Reader’s Take I
- Back to Multiple Bids?: The Missouri Valley Conference is getting a little more attention entering this season than in the past, and rightfully so. Six of the top ten scorers in the league are back along with four of the top five rebounders. The league is looking to have the impact it had back in the 2005-06 season, when it sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament. Since then, only the automatic qualifier from the MVC Tournament has advanced to The Dance. With so many talented upperclassmen, there could be an opportunity for The Valley to get closer to that status of six years ago.
- Kyle Weems or Doug McDermott?: There are a lot of people that have probably forgotten that Kyle Weems of Missouri State was the MVC Player of the Year last season with all the buzz that Creighton’s Doug McDermott received over the summer. Going into 2011-12, one hotly-debated topic is whether Weems can repeat or if McDermott will build upon his MVC Freshman of the Year performance. McDermott was only the second freshman in the 100-year-plus history of the MVC to get first team all-conference honors. Weems tried to lead Missouri State to the NCAA Tournament, but came up just short. Due to the personnel losses by the Bears, including their coach, and all of the returning players for the Bluejays, can Weems surprise the “experts” and have even better success to repeat?
- New Ford Center: Evansville will start the season in a new downtown arena, the Ford Center. They open it in style with in-state powers Butler and Indiana visiting to start the season. This building represents the continual facility improvements for the Missouri Valley Conference member schools. Creighton started the trend with the Qwest Center (recently renamed CenturyLink Center). Northern Iowa followed suit with its own basketball building in the McLeod Center. Missouri State opened JQH Arena a couple years later and in Wichita, a new arena was built to complement Koch Arena as a place where the Shockers can play a game or two a year. Southern Illinois spent almost $30 million to renovate SIU Arena. So if you are looking for a conference that keeps upgrading the basketball environment like a major conference, this is where you should go.
- Scheduling Philosophies: In the past, the MVC member schools would hold back a game on their schedules to try to get a home-and-home series against a high-major school. Although this has worked out in the past, it sort of backfired this season. As a result, many of the final games scheduled for each team will come against a non-Division I school, and in other cases, a game was not even scheduled, leaving a gap between the end of the regular season slate and the conference tournament. Creighton and Illinois State chose to schedule one game fewer than the number of games they could have scheduled while the rest of the schools scheduled the likes of Loras College, Emporia State, Upper Iowa, Maryville and others as a regular season game on the schedule. With almost 350 teams in Division-I, that isn’t a good sign for a non-major, major conference.
Predicted Order of Finish