CIO… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2013
- A Two-Team Race, Or Is It? Heading into last weekend, it looked to be a two team race between Creighton and Wichita State in the MVC. But don’t count Indiana State out of the mix. The Sycamores’ RPI is high right now and they have won three of their last four games. Also keep an eye out for Evansville, Bradley, and Northern Iowa to be a thorn in the contenders’ sides, hoping to score some upsets to keep things interesting. So far, the Bluejays and the Shockers have been able to mostly avoid those four teams, but Wichita State will play three of its next four games against Bradley, Indiana State and UNI. If you know anything about the Valley, anything can happen when two teams lace them up so this race is far from over yet.
- McDermott Continues To Light It Up: Doug McDermott continues to impress the nation with some extraordinary numbers. Since the start of 1996-97 season, no player has averaged more than 20 points per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the three-point line for an entire season. The Creighton junior is currently averaging 24.1 points per game and shooting 52.5% from beyond the arc. In addition, he is averaging 28 points per game and shooting 59.5 percent from deep in five road games this season. His offensive efficiency has continued in the last three games by shooting 62% from the field, 72% from three and averaging a ridiculous 31.6 points per game. He has already scored 29 points or more in seven games this season. He is without question a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate.
- Hall Returns With Fire: Wichita State’s Carl Hall had been out the last several weeks with a thumb injury. Of the injuries that the Shockers have suffered this season, losing Hall hurt the most. After missing the first six games of conference play, he returned this past week and he was ready to play. The senior only scored two points but grabbed 10 rebounds in a victory over Illinois State, but against Creighton, Hall added the scoring back to his game by going for 17 points and 13 rebounds (including six offensive) to lead the Shockers to a narrow victory. The only thing he needs to shake the rust from is his free throw shooting. Hall went 3-of-8 in the two games, including a 1-of-6 disaster against Creighton after starting the season 20-of-23. He may be the difference-maker that Wichita needs if the Shockers are to win an MVC championship.
Power Rankings (Overall, Conference, Last Week)
- Wichita State (17-2) (6-1) (2)–The Shockers sit in first right now based on their win over Creighton this past weekend. Do I think they are the better team? I guess I do for now. I will be watching to see how both Creighton and Wichita fare in their next games and how they react to last weekend’s result. Wichita State got a boost from the return of Hall to help offset his 8-of-20 shooting from the three-point line against the Bluejays. Their rebounding has been outstanding, out-boarding their opponent in each conference game this season. They are grabbing almost nine more boards each game than their opponent. Wichita State is now #14 in the RPI and is 6-1 against the top 100 and 3-0 versus the top 50.
- Creighton (17-2) (6-1) (1)–The Bluejays were rolling right along until they got to Wichita. However, this could be a good thing for Creighton to get another reminder on how important it is to stay focused on every game. The Bluejays started the conference season 6-0, and after losing to Boise State in December, Creighton ran off 11 straight wins. Now with the loss to Wichita State, it will be interesting to see how they rebound from this one. Their drive for the rest of the season could come at the season’s end with a home rematch against the Shockers. One thing lost in checking out Creighton this season is their improvement on defense. This might be what helps them get further down the line once the postseason rolls around.
- Indiana State (12-6) (5-2) (3)–The Sycamores are flying under the radar right now and are in a class by themselves–they are not as impressive as Wichita State and Creighton, but you can tell they are better than Bradley and Evansville. While Indiana State has started the last couple seasons of conference play starting in a deep hole, they are starting off exactly the opposite this season. That is likely due to the early schedule compared to the past as well. The meat of their future rests in the next five games as four of the next five are against teams that were predicted to finish ahead of the Sycamores. We have talked about Manny Arop a lot this season, but he is the Sycamore’s biggest offensive threat.
- Bradley (12-7) (4-3) (5)–After losing their previous three conference games, Bradley has now won two in a row and appear just slightly ahead of Evansville at this point. That could change after Wednesday when they play the Purple Aces. The return of Will Egolf from a four-game suspension has appeared to be what they needed to get back on the winning track. What might be more amazing is if Bradley gets to the postseason this year, Geno Ford deserves the MVC Coach of the Year award.
- Evansville (11-8) (4-3) (4)–If there was any question, Colt Ryan is back to form. Ryan has scored 21 or more points in six of his last eight games. His mastery at the free throw line is in full effect as well going 16-of-16 against Drake last week. That is the good news. The bad news is that after a 4-1 start, the Aces have lost their last two games and continue to show their inconsistent play this season. Whether it is cold shooting, or just a little more movement on offense, head coach Marty Simmons has to be scratching his head as to why the Aces can’t get over that hump.
- Northern Iowa (10-9) (3-4) (6)–Which team will show up for the Panthers? That has to be the question Ben Jacobson is asking each night when UNI hits the court. Against Bradley and Drake, Northern Iowa has looked unstoppable. Against Evansville and Creighton, they couldn’t put a full game together. This might be even more telling–UNI is 0-6 against the RPI top 50, but are 7-0 against teams 150+ in the RPI. It is possible things have clicked for the Panthers in the 30 point victory over Drake. UNI has a favorable schedule the next few games.
- Missouri State (5-14) (3-4) (8)–The Bears have fallen back to earth after their 3-1 start in conference play. They have now lost three in a row, including a heartbreaker against Bradley this past weekend. This probably isn’t the season Anthony Downing was expecting to have. The lone senior is looking for answers to try and help his team to continue to try and get some more victories.
- Drake (8-10) (2-5) (9)–After starting 0-4 in conference play, it looked like Drake might have things back on track winning two in a row. Then came the blowout loss against Northern Iowa, one of their worst defeats against UNI ever. In each of their 10 losses, the Bulldogs have fallen behind by double-digits. A lot of shots are not falling for Drake right now and if they don’t get a lot of shots behind the arc to go down, they are really in trouble.
- Illinois State (10-9) (1-6) (7)–The Redbirds finally won a conference game, but it was against Southern Illinois. Maybe it is a starting point for them. Tyler Brown returned to the starting lineup after a suspension for actions detrimental to the team and responded by leading the team with 22 points and draining six from behind the arc. The hope for Illinois State is that Brown might be able to help support more than just Jackie Carmichael, who seems to be trying to carry the team on his shoulders by himself.
- Southern Illinois (8-10) (1-6) (10)–The Salukis have lost seven of their last eight games. If anything, Barry Hinson will help keep things positive in Carbondale and they know it will take some time to turn things around. Hinson also lifted the suspension of Diamond Taylor. Taylor was suspended since the start of the season due to some legal trouble. Now with that behind him he could be back on the court. He played four minutes in his season debut this past Saturday.
- 1/23–Creighton @ Drake (7:05 PM, FSN/ESPN3)–The Bluejays throttled the Bulldogs in Omaha by 30 points a couple weeks ago. Creighton will need to get past the hangover of the loss to Wichita State and this could be a good game to do it. This will be the second of a three-game road trip for the Bluejays.
- 1/23–Wichita State @ Missouri State (7:00 PM, Local TV/ESPN3)–Despite Missouri State’s record, they have always put up a great fight against the Shockers. Wichita State needs to avoid a hangover of their own since the win over Creighton last Saturday and not take the Bears lightly, especially since this one is on the road.
- 1/23–Bradley @ Evansville (7:05 PM, No TV)–No one thought at this point in the season that this game would be a key match-up. However, the winner of this game stays closely tied to the MVC race, while the other could go spiraling downward with several tougher match-ups coming up after this one.
- 1/23–Indiana State @ Illinois State (7:05 PM, Local TV)–If Illinois State wants to make a run to move up in the standings, it starts with knocking off Indiana State. Coming into the season, it couldn’t have been thought that the Sycamores would be in this position. We will either see Jake Odum or Jackie Carmichael step up in this one.
- 1/26–Bradley @ Wichita State (7:05 PM, Local TV/ESPN3)–Geno Ford’s team is playing with a lot more confidence this season and is right in the middle of the pack in the MVC race. At the same time, Wichita State feels it controls its own destiny and is very confident in its play. The frontcourt play of Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall will be the difference in this one.
- 1/26–Northern Iowa @ Indiana State (1 PM, Local TV)–Northern Iowa wants to keep things interesting. What might be even more interesting is that there are a bunch of schools grouped together in the standings. Depending on how things go earlier in the week, this could be a game that flip-flops #3 and #6 in the conference race.
MVC POY Check-In
A few weeks ago we looked at the MVC Player of the Year Race. As always, last time’s rankings are in parentheses.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (1)–If you haven’t seen McDermott play, now is the time to watch him in action. Despite teams trying several different tactics to slow him down, he continues to find a way to score points. He has scored 120 points on post-up plays, tied for fifth most in the nation including 28 points on post-ups in his last two games. His 250 points on the blocks last season was second in the nation.
- Cleanthony Early, Wichita State (4)–Early continues to be the guy who wants to carry the Shockers on his back. The JuCo transfer has transitioned to the D-I game pretty well in his short time at Wichita State. He poured in 39 points two weeks ago against Southern Illinois and has been in double-figures in 13 of his last 14 games.
- Jake Odum, Indiana State (3)–Odum continues to fly under the radar, but is staying consistent in distributing the ball to his teammates — he has 39% of the team’s assists on the season. For that much of the offense to be created by one player and with Indiana State now sitting near the top of the league, that says a lot right there.
- Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State (2)–Carmichael has nine double-doubles this season and has been the most consistent Redbird during its 1-6 start to conference play. While his numbers look impressive, he has slipped a bit in the standings here because against the top two teams in the league (Creighton and Wichita State) he was limited by both teams to single-figure rebounds. Or course, the Redbirds lost those games as well.
- Austin Chatman, Creighton (NR)–With Chatman the biggest Creighton question mark coming into this season, he has not disappointed and has gotten better as the season has gone on. Chatman leads the MVC in assists in league play and is second among his peers for the entire season. His assist-to-turnover ratio is a respectable 2.2 to 1 in league games. Despite playing against teams that can anticipate CU’s offensive movement, Chatman’s play is even more impressive.
Fell out of Rankings: Grant Gibbs, Creighton