Current Records and my standings, (Conference Standings) (Last Week)
- Northern Iowa 19-2 (10-1) (1)
- Wichita State 19-4 (8-3) (2)
- Illinois State 15-7 (6-5) (3)
- Drake 11-12 (6-5) (4)
- Creighton 11-11 (6-5) (6)
- Missouri State 15-7 (5-6) (7)
- Indiana State 13-9 (5-6) (9)
- Bradley 10-11 (5-6) (5)
- Southern Illinois 12-9 (4-7) (8)
- Evansville 6-15 (0-11) (10)
STORIES OF THE WEEK
Northern Iowa wrapping things up—The Panthers are sitting pretty at 10-1 in the conference and survived a threat from Missouri State this weekend. Northern Iowa’s ability to hang on and finish games will make them a tough out. As they head into February, they are setting themselves up for an at-large bid to the Big Dance whether they win the conference tourney or not. Keep an eye on this team down the stretch. Many coaches in the Valley feel they will be a multiple bid league this season.
Bracketbusters pairings announced this week—Once again for the 8th year, the made for TV Bracketbusters event is ready to be promoted throughout this month leading up to Bracketbuster Saturday on February 19th. Out of the 98 teams in the event this season, 22 teams will get on TV and those pairings will be announced this week. Here are some predictions and here are some others.
P’Allen Stinnett Suspended indefinitely—Big news this week was the announcement by Dana Altman of the Creighton Bluejays that P’Allen Stinnett has been suspended from the team indefinitely. Stinnett was highly regarded as a freshman and made an impact early with 23 points in the second half off the bench in his first collegiate game against Depaul to bring Creighton back to victory. Over the past couple of seasons, Stinnett’s stats have leveled out and has had problems holding in his emotions, gathering nine technical fouls (including one this week against Missouri State in where he “felt like he needed a T”) in two and a half seasons. There has been no explanation on how long he has been suspended and if he will eventually return to the team.
Free throw shooting Valley—The Missouri Valley conference is pretty stable at the free throw line. Four MVC teams are in the top 20 in the nation at the stripe. Indiana State (76.7%) is fifth, followed by Wichita State in eighth (75.5%), Drake at 13th (75.1%), and Missouri State in 19th (74.8%).
Northern Iowa (2-0 this week)— As mentioned above, Northern Iowa is just cruising through the league getting victories against in-state rival Drake and then surviving down in Springfield against Missouri State. They are eagerly anticipating their Bracketbusters opponent which some say could be Old Dominion, while others are saying Louisiana Tech. They hope to return a favor to Wichita State this week as they host the Shockers who have been the ones to defeat the Panthers so far in the conference season. They will also host a struggling Southern Illinois team.
Wichita State (1-0 this week)—The Shockers are trying to keep pace with Northern Iowa by getting victories over Illinois State and Southern Illinois. Wichita hopes to have a chance at the league title by trying to beat Northern Iowa for the second time this season. But it will be a lot tougher on the road. They do not want to be like the 2004-05 team down the stretch. The Sycamores of Indiana State will be visiting Koch Arena this week as well. It is very likely the Shockers will be one of the Bracketbuster TV games.
MEDIOCRE AT BEST
Illinois State (1-1 this week)— The Redbirds are one of several Valley teams that cannot seem to find consistency, causing a huge logjam in the middle of the conference. They missed an opportunity to move up the ladder by losing to Wichita State earlier in the week, but then just completely demolished in-state rival Bradley this past weekend. If the Redbirds are to be a factor, they need someone else other than Osiris Eldridge to be on the court making plays and that guy is Lloyd Phillips. They hope the momentum gained from the Bradley win will take them to victories against Indiana State and Drake this week.
Missouri State (1-1 this week)—Missouri State lost a couple close contests this week against Creighton and split seconds from taking down Northern Iowa. The Bears are now sitting on the outside looking in on the conference race. They are the top scoring team in the league, but last in scoring defense. It will not be any easier for them as they will take on conference stalwarts Southern Illinois and Creighton this week.
Drake (1-1 this week)—Drake is a bit of a surprise in the conference. After losing their first four conference games, they have reeled off six wins in their last seven games and are coming together quite well as a team. Against Creighton, they had their largest crowd of the year. Josh Young will become Drake’s all-time leading scorer before the season is over. They will be tested on the road this week at Bradley and Illinois State. They get two wins this week, and this will be the Valley turnaround of the year.
Creighton (1-1 this week)—With the suspension of P’Allen Stinnett, the Bluejays overcame some adversity to get the win in Peoria. But the additional loss of Darryl Ashford for the game at Drake was a little too much. Stinnett had this to say to the Omaha World Herald in a text message. “I need to find some way to play hard and channel my emotions in a positive way. I apologize to Creighton, to my team and my coaching staff in my failure to represent the university with the respect and attitude that I should.” Creighton tries to stay alive with games against Evansville and a trip to Missouri State this week.
Indiana State (2-0 this week)—Subject to streakiness, the Sycamores have been one of the more confusing teams in the conference. This week they won two games against Southern Illinois and Evansville breaking a 5-game losing streak tradition that they seem to have every season at some point in the conference season. That probably means they will go 0-2 against Wichita State and Illinois State.
MAKING AN APPEARANCE
Southern Illinois (1-2 this week)—Southern Illinois started a three game week by getting an out of conference visit by Western Kentucky which they won and thought they were turning a corner, but then they could not get by Indiana State and lost to Wichita State at home. Could Creighton and Southern Illinois both finish with a losing record and at the bottom of the conference? That could be a possibility. With Missouri State and Northern Iowa on the slate this week, Southern Illinois has a lot to worry about.
Bradley (0-2 this week) – At the beginning of the season, I saw Jim Les squarely on the hot seat and many people including Bradley fans couldn’t believe I would say that. But how do things look now in Peoria? First they come out cold against Creighton starting the game 2-17 from the field, and although they came back, it was not enough to get the win. Then they travelled along I-76 to take on rival Illinois State and were basically run out of the gym. They could look on the bright side, but I don’t know if it will help. It will be interesting how they do against a surging Drake and really down Evansville team this week.
Evansville (0-2 this week, 12 game losing streak)—The Aces are working hard, and they keep games fairly close, as evidenced by losses against Missouri State and Indiana State this past week, but they just cannot get a win. Injuries are not a concern — the team’s all healthy. A visit to Creighton and at home against Bradley are on the slate this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are able to pick up a win against the Braves.
WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH
The battle for the middle of the pack and staying out of Thursday in St. Louis continues this week
- 2/3, Wichita State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV in both markets)—Wichita’s last chance to make a run at UNI for the conference championship. Too bad this game isn’t available to a wider audience.
- 2/6, Creighton @ Missouri State (Local TV in Omaha)—Both teams need a win badly.
- 2/6, Drake @ Illinois State (Local TV in Illinois)—Drake is on a roll but a win here would really be a surprise. The Redbirds, on the other hand, still want to be in the running and talked about.
- 2/6, Southern Illinois @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—The Panthers aren’t the flashiest team in the world, but they find ways to win. The Salukis are not the Salukis of old.
- 2/6, Bradley @ Evansville (Fox Sports Net)—Interesting in that it’s a chance for Evansville to get their first conference win of the season.