Checking In On… The Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2012
The Week That Was:
- Wichita State on Top: The showdown in Omaha was not really a showdown as much as it was a statement by the Shockers that they are the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Wichita State beat Creighton 89-68 to give itself a two-game lead in the conference race and all but seal the regular season championship. Creighton was able to get Garrett Stutz into foul trouble, but the Shockers showed they have a lot of different weapons with Joe Ragland and Ben Smith slicing and dicing the Creighton defense.
- Creighton Falls From Rankings: The Bluejays have been a mainstay most of the season in the top 25 rankings, but after their three-game slide culminating with the loss to Wichita State, the Bluejays are now on the outside looking in. They more or less traded spots with Wichita State, but the Shockers were still only ranked in the AP poll and not the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. For the Shockers, it is their first top 25 ranking since 2006. It is still surprising that although they have a similar record as Creighton and maybe has a better win against UNLV than Creighton’s win over San Diego State, Wichita State is not getting the same amount of respect as the Bluejays have had this season.
- BracketBuster Week—This week is the annual Bracketbusters weekend that includes all ten MVC teams. Five of the schools (Creighton, Drake, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Wichita State) will be featured on the ESPN family of networks over the weekend. A win over Long Beach State could help Creighton recover some of the lost accolades, but Missouri State and Northern Iowa have the biggest opportunity to make some noise with wins over the always-tough CAA.
Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)
Only a couple of weeks to go in the regular season and teams are finally starting to separate out.
- Wichita State (22-4, 13-2) (1): Wichita State has been playing some great basketball for the past several weeks. Other than the triple-overtime loss to Drake a couple of weeks ago, the Shockers have won the other 12 of their last 13 games. The balance on this team is what has made it so tough to go along with tough defense. Joe Ragland has been a big part of that balance. Many are surprised that Wichita is not ranked in one of the polls.
- Creighton (22-5, 12-4) (2)— The Bluejays broke out of a three-game slump with a needed win at Southern Illinois before heading into the Bracketbusters game this weekend against Long beach State. Creighton is still in a good position for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large squad, but cannot lose to teams they shouldn’t in this final stretch run. Despite the public showing of head coach Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott during a timeout on Saturday, everything is fine between father and son.
- Missouri State (16-11, 9-6) (4): Once you think Missouri State is down for the count, they find a way to keep wondering what could be with this team. They have won four of their last five games and are starting to separate themselves from the bottom half of the league. A key to their success is the continued presence of Caleb Patterson. His 18 points were big in the win against Southern Illinois and almost didn’t play as he still recovers from injury.
- Northern Iowa (17-10, 7-8) (3): The Panthers hold the best computer numbers outside of Creighton and Wichita State, and continue to get the wins they need. They have won three of their last four, including a win against Creighton. This week, there was another plea to UNI students to make a statement at home games. Outside of VCU in the Bracketbusters, Northern Iowa has a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. One thing to think about this team is that Anthony James is the only senior on the roster.
- Illinois State (16-11, 8-8) (5): The Redbirds aren’t good, but they aren’t bad. They suffered another close loss in an overtime battle with Indiana State on Tuesday night. Jackie Carmichael continues to play well for Illinois State, grabbing 20 rebounds against Drake. The problem with the Redbirds is their play on the road. The loss to the Sycamores sent Illinois State to their sixth straight road loss.
- Drake (14-12, 7-8) (7): Drake has struggled without Ben Simons, who continues to recover from mononucleosis, but the Bulldogs are sticking around. Jeremy Jeffers is the latest Bulldog to try step up for Drake in his absence, but it hasn’t been enough. As one Drake student notes, it was the annual January tease from Drake where they look like they are going to turn the corner, but there is always something keeping them from getting over that hump.
- Indiana State (16-11, 7-9) (8): The Sycamores can play the role of spoiler the rest of the season as they get to play against the top half of the league the rest of the season. They were 12-12 from three against Southern Illinois and set three NCAA records in that victory. Indiana State gets the opportunity to play an inter-state battle against Butler in Bracketbusters.
- Evansville (12-13, 7-8) (6): The Aces got a big win against Creighton early last week, but then were beaten badly by Drake over the weekend, their worst MVC loss of the season. Colt Ryan was held to single digits in the scoring column. Evansville will host Western Illinois this weekend for Bracketbusters.
- Southern Illinois (8-19, 5-11) (9): The Chris Lowery watch is on. The Salukis have lost five of their last six and will have a challenge from here through the rest of the season. Dantiel Daniels has played pretty well this season, but he can’t carry the Salukis by himself. They get Ball State on Saturday.
- Bradley (7-20, 2-13) (10): Bradley has 20 losses for the second consecutive season, but did pick up a win against Indiana state. They will finish last in the league for the second straight season for the first time in program history. The Braves will try to find the positive in the rest of the season, starting with a home date with Loyola-Chicago this weekend.
After one league game this week, this week is focused on the BracketBusters:
- 2/15—Missouri State at Wichita State (Local TV in both markets)—It will be interesting to see how Wichita State plays after their superb performance against Creighton. They could easily have an emotional letdown against the Bears, but possibly the motivation that the Shockers could lock up the MVC regular season championship will be enough for another great performance.
- 2/17—Northern Iowa at Virginia Commonwealth (ESPN2/ESPN3)—Northern Iowa kicks off Bracketbusters on Friday night. VCU played at Wichita State last year on Friday night of the Bracketbusters weekend. Both teams are hoping they can have a strong finish to get the opportunity to make more noise in the NCAA Tournament this season like they have in the past.
- 2/18—Wichita State at Davidson (ESPN2/ESPN3)—Wichita State has been suffering from getting any national respect all season and it shows with their matchup with Davidson. The Shockers have probably been playing the best basketball amongst the non-BCS schools. The positive for them is that head coach Gregg Marshall gets an opportunity to be back in his old stomping grounds from when he was the head coach at Winthrop.
- 2/18—Long Beach State at Creighton (ESPN2/ESPN3)—Creighton fans weren’t too excited about this game when it was first announced, but they have to be now. After the three game slide the Bluejays endured, this game could be a good one to get the national media looking at Creighton again after most wrote them off.
- 2/18—Old Dominion at Missouri State (ESPNU/ESPN3)—The CAA and the MVC always get matched up in this event. Both teams are looking for a final possible boost in their schedule strength and RPI, but both may be on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament unless they win their conference tournaments.
- 2/18—Indiana State at Butler (Local TV)—This is a great game only for the fact that these teams are both in-state teams carrying on the Indiana basketball tradition. They haven’t met since 2007, but in the previous meetings, they have won three of the past four.
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) .
- Garrett Stutz, Wichita State (3): Stutz continues his rise to the top mainly because of his consistency over the past several games and with Wichita State looking to take the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title. With the balance on the Shockers and with the league usually looking at a player from the top team to get the conference Player of the Year, Stutz is starting to emerge in that spot.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (1): McDermott has struggled a bit over the last few games and looked especially frustrated on Saturday against Wichita State finishing with only 13 points and struggling from the field. Although the Bluejays are balanced, the rest of their season rests on his shoulders to carry this team.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State (2): Weems has been in double figures every game this season except for the season opener. His numbers aren’t overly spectacular, but he continues to be a consistent presence and the Bears have been winning games as of late.
- Gregory Echenique (NR) : Echenique returns this week after a one week absence. He continues to be solid and was the one bright spot in the loss to Wichita State. He had 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 6-of-7 from the charity stripe. He was also effective in taking Stutz out of the game.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (4): Ryan really struggled this week against Creighton and Drake. Against the Bluejays, Ryan scored 14 points, but on 3-12 shooting. In addition, he has only been held to single digits in three games this season—against North Carolina and now twice against Drake. In the loss to the Bulldogs this past week, Ryan had seven points on just 2-8 shooting.