Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings  (Conference Record)(Last Week Rank)

  1. Creighton (11-2)(1-0) (2)
  2. Illinois St. (12-0) (1-0)(1)
  3. Evansville (9-2) (1-0) (4)
  4. Drake (9-4) (0-1) (3)
  5. Bradley (7-5) (1-0) (7)
  6. Northern Iowa (6-6) (0-1)(6)
  7. Missouri St. (7-5) (0-1) (5)
  8. Wichita St. (6-6) (0-1)  (8)
  9. Southern Illinois (5-7) (0-1) (9)
  10. Indiana St. (3-9) (1-0) (10)

Happy Holidays and welcome to a look at the MVC as conference play started.  Valley play started this past Sunday with a full slate of games.  As conference season goes on, there will be a bit of a different format.  Teams that are making an impact on the conference and college basketball in general will be discussed as some teams start to fall off the map.  But to kick off the conference season here is what is going on opening night.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the MVC and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week Rank):

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

The non-conference season for the Missouri Valley Conference basically ended this past week with conference play starting next Sunday.  The non-conference games left for the Valley this coming week are most teams playing lower level competition that should result in wins for the Valley.  Since Conference play will have started by the time I report for RTC, here is a little recap of what I expected versus what we got from the Valley in the Non-Conference.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week Rank)

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

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Evansville (2-0 this week)—I could easily put Creighton in this position after the big win against previously unbeaten Dayton, but Evansville has earned the recognition for  what some would consider a surprising start this season.    Their only loss is to Butler and they just destroyed Western Kentucky on Saturday night.  Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger are leading this senior laden team.   Evansville also gets to fight the big fish this week as they head to Chapel Hill to take on the Tarheels on Thursday night.  So even if they are not the team of the week the rest of the season, it is deserved heading into this week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week Rank)

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

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Creighton (2-0 this week)—Creighton regrouped this week by defeating the SWAC’s Mississippi Valley State and then taking a trip to Philly and the Palestra defeating St. Joseph’s 69-58.   The youth of this team is what  has been holding it back.  P’Allen Stinnett is back in the good graces of Coach Dana Altman and his teammates and has really shown it in his play in both games this week.  They have a big game midweek against another A-10 team in undefeated Dayton before hosting preliminary rounds of the Las Vegas Classic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2008

check_in41

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Missouri Valley Conference Week in Review (Nov. 14-23)

Current Records and my standings:

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

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Creighton—Creighton kicked off the season a week ago against New Mexico and looked like they were going to suffer a big loss at home.  However, they outscored New Mexico 40-16 in the final 10 minutes of the game led by P’Allen Stinnett with 30 points and Booker Woodfox with 26 points.  Creighton also got a win against The Summit conference favorite Oral Roberts this past Saturday afternoon.  The Jays may lose a little of their depth however as they go on a two-game road trip this next week with forward Justin Carter injuring his achilies on a thuglike play by Oral Robert’s Marcus Lewis.  The extent of the injury is not known at this time.  Guard Cavel Witter led the Jays in scoring in their other two games this week which makes Creighton a tough team to prepare for as several players can score.

TEAMS DOING WELL

Southern Illinois— I was all set to give Southern Illinois the team of the week if they happened to win one of their games in Madison Square Garden this week in the Coaches vs. Cancer just because they were one of the host teams and put on the same level as Duke , UCLA, and Michigan.  There was even a great behind the scenes look by Sports Illustrated on how the Salukis prepared for their trip to New York.  However, the Salukis are a young team and could only play 30 minutes with the likes of Duke and UCLA.  The Valley was on the national stage and laid an egg.   I suppose realistically I expected SIU to be playing Michigan in their 2nd game which was probably winnable, so maybe I am being too hard on them.  However, they did have a nice win against UMass this week before going to New York and have a couple emerging players in Carlton Fay and Kevin Dillard.  Though they are 2-2 (or 1-2 if you don’t count the D2 win), they get a “Doing Well” for scheduling the way they did to be involved in this tournament.  SIU’s next game is another road game against the always tough Western Kentucky.

Evansville—Evansville is probably the surprise to start the season so far with a 3-0 mark as far as being undefeated compared to a few other Valley teams that are unexpectedly stumbling.    However, they did get some nice wins against a middle of the pack Austin Peay and Oakland teams.  Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger are leading the team as expected in scoring and team leadership.  Ely had a double-double in the opener.

Illinois St.—Illinois St. started the season on the road against a tough Wright St. team coming away with a victory and won the cupcake SMU Classic against low-RPI Alabama St., SMU and re-classifying first year Houston Baptist.   The team is basically a bunch of players built around Valley POY candidate Osiris Eldridge and Oregon transfer Champ Oguchi.  At least in the win against Alabama St. to kick off the SMU Classic didn’t feel like a win to Illinois St. and they are trying to improve.  They rank high in my rankings right now just because they played four games this week.   Hopefully the non-conference schedule won’t become an Achilles Heel come the end of the season.

Missouri St.—Missouri St. started the season with a couple games on the road against Auburn and Central Michigan losing the Auburn game and opened the new JQH Arena against Arkansas with a nice win.  Another blotch for the SEC.  They have almost a week until their next game against Utah.

TEAMS THAT ARE STRUGGLING

Bradley—Bradley started off with a nice victory over Illinois-Chicago, but then got blasted by Florida after a fast start made it look like they would be competitive in that game.   Bradley was taking part in the CBE Classic as a last minute entry after the Top of the World Classic was announced it wouldn’t exist anymore late last summer.   Bradley will be busy this week as they get the short end of the CBE classic and play 3 games in Ft. Myers against Florida-Gulf Coast, Richmond and UMKC Monday–Wednesday and then East Tennessee St.  back at home on Saturday.

Drake—Drake opened the season with new coach Mark Phelps and against a “rebuilding” Butler team and lost at home.  Some Drake fans were already calling for Phelps’ head after one game.  Just amazing. Then the team turned it around and beat Morehead St. and South Dakota St.  The jury is still out on this team until we see how they do in Cancun this week.

Northern Iowa—Northern Iowa is a team trying to recover from a slew of injuries as they struggled to beat a bad Denver team and then went on the road to lose at Illinois-Chicago at one point in the second half going 7 minutes without a field goal.  The positive note is that Jordan Eglseder is recovering well from his injuries and is averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds a game so far while Johnny Moran is getting comfortable with the team.   UNI started their Chicago Invitational games Sunday afternoon winning against Texas Southern.

Wichita St.—This team has a lot to do after getting an opening weekend win against a Florida A&M team that was already beaten around pretty good by Kansas St. a couple nights earlier.  Even though they remembered the bad loss against UMKC the year before, they went out and lost again to them this season, only it was at home.  The sellout crowds at Koch Arena won’t like these types of things going on for long.   Free throw shooting is something they need to improve on as they are 29-49 (59%) from the Free Throw line.   They will be thrown into the gauntlet in the Old Spice Classic this coming week.

Indiana St.—Indiana St. didn’t even play their first game until the 18th and lost at Northern Illinois 86-79.  North Texas came to town on Sunday and beat Indiana St. as well.   The team is having a terrible time adjusting to life without Marico Stinson who was their leading scorer and left the team just before the season.   The Sycamores have a busy week ahead with 3 games on the docket including a game at Depaul.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Southern Illinois  vs. Duke and vs. UCLA—I was tempted to have the Creighton vs. New Mexico to be the game of the week since I was there for that one and the exciting comeback, but I think the bigger games were the Coaches vs. Cancer games involving Southern Illinois.  SIU played their down and dirty defense in these games and were in the games for most part. However, Duke got 47 free throws and UCLA got 26 free throws in the games while the Salukis only got 19 and 15 in both games which was the difference.   Unfortunately for SIU and the Valley those losses may come to haunt them come the end of the season.   But at the same time Davidson benefited from all of their “challenging” games  that they lost last season and look how well they did.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Josh Young, Drake—This was tough since there really wasn’t anyone in particular that stood out, but Josh was a scoring machine in the first two games for Drake averaging around 27 points a game including a 34 pt. performance against Morehead St.  Shy Ely from Evansville, Jordan Eglseder from Northern Iowa and Cavel Witter from Creighton were also considered.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The Valley has not helped itself by losing games it should not lose and not coming up big against the BCS conference teams.  However, there are several opportunities over this next week for the Valley to get some good wins:

  • 11/25, Creighton vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (Local Omaha TV)—This is a dangerous trap game that will give Creighton a good challenge on the road against the favorites of the Sun Belt.
  • 11/26, Southern Illinois vs. Western Kentucky (Fox College Sports Atlantic)—Western Kentucky is always tough and another road test for the young Salukis.
  • 11/27-30, Wichita St @ Old Spice Classic (ESPN  Family of Networks)—Wichita St. gets a matchup against Georgetown in the first round with Siena or Tennessee the next day.  Then with Oklahoma St., Maryland, Gonzaga and Michigan St., the Shockers will have their hands full, but a chance to turn their season a particular direction.
  • 11/28 Northern Iowa vs. Marquette and 11/29 vs. Auburn in Chicago—Part of the Chicago Invitational tournament.
  • 11/29, Creighton vs. Nebraska (Fox Sports Midwest)—This in-state rivalry is always a good game that packs the building and a chance for a win against the Big 12.  I’ll be there for that one.
  • 11/29, Drake vs. Vanderbilt in Cancun (CBS College Sports)—The SEC is down this year it appears, so Drake could steal a win here.
  • 11/29, Evansville vs. Butler—Butler has been historically tough over the last few years, so this could be a good win for Evansville and a chance to stay undefeated.
  • 11/29, Indiana St. vs  Depaul—A chance to play a Big East team.
Share this story

2008-09 Season Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

 

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Creighton  (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Southern Illinois  (25-6, 14-4)
  3. Bradley  (22-8, 12-6)
  4. Illinois St.  (22-8, 10-8)
  5. Drake  (21-10, 10-8)
  6. Indiana St.  (17-13, 7-11)
  7. Wichita St.  (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Northern Iowa  (15-15, 6-12)
  9. Evansville  (14-15, 6-12)
  10. Missouri St.  (13-17, 4-14)

WYN2K.  Last season, Drake was predicted to finish 9th in the league and ended up having a dream season, winning the conference and the conference tournament, only to be knocked out by Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament in a thrilling game.  Most coaches from the Missouri Valley after a successful season jump ship and embrace the hype of their ability to move up into the major conferences – Steve Alford (Iowa at the time), Bruce Weber (Illinois), Matt Painter (Purdue), Greg McDermott (Iowa St.), Mark Turgeon (Texas A&M) and now Drake’s head man, Keno Davis.  Davis jumped at the Providence job 26 days after taking Drake to its first NCAA Tournament in many, many years.  The question that needs to be asked is whether Drake was that good or if the Valley was down last year.  It was probably a combination of both.   In the past, the Missouri Valley Conference has had multiple teams make the NCAA Tournament and the known teams in the conference will be making their return.  Creighton has been in the postseason (NCAA or NIT) a conference-record eleven straight seasons and Southern Illinois last year broke their six-year streak of getting into the NCAA Tournament.  Creighton has a ton of experience coming back whereas Southern Illinois is going back to their roots of tough defense and a solid floor general.  Drake will not reach the same level as  last year  as they have their third different head coach in as many years.  If Drake didn’t have the year they did last year, the story of the Valley would have been Illinois St.  First year coach Tim Jankovich (who was an assistant at  Kansas) was able to take advantage of the recruits of former coach Porter Moser and led this team to an unbelievable season themselves, but got destroyed on national TV in the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship game by Drake (79-49) and that was probably what kept them from being considered for the Big Dance.  Valley Preseason  Player of the Year Osiris Eldridge will be back to try to lead the Redbirds to another successful season.  After getting to the finals of the inaugural CBI postseason tournament, Bradley  is a tested team with experience that will make some noise this year.  Former Creighton assistant and second-year head coach Kevin McKenna has started to turn the Indiana St. team around and will show improvement.   Gregg Marshall is still trying to have the same success with Wichita St. that he had at Winhrop, but still has a lot of work to do.  Northern Iowa gets out of the gate a ltitle behind with several injured players, one suspended for the first three games and one waiting until semester’s end to become eligible. MVC cheerleader and resident little man Barry Hinson is out at Missouri St. and did not leave a lot behind.  Evansville is Evansville, although they have the advantage of returning all five starters from last season.  

Predicted Champion.  Creighton (NCAA #9).  Creighton is the obvious choice as they have eight players returning that played 12 or more minutes a game.  They also led the nation in bench scoring last year and there is enough talent on this team that the two players leading the nation in scoring off the bench without receiving a start (Booker Woodfox and Cavel Witter) may still not start this season.  P’Allen Stinnett is the Jays’ POY candidate that can amaze and wow people with his athleticism, but will need to be a leader this season and play with emotion like he is known for (keeping it contained to keep from bugging officials and unnecessary fouls).  Justin Carter comes in from the JUCO ranks as a scorer who may be able to step into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.  The frontcourt may be a little suspect since they only have three players over 6’8 but it appears they have been to the weight room and if they make the impact as expected, they will solidify this team.  Coach Dana Altman plans to have the high-pressure full-court defense back in motion this year to create turnovers.  The veteran coach, the returning player experience and the ability to play high-pressure defense is what will cause Creighton to rise to the top.  Also having eleven straight 20+ wins in a season is a streak that this team will not want to break.  This team should be able to get to the NCAA Tournament and win a couple of games to continue to build this program.  Here’s POY candidate P’Allen Stinnett rising up for a dunk.

NCAA/NIT Teams. 

  • Southern Illinois (NCAA #13). SIU had a high-profile non-conference schedule last season due to recent success, but came up short in justifying their hype.  Fortunately, the Salukis still have a high-profile non-conference schedule, but at the expense of playing marquee home games and instead going on the road to try to regain their notoriety.  They have the opportunity to be the featured team with the likes of Duke, Michigan and UCLA by being a part of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic if they win their home regional and advance to New York.  They are also part of the John Wooden Tradition game against St. Mary’s.  So the opportunities are there to be back in the spotlight for the Valley.  SIU will be led by senior point guard Bryan Mullins who was the Valley Defensive Player of the year and a solid leader.  The supporting cast is hyped as SIU’s best recruiting class ever and they had the opportunity to go to Canada over Labor Day to get familiar and some early playing time.  However a little blow came after the Canada trip when 3-point specialist Joshua Bone (at least he has seemed like that every time I have watched him) had a tough trip and decided to leave the team once they returned. That is one less player with experience.  So there will be a bit of a learning curve this season for Southern Illinois, but their tradition and fan base will keep them in contention and they should have enough to make it back to the NCAAs after settling for the NIT last season. 
  • Bradley (NIT).  People reading this who are knowledgeable of the Valley probably think I am crazy for having Bradley ranked so high compared to their own views and what other publications have written.  However, it was three short seasons ago that Bradley was in the Sweet 16.  Like it or not Jim Les has developed quite a program with Bradley.  Last season because of injuries, suspensions and other various reasons, the actual starting lineup that was expected to be on the floor didn’t occur very much, but last year’s team was a solid team. Being able to be a part of the initial CBI basketball tournament gave them the chance to play longer than most Valley teams and an opportunity to improve in areas for this season.  With the trio of point guard Sam Maniscalco, guard Andrew Warren and forward Theron Wilson provide a good starting group of players that if the newcomers gel could make some noise.  However, Bradley probably does not have enough firepower to win the Valley this season,  and are otherwise borderline in making the NCAA tournament so they probably will be in the NIT.
  • Illinois St. (NIT).  The Illinois St. defense was a stalwart last season as they were 11th nationally in points allowed per game (59.3).  Osiris Aldridge will be looked upon to continue his conference leading scoring along with the additions of transfers Champ Oguchi (Oregon) and Landon Shipley (Austin Peay).  The Redbirds’ frontcourt will be decimated to start the year as forwards Brandon Sampay and Bobby Hill are expected to be out until January due to injuries.  So this team will just be starting to gel under a cupcake non-conference schedule and these players will be coming back once conference season starts.  It may take a while for this team then to adjust to the higher level of play and integrating these players back into the lineup which will keep Illinois St. from returning to the Big Dance this season.  The non-conference slate that has an RPI average of 215 is well below standards of the Valley and will not jump onto anyone’s page as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament.  Unless they win the conference tournament, it is the NIT for them.
  • Drake (NIT).  Mark Phelps takes over the Bulldogs and has now been tasked with high expectations after last year’s remarkable season.  Gone is the point guard, Adam Emmenecker, who really made things gel for Drake last season.  However they return “Bucky” Cox who likes to shoot threes more than play inside and All-MVC pick Josh Young at guard.  Keno Davis did not go too deep into his bench last season so a lot of players come in inexperienced.  Also, Davis did not really talk to players extensively and sort of let the players play their game.  On the other hand, new coach Phelps is more of  a talker, telling the team the things they need to do that may take some adjustment.  Both the coach and the team like the 3-ball so that will help the team stay on a common ground, but the moving back of the 3-point line will affect them if they live and die by the three.  The Bulldogs are the hunted and not the hunters this season and will suffer through a year of transition and will probably settle for the NIT this season.  In the meantime, Drake fans will still have this to remember… 

Others. 

  • Indiana St.  This team took a hit when its leading returning scorer Marico Stinson unexpectedly left the team and the university, but is on an upswing with a solid coach.  Look for them to make some noise next season.
  • Wichita St.  Only one returning starter and several new players will still try to find an identity while Gregg Marshall tries to look like he is not mad at the world.
  • Northern Iowa.  UNI gets out of the gate a little slowly with injuries and players missing from the team that won’t be able to play right away.  With coach Ben Jacobsen on the hot seat, he cannot afford to have another mediocre season after what Greg McDermott did with the team before Jacobsen’s tenure.  It may show the recruiting or coaching ability is not there. 
  • Evansville.  This team is still rebuilding as half the team is still freshman and sophomores though they have an advantage of returning all five starters.  However, they will need  a lot of help inside and that is not there yet. 
  • Missouri St.  The most exciting thing Missouri St. fans have to look forward to is the new $67M JQH Arena.

RPI Boosters / Key Games.

The key to this conference getting multiple bids is to have success against BCS and high mid-major teams.  Unfortunately, home games for the Valley teams are far and few between.

  • Missouri St. @ Auburn  (11.14.08)
  • Bradley @ Florida (CBE Classic)  (11.16.08)
  • Southern Illinois @ 2K Sports College Classic vs. Duke and Michigan/UCLA, but of course have to get out of their regional to get to New York.  (11.20-21.08)
  • Missouri St. vs. Arkansas  (11.22.08)
  • Wichita St. @ Old Spice classic vs. Georgetown and Maryland, Michigan St., or Gonzaga.   (11.27-30.08)
  • Northern Iowa vs. Marquette (Chicago Invitational)  (11.28.08)
  • Northern Iowa vs. Auburn (Chicago Invitational)  (11.29.08)
  • Indiana St. @ Depaul  (11.29.08)
  • Drake vs. Vanderbilt (Cancun Tourney)  (11.29.08)
  • Wichita St. @ Texas Tech  (12.03.08)
  • Creighton @ St. Josephs  (12.06.08)
  • Indiana St @ Louisville  (12.06.08)
  • Bradley @ Michigan St.  (12.07.08)
  • Creighton vs. Dayton  (12.10.08)
  • Indiana St. @ Purdue  (12.13.08)
  • Evansville @ North Carolina  (12.18.08)
  • Southern Illinois v. St. Mary’s  (12.20.08)  (Wooden Tradition)
  • Creighton vs. Depaul (in Vegas possibly)  (12.23.08)

Drake and Northern Iowa also benefit from a state law requiring Iowa and Iowa St. to play both Valley teams each year which adds and extra large conference school to their schedule. (ed. note: apparently this is a myth… thanks, readers)

 

Then you have the key conference games that will decide the conference champ.

  • Creighton vs. Southern Illinois (01.14.09)
  • Bradley vs. Illinois St.  (01.29.09)
  • Southern Illinois vs. Creighton  (02.14.09)
  • Drake vs. Southern Illinois (02.25.09)
  • Creighton vs. Illinois St.  (02.26.09)
  • Drake vs. Bradley  (02.28.09) 

Neat-O Stat.  Home Sweet Home.  The Missouri Valley Conference is known for defending its home court.  Southern Illinois is 92-6 in overall home games since 2001-02 and is 61-2 against conference opponents at home during that same period.  During that same period, Creighton is 97-17 at home.  Since Creighton opened the Qwest Center in 2003-04, the Jays are 66-13 at home.   These are just a couple of examples of why major conference teams don’t want to visit Valley schools. 

65 Team Era.   The MVC is a multiple-bid league, having before last season gone a decade between single-bid years (1998 to 2008).  In the 24-year history of this era, the league has only gotten one bid seven times, and even got as many as four in the high-water mark of 2006.  Despite an average seed of #10.2 over this period, the Valley has gone 22-45 (.329) and put seven different teams into the Sweet 16, including S. Illinois in 2007 and both Wichita St. and Bradley in 2006.  What’s more, in the last six years, MVC teams play teams tough, losing by an average of 6.1 pts in their knockout games (only one double-digit loss in 14 games).  We see 2008 as a one-year blip, and have no reason to believe the MVC won’t continue to put numerous teams into the Dance and have them succeed.    

Final Thoughts.  If Creighton plays to its potential they could easily run away with the conference and have a chance to make some noise in the Big Dance.  The 2-5 spots will be a dog fight between the established Southern Illinois and the questions of the one-year wonders of Drake and Illinois St.  Bradley will stick its nose in and cause a little disruption in the league similar to what Drake did last year and could be the big surprise.  If the Valley teams can win their high-profile non-conference games, the league will be recognized again as a powerful conference.  No significant wins by the Valley in the non-conference could unfortunately put them in obscurity for another season.  However, I say to look for the Valley to be a multiple-bid league once again this season and to make an impact on the college basketball world. 

Share this story