The Other 26: You Will Be Entertained

Posted by IRenko on January 19th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a one-week hiatus, we are back and just in time for a veritable orgy of great college hoops matchups today.  Yes, there is Louisville v. Syracuse, Florida v. Missouri, Oregon v. UCLA, and Ohio State v. Michigan State.  But things get no less interesting as you move down to the mid-major level, where several compelling matchups featuring conference contenders will unfold.  Before we get to the Top 10, let’s take a look at what’s on tap today:

  • Gonzaga at Butler — The nation’s two Cinderella darlings will square off at the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse in a made-for-TV (yes, ESPN College Gameday will be in the house) contest.  It will be the final game of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule and, arguably, its toughest.  The loss of Rotnei Clarke to a frightening neck injury will take some of the luster off of this matchup, as Butler will be playing without their leading scorer.  The task will be no easier on the other end of the Court, as the Bulldogs will have to contend with a potent Gonzaga frontcourt, led by 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who has emerged into a bona fide All-American candidate.  But as we all know, being the underdog suits Brad Stevens just fine.
  • Creighton at Wichita StateDoug McDermott has wowed the nation over the past week with a pair of 30-point games, and between his dominance and Creighton’s three-point shooting, the Bluejays’ offense has become quite difficult to stop.  But if there’s a team in the MVC who can do it, it’s Wichita State.  The Shockers have the best defense in the league, which will have the added boost of a raucous home crowd for this premier matchup.  The Shockers’ strong, quick guards will challenge Creighton at the other end, and Cleanthony Early might prove a tough matchup for McDermott.  Carl Hall is also back in the lineup for the Shockers, so both teams will be at full strength.
Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

  • Harvard at Memphis — With Conference USA muddling through a down year, this could be be Memphis’ toughest opponent of the 2013 calendar year.  The Crimson have turned in a quality season despite the unexpected one-year withdrawals of senior leaders Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey due to an academic cheating scandal.  Much of the credit for that goes to freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who is fifth in the country in minutes per game.  Tommy Amaker has put a great deal of faith in the young man, but he has rewarded him with a 31% assist rate, 50% three-point shooting average, and 88% FT shooting average.  Chambers will lock horns with Joe Jackson, who has steadied himself this season to become a reliable scorer and team leader.  The senior point guard has hit double-digits in points in 12 straight games, the longest mark of his college career.
  • Western Illinois at North Dakota State — North Dakota State has been one of the great underreported stories of the season, rolling up a 16-3 record and supplanting South Dakota State as the Summit League’s favorite.  But Western Illinois has also creeped to the top of the league standings, just a game behind NDSU at 6-1.  The Leathernecks are led by an inside-out combo of big man Terrell Parks (13.9 ppg, 9.4 rbg) and do-everything senior guard Ceola Clark.  Clark is an excellent defender, and he’ll need to be at his best to help stop a North Dakota State that is a well-oiled, methodical, efficient machine.  Marshall Bjorkland, the Bison’s 6-8 junior, is arguably the most efficient scorer in the country.  He leads the nation in effective FG percentage (72.4%) and is fourth in true shooting percentage (71.2%).
  • Utah State at Denver — Louisiana Tech remains at the top of the WAC standings after holding off Idaho on Thursday night, but these two squads are just one loss behind them.  So tonight’s game has a lot riding on it.  Expect a low-scoring contest between two of the lowest tempo teams in the country.  Royce O’Neale and Chris Udofia lead Denver’s Princeton offense, which wears down opponents with movement and relies heavily on the three-point shot.  Utah State will look to Preston Medlin, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game, and center Jarred Shaw who gets lots of touches in Stew Morrill’s offense. 
  • College of Charleston at Davidson — Charleston will have a chance to move into a tie atop the Southern Conference South standings with a win at Davidson.  They’ll be led by their backcourt combo of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt, while their hosts will rely more heavily on their frontcourt tandem of De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.  Davidson can fall in love with the three-point shot to their detriment.  They’re better when they get the ball to the versatile Brooks and Cohen.  Getting the ball in the basket won’t be easy against Charleston, which has a pretty good defense anchored in the middle by Adjehi Baru.
  • Belmont v. Tennessee State – You would think that this game between the OVC’s two undefeated teams would lose its luster with the absence of Tennessee State’s star big man, Robert Covington, except for one thing — they’ve won every one of their six OVC games without him.  Covington went down with a torn meniscus in a December 18 trip to Middle Tennessee State that the Tigers went on to lose by 38 points.  At that point, they were 5-7 on the season but they’ve reeled off seven straight since and now sit atop the OVC East standings.   But they may need more than the Ewing Effect when they travel across town to face off with Belmont.  The switch from the A-Sun to the OVC hasn’t dimmed the Bruins’ ability to dominate their conference competition.

So there it is, a day-long feast for the glutton who craves mid-major hoops.  We move on, now, to the updated Top 10 rankings, our weekly (starting this week) Honor Roll, and a few more games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

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CIO…the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2013

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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.

Looking Back

  • MVC Race Already Heating Up–What a wild first week in Missouri Valley Conference play. Creighton, as expected is sitting at 3-0. Gregg Marshall doesn’t get enough credit for reloading Wichita State and the Shockers are at 3-0 as well. After that, things get really interesting. Indiana State, Evansville, Bradley and Missouri State are all sitting at 2-1. None of those four teams were mentioned in the top echelon at the start of the season, but each of them have wins over others that weren’t expected. The biggest surprises are Northern Iowa sitting at 1-2 and Illinois State sitting at 0-3. The Panthers were expected to be a sleeper in the league this year, but after a tough non-conference slate where they did not win as much as they had hoped, they started off MVC play at 0-2 before defeating Illinois State on Saturday. The Redbirds were expected to be league contenders along with Creighton, but they have had a lot of things go wrong for them this season. While it is still early, some of these situations may build upon themselves making for another crazy season. What it may hurt in the long run, though, are the number of NCAA bids come March.
Illinois State Has Pulled a Disappearing Act This Season

Illinois State Has Pulled a Disappearing Act This Season

  • McDermott Still Reaping Rewards–Doug McDermott has been playing very well since Thanksgiving. As a result, he has continued to be recognized for his talent. He received the Lute Olson Midseason Player of the Year award, and ESPN recognized him as its Player of the Month in December. He’s third in the country in scoring at 23.1 points per game, is averaging 7.3 boards per contest, and is shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc. Those are numbers that are hard to ignore. Through his first three conference games, McDermott has also averaged 23 points a game while fighting off sickness over the past two games. He is on the verge of carrying Creighton on his shoulders, but luckily he has not had to since the Bluejays have been pretty balanced and different players have stepped up when needed. He should remain in the National Player of the Year conversation throughout, but it may become tougher to put up the same outstanding numbers in conference play that he did in the non-conference season.
  • Drugs Become Problem–A few weeks ago, Illinois State’s Geoffrey Allen was indefinitely suspended from the team and was soon after arrested for trying to sell marijuana. The newest incident involving drugs now surrounds Bradley’s Will Egolf. The sixth-year center was arrested as the year rolled over to 2013, accused of possession of a controlled substance. It turns out that he was purchasing Vicodin to help him manage the pain resulting from knee injuries he has suffered over the past few years. Those knee injuries ultimately allowed him to gain a sixth year of eligibility. He did not make the trip to Wichita this past weekend and it now appears that he will be suspended for a minimum of three games, but this transgression could ultimately end his career. These two incidents should raise a red flag to other MVC schools to remain vigilant and aware of what their players are doing and what may be affecting their play. I hope this doesn’t become a trend because it sort of gives the league a black eye.

Reader’s Take 

 

Power Rankings (conference record and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (14-1) (3-0) (1)–If you don’t know by now, Creighton is not just a one-man show with Doug McDermott. McDermott sat on the bench during a key stretch in the second half against Indiana State and the Bluejays were able to come back from a deficit and take a lead with the play of Gregory Echenique and Ethan Wragge. Avery Dingman has stepped up with the loss of Josh Jones and everyone is doing their part to contribute to the Bluejays success. Probably the biggest development has been the play of Austin Chatman who took over the point guard duties this season. In the first three conference games, Chatman has 21 assists to only 6 turnovers. A 3.5/1 assist-turnover ratio is pretty good. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2012

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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.

Looking Back

  • Indiana State Raises Profile: There have been a lot of question marks surrounding Indiana State and how good the Sycamores might be this season. It is possible those questions have been answered after a couple of important overtime wins over power conference teams in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. First, they knocked off Mississippi and then after losing to San Diego State, knocked off Miami (FL) in the third-place game. Jake Odum came up big in both of those wins. After battling foot injuries all of last season that kept him from performing at the same level as his freshman year, the junior hit several free throws down the stretch in overtime against Ole Miss and then hit the game-winner against the Hurricanes. The Sycamores might have gained enough momentum out in Hawaii to throw them into the MVC conversation heading into conference play.
  • Josh Jones Hangs It Up: A few weeks ago, Creighton’s Josh Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska. It was later determined he had an atrial flutter and needed an invasive procedure to correct it. There were questions at the time as to whether he could come back from the ailment. Unfortunately, as a result of that successful procedure, it was found that he will have to another medical procedure which will force him to finish his basketball career earlier than expected. Jones has been a fighter throughout his basketball career. It was going to be a tough road ahead for Jones anyway, but he’ll be remembered most for his smile and positive attitude. The only good thing out of this is that Creighton will be able to focus on replacing Jones on the court with the remaining players on the roster. Although Jones will be hard to replace, he will still be with the team cheering them on.
  • The Weak Link In The Conference: I would need to dig back into the record books a little bit, but it has to be a long time since a Missouri Valley Conference school headed into conference play looking for its first win against a Division I team. Missouri State enters MVC play with a 2-10 overall record, but the two wins are against two non-D-I teams: Malone and Philander Smith. The Bears even played on the road at SWAC member Alabama State and lost that game by 12 points. Paul Lusk had the luxury of inheriting a talented team over a season ago, but what has happened since? Injuries have plagued the team, with Jarmar Gulley out before the season began, but also other veteran players like Keith Pickens dealing with injuries. The other problem is that they were already down one scholarship this season because of APR scores. While many may look at Bradley’s downward spiral as a comparison the previous two seasons, this one might be even worse. Eventually, Missouri State has to win a game and I’m sure the other nine teams in the league will not want to be the school that falls to them, as it would be a massive hit to their potential at-large chances.
The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (11-1) (1)–The Bluejays took care of business in their non-conference slate with their only blemish coming against Boise State. At this point, that doesn’t look like a bad loss, but yet the questions still hang out there on what might be their best win. Wins over California and Arizona State might look pretty good right now, but it could be the win against Wisconsin that might end up being the key victory for the Bluejays come march. Last season, Gregory Echenique exploded in conference play. After showing signs of dominance down low in the non-conference season, Echenique could be the key to leading Creighton to an MVC regular season championship that has eluded them for the past several years. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2012

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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.

Looking Back

  • Realignment May Finally Hit the MVCSince 1995, only the Missouri Valley Conference and the Ivy league have not been affected by conference realignment. That may change soon depending on what happens with the seven catholic schools that are breaking away from the Big East. A lot of overtures to an “All-Catholic” league have been on peoples’ wish lists for some time, but many thought that it could never become a reality. Now with these teams looking to start their own league, they need more members. It seems natural that Creighton would be on that list. A lot of scrambling and rumors have led some to believe that Evansville was also looking to head to the Horizon league. While this speculation has been squashed by both Creighton and Evansville officials, you would have to think that if this new league gets big enough, that the Bluejays would be in the mix. The panic button hasn’t been hit yet, but every school in the Valley should have a backup plan just in case the league loses one or more members.
A thumb injury to Carl Hall reduces the margin of error for Wichita State.

Wichita State’s New Year’s resolution is to get Carl Hall healthy again.

  • Losses to Top Teams–Wichita State lost to Tennessee last week, but it wasn’t until the practice after that game when they lost Carl Hall to a hand injury that will keep him out of action for a month. Hall has been the steady force for the Shockers while they implement a slew of new players into the mix this season. With the Valley grind so close to its arrival, they will need Hall’s presence and leadership to get on the right foot as conference play gets started. Making matters worse, freshman guard Ron Baker will be sidelined for at least six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. Baker isn’t as important a player as Hall, but it leaves a 25 minute-per-game gap that will need to be filled as well. Creighton also lost a key player for an undetermined time with guard Josh Jones. Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska on December 6. An atrial flutter in his heart has sidelined the Bluejays’ sixth man for at least a month. He will have a procedure performed and could be cleared again at some point, but it is hard to tell whether he will be able to come back or if he even would want to. His energy and smile is infectious and his performance on the court, like an 18-point outburst against UAB earlier this season, will be missed and may raise some questions about Creighton’s depth.  For Illinois State, they make the news in the wrong way with Geoffrey Allen first being suspended from the team and then arrested for selling marijuana.  Although Allen didn’t play much this season, news like this can be a distraction to the team as it moves forward.
  • Surprise of the Non-conference Season–The MVC has been full of surprises this season, including the notion that Bradley and Southern Illinois look ahead of schedule. Bradley’s second year under Geno Ford appears to be on the right track as the Braves have been able to get some nice wins on the road, something that they had trouble doing the past few seasons. If they can win out in the non-conference season, they could look better than some of the other teams that were expected to be ahead of them.  For the Salukis, Barry Hinson put together a schedule that could definitely give a troubled team a big confidence boost. Southern Illinois won’t win any strength of schedule contests, but they have been playing together, winning close games, and even getting some road wins. They both will finish the non-conference season with .500 records or better. The current bottom third of the conference — Indiana State, Drake, and Missouri State — are a bit of a surprise in that they are on the opposite end of things right now. The biggest disappointment has to be Missouri State. The Bears are 0-8 against Division I competition as a result of a lot of injuries. With the road they are going down, they could head into conference play still looking for that first D-I win.

Power Rankings (current record and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (10-1) (1)–The Bluejays keep winning and are coming off of a trip to California where they didn’t have the best night of shooting but were still able to come out with a double-figure victory. In all of Creighton’s wins this season, they have had a winning margin by 10 or more points. Doug McDermott continues his spectacular play as of late and has the nation’s best scoring average per 40 minutes over the past two seasons  at 29.3 points per game. He has had back-to-back 30-point games, which is a first for Creighton in more than 20 years. Creighton is 8-1 against power conference teams over the past two seasons. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Unbeaten Season Ends, But Gregg Marshall is Building Something Special In Wichita

Posted by BHayes on December 14th, 2012

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Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is is an RTC correspondent and Night Line columnist.  He filed this report after Thursday night’s Wichita State – Tennessee game in Knoxville.

The 2011-12 college basketball season was a breakout year for the Wichita State Shockers. Sure, college basketball enthusiasts had taken note of an NIT title run in 2011, but Gregg Marshall’s bunch didn’t truly enter the national consciousness until that 27-5 season a year ago which included a 17-1 stretch to open the calendar year. They became a trendy March sleeper pick pre-Tournament, but ultimately met the fate that so many five seeds before them have suffered – an opening round loss, this one at the hands of a dangerous VCU squad. It was a bitter end to a banner year, and the conclusion was undoubtedly worsened by the fact that WSU’s top five scorers would all be lost to graduation. From an outsider’s perspective, there was a real sense that the window had closed for Wichita State; Marshall’s program had grown up along with Murry, Stutz, Kyles and co., so it stood to reason that their departures would force a step or two back this season.

Despite Tonight's Loss In Knoxville, Wichita State Has The Look Of A Program Here To Stay

Despite Tonight’s Loss In Knoxville, Wichita State Has The Look Of A Program Here To Stay

Well, so much for reason. Wichita State opened this season with nine straight wins, and despite suffering its first loss of the year tonight at the hands of Tennessee, has started to prove that last year was far from a once-in-a-blue-moon dream season. Role players of a season ago have proven capable of hoisting a greater burden, newcomers have stepped in and produced from day one, and the head coach has to have the feeling that he is in the process of building a program with true lasting power. Maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that Wichita State has reloaded so quickly, as the past two offseasons have seen Marshall turn down overtures from power conference schools (most notably Nebraska this past summer). Have the proposed fits simply not been right, or does Marshall believe he has something special going at Wichita State? We can’t know for sure, but it’s quite plausible that Marshall is simply content in Wichita, and even harbors notions of turning Wichita State into a reliable mid-major power. The concept of an established coach settling in at a mid-major program is no longer a novelty, as recent years have seen coaches like Mark Few, Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart stay put at smaller schools, eschewing opportunities at larger programs in the process.

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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 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.

Looking Back

  • McDermott Looking Like Last Season – If you have been watching any Creighton games this season, it might have seemed that Doug McDermott was starting out a little slowly compared to last season. That may have been expected as more teams have started to regularly double- or even triple-team the All-American. However, it may also have been related to the time he took off in the summer to take a break from hoops more than anything. Over the past three games, McDermott has scored 80 points since the Bluejays’ home loss to Boise State. In the past four games, he has shot 17-of-24 from three-point range, and he is now fifth in the nation in scoring  (22.7 PPG) and shooting 52.3% from the three-point line. Right now his minutes per game are running below last season’s as well. Teams will have to decide to pick their poison against McDermott with his skill set both inside or outside. If he continues this torrid pace, it will be hard to deny him strong consideration for eventual National Player of the Year honors.

There’s no denying that Doug McDermott is in one of his patented grooves.

  • Still Undefeated — Wichita State is still one of only 14 teams in Division I that is still undefeated. Sitting at 9-0, the Shockers are off to their best start in school history. They have never started the season at 10-0, but will have the chance on Thursday night against Tennessee. With all of the holes that Gregg Marshall has had to replace going into this season, it is quite an accomplishment for his team to be off to this great of a start. Whether it is still figuring out the lineup or the depth they are developing, nine players are averaging 14 minutes or more of playing time a game. At the same time, they are dominating opponents with only two games within single digits (VCU & Air Force). Against the rest of their opponents, they have won by an average of 18 points per contest.
  • Who is Next? – Creighton and Wichita State look to be at the top of their games right now. But really, who is next in the MVC pecking order? The rest of the league has been pretty inconsistent so far as we head into the final two weeks of non-conference play. Fortunately for Illinois State, it is sitting at a solid third due to the schedule it has played, putting it at #45 in the RPI. Amazingly enough, Southern Illinois is sitting at fourth with an RPI of #113. Northern Iowa, despite playing in the stacked Battle 4 Atlantis is sitting 7th in the league with an RPI of #182. By going 0-3 in that tournament, it has been a deep hole that the Panthers have had to get out of. As a league, the MVC is the ninth best conference in the nation, just ahead of the West Coast Conference. These next couple of weeks will hopefully separate some teams in the conference and that can lead into momentum entering conference play to help keep the RPI up.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (9-1) – Since losing to Boise State on November 28, the Bluejays went on a rampage against their past three opponents — St. Joseph’s, Nebraska and Akron — to a win margin of at least 16 points or more. It has started with the play on the defensive side of things limiting opponents from getting open looks from three as well as hedging off ball screens a lot better. We all know about McDermott, but Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman have been distributing and holding onto the ball efficiently. Gibbs has had 27 assists and one turnover and Chatman with 13 assists and 4 turnovers during this three game stretch. Gibbs for the season has a ridiculous 7.3/1 assist turnover ratio for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Week One

Posted by IRenko on December 1st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Greetings, readers, and welcome back for another year of The Other 26, RTC’s weekly foray into the mid-major world, now securely ensconced on a microsite that shares its name. College hoops seemed to start earlier this year than it ever has, producing a November that was packed with much more action than the few preseason tournaments to which old geezers like me are accustomed. That means that there is quite a bit of ground to cover, and precious little time to waste. Let’s get right to it after the jump, with our first installment of the TO26 Top 10, a look back at which teams caught our eye with strong (and not so strong) starts, and a look forward to this week’s most compelling TO26 match-ups.

Looking Back:  Strong Starts

  • The Rest of the Mountain West – Coming into the season, UNLV and San Diego State received well-deserved hype and top 20 rankings.  But it’s clear that they’re going to have quite a bit of competition in conference play. New Mexico has barely shown the effects of losing their frontcourt tandem Drew Gordon and A.J. Hardeman. They have notched several solid wins en route to a 7-0 record, defeating UConn, George Mason, Davidson, and Mercer — all teams with realistic NCAA Tournament hopes. Fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, and with a cast of strong returnees and transfers, Colorado State entered the season with reasonably high expectations. But their ability to adjust to new coach Larry Eustachy remained an open question. Well, question answered. The Rams are undefeated at 5-0, posting wins over strong mid-major teams Montana and Denver and pounding the Washington Huskies by 18 points on the road. But, wait! The MW’s depth does not end there. Leon Rice’s Boise State squad, which plays just one senior, is off to a 5-1 start and is coming off of a 13-point win over Creighton on the road. Meanwhile, Wyoming and Air Force are a combined 13-1 on the season.  Throw in competitive newcomers Nevada and Fresno State, and UNLV and San Diego State may not have an easy conference game all year.

Elias Harris Leads a Potent Gonzaga Frontcourt (US Presswire)

  • Gonzaga – Gonzaga came into the season with a Top 25 ranking, so they’ve not exactly snuck up on anyone. But they’ve nonetheless impressed, collecting wins over West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Davidson by an average of more than 20 points. Throw in three more lopsided victories, and the Zags are sitting pretty at 7-0 and little sweat to show for it. Kelly Olynyk has emerged from his redshirt year as a genuine frontcourt force. Along with Elias Harris and Sam Dower, he gives the Bulldogs three skilled, athletic bigs. Throw in freshman post anchor Przemek Karnowski, and the Zags have four big men averaging nine or more points. While this frontcourt foursome has managed to outshine the heralded backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell on the offensive end, what’s been most impressive about Gonzaga’s start is its defense. Mark Few’s teams have steadily improved at that end of the floor over the past few years, and it could be the key that finally unlocks their door to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2012

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @wildjays.

Top Storylines

  • MVC Untouched — The Missouri Valley Conference has so far survived the first few rounds of changes among the top 15 conferences in Division I basketball (the Ivy being the other one). While every major conference, and some others even further down have been expanding or shifting, the MVC has walked away unscathed and still completely intact. That doesn’t mean there have not been rumors about teams leaving the conference at some point. The latest such mention was late this summer whenthere was a report that Evansville was on the verge of heading to the Horizon League. While some of that was theory based on some relatively weak facts, there are still cards likely to be played on that matter at some point. The question is when it will happen and who will be the first to start the falling dominoes within the league. It may turn out to be a school like Evansville that is looking to get out of the shadow of the other bigger players in the Valley.
  • Can Doug McDermott have an even better season? — Creighton fans are salivating to see what McDermott can do to follow up last season, when he earned first-team All-America honors, averaged almost 23 points a game, and shot an amazing percentage behind the arc while frustrating opponents down low.  The encore may not be so much about increasing his scoring like he did from his freshman to sophomore year, but about how far he can lead the Bluejays come March. McDermott spent the summer at the Amare Stoudamire and LeBron James skills camps, but he also took some time off after almost playing two years without a break including a stint with the Team USA U-19 squad.  With so many expectations on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see if he continues to take everything in stride or listen to the whispers of the NBA and focuses on those areas of his game most likely to take him to the next level.  For the MVC as a whole, the fans probably hope for both. 

Doug McDermott Gives The MVC Something It Hasn’t Had In Many Years: A Bona Fide National POY Candidate.

  • Big Men Instead of Guards—For many years, the Valley has been known as a guard’s league with not as many big-bodied frontcourt players leading the way.  Things have changed at least for the teams at the top. Along with McDermott, the Bluejays boast big man Gregory Echenique, who while topping over 300 pounds when he came to Creighton over three seasons ago, is now down to 260 and very agile. Jackie Carmichael from Illinois State impressed many at the camps he attended this summer after coming up big at the end of the season for the Redbirds. Colt Ryan, though he could be considered a guard, is more of a forward, but he can score in bunches for Evansville. Drake returns center Seth Van Deest from a shoulder injury that kept him out all season. Carl Hall will likely try to hold things down with Wichita State bringing in a bunch of new players.  Then you have Seth Tuttle from Northern Iowa who was the MVC Freshman of the Year last season. When you look at the make-up of the MVC going into this season, it is easily dominated by talented frontcourt players. 
  • Deja vu Times Two—Three years ago, Greg McDermott returned to the conference that originally made him a hot commodity and has experienced success by taking Creighton back to the NCAA Tournament.  This time Southern Illinois hopes Barry Hinson has the same success coming back to the conference that he had marginal success with while at Missouri State.  It is rare that a coach returns to the same conference to coach another school, but the MVC must be a special place where two former coaches do so to coach different teams in a short period of time. Unlike McDermott who came to Creighton with a cupboard somewhat full, Hinson has a little more work to do after the struggles SIU has had for the past four seasons.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Creighton (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Northern Iowa (24-7, 14-4)
  3. Illinois State (24-7, 13-5)
  4. Wichita State (23-8, 12-6)
  5. Drake (15-15, 9-9)
  6. Missouri State (15-16, 7-11)
  7. Indiana State (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Evansville (15-16, 6-12)
  9. Bradley (13-18, 5-13)
  10. Southern Illinois (11-20, 3-15)

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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 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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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 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:

  • Creighton Cracks The Polls—This week, for the first time since March 2007, the Bluejays are ranked in one of the major polls.  They check in at #25 in the USA Today Coaches poll.  The last team from the MVC to be ranked by the coaches was Northern Iowa, which was 13th in the final USA Today Coaches poll at the conclusion of the 2009-10 campaign.  While many saw Creighton as a sleeper this season, they now have a large target on their back.
  • Wichita State Falls Short—Last season, Wichita State faltered in the Maui Invitational by missing some opportunities to get some big name wins and did not have everything completely come together until they won the postseason NIT.  This season, they also struggled to get the wins they need from their exempt tournament, the Puerto Rico Tip-off.  They did beat Colorado, but then lost to Alabama and Temple. The good news is that they probably have a few more opportunities outside of this tournament this season.
  • Seat on Fire In Carbondale—Many knew that Chris Lowery was on the hot seat at Southern Illinois coming into this season.  Three games in, the question is whether he should have been allowed to come back this season after all.  With an 0-3 start, including a loss against Division II Ohio Dominican, this could be another long season in Carbondale.

The McDermotts Have Creighton Crashing The Polls In November.

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (4-0)—Creighton has started the season on a roll and they appear to have the pieces surrounding Doug McDermott to make it a special year. Creighton won their first three games largely without the need of scoring from center Gregory Echenique, but after beating Iowa on Sunday, Echenique is in the mix now on the offensive end. Grant Gibbs has played like another point guard on the court taking some pressure off of Antoine Young. Right now there is a lot of unselfish play with 56 assists on 66 baskets in the first two games and 86 assists on 125 field goals for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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20 Questions: Which Transfers Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist.

Question: Which Transfers Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?

Every year, college basketball fans draw up their preseason predictions of conference champions and NCAA Tournament fields based on returning players and incoming recruits.  But each year, a handful of key transfers play a pivotal role in leading their teams to a conference championship or NCAA Tournament bid.  Which transfers are most likely to play that role this year?

Pierre Jackson and Gary Franklin, Baylor — With the return of Perry Jones and the addition of blue-chip recruits Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello (coming soon to an All-Name Team near you), expectations for the upcoming season in Waco are high.  The Bears have more raw talent than almost anyone in the Big 12 and have a realistic shot at a conference crown.  But Baylor also had quality talent and relatively high expectations last year, only to find their season upended by mediocrity at the most important spot on the floor — the point guard position.  AJ Walton was thrust into the role of replacing Tweety Carter and responded by posting an obscene 32.1% turnover rate.  In a not-unrelated phenomenon, the Bears finished the season ranked 322nd in Division I in team turnover percentage.

The Development of Franklin and/or Jackson Could Be the Difference-Maker for Baylor This Season

If Scott Drew can’t find someone to settle things down at the point this year, the Bears may disappoint again.  And that’s where Jackson and Franklin come in.  Jackson is a well-regarded JUCO transfer and Franklin a formerly touted recruit who transferred from Cal after just a semester.  Franklin will not be eligible until the spring semester, but both will have a chance to pin down the starting point guard job.  If either proves to be a stable floor general, the Bears could have their first conference championship in more than 60 years.

Iowa State’s Starting Lineup — Okay, so maybe the entire starting lineup won’t consist of transfers, but it might come close.  Fred Hoiberg is trying to resuscitate the Iowa State program by resuscitating the careers of several D-I talents, including Chris Allen (Michigan State), Royce White (Minnesota), Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois), and Chris Babb (Penn State).  They make this list as a group because collectively, they will have the single biggest transfer impact on any BCS program this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

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