Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Current Records and my standings, (Conference Standings) (Last Week)
- Northern Iowa 22-3 (13-2) (1)
- Wichita State 21-6 (10-5) (2)
- Illinois State 18-8 (9-6) (3)
- Creighton 13-13 (8-7) (6)
- Bradley 13-12 (8-7) (7)
- Indiana State 15-11 (7-8) (4)
- Missouri State 17-9 (7-8) (5)
- Drake 11-16 (6-9) (8)
- Southern Illinois 14-11 (6-9) (9)
- Evansville 7-18 (1-14) (10)
STORIES OF THE WEEK
Northern Iowa clinches conference—UNI clinched a share of the MVC title on Wednesday night with their win against Drake. They will go into the MVC Tournament as the number one seed with everyone else in the conference gunning for them to give the Valley an opportunity to get more than one team into the NCAA Tournament. However, some pundits including Jerry Palm don’t believe that Northern Iowa is in yet, even as an at-large. The Mock NCAA exercise has the Panthers as a 13 seed. It will be up to the Panthers to hold up down the stretch as they struggled a year ago in this same position.
Eglseder Suspended for Three Games– Northern Iowa may have run into a problem though as their center Jordan Eglseder was arrested Saturday night for drunk driving. Eglseder was stopped in his vehicle by officers at about 3 a.m. Sunday. Officers observed Eglseder’s vehicle committing a traffic violation and followed the vehicle for a couple of blocks before stopping it. Eglseder was administered a field sobriety test at the scene and failed it. He is now suspended for three games at a minimum and could affect how UNI finishes the regular season and the big game against Old Dominion on Friday becomes even bigger.
Evansville being the spoiler—The other team in the Valley to even have a little consideration as to tourney talk was Wichita State. The Shockers have been trying to pad their resume a little more down the stretch. Unfortunately, they ran into Evansville who were on a 14-game losing streak. You expected that the Purple Aces would get a win at some point. They ended up getting it against Wichita State. This victory has opened up a chance for second place in the conference and the Shockers are back on their heels.
Bracketbuster week—This weekend is Bracketbuster weekend. Northern Iowa and Wichita State need wins in this event to give the Valley a little more credibility. The Panthers host Old Dominion on Friday night and the Shockers go out to Utah State in the final game of the day. Missouri State is also on the ESPN family of networks against Nevada which may not be of any real significance for either school. Some people have their own opinion about Bracketbusters.
THE AVERAGE VALLEY
Once again teams are beating up on each other this week without any consistency down the stretch. Let’s take a look at the Valley teams.
Illinois State (2-0 this week)— The Redbirds have been the most successful team this week, getting victories on the road at their rival Bradley and at Creighton on Saturday. Some of the Illinois State fans were not to excited about the shirts some of the Bradley fans wore to the game. The Redbirds have now won three games in a row by a total of seven points to take over sole possession of third place in the Valley. They host Missouri State in a conference seeding game and then Morehead State next weekend in Bracketbusters.
Northern Iowa (1-1 this week)—The Panthers got past their in-state rival Drake this week, but then after celebrating winning a share of the Valley regular season title, they were surprised by Bradley. They are being celebrated as Iowa’s team of the decade. That is quite an accomplishment since there are teams from the Big 10 and the Big 12 also in the state. The Panthers will get some love at home this week as they host Creighton and then kick off Bracketbusters Friday night against Old Dominion.
Bradley (1-1 this week)—Bradley was pretty fired up to take on Illinois State this week in the return game of their rivalry after getting smoked in Normal the week before. Unfortunately it was not enough as Bradley lost a two-point decision to the Redbirds. The black uniforms may not be the answer. In a turn of events, Northern Iowa came in and Bradley took it to them from the beginning and put themselves back into contention to avoid Thursday night in St. Louis. The win against Northern Iowa was the first victory for Bradley against a ranked team at the 27-year old Carver Arena. A conference game at Indiana State this week is on the slate before hosting Drexel in their Bracketbusters game Saturday night.
Wichita State (1-1 this week)—The Shockers are starting to get a little complacent as they head down the stretch. Losing two of their last three games going into the game against Missouri State, the Shockers are playing themselves out of consideration for an at-large much less a good seed in the conference tournament. They are looking like last season’s Creighton team that just missed getting into the NCAAs. They may be thinking their program is returning to prominence, but they need to slow down a bit. After surviving at home against Missouri State, where they are now 15-0, they need wins this week against Evansville and at Utah State in the Bracketbusters to keep them from a total collapse.
Missouri State (1-1 this week)—The Bears are full of confidence right now and are getting their momentum back at the right time. After starting the season 12-1, Missouri State has been up and down throughout the rest of the conference season. Missouri State had Wichita State on the ropes Sunday night, but could not pull out the victory. It will be a big game for the Bears at Illinois State on Wednesday before hosting Nevada in the Bracketbusters this weekend.
Creighton (1-1 this week) –Justin Carter swished a half-court shot in practice to end it early and to give the team a smile leading into the Bluejays’ golden opportunity to solidify their third place position by getting a win against Illinois State. However, they couldn’t get the win and the Redbirds are now 7-1 against the Bluejays over the past four seasons. It is very possible they will meet again in St. Louis. P’Allen Stinnett’s suspension is now permanent until the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if he returns to the Bluejays next year. The Bluejays hit the road against conference champs Northern Iowa before hosting Loyola (IL) in Bracketbusters this weekend.
Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores are trying to stay afloat with their top three scorers already out for the season. They hung around but did not have enough against Creighton. However, it is always nice to play at home and they were able to get some confidence in a win against Drake while only committing three turnovers. Bradley comes to town this week before hitting the road against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Bracketbusters.
Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)—The Salukis are not finishing the season strong and are again headed towards a disappointing season. They just hope they do not finish with a losing record again. Not finishing games has been their main problem this season. Nick Evans, who had not played since the Creighton game on January 13, has left the team due to personal reasons. SIU heads to Drake before hosting Western Michigan in this weekend’s Bracketbusters.
Evansville (1-1 this week)—At long last, Evansville got a conference win and it was against one of the better teams in the conference in Wichita State. In the process of beating the Shockers, Colt Ryan broke the school’s freshman scoring record. The Aces play the Shockers again this week, but on the road. Illinois-Chicago pulls the short straw and gets to go to Evansville for their Bracketbuster game.
Drake (0-2 this week, 4-game losing streak, lost 5 of 6)—Drake has now gone on a big slide after earlier threatening to become a contender in the conference. Seth VanDeest will be quite the player to contend with over the next few seasons for Drake. A battle of the bottom with Southern Illinois on the slate before taking a trip out to California to take on Cal-State Northridge for their Bracketbuster game. How that matchup is good for both schools is beyond me and is one of the examples of the bad things that can happen because of the Bracketbuster format.
WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH
The few Valley teams on TV for Bracketbuster weekend hope to make some noise. At the same time, almost one Valley team on the tube all week long.
- 2/16, Creighton @ Northern Iowa (Fox Sports Net)—This game has a lot less significance than it did at the beginning of the season, but still should be a good one to watch.
- 2/17, Evansville @ Wichita State (No TV)—The Shockers hope to give a little payback after Evansville notched their first conference win of the season against them last week.
- 2/17, Missouri State @ Illinois state (Fox Sports Net)—A positioning game for the MVC Tournament
- 2/19, Old Dominion @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—A featured game of Bracketbusters with two of the top teams in the field. It is the Valley vs. the Colonial conferences.
- 2/20, Nevada @ Missouri State (ESPN2)—A middle of the road Bracketbuster game that may not mean anything at the end of the season as both teams probably need to win their conference tournaments to get into the Big Dance.
- 2/20, Wichita State @ Utah State (ESPN2)—The final game of Bracketbusters should be a key one for either team and many may stay awake for this one.