RTC Conference Primers: #12 – Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • 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?

Kyle Weems May Be The Best Player In A Resurgent MVC This Season. (MVC-Sports.com)

  • 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

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Floriani’s NIT Diary: Ganging Up on the Garden

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 2nd, 2011


Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is an RTC contributor. While covering the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden, Ray sent us photographic evidence of his mischief along with a few notes.

This tournament still has a place, a big place. Teams might not get on the board Selection Sunday, and there is an initial disappointment in not getting in the Big Dance. Once the games and challenges present themselves, the participants realize the NIT is a big deal.  The nation’s oldest postseason tournament has tradition and history on its side. Plus, the Final Four earn a trip to New York and the chance to play on the hallowed court of Madison Square Garden as an added incentive.


A rainy afternoon greets visitors and rush hour commuters outside of the ‘world’s most famous arena’. The Celtic Thunder announcement depicted does not pertain to a certain NBA franchise about 220 miles to the north.

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Crowning #69, the Wichita State Shockers…

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2011

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.  He was at Thursday night’s NIT Championship and filed the following report.

Graham Hatch was beaming in the postgame press conference. Could you blame him? The senior from Mesa, Arizona, had just played a major part in helping his team win the NIT on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, plus he was wrapping up his collegiate career with a win. Not many players can say that.  Hatch connected on all four of his shots against Alabama, including back-to-back threes that sealed the game for the Shockers en route to their 66-57 win in front of 4,873 fans at the Garden. For his efforts, Hatch was named the NIT’s most outstanding player. He could barely believe it after the game.


A Mid Over an SEC Team -- Prelude to Monday Night?

“This is what it’s all about,” Hatch said. “It’s just magical. It’s unbelievable.” For all those who say the NIT is a meaningless tournament, the Wichita State players and coaches were having none of that tonight. Coach Gregg Marshall talked about how special this group of kids, now the single-season record holders for wins in school history (29), is to him but he singled out Hatch and junior center Garrett Stutz. Marshall spoke glowingly about them, saying you won’t find better human beings than these two players. “That’s a fact.”

The first half was well played by both teams but the Shockers (29-8) seized control late, using an 11-1 run over a three minute span in the latter stages of the game to put it away and win their first NIT title. The Crimson Tide had pulled to within four with under six minutes to play but Aaron Ellis made an important jumper with 4:43 to go and then Hatch struck the first of his two blows 26 seconds later.  JaMychal Green led the Crimson Tide (25-12) with 10 first half points but made only one field goal after intermission. Green picked up his fourth foul with 10:59 remaining and was forced to sit on the bench until it was too late. Alabama actually shaved one point off the Wichita State lead in the first five minutes after Green’s fourth foul but couldn’t sustain that momentum long enough for their star player to have an impact down the stretch.  Tony Mitchell led Alabama with 13 points and 12 rebounds but also turned the ball over five times in the loss.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.22.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 22nd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All of these games are from tournaments played on a neutral floor. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maui Invitational Opening Round: Connecticut vs. Wichita State — 3 pm on ESPN2 (***)

The best game of Maui’s first day features a matchup of teams with contrasting styles. Wichita State is a very deliberate, low scoring team that will sit back and play half court defense. Connecticut, without a dominant big man such as Emeka Okafor or Hasheem Thabeet, prefers to run with its guards and wings led by Kemba Walker. The junior point guard had a good offseason and is tearing it up so far. He had 42/8/3 in a game against Vermont last week, an 89-73 Husky win. Alex Oriakhi has been great for Jim Calhoun in the first two games of the season averaging 11/13 and 3.5 blocks, a Calhoun trademark. As a team, Connecticut pulled down an astounding 52 rebounds per contest in their first two games. Wichita State does a good job on the defensive glass but they will encounter a tough test against Connecticut. The Shockers are fairly efficient on offense despite their slow pace. One thing they have going for them is their three point shooting versus the Huskies’ defense. Wichita shoots it well while UConn ranks 288th in defending the three. To win, the Shockers need to take advantage of this behind 6’4 guards Toure’ Murry and Graham Hatch. Forward J.T. Durley can also step out and stroke it from three so Wichita clearly has the perimeter threats to make this a close game. The Shockers need a strong defensive effort on Walker as well as wing Roscoe Smith. They don’t create a lot of turnovers because of their pace so holding their own on the boards becomes paramount. If Connecticut wins the rebounding battle handily, it’ll be very difficult for Wichita State to win this game.

CBE Classic Semifinal: #1 Duke vs. Marquette – 7:30 pm on ESPN2 (****)

This game is interesting because it’s Duke’s first test against a good team. Marquette has been vastly underrated by many in the crowded Big East but the Golden Eagles have a solid roster full of young talent and experienced players, always a good combination. Everybody knows about Duke and their stars Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler so let’s shine a little light on Buzz Williams’ crew from the Brew City and see what they have to do to win. Marquette is led by senior swing Jimmy Butler, a candidate for first team all-Big East. Butler broke out last season and is the focal point of Williams’ offense this year. He is surrounded by dynamic guard Darius Johnson-Odom, promising freshman Vander Blue and senior Dwight Buycks. Marquette’s strength is in the backcourt and on the wing, as is Duke’s. If there’s one thing these two teams don’t do all that well it is defend the three, especially Marquette. Williams needs a great defensive effort from his guards if they hope to contain their explosive opponent. The Golden Eagles defend the paint well, ranking fairly high in defensive two point percentage. They must limit the interior players for Duke and force all the action on the guards where a strong effort can possibly contain them. Duke is even deeper off the bench with Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, both deep threats. Duke is a heavy favorite in this game for good reason but Marquette is going to give them a run. We think Buzz can motivate his team enough and parlay that with their talent to be in this game deep into the second half. Marquette needs everything to go right in this game but that’s not as far-fetched as you may think. MU can run but they don’t want to get caught in a track meet with the Blue Devils where transition opportunities will favor Duke. To knock off #1, Marquette has to hold Duke around 40% shooting and get a huge game out of a Butler, Johnson-Odom and someone off the bench like Jae Crowder. We’re not picking Marquette to win the game but don’t be surprised if this one is closer than you may have originally thought.

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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ATB: Purdue Gets Painter’s Message

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

Message Received, Loud and Clear#15 Purdue 84, Illinois 78.  Matt Painter threw everyone on his team other than E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel under the bus over the weekend in comments he made about the lack of hustle and energy from his players during the Boilermakers’ recent three-game losing streak.  It’s a tried-and-true coaching strategy, and it seemed to work tonight as his team used a strong second half run out of the game to take control of this game and make Painter look like a genius.  Examining the players that Painter referred to in his diatribe, he conspicuously omitted JaJuan Johnson from a preferred starting lineup (composed entirely of Moore and Hummel clones), and that slight resulted in a dominant 24/12/2 blks evening for the big man.  When JJJ plays up to his abilities on the offensive end, Purdue is nearly unbeatable, going 8-1 in the last two seasons when he breaks twenty points.  When he’s held under ten for the game, the Boilermaker record is 6-6 over the same period, including all three losses this season.  Additionally, usual starters Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer were relegated to bench duty tonight, but 7/9/3 assts between the two of them show that they were focused on defense and hustle stats.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was sophomore guard John Hart coming off the bench to contribute a career-high 14/2 in eighteen inspired minutes of action.  Believe it or not, tonight was Hart’s first minute of action in a Big 10 game — nice debut, young fella!  Illinois played well enough to win the game on the defensive end, but like so many other Illini games over the year, they simply couldn’t get enough production aside from Demetri McCamey (28/9) and Mike Davis (17/15).  Freshmen guard duo DJ Richardson (12/2) and Brandon Paul (5/3) shot 6-18 from the field, which was surprisingly their best combined output in three weeks, but Illini fans have to be wondering what happened to the pair that combined for 34 points in the big comeback at Clemson in early December.

Johnson Accepted Painter's Challenge Tonight (AP/Robin Scholz)

Watch Out, ACC. #18 Georgia Tech 66, #16 Clemson 64. The Ramblin’ Wreck moved to 3-2 in the ACC with its third win in eleven days over a ranked team (nevermind that pesky loss to UVa sandwiched in between).  And while the win is very nice and worth talking about on its own merits, what we really want to discuss is that the nation’s #2 incoming recruit, Derrick Favors, may have awakened from his season-long slumber to serve notice that the second half of the year may be a somewhat different story for his opponents.  His numbers weren’t Michael Beasley or Blake Griffin-esque (17/14/3 blks), but they do represent his best all-around performance of the season (career highs in pts and rebs), and had he made his FTs (1-5) he would have broken the 20-point barrier as well.  As Favors said after the game, he is ‘playing better,’ and if he is putting it all together just in time for the home stretch of the season, Georgia Tech suddenly becomes the most interesting team in the ACC.  Gani Lawal added 16/10 for Tech and Zachery Peacock (6/5) hit the game-winning FTs with 3.2 seconds remaining.

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