Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference

A Look Back

  • Battle for SeedingThe last two weeks of the season will be about seeding for the MVC Tournament.  No one wants to be the team that has to play four consecutive days for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.  Indiana State, Creighton, Evansville, and Drake are fighting to stay out of that #7-seed hole.
  • Unpredictable ValleyIf you don’t pay attention to the Missouri Valley Conference for a period of time, you will get lost on everything happening in the league with the surprise upsets and close games.  Wichita State was beaten by Southern Illinois on their home court.  Northern Iowa lost Lucas O’Rear and they have gone from a possible third straight MVC championship to trying to stay out of the play-in game in St. Louis.  Last-place Bradley has won three of their last four after starting 0-11 in conference play.  Indiana State and Evansville could finish in the top four, which has been unheard of.  Hold on tight, it will be a crazy ride.
  • Multiple Bids?—Joe Lunardi has had Missouri State and Wichita State in his bracket for the past couple of weeks and the Bears and Shockers have separated themselves in the Valley race.  However, if the MVC wants to make sure they really are a multiple-bid league this season, Missouri State and Wichita State has a small margin of error.  They will definitely need to win their Bracketbuster games this weekend and play into the finals of the MVC Tournament.  At worst, one of the two will need to make the finals of the MVC tournament for the league to get two teams in this season.  Otherwise, the MVC will again be a one-bid league for the fourth year in a row. With these odds, who knows who will win the conference tournament.
  • Player of the Week— Kyle Weems, Missouri State—The potential MVC Player of the Year continues his march, averaging  23 points and six rebounds a game, which also includes 7-13 from three-point range in their two wins this week against Bradley and Illinois State.  Those numbers come with only playing 28 minutes a game in both contests.  Missouri State is very tough to stop when he gets going.
  • Newcomer of the Week— Jake Odum, Indiana State—The freshman continues to lead the Sycamores.  He averaged over 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in their two wins this week against Illinois State and Drake.   He drives the offense for Indiana State.

Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week rank)

  1. Missouri State (20-6) (12-3) (2)— The Bears are back on the winning track this week with wins over Bradley and Illinois State.  Missouri State is known for man-to-man defense, but they broke out the zone last week and expect to see it more.   They are winning the games they need to be winning and will need to continue that this week when they host Drake on Tuesday before stepping out of conference in the BracketBusters against Valparaiso.
  2. Wichita State (21-5) (12-3) (1)— Wichita State was stunned at home when Southern Illinois came to town and knocked off the Shockers.  However they took that fury out on the road at Northern Iowa where they just shut down the Panthers and walked away with a dominant victory.  The Shockers hope they have found their point guard in Joe Raglund.  They will have a couple more big tests this week against the surging Evansville Purple Aces before hosting Virginia Commonwealth as one of the feature games on BracketBusters Friday night. 
  3. Northern Iowa (18-9) (9-6) (3)—The Panthers have continued to struggle without Lucas O’Rear and have lost three games in a row since the injury.  Coach Ben Jacobson says they miss O’Rear, but that they just need to play better.   Northern Iowa is fading down the stretch and will likely be bunched up in the 3-7 positions in the conference and will need to get things going to get the best seed possible in the MVC Tournament, but there is no doubt that the rest of their season is in murky waters.   They go to Bradley who have won three of the past four and then host George Mason in BracketBusters. 
  4. Creighton (16-11) (8-7) (4)— Creighton is really struggling with winning on the road in the MVC.  After starting 3-0 on the road to begin MVC play, the Bluejays have lost their last five on the road and continue to be lacking two to three plays a game that they need in order to win.  Illinois State comes to town before hitting the road to Akron which would be a lot better matchup in men’s soccer than men’s basketball.  They played a full 40 minutes against Southern Illinois on Sunday night, probably their first 40 full minutes of great play all season.  Doug McDermott isn’t Harrison Barnes, but he has made a splash this season of historic proportions
  5. Indiana State (14-12) (9-6) (6)— Indiana State is back on the winning track after losing five in a row with wins over Illinois State and Drake this week.  The Sycamores start what constitutes “the rest” of the MVC after the top three teams.   The key here is seeding for the MVC tournament where that is their only chance to get to the NCAA Tournament.  They go to Southern Illinois this week before hosting Morehead State as a part of the BracketBusters.   Jake Odum is the one who makes or breaks the success for Indiana State.   But their bench is pretty helpful too.
  6. Evansville (14-11) (8-7) (5)—The Purple Aces have had an up and down week, first, taking advantage of Northern Iowa’s troubles and knocking them off, but then couldn’t keep down last place Bradley.  Scary, but if you look at teams that might make a run in the MVC Tournament and get the auto-bid for the NCAA Tournament, you could put some money on Evansville right now as they could be the surprise.  Colt Ryan is known as their scorer, but senior Kavon Lacey has stepped up his game, making them tougher.   They get to host Wichita State this week before getting a nice matchup in BracketBusters with Murray State.  A couple wins here, and people will have to be on the lookout. 
  7. Drake (11-15) (6-9) (7)—Drake’s up and down season continues with a home victory against Creighton and a road letdown at Indiana State.  Like Creighton, the Bulldogs have troubles winning on the road in conference play sitting at 1-6 in such contests.  They hit the road again to Missouri State on Tuesday, so expect that record to go to 1-7.  Then they host Detroit on Saturday.  Ryan Wedel is trying to be the leader of this team and hopes to lead them into the improbable postseason. 
  8. Bradley (9-17) (3-12) (8)—The Braves are all of a sudden the hottest team in the Valley right now and is creating headaches for the rest of the league.  They have won three of their last four and gave Missouri State all they could handle in getting that one loss.  They are now playing with nothing to lose and getting a couple wins makes them spoilers for the rest of the season.  They try to spoil Northern Iowa’s season on Tuesday before hitting the road to Tennessee-Martin in the BracketBuster matchup.
  9. Southern Illinois (11-15) (5-10) (10)—After having one of their worst weeks ever last week, the Salukis have bounced back to have an average one.  First they knocked off Wichita State in one of the more surprising upsets of the season but then laid a huge egg against Creighton.  The Salukis have suffered from recruiting the wrong players and the long term effects have been catastrophic and patience is wearing thin.   They now get two home games this week with Indiana State and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
  10. Illinois State (11-15) (3-12) (9)—The Redbirds conference season has been full of streaks starting with losing their first eight, winning the next three, and are now suffering through another four game losing streak.  Illinois State tried their best to spoil some things for Missouri State but just came up short.   For a team that contended for conference championships the past few seasons, this has to be tough for Illinois State fans to understand why they have struggled so much this season.   They hit the road this week at Creighton and then to Western Michigan. 

A Look Ahead

The week starts with conference play, but then the big weekend of BracketBusters will be a big test for teams.

  • 2/15—Wichita State @ Evansville (Local TV)—Evansville is still playing well and a win against Wichita State will really put a wrench into the conference race, and the outside possibility of the MVC getting two bids this season.
  • 2/16—Indiana State @ Southern Illinois—Indiana State has one last run in them to finish in the top four in the league.  It starts with Southern Illinois.  The Salukis on the other hand are trying to save face for next season wondering if they will have a new coach or not.
  • 2/18—Virginia Commonwealth @ Wichita State (ESPN2)—This is definitely one of the feature games of the Bracketbusters weekend and will be one not to miss.  The CAA and the MVC have had some pretty good games over the past few seasons because of BracketBusters.  The Shockers need this one to get a quality win on their resume that is clearly missing.
  • 2/19—Missouri State @ Valparaiso (ESPN2)—This is the game that Missouri State fans wanted so they would not have to travel to the coasts for a game before the final week of MVC competition.
  • 2/19—George Mason @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—Northern Iowa feels they still have something to prove and they need this game more than George Mason does.  However, George Mason isn’t coming to lose and what looked like a great matchup has now lost some luster.

Other  Games on National TV This Week:

  • 2/15—Northern Iowa @ Bradley (Fox Sports Net)
  • 2/16—Illinois State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2011

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference

A Look Back

Conference RPI vs. Other Mid-Majors SchoolsThe Missouri Valley Conference is really suffering in the RPI as a conference this season.  RPI Forecast has the conference ranked #12, just behind the Horizon but ahead of the WCC.  Things are even worse in the Pomeroy rankings, where the MVC stands 14th behind the WAC. The chance of being a multiple-bid conference gets slimmer by the week.

MVC/MWC Challenge Opponents AnnouncedThe Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference have announced the matchups for next year’s MVC/MWC Challenge.  The winter of 2011 will be the third of the four contracted years for this challenge, and some very interesting matchups are created:

  • Nov. 30 – Creighton at San Diego State–Creighton leads all-time series, 3-1; last meeting 1/3/1974
  • Dec. 3 – Air Force at Drake—Drake leads all-time series, 5-0; last meeting 12/12/1981
  • Dec. 3 – Indiana State at Boise State– First meeting
  • Dec. 3 – Colorado State at Northern Iowa– First meeting
  • Dec. 3 – Missouri State at New Mexico—New Mexico leads all-time series, 1-0; only meeting 12/22, 1962
  • Dec. 3 – TCU at Evansville–First meeting
  • Dec. 3 – Bradley at Wyoming–Bradley leads all-time series, 1-0; only meeting 3/30/1951
  • Dec. 4 – UNLV at Wichita State–Series tied, 1-1; last meeting 1/10/1979

Panthers Still RisingNorthern Iowa is still working its way back to the top of the MVC, where they have been the past two seasons.  A win over Creighton and a thrilling victory against conference leader Missouri State have put them back into the thick of things.  They have won eight of their last nine games and are currently on a seven-game roll.  Don’t be surprised to see Northern Iowa working their way to a third straight NCAA Tournament berth.

Bracketbuster MatchupsThe Missouri Valley Conference schools will find out their opponents for Bracketbusters on Monday.  All ten schools are involved in this event, with Wichita State and Missouri State lined up for likely TV games.  Northern Iowa also remains a possibility for one of the 11 television spots on the ESPN family of networks for this event.  Schools like St. Mary’s, Old Dominion, Utah State and George Mason will likely get matched up with teams in the Valley.

Player of the Week—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems is continuing to make his case for conference Player of the Year honors with solid performances this week, averaging 18 points and six rebounds a game.  After having a somewhat slow start to conference season, Weems has been more consistent.

Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—McDermott is continuing his great freshman season, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds in games against Northern Iowa and Indiana State this week.  It is very likely that McDermott is considered for All-Conference first team honors at the end of the season.

Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record)  (Last week rank)

  1. Wichita State (18-4) (9-2) (2)—The Shockers finally take over the top spot since they are winning right now.  They had a somewhat easy week with Southern Illinois and Bradley, but wins are wins and that is what the goal is at this point in the season.   Wichita State should enjoy back to back 20-win seasons again, but February has always been a tough month for the Shockers.  Things could get interesting when they go to Indiana State this week before hosting a streaking Illinois State.
  2. Northern Iowa (16-6) (8-3) (4)— Right now, the Panthers are playing the best ball, knocking off Creighton and Missouri State this past week.  Their seven-game winning streak is a familiar feat as they reeled off 11 straight in conference play two seasons ago and started off winning 13 of 14 games to start conference play last season.   Ben Jacobson does his best to keep from providing bulletin board material and wants no distractions.  They should continue their streak against Drake and Illinois State this week.
  3. Missouri State (17-5) (9-2) (1)— Missouri State easily had the game of the week in against Northern Iowa on Sunday night, but lost it in the final seconds breaking a 19-game winning streak they had at JQH Arena.  The win against Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls at the beginning of conference season broke a large home winning streak for the Panthers.   They had to hold off Drake earlier in the week and the Bears are pretty vulnerable at this point.  It is possible they may have problems with a hot Evansville team before the rematch with Indiana State who gave them their other loss in conference play. 
  4. Creighton (14-9) (6-5) (5)— Creighton’s up-and-down season continues, but they may be turning a corner.  They came up just short against Northern Iowa despite shooting 70% from the field in the second half, and earned a hard-fought victory against Indiana State where 51 fouls were called between the two teams.  The play of Doug McDermott is easing the stress on his dad, Greg.  A lot of Creighton fans wonder what this team would be like without the young McDermott on the team this season.  The schedule is somewhat favorable for the Bluejays over the next five games as they play teams in the bottom half of the league.  They head to Bradley and then host Evansville this week.
  5. Indiana State (12-10) (7-4) (3)— The Sycamores are coming back to earth after the fast conference start.  They have now lost three in a row and things do not get easier with the return game against Wichita State and Missouri State on the schedule this week.  Against Creighton, turnovers were a problem.   At the same time, it is a great opportunity to turn things around and get back in the conference race if they take things “one game at a time.” 
  6. Evansville (12-9) (6-5) (6)— Don’t look now, but Evansville is on a bit of a roll.  They have won five of their last six and are playing with a lot of confidence.  The Aces are exceeding expectations for the second year in a row. They could really make the Valley standings interesting with games against Missouri State and Creighton this week. 
  7. Southern Illinois (10-12) (4-7) (7)— Southern Illinois is going the opposite way of the Purple Aces.  They have lost five of their last six and time may be running out for Chris Lowery.  However, he may still be back next season because it would cost the school too much to replace him and their financial state to keep the university running could not afford to take that kind of hit. It is getting to a point where their best player, Mamadou Seck is having to bring the ball up the court and he isn’t the point guard.   They could pick up a couple of wins this week against Drake and Bradley. 
  8. Illinois State (11-11) (3-8) (9)—After starting conference season 0-8, the Redbirds have won three in a row and have risen out of the bottom of the rankings. Their confidence is soaring after getting a last second shot reversed in the Drake game to send it to overtime.  Like Evansville, they could play the role of spoilers against Northern Iowa and Wichita State this week.
  9. Drake (8-14) (3-8) (8)—Drake has lost six of seven, and you really don’t know what team will show up from game to game.  They are 0-5 on the road in conference play, so they are definitely not a road team.  At home, they rank last in attendance with less than 4000 attending home games.  They travel to Southern Illinois  before hosting Northern Iowa this week
  10. Bradley (6-16) (0-11) (10)— Losing stinks and I’m sure Bradley fans are tired of it. I fully expect Bradley to get a win before the season is over, but who will it be against?  Taylor Brown is definitely not coming back this season as there was talk he might end up playing during the stretch run after his required three months off.  But there are way too many factors that could make things worse.  Between Evansville, Illinois State and Bradley, they will create some havoc before conference season is over, but it may hurt the MVC more than help it.  The Braves get Creighton and Southern Illinois this week.

A Look Ahead

The top teams will try to avoid upsets this week.

  • 2/1—Wichita State @ Indiana State (Local TV)—The Shockers had to fight in three overtimes for the win in the first meeting.  The second meeting could be another great battle.
  • 2/1—Creighton @ Bradley (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—At some point Bradley will win a Valley game, it is just that the Bluejays don’t want to be that team.
  • 2/2—Missouri State @ Evansville (Local TV)—The Bears could be that much closer to locking up the MVC regular season, but the Purple Aces have been hot as of late.
  • 2/5—Indiana State @ Missouri State (No TV)—The Sycamores were impressive early in the conference season, but if they want to stay in the race, then they need a win here badly.
  • 2/5—Northern Iowa @ Drake (ESPNU)—The Panthers won the game in Cedar Falls.  Will the Bulldogs return the favor in Des Moines?

Other games on National TV this week:

  • 2/2—Drake @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)
  • 2/5—Evansville @ Creighton  (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on December 27th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent  for the Missouri Valley Conference.

A Look Back

  • End of the Non-Conference SeasonSome people may say it is a relief to see the end of the Missouri Valley Conference’s non-conference season.  Every school in the conference had opportunities against top teams in the nation and none of them could come through and separate themselves, nor get into the national spotlight.   The conference really needs to take a look at the scheduling that each of the schools do and maybe re-evaluate what can be accomplished in the non-conference season.   There were more games than usual scheduled against the top 25 teams in the nation, but maybe it would be better to get more with the teams ranked 26-75 instead.  They may also have to try and play more neutral court games as well.
  • Diamond in the RoughWe have talked before about Gregory Echenique and his impact to the Creighton basketball team since becoming eligible, but another player that has become eligible heading into conference season is Diamond Taylor from Southern Illinois.  Taylor came to the Salukis last season after being kicked off the Wisconsin basketball team in September 2009 after being arrested for burglary and possession of stolen property.    With a new start, Taylor will bring a scoring and defensive spark to Southern Illinois.
  • RPI doldrums If the Valley ever wants to be considered a multiple big league again, one thing they will need to do is find a way to move up the conference RPI rankings.  As of the past week, the Missouri  Valley Conference was as low as the 13th in some conference rankings sitting below the Ivy League.  While they now beat up on each other in the conference season, their only hope to move up now is to have a couple of teams separate themselves and then make a nice showing in the now overblown Bracketbusters.
  • Non-Conference Player of the Season—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems is second in the league in scoring, sixth in rebounding and the only player in the league to be in the top 10 in both categories.  He has been the leader the Bears have needed during their tough non-conference season.  The junior has scored in double figures in all but one of their games and has averaged 22 points a game in the past four games.  If Missouri State is going to win the conference season, Weems will be the key to take them there.
  • Non-Conference Newcomer of the Season—Doug McDermott, Creighton—There was talk that McDermott would redshirt this season.  With the wait of Gregory Echenique to become eligible, Ethan Wragge’s foot injury and the loss of Casey Harriman, McDermott was the required to go ahead and play.  He has started every game this season and is second on the team in minutes played.  The freshman has responded by averaging almost 13 points and 6 rebounds a game.   Creighton received a gift when Northern Iowa released him from his Letter of Intent so he could play for his dad.

Power Rankings (Record) (Last week rank) and Conference Outlook

  1. Wichita State (9-2) (1)— Wichita State had an up and down non-conference season.  They missed some opportunities out in Maui, blowing a lead late to Connecticut putting them in the wrong part of the bracket and missing a chance against Michigan State and Kentucky.   Then they failed to win their MVC/MWC Challenge game against a still undefeated San Diego State.  However they have come on lately by winning a tight game at LSU (which now doesn’t look as good after the Tigers were blown out by North Texas) and then taking down Tulsa this past week in the first basketball game at Intrust Bank Arena.    They have some big momentum going into conference play.   They host Evansville and travel to Bradley for their first two conference games.
  2. Missouri State (8-3) (2)— Will Creekmore has stepped up larger than many have expected and together with Kyle Weems gave the Bears a decent non-conference season, but probably not what they were hoping for.  They came up just short against Tennessee in the NIT Tipoff, got caught by Tulsa unprepared, and played tough against Oklahoma State.  Unfortunately they were all losses.   There is no signature win on their resume that will help them come March.
  3. Northern Iowa (9-3) (3)— Rebuilding and exceeding expectations from last season has been a large challenge on Ben Jacobson’s plate.  The Panthers were taught an early lesson at Syracuse and have had some troubles on the road losing to Iowa and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  However, winning the Las Vegas Classic springboards them into conference play with a lot of confidence and a solid rotation of players.    The Panthers now have a knack for beating storied teams with the win against Indiana this week.
  4. Creighton (8-4) (5)— Creighton got off to a slow start, but heads into a conference season riding a four game winning streak, getting Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique three games under his belt to get ready for conference season.  However, losses to their toughest competition like BYU, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa State lays out a path that the Bluejays need to have a stellar MVC regular season and put all of their eggs into the MVC Tournament basket..
  5. Illinois State (8-3) (4)— Tim Jankovich said coming into the season he had one of the youngest teams in the league having to replace a lot of key players, so their non-conference has been probably as expected.  They lost games against their toughest competition, UNLV and Ohio, and had a rough outing on their first road game of the season losing at Arkansas-Little Rock.   But they finished their non-conference on a strong note in a back and forth contest at UNC-Wilmington before winning in overtime.  They will be tested early with Creighton and Missouri State to start things off.
  6. Southern Illinois (6-5) (7)—Southern Illinois is where most people had them coming into this season.  Somehow I missed the memo and expected them to be better than they have been.   They started off the season getting blown out by Illinois and then somehow called a timeout they didn’t have against Northeastern to start the season 0-2.   The Salukis have been able to beat the teams they were supposed to beat, but lost to known commodities of a Drake and Northern Iowa start their battle for the MVC. Shorter and more intense practices might be their answer.
  7. Evansville (6-4) (6)— There are signs of improvement in Evansville, but like the other teams in the conference, could not get a big win to put in their back pocket.   Butler could be that win, but even they look down compared to their NCAA Championship game run last season. Losses against North Carolina and Indiana  along with Air Force and Middle Tennessee exploits their inconsistency that is still being put in place for a program that has struggled to do anything since becoming a part of Division I years ago.  But with young players like Colt Ryan, Denver Holmes and Ned Cox, things might be looking up. Starting at Wichita State will not be an easy task.
  8. Bradley (6-5) (9)— There is something in the water in Peoria that has caused things not to turn out at all what was expected coming into  this season.  Two starters and potential All-Conference players in Taylor Brown and Sam Maniscalco have been grounded with injury and the Braves were riding a five-game losing streak coming into the week before Christmas where they were able to get back on the winning track. Jim Les may have saved his job for another year once again because of injuries and coaching a different way.  Indiana State and Wichita State are on the slate for the first week. 
  9. Indiana State (5-6) (8)—The Sycamores have had time to think about their last non-conference game against Purdue on December 18th.  Being on the road for most of their non-conference season was a killer for Indiana State though they probably gained a lot of experience playing against adversity heading into the conference season.  They could get themselves off to a good start if they can beat Bradley and Evansville in the first week.
  10. Drake (5-6) (10)— After Drake’s teaching lesson from Dartmouth to start the week, the Bulldogs in shambles at the end of the non-conference.   When your wins are against Texas Southern, Southern Utah, Eastern Michigan, Boise State and Chicago State, there is definitely something that is not clicking for them.  They have had the last two top recruiting classes in the conference, but there may be some questions on whether that talent has the right coach in place. 

A Look Ahead

Conference play begins and there are already some good matchups to kick things off.

  • 12/29—Missouri State @ Northern Iowa (Fox Sports Net)—A great game to kick off MVC conference play as both teams expect to be in the race at the end of the season.
  • 12/29—Creighton @ Illinois State (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—Creighton has had some struggles with Illinois state when they have played each other early in the conference schedule.   Both teams have work to do as they start conference play.
  • 1/1—Wichita State @ Bradley (ESPNU)—This game had a lot of potential before half of Bradley’s starters went down with injury.  The Shockers will set the bar in this game.
  • 1/1—Illinois State @ Missouri State (No TV)—Missouri State has steadily risen in the Valley stature over the past couple of seasons.  I still think the Bears can win the conference.  At the same time, we may know early where the Redbirds will ultimately end up.
  • 1/1—Northern Iowa @ Southern Illinois (No TV)—Both programs are heading in different directions.  Northern Iowa is in the reloading stage while Southern Illinois is still going through an extreme makeover.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.12.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 12th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Although the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer was granted an exception, tonight is the NCAA-mandated start of the college basketball season. Here are five games to keep an eye on this evening. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#18 Georgetown @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on Comcast-D.C. and WSKY Hampton Roads (VA) (****)

Georgetown & ODU Re-Convene a Solid Rivalry Tonight (WaPo/J. McDonnell)

 Perhaps the most anticipated game of the night features two teams starting a new era without their best players. Gone are Greg Monroe of Georgetown and Gerald Lee of Old Dominion, but each team returns its four other starters. Both teams are known for playing excellent defense and a slower tempo style, so tonight’s game figures to be in the 50s or low 60s as a consequence of that. Among the Georgetown returnees are Austin Freeman, the Big East preseason POY, and senior point guard Chris Wright. Freeman is a terrific all-around player and a major threat from the three-point line for the Hoyas. If you’re looking for a good indication of the final result during the game, look no further than the enigmatic Wright. In games where he scored ten points or less last year, Georgetown was just 3-7. When he had at least 11 points, the Hoyas were 20-3. In contrast to past Georgetown teams, this group of Hoyas will run their offense almost exclusively through their backcourt. Freeman, Wright and Jason Clark are arguably Georgetown’s best players and none of them happen to be taller than 6’3. That isn’t to say Georgetown has nobody up front. Julian Vaughn returns for his senior season after transferring from Florida State at the conclusion of his freshman year. Last year against Old Dominion, Vaughn had 13 points on 5-8 FG. Gerald Lee was saddled with foul trouble and thus a non-factor in the game (six points and only one rebound). With Lee now departed, Vaughn may have another good game in the paint for Georgetown. For the Monarchs of ODU, four starters return from a 27-win team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their key players in this game will be Frank Hassell battling inside with Vaughn, point guard Kent Bazemore and Ben Finney who had 13/6/5 assts the last time these teams met. That last meeting was on campus at Georgetown, a game won by the Monarchs. In fact, the visiting team has won every game in this series since it started in the 2006-07 season. Bazemore is an interesting player. He’s a lefty point guard (there are actually two other lefties on the ODU roster) who shot the exact same percentage from the floor and the free throw line last year (48.6%). For Blaine Taylor’s team, free throw and three-point shooting could cause major problems in this game, especially against a defense as tight as Georgetown’s. Keyon Carter is Old Dominion’s best returning three-point shooter and he only shot 34.7% from behind the arc last season. This should be a hard fought, close game that may come down to the final possession. Georgetown was a difficult team to prepare for last year as they had the talent to beat both NCAA finalists Duke and Butler, but also lost games to the likes of Ohio, Rutgers and South Florida. Good guard play and a solid effort from Vaughn should allow Georgetown to grab a nice road win to start the season. For ODU, Hassell must contain Vaughn while Finney and Bazemore have to hold their own against Georgetown’s vaunted backcourt. If Taylor’s team can hold the Georgetown backcourt in check, look for the Monarchs to pull out a win. We hate to go cliché but that’s easier said than done.

Northern Iowa @ #11 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

The last time Northern Iowa won a game, this happened. Times have changed as Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder have graduated. This is Kwadzo Ahelegbe’s team now. The senior averaged 10.6 PPG last season and now anchors a relatively young team. Against Syracuse’s strong 2-3 zone tonight, Northern Iowa must work the ball into the paint and free throw line area effectively. To do that, sophomore Jake Koch must start to become the impact player coach Ben Jacobson hopes he’ll be. Playing largely behind Eglseder last year, the Ashwaubenon, WI, native only played 13.6 minutes a game last year. He’ll be counted on for much more this time around, along with Johnny Moran and Lucas O’Rear. For UNI to win tonight the guards must be on fire shooting over the zone and Koch has to avoid foul trouble. The Panthers have nobody else on the roster 6’8 or taller who saw any significant action last season. Look for Syracuse to take advantage of that and eat Northern Iowa alive in the paint. The player most likely to do just that is freshman stud Fab Melo. At 7’0 and 265 lbs, Melo is a force inside for which UNI has no answer. You could see a really big freshman debut for Mr. Melo this evening. Syracuse just has too much up front for Northern Iowa to contend with. Rick Jackson, Melo and everybody’s favorite breakout candidate Kris Joseph should dominate at home for the Orange. The backcourt tandem of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine only adds to the ‘Cuse’s talent and depth (we haven’t even mentioned their bench). Both can play the point and shoot it well from the arc. All in all, Jim Boeheim’s club just has too much talent for Northern Iowa tonight. We’d be surprised if the final margin was less than ten points.

Oakland @ West Virginia – 9 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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Morning Five: 10.20.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 20th, 2010

  1. We’re still not over the Robbie Hummel/ACL news from this past Saturday morning, but in the wake of that awful (re-)injury, the gents over at Fanhouse have put together their Costliest Injuries Team — “costly” signifying the delta between what each injured player’s team became and what they would likely have achieved were it not for the injury. If a list of injuries can be called a good list, this one’s comprehensiveness qualifies it as such. The only addition we’d make (you knew we’d have to chime in with something, right?) would be Kenny Smith’s broken wrist from 1984 which sucked all the air out of North Carolina’s title hopes after they had breezed to a 17-0 start (and it’s Curtis Sumpter, not Chris). 
  2. Because as a college basketball fan you can never have enough Gary Parrish in your life, here’s his list of Preseason All-America teams along with a Player of the Year selection that should get the Franklin Street crowd even more hyped for this season.
  3. We were impressed by the frank honesty from the article FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman posted soon after the Hummel news broke. Obviously the injury changes that Boilermaker team, but is Purdue really “in shambles” as the title suggests? In addition to what can indeed be seen on stat sheets, we know Hummel would have brought so much value that has nothing to do with what’s found in the box scores. But Purdue has the other two of its top three scorers returning in E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (the latter only 0.2 PPG behind Hummel from tying him as second scorer on the team last year), both of them second team All-Americans, according to Mr. Parrish above. They also have their best distributor (and best A/TO ratio by far) returning in Lewis Jackson (3.3 APG), a rising junior who’s only enhanced that skill over the summer. The loss of Hummel is terrible, but it’s not exactly a steaming pile of rubble they’re dealing with in West Lafayette.
  4. We love the confidence of Northern Iowa chief Ben Jacobson when asked about the 2010-11 edition of his Panthers in the wake of last season’s NCAA Tournament upset of Kansas and serious personnel losses due to graduation: “We’re going to be good.” UNI said goodbye to Jordan Eglseder, Sports Illustrated cover boy Ali Farokhmanesh, and Missouri Valley POY Adam Koch, but that hasn’t dashed hopes in Cedar Falls. The first order of business in following up last year’s success, according to senior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe? “It’s just about forgetting about it…What we’ve done lately is practice three times and work on defense. We didn’t go in and watch the Kansas game.” Lead on, Kwadzo.
  5. ESPN’s Dave Telep (how’s that look, Dave?) probably hasn’t finished unpacking his boxes in them new digs at the worldwide leader, but here he notes how the ever-increasing value of surehandedness at the 1-spot in today’s game hasn’t been lost on West Virginia, who landed two point guard prospects earlier this week in Ryan Boatright and Jabarie Hinds, the latter hailing from current Mountaineer forward Kevin Jones’ old high school near The Bronx. Boatright is ranked as the 6th-best PG and 36th player overall in the class of 2011; Hinds is the ranked 22nd among PGs but both are listed as “four-star” recruits.
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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.25.10

Posted by THager on March 26th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

  • One of Michigan State’s big advantages may be in their bench production, which has been averaging nearly 25 points per game lately and runs 11 players deep.
  • According to Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson, the decision to sign the contract extension was a no-brainer.  He signed a 10-year deal that will pay well over $400,000 per season.
  • The Washington Post notes that one of the major differences in the absence of Kalin Lucas is the contrasting and free flowing style that Korie Lucious plays at.  Lucious’ 13-point total in MSU’s game against Maryland was his highest total of the season.
  • Everybody knows Ohio State’s Jon Diebler has an incredible range, but not many people know that he used to shoot for dollar bills to hone his skills.
  • Michigan State is known for being mentally tough, but Northern Iowa is not used to the national exposure they have received from their trip to the Sweet Sixteen.  Although Ali Farokhmanesh has said that the confidence he receives has always been there, he admits that the media exposure has been overwhelming.

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

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Comings & Goings: Fordham Pays Pecora; Howland and DePaul?

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

The big news today in this area was of course the news that Tony Barbee is leaving UTEP to take the Auburn job.  We handled that separately here.

The other piece of coaching news is that Hofstra’s Tom Pecora has signed with Fordham for a non-puny sum of $705,000 per year.  Wow.  In the same New York Post article, Joe DeLessio says that Paul Hewitt is still the leading candidate to take the St. John’s job but a hefty buyout of $3.5M is holding up things.

In a pre-emptive strike by Northern Iowa to try to hang on to their hot commodity coach Ben Jacobson for as long as possible, the school offered him a big raise and a ten-year contract extension yesterday (which he accepted).  With each passing win in this Tournament, Jacobson’s stock will continue to rise.

Moving from the world of fact to the rumor mill, let’s start with one even more ridiculous than the Tubby to Auburn one last Friday: UCLA’s Ben Howland to DePaul?  Excuse us while we clean up the water we spit out all over the computer screen.  At first blush, this is borderline insanity.  Notwithstanding the fact that Howland is a SoCal guy who has taken that team to three Final Fours in his tenure there, it’s… freakin… DePaul.  We’d give this a 1% chance if we were talking about another traditional powerhouse, like, say, Indiana.  But DePaul?  How can anyone take this seriously?  What are they going to offer him — $10M per year?  And yet, even the Bruin faithful believe there’s more to this than just rumor.  For what it’s worth, Ben Howland stated today that he has “zero interest” in this job, which is about the amount we would expect him to have.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.24.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.


Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

  • The top-seeded Orange have been without their senior center Arinze Onuaku since he injured his right quadriceps on March 11, and to this point they haven’t really needed him. But as the competition gets a bit stiffer this week, the Orange will continue on without him on Thursday and likely throughout the weekend, as he hasn’t yet taken part in practice. The Final Four is starting to look like a more realistic goal for his return.
  • Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim knows that regardless of who plays for his Orange, Butler is a talented team that will give his team problems.
  • One of the themes of the West Region is the strength of Xavier and Butler, two teams that come from non-BCS conferences but who have become national powers. Just don’t use the term “mid-major” around Xavier head coach Chris Mack.
  • And while Kansas State vs. Xavier may not seem like a matchup with a lot of history, they did have a matchup on New Year’s Eve a couple years back, and senior guard Jacob Pullen is still holding a grudge. He’ll have to play under control though, as it may be the battle of All-American-type guards that will decide the outcome.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.23.10

Posted by THager on March 24th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

  • Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson has insisted that his players are handling the added attention well, but it is hard to keep your composure when you walk into a lecture hall and receive a standing ovation, as Ali Farokhmanesh experienced on Monday.
  • Many people know that Farokhamnesh transferred to UNI, but most people do not know that UNI, like most other schools, knew about him in high school and passed up on him.
  • According to Dan Blank, the key for Michigan State will be to push the ball (something Kansas failed to do when they let Jordan Eglseder score 14 points in 18 minutes).  However, given the injuries they have recently sustained, Blank says hastening the pace may not be so easy.
  • Ohio State has been criticized for a lack of bench production, but Blank points out that the short bench may benefit the Buckeyes.
  • The Buckeyes are underdogs in this game, but Inside Tennessee’s Patrick Gibson reported that the Vols had a solid practice session on Monday.  That should come as no surprise, as this week Doug Gottlieb listed Bruce Pearl as one of his top coaches in the country.

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

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Eglseder Suspended Three Games for DUI

Posted by jstevrtc on February 14th, 2010

Northern Iowa big man Jordan Eglseder has been suspended for three games as a result of his arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning for drunk driving.

According to a report at DesMoinesRegister.com, Panthers coach Ben Jacobson announced the suspension and his disappointment with Eglseder’s actions.  Eglseder himself released a statement noting, “I made a regretful decision last night,” and apologized to UNI basketball fans and indeed the entire university.

Not that there’s any good time for this kind of thing, but it’s especially bad for UNI right now.  They suffered their third loss of the season yesterday, a 68-59 defeat at the hands of Bradley, and are trying to build some momentum heading into the Missouri Valley conference tournament and the NCAA.  The Panthers have been to the NCAA Tournament five times, including last year’s 61-56 loss to Purdue in the first round as a 12-seed.  Their only victory came as a 14-seed in 1990, a 74-71 first round victory over Missouri, and have a very good chance of adding to that this year.  Eglseder leads UNI in rebounding at 7.6 RPG, is their second-leading scorer at 12.2 PPG, and is statistically the Panthers’ most efficient player.

Eglseder will miss home games against Creighton and Old Dominion, and a road trip to Evansville.  He should be back for the final regular season home game of his career on February 27th against Illinois State.

Aside from Eglseder, the only true center on the team is 6’10 redshirt freshman Austin Pehl, who has only appeared in five games for an average of 1.6 minutes.  Then it’s another freshman, 6’9 forward Jake Koch (2.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 11.6 MPG, played in all 25 games this year), the brother of senior Adam Koch, UNI’s leading scorer.  The Panthers will rely on both Koch brothers, as well as junior forwards Lucas O’Rear and Kerwin Dunham, for a few more minutes and a little more production in Eglseder’s absence; this is not a new concept for UNI, as Eglseder averages only about 22 minutes per game.

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2009

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

  1. Missouri State  (10-0) (1)
  2. Wichita State (10-1) (2)
  3. Northern Iowa  (8-1) (3)
  4. Southern Illinois (7-2) (5)
  5. Illinois State (8-2)  (4)
  6. Indiana State  (7-3) (7)
  7. Evansville (6-3) (8)
  8. Bradley  (5-5) (6)
  9. Drake  (5-6)  (9)
  10. Creighton  (4-6)  (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • MVC-MWC Challenge winding down—The Valley continues to lead the challenge against the Mountain West Conference 4-3 heading into the final weekend of games.  Illinois State went on the road to defeat Utah and Creighton had a chance to close out the conference’s victory but lost a huge lead on New Mexico and left Albuquerque with a loss.  Now it is up to Drake and Northern Iowa this coming weekend to close out the first year of a several year agreement for each conference to play one another.  In the coming years all of the Challenge games will be played in a one-week time period instead of throughout the non-conference season.
  • Wichita State takes down ranked team—Wichita invited a ranked Texas Tech team into Koch Arena, the first non-conference ranked team to visit since Kansas in the 1991-92 season, and sent them home with a loss.  That must be why teams like that don’t come back or want to play Wichita at home. 
  • Missouri St.  heading to undefeated non-conference record—Missouri St. defeated St. Louis Saturday night and Rick Majerus is ready to anoint the Bears as the winners of the Valley for this season.  Well, they are still undefeated and could stay that way if they can steal a win in Arkansas Tuesday night.   Could this be Drake version 2.0?

TEAMS DOING WELL

  • Missouri St (1-0 this week)—As mentioned above, Missouri St. is one of a few undefeated teams in the nation right now.  It is due to their defense.  The Bears finish out the non-conference slate in Fayetteville with a “lucky they still have a team”  Arkansas squad.   About the only thing wrong with Missouri State is Will Creekmore’s jersey.
  •  Wichita St (1-0 this week)—Wichita continues to be on a roll.  Andy Katz asked whether Wichita would be undefeated if they had Clevin Hannah and he was able to play against Pitt at the CBE Classic.  Either way, the Shockers are the real deal this season.    They host North Dakota State this week to complete their non-conference slate.
  •  Northern Iowa  (1-0 this week)—Head Coach Ben Jacobson went back home to North Dakota this past week, but brought his UNI team in to take a victory.  Northern Iowa is at about the same point as Wichita right now.  Coach Jacobson is pretty happy with his team now, but he wasn’t at the beginning of the season.  They host Wyoming this week as a part of the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • Southern Illinois (2-0 this week) –You can tell the reputation of the Salukis has taken a hit when they went out to Vegas this week in an invitational but their games were overshadowed by the women’s matchups in the same tournament.   However in both games this weekend against San Diego and San Francisco, SIU pulled out one point wins to complete a solid non-conference slate until a late January game against Western Kentucky.  Southern Illinois is off for the holidays until conference play starts in a week and a half. 
  • Evansville (2-0 this week)—Evansville is continuing to build themselves back up with two wins this week.  They took a blow with Kavon Lacey, one of their emerging team leaders, going out for the season with knee surgery.  However, they are really spreading the scoring around and starting to come together.  A big road test at Austin Peay this week will see how far they have actually come. 
  • Indiana St. (1-0 this week)—The Sycamores escaped with a win in Toledo this week on a Jake Kelly basket with  six seconds left and they are now again without point guard Harry Marshall who has had a lot of discipline problems at Indiana State.  The Sycamores look like a solid team, but they don’t need these distractions.  A trip to IUPUI this week will test them.

TEAMS WITH WORK TO DO

  • Drake (0-1 this week)—Drake lost to Iowa this week and they sort of have to feel bad that a key player for the Hawkeye team that beat them was then arrested later that evening for public intoxication.  However, Coach Phelps feels pretty good about the recent recruiting classes, but can they produce on the court?    San Diego State comes to town as the possible deciding game of the MVC/MWC Challenge.
  • Bradley (0-2 this week)—This team is on the verge of collapse.  Not only is Dodie Dunson out for the year with a broken arm, but they also lost Dyricus Simms-Edwards to a foot injury for 3-6 weeks.  Bradley lost this week to Loyola on a crazy off-balance half court shot and then got absolutely blown out by Iowa State Sunday.    The Braves now sit in limbo with a three-game losing streak for nine days until conference season starts at Drake.
  • Creighton (1-1 this week)—Many do not have a good read on this Creighton team this season.  They have been so close in so many games against tough competition, but lack the killer instinct to finish the games.  The latest collapse was in New Mexico this weekend.  Creighton was up 15 points at one point in the first half, shooting almost 75%, but then New Mexico finished the first half cutting into the lead and by the middle of the second half the Lobos made the adjustments needed and pulled out a come-from-behind win.   They get a snoozer in Houston Baptist this week with their only wins this season coming so far on their home court. 
  • Illinois State (1-1 this week)—Illinois State has had enough chinks in their armor exposed to lose on the road to Ohio, but then came back to get a big win at Utah as part of the MVC/MWC Challenge.   The Redbirds need another player to step up to help Osiris Eldridge and that player might be Austin Hill.  The Redbirds get a snoozer of their own with Grambling State this week.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

A light week due to the holidays and very few key games except for the conclusion of the MVC/MWC Challenge, but also the last week of non-conference action for the MVC.  Conference play will start after the Christmas holiday.

  • 12/22, San Diego St. @ Drake—Drake is starting to turn things around, but this will be a tough game against the Aztecs that could decide the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • 12/22, Missouri St. @ Arkansas—Although Arkansas has so many problems, this could be a nice road win for the Bears and a great close to their amazing non-conference season. 
  • 12/23, Northern Iowa @ Wyoming—A key matchup in the MVC/MWC Challenge’s final games.  UNI is on a roll lately.
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