante Drinkard did not miss the first half of the season.
- Indiana State (11-9, 2-7) (7): Boy, how the Sycamores have fallen. Indiana State has lost six out of their last seven games and are showing no signs of turning things around. They are not playing with the chip on their shoulder they had last season. It appears the loss of last year’s seniors have had more effect on the team than originally expected. One bright spot is Jordan Printy, who almost has 200 career three-point baskets (191) and ranks second in Indiana State history.
- Bradley (6-16, 1-9) (10) – The Braves are 1-12 in their last thirteen games. During the month of January the past two seasons, the Braves are 1-17. Taylor Brown, Walt Lemon, and Dyricus Simms-Edwards make up 62.9% of Bradley’s production this season. The minutes for them are seriously adding up. As Bradley continues through the second half of the MVC season they will be working to prepare for next season.
Keep your eyes open for these key matchups in the Valley this week:
- 1/25—Creighton @ Drake (Local TV / ESPN3 & ESPN FC)—Drake gets the top two teams in the league this week at home and have a chance to make a statement. The first opportunity is against Creighton. The battle of I-80 draws fans from both schools.
- 1/25—Evansville @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net / ESPN3 & ESPN FC)— Evansville is coming off of a great week and have the opportunity to knock off the Shockers. Meanwhile, Wichita State will look to keep pace or hope for a Creighton loss to take the league lead.
- 1/25—Missouri State @ Illinois State (Local / ESPN3 & ESPN FC)—This one is a big game for both teams looking to break out of the middle of the league. The match-up between Kyle Weems (Missouri State) and Jackie Carmichael will be a good one to watch.
- 1/28—Wichita State @ Drake (Fox Sports Net / ESPN3 & ESPN FC)—The Shockers are looking for another win on the road. It will be a tough for the Bulldogs to contain Carl Hall and Garrett Stutz down low for Wichita State.
- 1/28—Northern Iowa @ Missouri State (ESPNU / ESPN3)—Both of these teams always have a great battle. After the controversial finish in Cedar Falls a couple weeks ago, the Bears will likely come out with a lot of fire. Both teams will try to position themselves for a better game in the Bracketbusters.
POY Stock Watch
Here are our top five in our player Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year watch. Last week’s ranking in parentheses.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (1)—Opponents continue to devote all of their resources to McDermott, sometimes triple-teaming him, but he still plays within the Creighton offense. Although he has fallen to third in the nation in scoring and held to a combined 27 points in the last two games, Creighton continues to win. This is not necessarily related, but here is a great story on McDermott’s mom, who has battled cancer.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (3): As mentioned earlier, Ryan is continuing to make a steady climb up the national charts. In conference play, he has almost been unstoppable, leading the MVC in scoring at 23.8 points a game. In his 39-point performance against Bradley, Ryan had a career-high in made three-pointers (8) to go along with nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State (2): In Missouri State’s losses, Kyle Weems has been missing from the stat line. Against Creighton, he was held to 13 points and against Bradley only 15 points, even though they won that one. He was shot 9-of-27 from the field in those two games. He will need to make a big run to have Missouri State make a run in the second half of conference season. However, he does have 99 career double-figure scoring games and has started 101 consecutive games.
- Ben Simons, Drake (5): Simons scored 20 points against Southern Illinois last week. He has now scored 20 or more points in a game six times this season.
- Gregory Echenique, Creighton (NR): With teams collapsing on McDermott, this has given more opportunities to Echenique. But he has also improved tremendously since conference season has started. This week, Gregory averaged 11. 5 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. He also went perfect from the line and is now 29-36 from the charity stripe in conference play.