Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
A Look Back
- BracketBusted—There have been many comments over the past few years by coaches and fans about how the BracketBusters concept has been overloaded and that it does not help teams. After the Missouri Valley Conference’s performance this past weekend in the event, it is obvious that they do not take it seriously. While this used to be an event that featured the MVC, it has turned into an event to feature the Colonial and the Horizon instead and the MVC walks away as a laughingstock. The three games featuring Valley teams were losses (Missouri State, Wichita State and Northern Iowa) and the league went 3-7 over the weekend with only #7 Drake, #8 Southern Illinois and #9 Bradley getting wins. The Valley, everyone!
- Don’t Expect More Than One—While last week I talked about the possibility of the MVC getting two bids to the NCAA Tournament, do not expect that now. On top of the horrible Bracketbusters performances, this past week, the NCAA again invited several media members to take part in a Mock Bracketing exercise where they went through the process of putting together the teams that would participate in the NCAA Tournament. In their proceedings, Northern Iowa won the MVC tournament and got the league’s automatic bid. In their discussions the rest of the way, contenders like Wichita State and Missouri State were discussed little or not at all. And this was all before BracketBusters this weekend. So expect the MVC to be a one-bid league for the fourth season in a row.
- Saluki Stupidity—There are definitely some chemistry problems with the Southern Illinois basketball team. Information came out this week on the reason for the three game suspensions of starters Gene Teague, Mykel Cleveland and reserve Troy Long. They used airsoft rifles to shoot teammate Davante Drinkard and another unidentified victim in a borrowed women’s basketball player car while Cleveland also had an expired driver’s license. This all happened the evening after Saluki head coach Chris Lowery said his team quit playing in their blowout loss to Drake at SIU Arena.
- Final Week—The league focuses on the final week of the regular season and the battle in St. Louis for the NCAA Tournament bid. Wichita State and Missouri State will fight for the top two spots while Northern Iowa, Indiana State, Creighton and Evansville will set themselves up for the 3-6 seeds. It will likely be Drake, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Illinois State playing on Thursday night.
- Player of the Week— Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa—The senior continues to shine for Northern Iowa averaging 25 points and 5 assists per game this past week. Although the Panthers split their games, Ahelegbe has picked up the slack for Northern Iowa as they finish up the season. Ahelegbe has had nine games with more than 20 points this season.
- Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—McDermott continues his Valley record-setting season, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game this week. He has been very consistent and has not hit that freshman wall that most players do at some point during the season. Creighton will need him to be playing well headed to St. Louis.
Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week rank)
- Wichita State (22-6) (13-3) (2)— The Shockers move up to the top spot heading into the final week basically because they were closer than Missouri State was in winning their respective BracketBuster game. They were 0.8 seconds away from winning against VCU, but played behind most of the way. Joe Lunardi had them going from last four in to the first four out in his bracketology. They did get a win at Evansville earlier in the week and at least they have dedicated fans. It will be hard for Wichita State to stay in the top spot, hosting Creighton and finishing things up at Missouri State.
- Missouri State (21-7) (13-3) (1)— The Bears have to pick themselves off the ground after getting just beat up at Valparaiso in the BracketBusters. That was a huge loss for Missouri State where a win would have gained them consideration as an at-large contender. With Missouri State having so much success this season, it has now become fashionable to go to Bear basketball games. They go to Southern Illinois before hosting Wichita State in what should be a packed JQH Arena. They need to win from here on out to get into the NCAA Tournament.
- Northern Iowa (19-10) (10-6) (3)— The Panthers looked like they had finally gotten over the loss of Lucas O’Rear with a win on the road at Bradley on Wednesday and had momentum going into the BracketBusters game against George Mason. Northern Iowa looked good early against the Patriots, but ran out of gas down the stretch and made some crucial mistakes. They could fall in the MVC tourney seeding if they lose a couple more, and it is a real possibility. They host Indiana State before going to Creighton.
- Indiana State (15-13) (10-6) (5)— The Sycamores move up in the rankings despite their loss in the BracketBuster against Morehead State where they were outworked. Their conference record is still better than Creighton’s and Indiana State has shown that they can win on the road. They swept all of the Illinois teams (Southern Illinois, Illinois State, and Bradley) on the road for the first time in school history. They go to Northern Iowa this week before finishing up with Senior Day against Southern Illinois.
- Creighton (17-12) (9-7) (4)— The Bluejay’s road woes continue. With the loss at Akron this weekend, they have now lost six in a row away from Qwest Center Omaha. They head to Wichita State on Wednesday this week and if history is any indication, don’t expect a road win there. Doug McDermott continues to be a bright spot being only the third freshman in Missouri Valley Conference history to get over 400 points and 200 rebounds. Another bright spot is the fact that Creighton ranks second in the nation in sending opponents to the free-throw line only 14.2 times a game. They finish the regular season hosting Northern Iowa with a checkerboard game.
- Evansville (14-13) (8-8) (6)— The Aces have lost four of their last five games and may be running out of steam down the stretch with their latest losses against Wichita State and Murray State. They fought hard against the Shockers while turnovers did them in against the Racers. They do have an opportunity to get a couple wins to finish the season against teams at the bottom of the league—Drake and Illinois State. They need these wins to stay out of Thursday night in the MVC Tournament. They will also be closing Roberts Stadium with their final game this week.
- Drake (12-16) (6-10) (7)— Drake was the best team in the league to get a win at BracketBusters by defeating Detroit getting their highest scoring output since December. They hope the momentum can carry them into the last week of the season against Evansville and Bradley. If they get those wins, there is a slight possibility they may not have to play Thursday night and get into the top six, which could make them a tough out in the MVC Tournament.
- Southern Illinois (12-16) (5-11) (9)—At least Southern Illinois can say they won their BracketBuster game albeit in the final seconds against Green Bay. Saluki fans are anxiously waiting for the season to be over after another subpar season. They may get some satisfaction in ruining things for Missouri State on Wednesday night and messing up the seeding for Indiana State. Justin Bocot returned to action for the Salukis on Saturday night and contributed. It is too bad the Senior had to suffer through so many injuries this season. He might have made more of a difference for the Salukis if he was healthy all season.
- Bradley (10-18) (3-13) (8)—The Braves have shown some signs of life towards the end of the season, but it may not be enough for Jim Les to keep his job in Peoria. The local media and fans see a lot that is unacceptable, including Les’ propensity to draw technical fouls. They still have to go to their rival Illinois State this week which could be the deciding game there.
- Illinois State (11-17) (3-13) (10)—Illinois State is not finishing strong and has lost their last six games. Going into last week’s game they did not have a player averaging in double figures in scoring. Jackie Carmichael and Austin Hill were averaging 9.9 points a game. With Carmichael out against Creighton, Hill scored a career high 27 points. Amazingly enough, they have a good possibility of finishing off the season with a couple of wins against Bradley and Evansville.
A Look Ahead
The final week of conference season will decide the conference championship and seeding for the MVC Tournament.
- 2/22—Indiana State @ Northern Iowa—The battle for the three-seed in the MVC tournament will be on the line.
- 2/23—Creighton @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net)— These two teams do not like each other, and it will be a physical battle. Creighton wants to spoil the Shockers’ opportunity for a conference championship while Wichita State needs this win to setup the showdown in Springfield with Missouri State.
- 2/26—Northern Iowa @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—Senior day at Creighton is a tough place to get a win and this game could have seeding implications for the MVC Tournament.
- 2/26—Wichita State @ Missouri State (ESPN2)—The likely showdown for the MVC regular season championship. Missouri State took the game in Wichita and the Shockers are looking for payback.
Other National TV Games This Week:
- 2/22—Bradley @ Illinois State (Fox Sports Net)