Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference
A Look Back
- Finals Make a Slow Week—The Missouri Valley Conference was quiet for the most part this week as teams had less time on the practice court and fewer games to be played due to finals. Each team only played once this past week except Wichita State and Northern Iowa.
- Schedule Anomalies—Speaking of scheduling, a few schools have had some extended time off. Bradley has not played since their December 8 loss at Duke, but the Braves play two games this week before Christmas. Southern Illinois has had 11 days in between games since the December 11 loss at Western Kentucky. Indiana State lost to Purdue this past Saturday and does not play again until conference play begins on December 29. In addition, the winning percentage of The Valley as a whole is at its lowest since 2003. These are not good times for this league.
- Echenique’s Debut—Creighton fans have been waiting for almost a year for Gregory Echenique to step on the court for the Bluejays. In his debut on Saturday night, Echenique scored 12 points, grabbed five rebounds and tallied three blocks in 18 minutes of action. Two games against Western Illinois and Samford will let Echenique get more court time before conference season.
- Player of the Week—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems has shown a lot of consistency in the non-conference season and his 26 points and eight rebounds led the way in the Bears’ win against Saint Louis this week.
- Newcomer of the Week—Kenneth Harris, Evansville.—Harris was instrumental in Evansville gaining a victory against Middle Tennessee this week with his 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds. The Aces had to hold on after blowing a 21-point lead in the final twelve minutes of the game.
Power Rankings (Record) (Last week’s rank)
- Wichita State (8-2) (2)—The Shockers played twice this week with a warm-up game against Alabama A&M before hitting the road with what amounted to basically a road game against LSU. Garrett Stutz hit a three-pointer with eight seconds to go to give Wichita State a two-point lead and they held on for the win. I know I had Toure’ Murry as the MVC Player of the Year this season, but he is really struggling as of late, including a 3-12 performance against LSU and five turnovers. Tulsa comes to town before the holidays to close out the non-conference slate.
- Missouri State (7-3) (1)—Missouri State earned a nice win against Saint Louis on Saturday, and only fall in the rankings due to the competition they played this week compared to Wichita State. However, I still think that overall, Missouri State is still slightly ahead of the Shockers. The Bears play Arkansas State in a rematch of the opening round of the NIT-Tipoff. Defensive intensity is still something they are working on.
- Northern Iowa (7-3) (4)— Northern Iowa heads to Las Vegas this week for a great opportunity to get a couple of wins against the top conferences in the nation. However, even though Indiana and Colorado have potential this season, they still aren’t the top teams in their respective conferences. At the same time these could be significant wins come March. Kerwin Dunham has been absent lately because of plantar fasciitis. Injuries are not good for any team trying to make the postseason.
- Illinois State (7-3) (3)—The Redbirds might have an opportunity here come conference play. They didn’t win against the toughest teams in their non-conference slate, but Tim Jankovich has had a nice opportunity to play a lot of players and lineups to prepare for conference season, including Blake Mishler. They close out on the road at UNC-Wilmington on Monday.
- Creighton (6-4) (5)— Creighton gets a chance to solidify their rotation with a couple of buy games this week before Christmas. Even though Gregory Echenique looked good on Saturday night, they barely beat a bad Idaho State team, which shows they still have a ways to go.
- Evansville (5-4) (7)—The Purple Aces created a lot of unnecessary drama on Saturday with their win over Middle Tennessee, who they met for the second time this season. Evansville appears to have a lot more potential than the likes of Southern Illinois and Indiana State at this point. They definitely won’t end up in the cellar.
- Southern Illinois (5-5) (6)—The Salukis have not played since December 11 and may have to shake the rust off against Northern Illinois before preparing for conference play. One thing I know they probably have been working on is rebounding. But they are still looking for that leader they have not had since Bryan Mullins was there.
- Indiana State (5-6) (8)—The Sycamores battled Purdue this past weekend, but just came up short in their final game of the non-conference season. They now have until December 29 to prepare for Bradley in their conference opener which now looks like a winnable game. They also have two very capable players in Jake Kelly and Dwayne Lathan, but they have put a little too much pressure on themselves.
- Bradley (4-5) (9)— The Braves are still recovering from their blowout at Duke and will play two games this week against Jackson State and Detroit. Jim Les has the opportunity to finalize his rotation and hopefully find the players that will ultimately replace Taylor Brown and Sam Maniscalco who are both out for the season with injury. Now add backup point guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards to the injury list with a sprained knee. Dodie Dunson is now the only option at point guard for Bradley.
- Drake (4-5) (10)— Drake came up short against their in-state rival Iowa, but have a couple games this week against Dartmouth and Chicago State. A loss to either of these teams could mean disaster for this young team. They also have to understand how to break the press.
A Look Ahead
There are only a couple games before the holidays and the start of conference season that are of significance.
- 12/21—Tulsa @ Wichita State at Intrust Bank Arena (Local TV)—After the thrilling victory against LSU on a neutral court this past weekend, the Shockers leave their normal comfy confines of Koch Arena to instead play downtown at the brand new Intrust Bank Arena against the always tough Tulsa. This could end up being their best win of the non-conference season.
- 12/22—Detroit @ Bradley (No TV)—With the injuries Bradley has had to deal with this season, this game will be an interesting one to see if they can pull out what might have looked like a guarantee win at the beginning of the season.
- 12/22-23—Northern Iowa at Las Vegas Classic (CBS College Sports)—The Panthers head to Las Vegas right before Christmas to play a couple of games. They open first on Wednesday against Indiana and then play either Colorado or New Mexico on Thursday. These could be two great wins for Northern Iowa after the slow start they have had this season and set them up with some great confidence before the start of conference play.