Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
A Look Back
BracketBusters Matchups—BracketBuster matchups were announced last week, and the Missouri Valley Conference was awarded three games on national television.
- 2/18, 6PM, ESPN2–VCU @ Wichita State
- 2/19, 4PM, ESPN2–Missouri State @ Valparaiso
- 2/19, 6PM, ESPN2–George Mason @ Northern Iowa
The other matchups between the other conference members:
- Creighton @ Akron
- Evansville @ Murray State
- Morehead State @ Indiana State
- UW-Green Bay @ Southern Illinois
- Illinois State @ Western Michigan
- Detroit @ Drake
- Bradley @ Tennessee-Martin
Bradley Has a Winning Week – After starting conference play 0-11, Bradley has reeled off a couple of wins against Creighton and Southern Illinois. In the game against the Bluejays, the game was moved up four hours to avoid a snowstorm that still left Creighton stranded. The Salukis on the other hand were blown out at home by Drake before coming to Bradley. The Braves were able to take advantage of the other team’s struggles to garner a couple of wins and a glimmer of hope that Jim Les will be back next season.
Southern Illinois Imploding—If you were watching last Wednesday night, you saw Southern Illinois get torched by Drake’s outside shooting. What you may not have seen was Chris Lowery calling out his team, saying they “quit” during the game. To make matters worse, at the end of the week, it was announced that three players, including two starters, were suspended for three games based on an assault incident on campus. The SIU program has a lot to sort out.
Northern Iowa Suffers a Blow—Lucas O’Rear was injured Wednesday evening against Illinois State. The man of much facial hair ended up suffering a fractured ankle and is now out for the rest of the season. This is a big blow for the Panthers in their run back up the Valley standings. Without him, Northern Iowa suffered a loss to Drake and now have to regroup for the final stretch run to try and get their third straight MVC regular season championship.
Player of the Week—Andrew Warren, Bradley—The play of Warren has been overshadowed by the performance of Bradley as a team this season. However, the talented guard has been carrying this team on his shoulders and continued that this week. He averaged 23 points and almost seven rebounds in the two victories against Creighton and Southern Illinois.
Newcomer of the Week—Rayvonte Rice, Drake—The freshman led the way for Drake this week in their two victories averaging 21 points a game over Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa this week. In a year dominated by Doug McDermott from Creighton, Rice has been coming on as of late. Both Rice and McDermott will lead their respective teams against each other this week.
Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week rank)
- Wichita State (20-4) (11-2) (1)—The Shockers have quietly made their way to the top and are holding on to the conference lead after two wins this week over Drake and Indiana State. After Southern Illinois on Tuesday, the Shockers go on a tough run to end the season at Northern Iowa, at Evansville, the BracketBusters game against VCU, hosting Creighton and then finishing at Missouri State. If Wichita State makes it through this stretch of games, they definitely deserve the MVC regular season crown. One interesting note is that there has not been a Wichita State player that has won a weekly award from the MVC offices, and it has been suggested that they decline the award if a Shocker does get one.
- Missouri State (18-6) (10-3) (3)— The Bears have hit a bit of a wall losing two of their last three and surviving against Indiana State on Saturday. However, the schedule is favorable for Missouri State as four of their final five conference games are against teams at the bottom of the league. It should make for an interesting race between the Bears and the Shockers. A missing part of Missouri State’s team this year has been Adam Leonard. If the Bears are going to have a solid run to finish the season, Leonard is going to have to step things up. He has spent extra time in the gym. Hopefully for them, it reflects well down the stretch.
- Northern Iowa (17-7) (9-4) (2)— The Panthers had won eight in a row before and looked like they were rolling until Lucas O’Rear went down against Illinois State which led to the letdown against in-state rival Drake. Three of the final five conference games are on the road including going to Evansville this week for what appears to be a typical “trap” game. They then have a showdown with Wichita State on Saturday night which will decide if they still have a chance for the top of the mountain. Will Dick Vitale actually be in Cedar Falls for their BracketBuster game? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
- Creighton (15-10) (7-6) (4)—The Bluejays endured the embarrassment of allowing Bradley to get their first conference win of the season. They did rebound to knock off a hot Evansville team and are now putting themselves in a good position to secure a top-four seed in the MVC Tournament. But they can’t let down against Drake and Southern Illinois this week. Doug McDermott continues to put up some amazing numbers—such that he could earn himself awards at the end of the year, including a spot on the All-MVC team.
- Evansville (13-10) (7-6) (6)— Evansville started off the week with a nice win against Missouri State even without leading rebounder and second leading scorer Kenneth Harris. However, they ran into a Creighton team with something to prove and took down the Purple Aces to be tied for fourth place in the Valley race. One thing is for sure, they will not be cellar dwellers this season and the team has made some great strides. They get to host Northern Iowa this week before heading to Peoria to take on Bradley.
- Indiana State (12-12) (7-6) (5)— The Sycamores are coming back to earth after their hot conference start. They have now lost five straight games after playing against the top teams in the league. I guess they have to be satisfied with moral victories. However a date with Illinois State and Drake might be what they need to finish off strong.
- Drake (10-14) (5-8) (9)—Drake won both of their games this week and jumped out of the bottom of the league. They hit 16 three-pointers their win against Southern Illinois and held off Northern Iowa to beat their in-state rival. If it was up to Rayvonte Rice, he thinks they could go on a big run to get to the postseason. Creighton comes to town on Tuesday before heading to Terre Haute for a date with Indiana State.
- Bradley (8-16) (2-11) (10)—Teams will take wins any way they can get them. For Bradley, that first conference win came against Creighton. With that win and a victory against Southern Illinois, who they caught at the right time, Bradley enjoys the month of February. January was winless, but in February, they have two wins already. They get to play the role of spoiler, going to Springfield to take on Missouri State and celebrate alumni weekend against Evansville.
- Illinois State (11-13) (3-10) (8)—The Redbirds are back to their struggling ways after winning three in a row. It wasn’t a surprise that they lost to Wichita State and Northern Iowa, but they did keep things close. Any game in the MVC is a possible upset and you never know what is going to happen. They can spoil the party for everyone with the Sycamores and the Bears coming to town this week.
- Southern Illinois (10-14) (4-9) (7)— We have talked about already how Southern Illinois has hit rock bottom. Fans are getting tired of the once proud program that will be missing the postseason for the third year in a row. It will cost the school dearly to send Chris Lowery packing, but it may be the only option after spending millions of dollars remodeling SIU Arena and playing to a half full crowd. One way or another, things must change.
A Look Ahead
Look out for these games:
2/8—Northern Iowa @ Evansville (No TV)—The Panthers are struggling without Lucas O’Rear and head for their second straight road game without him. Evansville has been hot and could knock them off.
2/8—Southern Illinois @ Wichita State (Local TV in both markets)—The Shockers are the dominant team in the league at this point and SIU is in shambles right now. However, there is always a chance for a shock here, pardon the pun.
2/9—Bradley @ Missouri State (Fox Sports Net)—Bradley has a couple conference wins under their belt and could play the role of spoiler. Missouri State needs to keep winning.
2/12—Wichita State @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—This is a big game for both teams, but even bigger for Northern Iowa to try and catch up to the Shockers. The Shockers on the other hand are trying to pull away from the rest of the league. A special 9PM CST start for this one.
2/13—Southern Illinois @ Creighton (ESPNU)—Is this one of the final games in the Chris Lowery era at SIU? Creighton is looking for a good seed for the MVC Tournament. Oh yeah, and it is a rivalry game, but that is sort of lost in the mix at this point.