Standings & Records (Conference Standings) (Last Week)
- Northern Iowa 17-2 (8-1) (1)
- Wichita State 15-4 (6-3) (2)
- Illinois State 14-6 (5-4) (3)
- Drake 10-11 (5-4) (8)
- Bradley 10-9 (5-4) (6)
- Creighton 10-10 (5-4) (4)
- Missouri State 14-6 (4-5) (5)
- Southern Illinois 11-7 (4-5) (9)
- Indiana State 11-9 (3-6) (7)
- Evansville 6-12 (0-9) (10)
STORIES OF THE WEEK
Wichita State/Northern Iowa game was as expected—The matchup of the top two teams in the conference was quite the game this week. Getting the TV exposure is needed for the MVC. Wichita State came out fast against the Panthers to take a dominant lead in front of a raucous home crowd to halftime. Maybe it was the extra attention that Northern Iowa was getting by being ranked the day before or the fact that the Shockers hosted another ranked team at home in the same season for the first time in almost 15-20 years. But the Panthers erased the deficit early in the second half and seemed as though they were going to pull out the victory the same way they have all season, but did not have enough as the Shockers upset the Panthers and once again put the Valley race back in play for several other teams.
Opportunities lost, others gained—With Northern Iowa losing this week, Wichita State, Creighton and Illinois State could have taken advantage of the situation in the MVC standings. However, Creighton lost to Illinois State, Illinois State lost to Southern Illinois and Wichita State turned around and lost to Drake. Bradley and Drake, who have been struggling this season, have taken advantage of those losses to move up the Valley standings. It is now anyone’s game, but it is extremely important that either Wichita State or Northern Iowa decide to take over the league and somebody else win the Valley tournament if they expect to get more than one team into the NCAA Tournament this season.
Saint Louis wants to be part of the Valley?—Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus made it quite clear that they would rather be a part of the Missouri Valley Conference instead of the A10. The question is, could that really happen? And if so, would they drop a team or add another to make the conference twelve? Butler? Western Kentucky? Apparently there are no plans for any MVC expansion, but does make an interesting discussion.
Drake (2-0 this week, 5 game winning streak) — Drake has been on fire, now on a five-game winning streak including a dominating win against Wichita State on Saturday. Players are stepping up while Craig Stanley is out with an injury. The Bulldogs will be squarely in the conference race with wins against Northern Iowa and Creighton this week. What a turnaround this might be after having a horrible non-conference season and losing to teams like SIU-Edwardsville at home.
Bradley (2-0 this week, 3 game winning streak) – Bradley all of a sudden is making a turnaround with a three-game winning streak with wins this past week against Southern Illinois and Evansville. Defense has been the key to their resurgence. Bradley could move up into the top three of the conference with wins over Creighton and Illinois State this week.
Northern Iowa (1-1 this week) — The Panthers ranking and Sports Illustrated article were probably a little too much to handle this week heading into their game against Wichita State while opening the door to the rest of the conference to say they are beatable. Northern Iowa is in no way guaranteed the NCAA tournament as their Athletic Director can attest after his participation in a mock NCAA selection committee exercise. Jordan Eglseder looks like a different player this season and appears to be a dominant inside threat in the Valley. The hottest team in the conference, Drake, is coming to town before a trip to Missouri State is on the schedule this week.
Wichita State (1-1 this week) — Wichita gave Northern Iowa their best shot and sent a message to the Panthers that they are contenders for the league, but then must have had a hangover in getting drilled by Drake. You would have thought Wichita was completely out of the race after this loss. They hope to get back on track against Illinois State and Southern Illinois
Illinois State (1-1 this week) — The Redbirds came from behind Wednesday night against Creighton by dominating the inside with Dinma Okiakosa setting the standard, but then suffered an overtime defeat to Southern Illinois. This will be a key week for them with games against Wichita State and Bradley.
Missouri State (1-1 this week) — Missouri State blew a 24-point second half lead against Indiana State before surviving in overtime. They then lost a see-saw battle against Creighton. A key to the Bears’ continued success is the health of Adam Leonard. He has been experiencing back spasms that may keep him out of games down the line. They will need him for the games against Evansville and Northern Iowa this week.
Creighton (1-1 this week) — Creighton let another halftime lead slip away, this time at Illinois State. They were on the verge of collapsing but hit an amazing 15-15 from the free throw line in the second half to get a win against Missouri State. Are the Bluejays playing scared? Some are starting to think that including the players. Road trips to Bradley and Drake won’t make things any easier this week.
Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)—Just when you thought the Salukis were about to pack it in for the second consecutive season (with a loss to Bradley at home), screams for Chris Lowery’s exit out of town grows louder and louder, and academic problems with Gene Teague, they survived against Illinois State in overtime. A road trip to Indiana State before hosting Wichita State are on the slate this week.
PACKING IT IN
Indiana State (0-2 this week) — Indiana State took 30 minutes to wake up against Missouri State and almost came back to defeat them, but came up short. Although they were in range of Northern Iowa, they could not steal a win from there. The loss of Dwayne Lathan has really hurt this team. They have few opportunities left to make a conference run, but could have some success hosting Southern Illinois before heading to Evansville this week.
Evansville (0-2 this week, 10 game losing streak) — It doesn’t really matter who Evansville is playing anymore, they just don’t have enough to win games. Rebuilding is hard, especially at Evansville. Missouri State and Indiana State are on the slate this week and could be a spoiler for those teams.
WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH
The Wild and Wacky Valley. You have to see it:
- 1/25, Western Kentucky @ Southern Illinois (Fox College Sports)—A very odd out of conference matchup for the Salukis and Hilltoppers during conference season that looked more attractive at the beginning of the season. Not so much now, but still likely a good game.
- 1/27, Creighton @ Bradley (Local TV)—Great matchup for both teams that are looking to position themselves for St. Louis.
- 1/27, Drake @ Northern Iowa (Local TV)—Drake wants respect. Best way to get it is against conference leader UNI.
- 1/27, Illinois State @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net)—Koch Arena is a great college basketball environment. See it in action on TV.
- 1/30, Bradley @ Illinois State (Fox Sports Net)—I think the loser of this game will end up playing on Thursday in the play-in games in the MVC tournament.
- 1/30, Creighton @ Drake (Local TV)—Even though Drake didn’t get the win in Omaha a couple weeks ago, the effort jumpstarted them into their current streak. A great I-80 matchup.
- 1/30, Northern Iowa @ Missouri State—This game isn’t going to be on TV, but it will be a battle in Springfield by these two teams.
- 1/31, Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (ESPNU)—The Shockers want to separate themselves from the rest of the Valley contenders, but the Saluki’s may not let them at home.