CIO… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012
- McDermott Looking Like Last Season — If you have been watching any Creighton games this season, it might have seemed that Doug McDermott was starting out a little slowly compared to last season. That may have been expected as more teams have started to regularly double- or even triple-team the All-American. However, it may also have been related to the time he took off in the summer to take a break from hoops more than anything. Over the past three games, McDermott has scored 80 points since the Bluejays’ home loss to Boise State. In the past four games, he has shot 17-of-24 from three-point range, and he is now fifth in the nation in scoring (22.7 PPG) and shooting 52.3% from the three-point line. Right now his minutes per game are running below last season’s as well. Teams will have to decide to pick their poison against McDermott with his skill set both inside or outside. If he continues this torrid pace, it will be hard to deny him strong consideration for eventual National Player of the Year honors.
- Still Undefeated — Wichita State is still one of only 14 teams in Division I that is still undefeated. Sitting at 9-0, the Shockers are off to their best start in school history. They have never started the season at 10-0, but will have the chance on Thursday night against Tennessee. With all of the holes that Gregg Marshall has had to replace going into this season, it is quite an accomplishment for his team to be off to this great of a start. Whether it is still figuring out the lineup or the depth they are developing, nine players are averaging 14 minutes or more of playing time a game. At the same time, they are dominating opponents with only two games within single digits (VCU & Air Force). Against the rest of their opponents, they have won by an average of 18 points per contest.
- Who is Next? — Creighton and Wichita State look to be at the top of their games right now. But really, who is next in the MVC pecking order? The rest of the league has been pretty inconsistent so far as we head into the final two weeks of non-conference play. Fortunately for Illinois State, it is sitting at a solid third due to the schedule it has played, putting it at #45 in the RPI. Amazingly enough, Southern Illinois is sitting at fourth with an RPI of #113. Northern Iowa, despite playing in the stacked Battle 4 Atlantis is sitting 7th in the league with an RPI of #182. By going 0-3 in that tournament, it has been a deep hole that the Panthers have had to get out of. As a league, the MVC is the ninth best conference in the nation, just ahead of the West Coast Conference. These next couple of weeks will hopefully separate some teams in the conference and that can lead into momentum entering conference play to help keep the RPI up.
- Creighton (9-1) — Since losing to Boise State on November 28, the Bluejays went on a rampage against their past three opponents — St. Joseph’s, Nebraska and Akron — to a win margin of at least 16 points or more. It has started with the play on the defensive side of things limiting opponents from getting open looks from three as well as hedging off ball screens a lot better. We all know about McDermott, but Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman have been distributing and holding onto the ball efficiently. Gibbs has had 27 assists and one turnover and Chatman with 13 assists and 4 turnovers during this three game stretch. Gibbs for the season has a ridiculous 7.3/1 assist turnover ratio for the season.
- Wichita State (9-0) — Wichita State joins Creighton in the national rankings for the second straight week. Flying under Creighton’s shadow at this point is probably something that Gregg Marshall likes right now. Although we talked about how deep the Shockers are, they have also been suffering a lot of injuries that are causing a lot more players to log minutes. Two starters (Ehimen Orukpe and Evan Wessel) sat out against their last game against Northern Colorado. Marshall says he would like to go 12 deep instead of 10 deep, but they are developing great depth either way. Cleanthony Early continues to have a great early impact for Wichita State scoring almost 14 points a game. Carl Hall has upped his play inside this season averaging just over 13 points a game.
- Northern Iowa (6-3) — Northern Iowa went off the national radar when it struggled in the Bahamas, but they are quietly moving back up the mountain. Although the CAA is a little down this season, the MVC/CAA battles are always fun to watch. The Panthers got themselves a nice win on the road against George Mason and are currently on a three-game winning streak. They have been trying to increase the pace of the offense, and maybe that is contributing to their recent success. Since the three-game suspension to start the season, Anthony James has averaged the most minutes so far for UNI (31.7). Meanwhile, balanced scoring is keeping opponents off-balanced. Five players are averaging nine points or more a game, while seven players are averaging over seven points a game. Different players have stepped up in different games, which will make Northern Iowa tougher as they get into conference play.
- Illinois State (6-3) — With the win over Western Michigan last weekend, the Redbirds broke out of their three-game losing slump and hope to get back on track to finish out the non-conference season. Losing to Northwestern and Louisville might have been expected, but the loss against Wyoming was a bit of a kick to the mouth of Illinois State, especially since the Redbirds had a 14 point lead at halftime, but then were outscored 52-24 in the second half to lose by 14. Kaza Keane’s limited minutes may have also had an effect on the Redbird offense. The point guard only logged in 14 minutes of play against Western Michigan as he still recovers from an ankle injury. After only scoring five points against Wyoming, Jackie Carmichael might be back on track with 24 points last weekend against Western Michigan.
- Bradley (6-2) — Look out, but the Braves have more wins than the rest of the teams below them so far. If they get one more, then they will get their seventh win before Christmas for the first time since the 2007-08 season. So progress appears evident at this point. Dyricus Simms-Edwards leads the Valley in steals with 25 and ranks eighth in the nation averaging 3.13 steals a game. If he continues the pace he could break the school record of 83 steals that has been there for 30 years. The Braves are very balanced in scoring and you never know who might have a big night. Right now they have six players averaging almost 10 points or more per game. However, those same six are taking the bulk of the minutes. If they aren’t careful, they may run out of gas by the time they get to the conference season.
- Southern Illinois (4-2) — The Salukis fell due to their loss to Western Kentucky last weekend. This was a nice chance to get an important road win. They have likely been distracted with personnel issues as well. The biggest difference this season is defense. The Salukis gave up almost 70 points per game last season. So far this season, they allow their opponents to only score 57.5 points per game. Someone we haven’t mentioned yet this season is Desmar Jackson. The transfer from Wyoming has accounted for 41.2% of the team’s offense over the last two games. With no starter taller than 6’5”, it hasn’t hurt them too much yet.
- Drake (4-4) — Drake missed out on an opportunity to get a nice win against St. Mary’s but bounced back to get a win against IPFW. The loss against St. Mary’s was so devastating to the team, that they were in the locker room for over an hour after the final horn. Head coach Mark Phelps and the players were not available to the media, either. Three-point shooting is key for the Bulldogs. They are sixth in the nation in three-point percentage, 42.6%, and three pointers made per game. In three of their four losses, Drake hit seven or fewer three pointers. In the four wins they hit nine or more.
- Evansville (5-4) — On Saturday, Evansville had a great opportunity to get a nice win under their belt against Murray State and jumped out to a 24-9 lead. The lead was cut to three by halftime and eventually, the Purple Aces lost by 12. It has been that kind of season so far. Colt Ryan was limited to 13 points and is still showing signs of recovering from his early season hip pointer injury. The good news is that if DJ Balentine continues his strong scoring play, it could be interesting to see Balentine and Ryan on the court together a little more. Head coach Marty Simmons has a lot of keys to Evansville picking up their game.
- Indiana State (4-3) — The Sycamores lost their only game of the week against Morehead State. Not a good way to start a road trip that will last 29 days before they return to the Hulman Center for a game. A lot of newcomers are being relied on for Indiana State this season. Against Morehead State, over 74% of the points were scored by first year players in the program including Gonzaga transfer Manny Arop and Khristian Smith.
- Missouri State (2-7) — Missouri State is 0-7 against Division I competition. The challenge is now to see how long it will take until they can win that elusive first D-I game. They have one game this week, due to finals, against Valparaiso. This will not be an easy opponent for them either. The one thing going for them is that this is a return game from Bracketbusters a couple of years ago. The Bears are 7-0 all-time in these return games. Long range shooting has been a problem with the team shooting a dismal 25% including 6-of-63 in the last three games. It won’t help them either that one of the few veterans on the team, Keith Pickens, might have re-injured his surgically-repaired knee.
- 12/13–Wichita State @ Tennessee (7:00 PM, Fox Sports Net) — This is the test for the Shockers that has been circled on the calendar in their non-conference season. Former Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin plays an MVC school for the first time since taking over at Tennessee. The Shockers are the only school to have wins over teams from the power conferences other than Creighton. This could be a very nice win for Wichita State and the league as a whole.
- 12/15–Creighton @ California (10:00 PM, Pac-12 Network) — Creighton will try to go 2-0 against the Pac-12 this season when they head out to Berkeley to take on the Bears. For the Bluejays, they could go 4-0 on the season against schools from the power six conferences. While it is still unknown how good Cal will be this season, getting a win against another Pac-12 team (They beat Arizona State earlier this season in Las Vegas) will be a nice mark on their resume when March rolls around.
- 12/15–Northern Iowa vs. Iowa in Des Moines (1:30 PM, Big 10 Network) — This game kicks off the new annual “Big 4 Classic” in Des Moines where the four D-I schools in Iowa will get together each year to play against each other — Big 12 vs. MVC and Big Ten vs. MVC. This would be great other than the fact UNI was previously able to play Iowa and Iowa State each season on a home-and-home basis. So they take what they can get, and hopefully it will be a win for the Panthers.
- 12/15–Drake vs. Iowa State in Des Moines (4:00 PM, Mediacom) — Drake is in the same position as UNI and have to settle for this neutral matchup in Des Moines as the nightcap. Drake needs this win the most. The Bulldogs have had a lot of missed opportunities so far, so this one is a great opportunity. Lucky for them, they only have to drive across town to take part in this.
- 12/15–Indiana State @ IUPUI (7:00 PM, Local TV) — This game is interesting with it being in Indianapolis. Originally it was slated to be at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home of the Indiana Pacers. However, it now appears the game will be played on IUPUI’s home court. The Sycamores will be on the road until the start of MVC play.
- 12/15–Missouri State vs. Valparaiso (7:00 PM, No TV) — Will Missouri State get its first D-I win of the season? That is what all eyes will be on for this game.
Caught on Film
We will come back to the MVC Player of the Year watch next week, but this week we look at an interesting video put out by Northern Iowa. The fad this summer was making videos of some kind related to “Call Me Maybe.” The latest fad is to mock up their own video to “Gangnam Style.” While it isn’t specific to basketball, it does include the MVC school promoting their programs. To be honest, I’m not sure I would want to be associated with this video myself. The Psy bandwagon has officially jumped the shark. I guess you can decide this for yourself. Nothing like captions so you can understand what they are saying. Rawr, Rawr, Rawr I guess.