Checking In On… The Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2012
The Week That Was:
- Creighton Knocked Off, Twice—Creighton went into Cedar Falls with an 11-game winning streak, but left with a loss against Northern Iowa. The Panthers’ Anthony James was the hero in this one. After an Antoine Young three-pointer to tie the game up with just under five seconds to play, James went the length of the court, dribbled in and then bounced out for a step-back three over the outstretched arms of Doug McDermott and drained it sending the Northern Iowa fans into a frenzy. Creighton was cold from the field again and lost against Evansville taking some luster off of Saturday’s game against Wichita State. Northern Iowa now takes the momentum of that win into Wichita to take on the Shockers on Wednesday. For Creighton, they are hoping to survive.
- Stutz is Stud—After concerns of Wichita State’s Garrett Stutz having some back problems and his ongoing health mentioned here last week, he spent last week proving everyone wrong. Stutz went out and scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Missouri State and then turned around and had 24 points and 15 rebounds against Indiana State. He went over 1,000 points in his career as a Shocker. Over the past four games he has averaged almost 25 points and ten rebounds per game. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Northern Iowa and Creighton this week.
- Braves Hitting Bottom—Normally, you wouldn’t talk much about a team that is 6-19 and 1-12 in the conference, but it is hard not to after the week Bradley had. The Braves lost by 30 to Evansville last Wednesday and then lost to rival Illinois State by 30 on Saturday, Bradley’s worst loss in the series since 1909. It is the first time in the storied program history that it has lost by 30 or more points in back-to-back games. Geno Ford has a long road ahead of him to bring this program back to relevance. Maybe the only good news is that four of their last six games are at home.
Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)
Wichita State has moved up to #1 with Creighton’s loss to Evansville. The rest of the league had little movement, but the Panthers are back in the conversation.
- Wichita State (20-4, 11-2) (2): The Shockers are the team to watch over the next few weeks. Although they appear to be a solid bet to make the NCAA Tournament, a couple wrong steps here or there may throw them on the bubble. Toure Murry is on pace to reach the top 10 in Wichita State career scoring. He is already there in games played, three pointers, free throws made, assists, and steals. He will have to be a factor down the stretch for the Shockers to be successful. The defense has been big too as they held Missouri State to 10-33 shooting in the second half last week.
- Creighton (21-4, 11-3) (1): By now, the different teams in the league know that if they can contain Doug McDermott in some way, they have a chance against the Bluejays. The supporting cast had been pretty efficient in picking up the pieces, but struggled against Northern Iowa and Evansville — which led to the losses. That completely contrasts the performance against Illinois State earlier in the week when the Bluejays scored 102 points. The players are having a lot of fun this season as teammates Jahenns Manigat and McDermott interview each other.
- Northern Iowa (16-9, 6-7) (6): Northern Iowa started the season 10-1 and looked like Ben Jacobson had them on the right track to make their return to the NCAA Tournament. Although they have only gone 6-8 since then, their strength of schedule and RPI numbers has kept them going. After knocking off Creighton on Saturday, the Panthers have a great opportunity to build their resume a little more with a game against Wichita State on Wednesday night. If they can pull that off, they are setting themselves up for a great opportunity to be a potential third team from the MVC come Selection Sunday. But the question is whether the fans will jump back on the bandwagon.
- Missouri State (14-11, 7-6) (4): Missouri State is in a position where it is trying to jockey for the best opportunity in the MVC Tournament .While they are technically third in the league right now, it’s far from solidified. A couple stumbles here or there and they are playing on Thursday night. Things have been a bit emotional in Springfield with the passing of former coach Charlie Spoonhour.
- Illinois State (15-9, 7-6) (5): The Redbirds had quite an interesting week. After losing 102-74 against Creighton earlier in the week, Illinois State came out and beat Bradley by 30 points. It is hard to say where they are headed as things vary from game to game, but they’re definitely headed in a different direction than their rivals, the Braves.
- Evansville (12-12, 7-7) (8): Evansville has been about what their record indicates—average. If the Aces can magically get a big man for next season, it looks like they could have the pieces in place to be a pretty good team built around Colt Ryan. The balanced scoring was huge in the win over Creighton on Tuesday night. For the rest of this season, Evansville has a packed end to its conference season with Creighton, Missouri State, Drake and Northern Iowa on its slate.
- Drake (13-11, 6-7) (3): Drake received a huge blow this week when the program found out that their second leading scorer, Ben Simons, is out for an indefinite period of time with mononucleosis. If you wondered how important he’s been to the Bulldogs success this season, just look at the 57-39 loss against Missouri State, their lowest scoring output of the season. If they want to stay out of Thursday night, then they will need to get wins against Evansville and Illinois State this week.
- Indiana State (14-10, 5-8) (7): The Sycamores are making a late run of their own winning three of their last four games. The key to the recent success may rest upon the play of Steve McWhorter. But it may also be the resurgence of Jake Odum. He is averaging 10.5 points , 5.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game this season. Only two other players in the nation average those types of numbers.
- Southern Illinois (8-16, 5-8) (9): Southern Illinois notched themselves another conference win in a thriller against Evansville and their hard-nose defense that has been their signature for years might be on its way back. Think about this: If the Salukis are able to pull off a couple of upsets in the next couple of weeks, they could actually get themselves as high as a four seed in the MVC Tournament. That would be somewhat remarkable. If they finish that high, does Chris Lowery still have to be concerned about his job?
- Bradley (6-19, 1-12) (10): It is a good thing Geno Ford has some time to bring the program back to legitimacy. It will take a while for this to happen especially when their best player, Taylor Brown is a senior. Here are who the Braves have coming in next season.
The big game is in Omaha on Saturday, but there are a few of other intriguing games this week:
- Wednesday, 2/8—Northern Iowa @ #19 Wichita State (Fox Sports Net/ ESPN3 & FC)—People will be watching this game closely to see if Wichita State is looking ahead to Creighton on Saturday and if Northern Iowa can make a late season run to get back into the conversation of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers RPI numbers are helping them this late in the season.
- Wednesday, 2/8—Drake @ Illinois State (No TV)—With no Ben Simons, will Drake continue its free fall in the standings? This game is for seeding purposes and to stay out of the proposition of playing in Thursday night play-in games in the MVC Tournament.
- Saturday, 2/11—#19 Wichita State @ #15 Creighton (ESPN2 / ESPN3)—This is the showdown for all intents and purposes for the inside track to the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship and the #1 seed in the MVC Tournament in March. A standing room only crowd is expected for this one.
- Saturday, 2/11—Illinois State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV / ESPN3 & FC)—Again, it will be a good test to see who wants to rise toward the top half of the league. The Panthers are looking for a little payback from the conference opening loss to the Redbirds. This game is worth a lot more now than it was then.
- Snday, 2/12—Bradley @ Missouri State (Fox Sports Net / ESPN3 & FC)—Missouri State can’t suffer a loss in this game. Bradley may not have a chance to win. However, this could be your upset special of the week.
POY Stock Watch
Here is the top five in our player Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year watch (last week’s ranking in parentheses):
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (1): McDermott is one of the 20 players on the Oscar Robertson watch list. He averaged 21.5 points this past week while shooting 72.7% from the field. His efficiency when he gets the ball is what is keeping him at the top of the list. Going 16-of-22 from the field this past week is a prime example.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State (4): Weems has risen to the occasion once again in this up-and-down season, averaging 19 points per game last week. He tried to keep the Bears in the game against Wichita State by draining five three-pointers and finishing with 21 points. It was the 20th 20-point game of his career.
- Garrett Stutz, Wichita State (NR): As mentioned earlier, Stutz has made his impact in a huge way the past couple of weeks. Whether he can sustain that will be the question, but he knows his time is limited since he is a senior.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (3): Everyone knows Colt Ryan is the cog for Evansville. Teams have been more focused on keeping the ball out of his hands and from getting to the free throw line. After getting to the line 10 times or more in six games this season, Ryan was limited to 16 free throw attempts in their three games over the past week. He was still able to average about 18 points a game and even had nine assists against Bradley.
- Ben Simons, Drake (2): We’ll keep Simons here for this week, but if the mononucleosis is going to keep him out for an extended period of time, look for someone else to enter the race next week.