Checking In On… The Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Wichita State on Top: The showdown in Omaha was not really a showdown as much as it was a statement by the Shockers that they are the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Wichita State beat Creighton 89-68 to give itself a two-game lead in the conference race and all but seal the regular season championship. Creighton was able to get Garrett Stutz into foul trouble, but the Shockers showed they have a lot of different weapons with Joe Ragland and Ben Smith slicing and dicing the Creighton defense.
  • Creighton Falls From Rankings: The Bluejays have been a mainstay most of the season in the top 25 rankings, but after their three-game slide culminating with the loss to Wichita State, the Bluejays are now on the outside looking in. They more or less traded spots with Wichita State, but the Shockers were still only ranked in the AP poll and not the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. For the Shockers, it is their first top 25 ranking since 2006. It is still surprising that although they have a similar record as Creighton and maybe has a better win against UNLV than Creighton’s win over San Diego State, Wichita State is not getting the same amount of respect as the Bluejays have had this season.
  • BracketBuster Week—This week is the annual Bracketbusters weekend that includes all ten MVC teams. Five of the schools (Creighton, Drake, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Wichita State) will be featured on the ESPN family of networks over the weekend. A win over Long Beach State could help Creighton recover some of the lost accolades, but Missouri State and Northern Iowa have the biggest opportunity to make some noise with wins over the always-tough CAA.

 

Gregg Marshall's Shockers Surged Soundly Ahead Of Creighton Heading Into BracketBusters Weekend.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Only a couple of weeks to go in the regular season and teams are finally starting to separate out.

  1. Wichita State (22-4, 13-2) (1): Wichita State has been playing some great basketball for the past several weeks.  Other than the triple-overtime loss to Drake a couple of weeks ago, the Shockers have won the other 12 of their last 13 games. The balance on this team is what has made it so tough to go along with tough defense. Joe Ragland has been a big part of that balance. Many are surprised that Wichita is not ranked in one of the polls.
  2. Creighton (22-5, 12-4) (2)— The Bluejays broke out of a three-game slump with a needed win at Southern Illinois before heading into the Bracketbusters game this weekend against Long beach State. Creighton is still in a good position for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large squad, but cannot lose to teams they shouldn’t in this final stretch run. Despite the public showing of head coach Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott during a timeout on Saturday, everything is fine between father and son. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Creighton Knocked Off, Twice—Creighton went into Cedar Falls with an 11-game winning streak, but left with a loss against Northern Iowa. The Panthers’ Anthony James was the hero in this one. After an Antoine Young three-pointer to tie the game up with just under five seconds to play, James went the length of the court, dribbled in and then bounced out for a step-back three over the outstretched arms of Doug McDermott and drained it sending the Northern Iowa fans into a frenzy. Creighton was cold from the field again and lost against Evansville taking some luster off of Saturday’s game against Wichita State. Northern Iowa now takes the momentum of that win into Wichita to take on the Shockers on Wednesday. For Creighton, they are hoping to survive.

  • Stutz is Stud—After concerns of Wichita State’s Garrett Stutz having some back problems and his ongoing health mentioned here last week, he spent last week proving everyone wrong.  Stutz went out and scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Missouri State and then turned around and had 24 points and 15 rebounds against Indiana State. He went over 1,000 points in his career as a Shocker. Over the past four games he has averaged almost 25 points and ten rebounds per game. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Northern Iowa and Creighton this week.
  • Braves Hitting Bottom—Normally, you wouldn’t talk much about a team that is 6-19 and 1-12 in the conference, but it is hard not to after the week Bradley had. The Braves lost by 30 to Evansville last Wednesday and then lost to rival Illinois State by 30 on Saturday, Bradley’s worst loss in the series since 1909. It is the first time in the storied program history that it has lost by 30 or more points in back-to-back games. Geno Ford has a long road ahead of him to bring this program back to relevance. Maybe the only good news is that four of their last six games are at home.

Garrett Stutz Has Powered The Shockers Past Creighton In The Latest RTC Power Rankings.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Wichita State has moved up to #1 with Creighton’s loss to Evansville. The rest of the league had little movement, but the Panthers are back in the conversation.

  1. Wichita State (20-4, 11-2) (2): The Shockers are the team to watch over the next few weeks. Although they appear to be a solid bet to make the NCAA Tournament, a couple wrong steps here or there may throw them on the bubble.  Toure Murry is on pace to reach the top 10 in Wichita State career scoring. He is already there in games played, three pointers, free throws made, assists, and steals. He will have to be a factor down the stretch for the Shockers to be successful. The defense has been big too as they held Missouri State to 10-33 shooting in the second half last week.
  2. Creighton (21-4, 11-3) (1): By now, the different teams in the league know that if they can contain Doug McDermott in some way, they have a chance against the Bluejays. The supporting cast had been pretty efficient in picking up the pieces, but struggled against Northern Iowa and Evansville — which led to the losses. That completely contrasts the performance against Illinois State earlier in the week when the Bluejays scored 102 points. The players are having a lot of fun this season as teammates Jahenns Manigat and McDermott interview each other. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

BracketBusters—On Monday night, ESPN announced the matchups for the tenth installment of the BracketBusters series.  Creighton and Wichita State fans were hoping that a few matchups would go their way with St. Mary’s headed to Creighton and the Shockers getting an opportunity to knock of undefeated Murray State. This was not meant to be as St. Mary’s and Murray State were paired together. That sent Long Beach State to Creighton and Wichita State to Davidson. The Shockers’ triple-overtime loss at Drake hurt them more than probably anyone realized with this matchup. A total of five teams from the Missouri Valley Conference were selected for games on the ESPN family of networks. Here is the full schedule of games for the MVC:

February 17:

  • Northern Iowa @ Virginia Commonwealth, 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

February 18:

  • Wichita State @ Davidson, 11 AM CT (ESPN or ESPN2)
  • Southern Illinois @ Ball State, 1 PM CT
  • Indiana State at Butler, 1 PM CT
  • Drake @ New Mexico State, 2 PM CT (ESPNU)
  • Old Dominion @ Missouri State, 4 PM CT (ESPNU)
  • Oakland @ Illinois State, 4 PM CT
  • Loyola-Chicago @ Bradley, 7 PM CT
  • Long Beach State @ Creighton, 9 PM CT (ESPN2)
  • Western Illinois @ Evansville, TBD

More Free Basketball—This week, several conference games were contested throughout and sent to overtime. Missouri State lost to Illinois State in overtime last Wednesday to kick the week off.  Then, in Des Moines on Saturday, Wichita State and Drake went to triple overtime before the Bulldogs came away as victors. Finally on Sunday, Indiana State and Evansville battled to double overtime before the Sycamores left Evansville with a victory. The league is setup this season in a way that pretty much anyone can beat anyone on any given night.

Chaos in the Standings—With Wichita State’s loss, the Shockers fell out of the tie with Creighton in the league race. With the Bluejays holding a one game lead over Wichita, the game in Omaha on February 11th becomes even more important. But after that, the rest of the league is still in flux. A total of two games separate teams three through nine in the standings and no one seems to want to break out of that pack. One week, a team like Evansville will go 3-0 and then the next go 0-2. Others, like Missouri State keep splitting their weekly games. Right now, there’s little hope for more than two teams making the NCAA Tournament, barring a run in the MVC Tournament. Even something like that could knock Wichita State off if they are sitting on the bubble.

Creighton Draws An Interesting BracketBuster Date, But It Seems Like Other Valley Teams Could Do More Harm Than Good With Their Matchups. (UPI/Will Greenblatt)

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Drake invited themselves to the Creighton and Wichita State party while the rest of the league tries to position itself for the MVC Tournament that is about a month away.

  1. Creighton (20-2, 10-1) (1): Creighton continues to roll along with a ten-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s action. There has been some debate based on statistics that Wichita State is a better team than Creighton. They may seem similar with schedules, but the Bluejays do own a win over the Shockers in Wichita. The one concern for Creighton however, is the turnovers and sloppy play as of late. The Bluejays had 19 turnovers against Bradley and were able to win, but at some point, those miscues could catch up with them. It is their teamwork that keeps winning games.
  2. Wichita State (18-4, 9-2) (2): The Shockers hit a stumbling block in their triple-OT loss against Drake and then were assigned to play at Davidson in the BracketBusters later this month. These two things were probably not something they wanted, although coach Gregg Marshall gets to go a little closer to home. One asset to Wichita State is its depth, but in the loss to Drake, Marshall only played about seven players throughout the game. Also, despite Garrett Stutz’s back problems, he logged a staggering 50 minutes in that game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Battling in the Middle—Last week, we talked about Creighton and Wichita State being in a two-team race to the finish. This week, take a look at the five teams after them. Nobody really wants to rise above the rest except for possibly Evansville. The Aces were the only ones in that group to go undefeated this past week while the other four went 1-1. Drake has a big opportunity to separate itself this week while hosting the Bluejays and the Shockers.
  • Colt Ryan Flying Under the Radar—Speaking of Evansville, Colt Ryan is someone that casual fans need to keep an eye on. With Creighton’s Doug McDermott getting most of the attention this season, Ryan has continued to improve, especially during conference play, to become a bigger scoring machine. He now sits at fifth in the nation in scoring (21.2 PPG). It helps when you can score 39 against Bradley and 20 against Illinois State in the two games he played in this week.

There's No Question Who Drives The Bus For The Aces - It's Evansville's Colt Ryan. (Erin McCracken/Courier & Press)

  • Bracketbusters—The Bracketbusters match-ups will be announced early next week and the MVC looks like they could be featured in two of the top three games. The question now remains who the opponents will be. Creighton will likely get a game against either St. Mary’s or Long Beach State while Wichita State looks to travel to Murray State or Iona. The match-ups will determine whether Creighton and Wichita State will be playing for possibly a better NCAA Tournament seed or if they are matched up with teams that are hoping for a signature win for their resume. For the remaining MVC teams, the Bracketbusters could actually be a benefit this year more than it has been in the past.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

We are halfway through the Missouri Valley Conference season, but it appears that the table is set for the battle between Creighton and Wichita State for the regular season crown.

  1. Creighton (18-2, 8-1) (1): The Bluejays escaped Missouri State with a win after having several opportunities to lose the game in the final minute. They turned around and ushered Indiana State out of the CenturyLink Center. Could the Bluejays be a sleeper Final Four team? That is yet to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise either. There have been some comparisons to this season’s Creighton team to the 2002-03 season—the senior year of future Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
  2. Wichita State (17-3, 8-1) (2): Toure’ Murry is embracing his last season as a Shocker by taking over games, especially last week against Northern Iowa. For the season his minutes are up (27.5), points per game is up (12.2) and field goal percentage is up (42.3%) compared to last season. In the last five games, WSU is 87-of-112 (77.6%) from the free throw line. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of 7-footer Garrett Stutz. Some back problems may limit his effectiveness as the season plays out. The Shockers are really close to cracking the Top 25. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • A Two-Team Race: With Missouri Valley Conference play starting with a frenzy of surprises, there continue to be some additional shockers, just not at the top of the league. Creighton and Wichita State continue to win and are both tied for the league lead at 6-1. What has probably been more of a surprise is the inconsistent play of the teams below the Bluejays and the Shockers.   Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Indiana State and Evansville have all been inconsistent while Drake has gone 3-0 in this most recent stretch of games.
  • McDermott Hits 1,000: Creighton’s Doug McDermott went over 1,000 points on Sunday night in only his 57th game of his career. That is amazing for only being halfway through his sophomore season. Creighton’s all-time leading scorer, Rodney Buford, took 59 games to get to the 1,000 point mark. McDermott’s teammate, Antoine Young, was honored earlier this season after scoring his 1,000th point. The difference in this case is that it took Young more than three full seasons to hit that milestone. McDermott isn’t looking to be slowing down anytime soon.
  • Ahead of the Pac-12: The MVC as a conference sits at #8 in the RPI positioning them ahead of the Pac-12 and just behind the A-10 and the Mountain West. Five teams are in the top 100 of the RPI with Creighton leading the way at #21. Northern Iowa and Wichita State are not far behind at numbers #30 and #31, respectively. The last time the MVC had more than two teams in the top 40 of the RPI was in 2005-06 and five of the league’s teams were in the final RPI rankings. Everyone except for Southern Illinois is under #200.

Wichita State's Demetric Williams And The Rest Of The Shockers Are Doing All They Can, But Need An Opportunity To Jump Creighton In The Standings.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

With some separation happening, there is a battle currently going on in the middle of the conference.

  1. Creighton (16-2, 6-1) (1)—After the setback to Missouri State to start conference play, Creighton has been steady and winning ever since.  They are now 7-1 on the road this season including six of those being “true” road games. Their road win total is double what they had last season. They also have four wins against teams in the top 50 of the RPI (Northwestern, San Diego State, Wichita State , and Northern Iowa). The media still loves talking about how Doug McDermott ended up at Creighton and stepped out of the shadows of Harrison Barnes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • McDermott Continues To Impress—Doug McDermott continues to be on the radar of most major college basketball lists, especially with his 44-point performance against Bradley on Saturday night, which is tops in college hoops this season and the most for an MVC player since 1999. Jay Bilas of ESPN even tabbed McDermott as the mid-season Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see ultimately how McDermott handles all of this attention.
  • Look out for Illinois State—Illinois State has been criticized the past few seasons due to how coach Tim Jankovich scheduled his team in non-conference play. The schedule was upgraded slightly this season and it may be paying dividends in conference play. They have won six of their last eight, including a last second three-pointer by Jackie Carmichael, his first of his career, to defeat Evansville (video below).  Illinois State also gave Wichita State everything they could handle on Tuesday night.

  • Scoring In Bunches—In addition to McDermott’s career night this week, there have been several other players that had big outings.  Colt Ryan of Evansville scored 31 points against Wichita State and 25 against Illinois St., the Shockers’ Garrett Stutz had 29 points against Evansville and Rayvonte Rice (Drake) and Anthony James (Northern Iowa) went 27 and 26, respectively, against each other in their game this week. A lot of individual performances are arising this season in a conference that is generally known for its defense.

Power Rankings

After the first week of MVC play, a lot of positions changed in the power rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses).

  1. Creighton (14-2, 4-1) (1)—Creighton had two wins this past week against Drake and Bradley, but one area they need to watch out for is in the turnover category. They had 35 turnovers in those wins. Luckily for them, they were able to outscore the competition and players other than McDermott are making an impact, especially Grant Gibbs. The defense locked down against Northern Iowa on Tuesday and they pulled out a tight win at home. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 4th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Wild Play Underway—As Missouri Valley Conference play started this week, you can pretty much throw everything away you learned in the non-conference season. Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa, who expect to be at the top of the league this season, have already lost home conference games. Only two teams were able to get through the first week unscathed—Missouri State and EvansvilleTis the season to focus on basketball.
  • Evansville and Missouri State Leading The Way—After disappointing non-conference play, both the Purple Aces and the Bears are starting on the right foot in conference play. Evansville came back from behind to get a big road win at Northern Iowa while Missouri State shocked Creighton on their home court to open MVC play. The defending MVC champs got an MVP performance from Kyle Weems as he scored 25 of his career high 31 points in the victory over the Bluejays. That performance earned him some national honors this week.
  • Creighton Still Ranked—Despite the loss against Missouri State at home, the Bluejays turned around and got themselves a big win on the road at the other MVC favorite, Wichita State. With that win, Creighton is still ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll at #24, while just falling out of the AP poll. If Creighton eventually falls out of the polls, don’t be surprised if you do not see another MVC team in the top 25 this season with the way conference season has started. However, some early bracketology projections have three MVC teams that could make the NCAA Tournament.

Kyle Weems Reminded Everyone That There's More To The Valley Than Doug McDermott (MVC-Sports.com)

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (12-2, 2-1) (1)— With the week that was, Creighton is sticking in the top spot for this week. Although they lost to Missouri State, they came back to beat Wichita State on the road. Doug McDermott has been recognized more in conference play with each team focusing the defense on him. Grant Gibbs, however, continues to be the glue for Creighton. While most of the attention on him has been his passing ability, he turned up the scoring against the Shockers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Multiple Bid Talk—As the Valley non-conference season comes to a close, there is a lot more talk that the MVC will get more than its one automatic bid this season.  Creighton and Wichita State appear to be the strongest in the league right now, but Indiana State and Northern Iowa are close behind.  These four teams were talked about before the season started and have delivered in non-conference play.  There are some good wins and some bad losses.
  • Creighton Dominating—The Bluejays have received a lot of attention behind the performances of Doug McDermott.  They capped off their non-conference season by defeating Northwestern to go 3-0 against the Big Ten.  Granted, the three teams they beat (Northwestern, Nebraska, and Iowa) may finish at the bottom of the league, but that is still impressive.  McDermott is second in the nation in scoring, while Creighton as a team leads the nation in assists.
  • Jankovich Ejected—It is not uncommon for coaches to get a little emotional in a game to the point that they get a technical foul.  However, it is more rare for the coach to get a second technical foul in a game to get themselves ejected from the game, much less before halftime.  This is exactly what happened to Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich last week when the Redbirds hosted Arkansas-Little Rock.   Jankovich was ejected by referee Gerry Pollard with 2:31 to go in the first half after a disputed foul called on a Redbird.

It May Not Be Long Before We Start Running Out Of Superlatives For Doug McDermott. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Power Rankings

Let’s take a look at each team and how they did in the non-conference side of things.

  1. Creighton (10-1)— The Bluejays have probably had the best possible outcome during their non-conference season.  They already have more road wins this season than they did all of last season.  Doug McDermott has been the star for this team scoring over 20 points in the last 10 games.  However, the other bright point of Creighton’s performances have been from Gonzaga transfer Grant Gibbs.  Gibbs had 22 assists over the last two games.  The connection between McDermott and Gibbs has been a key combination for Creighton this season.  As a team they lead the nation in assists.   Things are going so well this season, there are even stories about the dancing grandma in the stands.
  2. Wichita State (9-2)— The Shockers started off a little slow, but have been pretty dominant as they closed out their non-conference season.  They suffered a couple of losses in the Puerto Rico Tip-off tournament, but have rebounded to get wins over UNLV, Utah State and Tulsa.   One thing that will help Wichita State in conference play is depth.  They have nine players averaging ten minutes or more of action a game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Thursday Night Preview: Braggin’ Rights and Tricky Road Games

Posted by dnspewak on December 22nd, 2011

GAME OF THE NIGHT

  • Missouri vs. Illinois, 8 p.m. CST in St. Louis (ESPN2)
From 2000 to 2008, Illinois owned Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights series. Year after year, the Tigers found new ways to lose by mishandling a potential game-tying attempt (2006), slipping on watery residue from the Scottrade Center’s hockey rink on the final possession (2007), and shooting 11% from three-point range (2008). One winter, embarrassed MU fans even dumped popcorn on Quin Snyder‘s head. Yes, the series was that ugly. But two years ago, fate shifted to the Tigers’ side. Missouri dominated from start to finish in 2009, and last season, the Tigers edged Illinois thanks to a late-game collapse by Bruce Weber‘s team. The losing streak is a distant memory and the Tigers own this series now.

That brings us to 2011. No matter how confident MU fans may be with their top-10 ranking, undefeated record and two consecutive series victories, the 24th-ranked Illini will provide Frank Haith with his stiffest test of the season. Missouri has not seen size like this before, and it will need to be creative in guarding 7’1” center Meyers Leonard. The Tigers have handled players like Harper Kamp (California) and Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova), but Leonard is one of the better forwards the Tigers will see all year. He commands respect in the paint, and he’s also a decent passer with the ability to burn Missouri’s double-teams. As usual, Haith’s team will need to use its speed to burn a slower Illinois team. Against one of the fastest rosters in the country, the Illini have to slow the tempo and let Leonard go to work. Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco, no stranger to Scottrade after visiting the arena four years in a row for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, will also need to settle this young team down as the point guard. He’s been a difference-maker this season as one of the most experienced players on Weber’s team, and it is imperative for him to lead by example.

Phil Pressey Will Lead Missouri Against The Illini Tonight

On Missouri’s side, Phil Pressey will have to serve as the catalyst. He’ll never have a strength advantage against any point guard, but he could run into some trouble with Maniscalco (6’0” but strong), Brandon Paul (6’4”) and D.J. Richardson (6’3”). Again, though, his quickness is unmatched by just about everybody in college basketball, and as the Big 12′s assists leader, he can control the game without scoring a point. That’s what Marcus Denmon is for. The senior All-American candidate struggled against William and Mary over the weekend, but he’s allowed an off night every once in awhile. When he’s set, he almost never misses from three-point land, and if he’s on his game, he will be the best player on the floor tonight.

Unless you’ve attended a Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis, you have no idea how intense the environment is. Haith may have watched last year’s game on tape, but not even he is ready for this atmosphere. There is no non-conference matchup quite like it — the arena is evenly split between Missouri and Illinois fans, and on each basket, one side erupts as if it has won the National Championship. Luckily for the Tigers, they have a more grizzled roster with five seniors, four of whom are now playing in their fourth Braggin’ Rights game.

The key individual matchup is… Meyers Leonard vs. Ricardo Ratliffe. Leonard is the key to this entire contest. Although St. Louis native Tyler Griffey is a starter and key contributor, Leonard is the centerpiece of this team — especially against a smaller opponent in Missouri. If he gets into early foul trouble, Illinois will have a lot of problems since it lacks depth in the frontcourt. Leonard will see double-teams all night when he touches the ball, and Ratliffe will be at least one of those defenders tugging on his jersey for 40 minutes. When Ratliffe has the ball, it will also be interesting to watch how he handles the match-up with Leonard. He scores a lot of his buckets on layups, putbacks and turnaround hook shots off the backboard, but he’s not the kind of player that can always take a 7’1” defender off the dribble and create his own shot. Ratliffe must find a way to utilize his quickness against Leonard, and Phil Pressey must find him on screen-and-rolls since Haith’s offense calls for that play on almost every possession.

Missouri will win if… It scores in transition and forces turnovers. That sounds like a key to the game for a Mike Anderson team, but it’s true for Haith’s team as well. MU is actually converting better in transition than it did a year ago, and that’s what it has to do against Illinois. In his first three wins against Mike Anderson, Bruce Weber did a great job of controlling the tempo and letting his team go to work in the halfcourt. The Tigers don’t utilize full-court pressure anymore, but the basic principles remain: they want to get out and run, and they want to disrupt the opponent defensively. That’s how they dismantled Notre Dame, California and Villanova, and it’s how they must beat Illinois.

Illinois will win if… It makes this game a Big Ten fist fight and stays level-headed. Illinois is bigger and stronger than Missouri at almost every position. It has more physical guards, and it has a more physical frontcourt. If Weber can concoct another game plan to use the shot clock and limit turnovers, the Illini should be able to score at will in the paint and win the rebounding battle. That all hinges on this team’s ability to keep its cool. MU’s defenders will fly all over the place with active hands, trying to deflect every pass in their vicinity. These Illinois guards can counter that by staying poised, and Maniscalco needs to be especially steady here. He’s the guy that everything depends on, even though he’s in his first season playing for Weber. At Bradley, he earned a reputation as a leader and a winner, and he cannot get rattled in the spotlight tonight.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
  • Texas Tech at Oral Roberts, 7:05 PM CST
Fresh off a blowout victory at Xavier, Oral Roberts is flying high and should be favored in this game against Tech tonight. ORU is used to knocking off Big 12 foes: in the last decade, it has beaten both Missouri and Kansas. Scott Sutton’s program is the class of the Summit League, and it looks like a contender once against this season at 8-4. Billy Gillispie is still trying to figure things out with this Texas Tech team, as it has failed every test presented to it. Without consistent point guard play and a slump from senior Robert Lewandowski, the Red Raiders must find a way to execute better offensively. Otherwise, it could be a long night in Tulsa.
  • St. Mary’s at Baylor, 9 PM CST in Las Vegas
After winning at BYU, we’re pretty sure Baylor is an elite basketball team. There’s a lot of time for that to change, of course, but Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton have been lifesavers at the point guard position. This team is finally playing the kind of selfless basketball Scott Drew has been waiting for, and Perry Jones III has lived up to expectations after returning from a suspension. In five games, Jones is averaging more than 16 per game in the scoring department, and he’s shooting nearly 70 percent from the field. If only the Bears could rebound better– BYU’s forwards embarrassed Jones, Quincy Miller and the rest of the crew by grabbing 16 offensive boards. On paper, a team with this size should not allow that to happen. Baylor can redeem itself by keeping Rob Jones off the glass, as he’s averaging 11 rebounds per game for 10-1 St. Mary’s. Jones, the former transfer from San Diego, is undersized at 6’6” but still tenacious on the court. He has grabbed at least 10 boards in all but one game this season, but it’s important to remember that the Gaels’ schedule has not been challenging. They have played only a handful of decent teams: Northern Iowa (win), Denver (loss) and Weber State (win). That’s why this game may actually be more of a test for St. Mary’s than for Baylor.
  • Kansas at USC, 10 PM CST
In a relatively surprising result, USC actually knocked off an improved TCU team by 24 points on Monday, thanks in large part to a 25-point, seven-assist effort by point guard Maurice Jones. With Jio Fontan out for the season, Jones is the most important player on Kevin O’Neill’s roster. Jones is a 5’7” sparkplug with a lot of quickness, so Tyshawn Taylor and his recovering knee better watch out. Still, this Kansas team is too good to lose this game. And the Jayhawks should have a newfound focus after the debacle against Davidson earlier this week. Taylor gets a lot of grief for his high turnover rate this season, but he wasn’t the only problem against the Wildcats. This team just does not execute like most Bill Self teams do, and that has to improve in a Pac-12 road environment tonight. USC does not have a ton of offensive firepower, and it hardly has any threats from beyond the arc. Still, O’Neill’s a good coach who can gameplan against anybody, and his team will have the home crowd in its favor. This won’t be a cakewalk for Kansas.
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • The Valley Beats Another Ranked Team: Another week, another set of nice wins in the Valley.  The latest is Indiana State knocking off then #25 Vanderbilt on the Commodores’ home court.  Sophomore R.J. Mahurin came off the bench to get 14 points including 4-7 from three to help lead them to the 61-55 victory.  After going 11-22 against BCS schools last season, this year the MVC is 10-10 so far.  The last time they had a .500 record against those leagues was during the 2007-08 season.
  • Poll Gathering: Creighton continues to stay in the polls, this week at #21 in the Coaches Poll and #23 in the AP poll.  But other MVC teams are starting to get noticed.  Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Indiana State are all getting votes in the AP poll.  The chances of having two teams in the Valley ranked might be going down as conference play starts in about a week.  It may be a battle all season on which MVC team will be ranked in the national Top 25.
  • Sending Out An SOS: While most teams in the MVC are trying to set the bar high to get the conference at a different level and four teams are in the RPI top 52, there are a couple of other teams that are on the other end of the spectrum.  Illinois State is sitting at #292 in the strength of schedule category, while Southern Illinois‘ strength of schedule is at #343 out of 345 teams in D-I.  Evansville is at #305.  While the top of the league is pretty solid, the bottom half of the league still has some work to do.  This could keep the Valley from moving as high as they could in the RPI as a conference later in the season.

The Inconsistent Supporting Cast Around Colt Ryan Keeps The Standout Swingman Under The Radar. (Erin McCracken/Courier-Press)

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (9-1)— Creighton moves back up to the top spot this week after blowing out Houston Baptist on Saturday at home and Tulsa on the road Monday night.   Grant Gibbs had 18 assists during those two games and Gregory Echenique has had his best performances offensively in those two games.   A lot of the talk over the past few weeks from the national media is Creighton’s suspect defense.  However, that is one thing they are working on fixing.
  2. Northern Iowa (10-2)—Ohio stunned Northern Iowa on Tuesday night to break the Panthers’ nine-game winning streak.  They will have to regroup a bit heading into conference play.  Northern Iowa is all about streaks and they will probably start one again.  But the Panthers will definitely be in the top tier of the conference. The question always lingers—What if they did not let Doug McDermott out of his LOI?  While everyone still ponders that, get an inside look at Ben Jacobson’s office. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Teams Being Sneaky: While the focus has been on Creighton by the media for most of the season, a couple of other teams are making some noise without a whole lot of fanfare.  Northern Iowa has won eight games in a row since the loss at St. Mary’s while Wichita State has a five-game winning streak of their own including wins over UNLV, Tulsa and Utah State.  The Bluejays may be slightly favored, but once the MVC gets into conference play, all bets are off.  This could be the year the Valley has been waiting for.
  • An RPI Update: The Missouri Valley Conference has four teams in the top 33 of the RPI this week. Northern Iowa leads the way at #4 followed by Creighton (#16), Wichita State (#32), and Indiana State (#33).  With these top four teams continuing to play well, heads will continue to turn.
  • Southern Illinois at Rock Bottom: After an 11-day break and a chance to regroup with their 1-3 record, the Salukis came out this week and lost at home against Western Kentucky and on the road at Western Michigan in two more uninspiring outings. This once proud team is hitting rock bottom. The bigger question now is whether Chris Lowery will make it through this season. It is possible for SIU to be 1-7 when they head out to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.

Gregg Marshall And The Shockers Are Scooping Up Quality Wins Left And Right.

Power Rankings

  1. Northern Iowa (9-1)—Northern Iowa switched spots with Creighton this week based on their great play and because their only loss was against St. Mary’s who currently ranks atop the RealtimeRPI. The Panthers have quietly had a nice run and have steadily improved over the past three weeks. Their sweep of Iowa and Iowa State make them the state champion among the four Division I Iowa schools. In addition, only Northern Iowa and Kentucky have wins over the Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East this year. Jake Koch is keeping the Koch tradition in being an impact player for Northern Iowa. He came up with 21 points in the win over Milwaukee and has continued to improve as the season has gone along. His brother Adam was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in the 2009-10 season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • The MVC/MWC Challenge Runs To A Draw: Over the weekend, the Missouri Valley and Mountain West Conferences played the third annual MVC/MWC Challenge games.  With only eight teams left in the current Mountain West, there were only eight games played.  Although Boise State played two MVC teams in the past few weeks, only one of those games was a part of the Challenge.  The two biggest games involved Creighton and Wichita State.  The Bluejays came back from 17 points down in the first half to escape San Diego State with a victory.   On the other side of the coin, Wichita State destroyed UNLV behind Joe Ragland’s 31 points.  The Challenge will finish out in the 2012-13 season.
  • Valley RPI Rising: The MVC has been having some pretty good non-conference success this year.  So good, in fact, that the Valley heads into this week with the seventh highest conference RPI.  This is quite a difference from sitting at #11 last season at the same time.  With Northern Iowa, Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State and Missouri State all in the top 41 in the RPI, things are looking great for multiple NCAA bids this year.
  • Creighton In The Top Twenty: With several teams ahead of the Bluejays losing, Creighton moved up to #17 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll and they make their debut in the AP poll sitting at #19.  In the AP poll, this represents Creighton’s first appearance since November 2006 and their highest ranking since March 2003.
  • Ragland Has His Day: Wichita State’s Joe Ragland created a little history in the big win over UNLV.  He was the first Shocker since 2006 that scored more than 30 points in a game.  He was dead-on from behind the arc, going 8-9 against UNLV.  In the two games this week, he was 14-18 from the field and 11-13 from behind the three point line.

Joe Ragland Sliced And Shot His Way To A 30-Point Game In The Shockers' Win Over The Runnin' Rebels Sunday. (MVC-Sports.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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