Checking In On… The Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Wichita State on Top: The showdown in Omaha was not really a showdown as much as it was a statement by the Shockers that they are the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Wichita State beat Creighton 89-68 to give itself a two-game lead in the conference race and all but seal the regular season championship. Creighton was able to get Garrett Stutz into foul trouble, but the Shockers showed they have a lot of different weapons with Joe Ragland and Ben Smith slicing and dicing the Creighton defense.
  • Creighton Falls From Rankings: The Bluejays have been a mainstay most of the season in the top 25 rankings, but after their three-game slide culminating with the loss to Wichita State, the Bluejays are now on the outside looking in. They more or less traded spots with Wichita State, but the Shockers were still only ranked in the AP poll and not the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. For the Shockers, it is their first top 25 ranking since 2006. It is still surprising that although they have a similar record as Creighton and maybe has a better win against UNLV than Creighton’s win over San Diego State, Wichita State is not getting the same amount of respect as the Bluejays have had this season.
  • BracketBuster Week—This week is the annual Bracketbusters weekend that includes all ten MVC teams. Five of the schools (Creighton, Drake, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Wichita State) will be featured on the ESPN family of networks over the weekend. A win over Long Beach State could help Creighton recover some of the lost accolades, but Missouri State and Northern Iowa have the biggest opportunity to make some noise with wins over the always-tough CAA.

 

Gregg Marshall's Shockers Surged Soundly Ahead Of Creighton Heading Into BracketBusters Weekend.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Only a couple of weeks to go in the regular season and teams are finally starting to separate out.

  1. Wichita State (22-4, 13-2) (1): Wichita State has been playing some great basketball for the past several weeks.  Other than the triple-overtime loss to Drake a couple of weeks ago, the Shockers have won the other 12 of their last 13 games. The balance on this team is what has made it so tough to go along with tough defense. Joe Ragland has been a big part of that balance. Many are surprised that Wichita is not ranked in one of the polls.
  2. Creighton (22-5, 12-4) (2)— The Bluejays broke out of a three-game slump with a needed win at Southern Illinois before heading into the Bracketbusters game this weekend against Long beach State. Creighton is still in a good position for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large squad, but cannot lose to teams they shouldn’t in this final stretch run. Despite the public showing of head coach Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott during a timeout on Saturday, everything is fine between father and son. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

BracketBusters—On Monday night, ESPN announced the matchups for the tenth installment of the BracketBusters series.  Creighton and Wichita State fans were hoping that a few matchups would go their way with St. Mary’s headed to Creighton and the Shockers getting an opportunity to knock of undefeated Murray State. This was not meant to be as St. Mary’s and Murray State were paired together. That sent Long Beach State to Creighton and Wichita State to Davidson. The Shockers’ triple-overtime loss at Drake hurt them more than probably anyone realized with this matchup. A total of five teams from the Missouri Valley Conference were selected for games on the ESPN family of networks. Here is the full schedule of games for the MVC:

February 17:

  • Northern Iowa @ Virginia Commonwealth, 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

February 18:

  • Wichita State @ Davidson, 11 AM CT (ESPN or ESPN2)
  • Southern Illinois @ Ball State, 1 PM CT
  • Indiana State at Butler, 1 PM CT
  • Drake @ New Mexico State, 2 PM CT (ESPNU)
  • Old Dominion @ Missouri State, 4 PM CT (ESPNU)
  • Oakland @ Illinois State, 4 PM CT
  • Loyola-Chicago @ Bradley, 7 PM CT
  • Long Beach State @ Creighton, 9 PM CT (ESPN2)
  • Western Illinois @ Evansville, TBD

More Free Basketball—This week, several conference games were contested throughout and sent to overtime. Missouri State lost to Illinois State in overtime last Wednesday to kick the week off.  Then, in Des Moines on Saturday, Wichita State and Drake went to triple overtime before the Bulldogs came away as victors. Finally on Sunday, Indiana State and Evansville battled to double overtime before the Sycamores left Evansville with a victory. The league is setup this season in a way that pretty much anyone can beat anyone on any given night.

Chaos in the Standings—With Wichita State’s loss, the Shockers fell out of the tie with Creighton in the league race. With the Bluejays holding a one game lead over Wichita, the game in Omaha on February 11th becomes even more important. But after that, the rest of the league is still in flux. A total of two games separate teams three through nine in the standings and no one seems to want to break out of that pack. One week, a team like Evansville will go 3-0 and then the next go 0-2. Others, like Missouri State keep splitting their weekly games. Right now, there’s little hope for more than two teams making the NCAA Tournament, barring a run in the MVC Tournament. Even something like that could knock Wichita State off if they are sitting on the bubble.

Creighton Draws An Interesting BracketBuster Date, But It Seems Like Other Valley Teams Could Do More Harm Than Good With Their Matchups. (UPI/Will Greenblatt)

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Drake invited themselves to the Creighton and Wichita State party while the rest of the league tries to position itself for the MVC Tournament that is about a month away.

  1. Creighton (20-2, 10-1) (1): Creighton continues to roll along with a ten-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s action. There has been some debate based on statistics that Wichita State is a better team than Creighton. They may seem similar with schedules, but the Bluejays do own a win over the Shockers in Wichita. The one concern for Creighton however, is the turnovers and sloppy play as of late. The Bluejays had 19 turnovers against Bradley and were able to win, but at some point, those miscues could catch up with them. It is their teamwork that keeps winning games.
  2. Wichita State (18-4, 9-2) (2): The Shockers hit a stumbling block in their triple-OT loss against Drake and then were assigned to play at Davidson in the BracketBusters later this month. These two things were probably not something they wanted, although coach Gregg Marshall gets to go a little closer to home. One asset to Wichita State is its depth, but in the loss to Drake, Marshall only played about seven players throughout the game. Also, despite Garrett Stutz’s back problems, he logged a staggering 50 minutes in that game. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Battling in the Middle—Last week, we talked about Creighton and Wichita State being in a two-team race to the finish. This week, take a look at the five teams after them. Nobody really wants to rise above the rest except for possibly Evansville. The Aces were the only ones in that group to go undefeated this past week while the other four went 1-1. Drake has a big opportunity to separate itself this week while hosting the Bluejays and the Shockers.
  • Colt Ryan Flying Under the Radar—Speaking of Evansville, Colt Ryan is someone that casual fans need to keep an eye on. With Creighton’s Doug McDermott getting most of the attention this season, Ryan has continued to improve, especially during conference play, to become a bigger scoring machine. He now sits at fifth in the nation in scoring (21.2 PPG). It helps when you can score 39 against Bradley and 20 against Illinois State in the two games he played in this week.

There's No Question Who Drives The Bus For The Aces - It's Evansville's Colt Ryan. (Erin McCracken/Courier & Press)

  • Bracketbusters—The Bracketbusters match-ups will be announced early next week and the MVC looks like they could be featured in two of the top three games. The question now remains who the opponents will be. Creighton will likely get a game against either St. Mary’s or Long Beach State while Wichita State looks to travel to Murray State or Iona. The match-ups will determine whether Creighton and Wichita State will be playing for possibly a better NCAA Tournament seed or if they are matched up with teams that are hoping for a signature win for their resume. For the remaining MVC teams, the Bracketbusters could actually be a benefit this year more than it has been in the past.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

We are halfway through the Missouri Valley Conference season, but it appears that the table is set for the battle between Creighton and Wichita State for the regular season crown.

  1. Creighton (18-2, 8-1) (1): The Bluejays escaped Missouri State with a win after having several opportunities to lose the game in the final minute. They turned around and ushered Indiana State out of the CenturyLink Center. Could the Bluejays be a sleeper Final Four team? That is yet to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise either. There have been some comparisons to this season’s Creighton team to the 2002-03 season—the senior year of future Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
  2. Wichita State (17-3, 8-1) (2): Toure’ Murry is embracing his last season as a Shocker by taking over games, especially last week against Northern Iowa. For the season his minutes are up (27.5), points per game is up (12.2) and field goal percentage is up (42.3%) compared to last season. In the last five games, WSU is 87-of-112 (77.6%) from the free throw line. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of 7-footer Garrett Stutz. Some back problems may limit his effectiveness as the season plays out. The Shockers are really close to cracking the Top 25. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • McDermott Continues To Impress—Doug McDermott continues to be on the radar of most major college basketball lists, especially with his 44-point performance against Bradley on Saturday night, which is tops in college hoops this season and the most for an MVC player since 1999. Jay Bilas of ESPN even tabbed McDermott as the mid-season Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see ultimately how McDermott handles all of this attention.
  • Look out for Illinois State—Illinois State has been criticized the past few seasons due to how coach Tim Jankovich scheduled his team in non-conference play. The schedule was upgraded slightly this season and it may be paying dividends in conference play. They have won six of their last eight, including a last second three-pointer by Jackie Carmichael, his first of his career, to defeat Evansville (video below).  Illinois State also gave Wichita State everything they could handle on Tuesday night.

  • Scoring In Bunches—In addition to McDermott’s career night this week, there have been several other players that had big outings.  Colt Ryan of Evansville scored 31 points against Wichita State and 25 against Illinois St., the Shockers’ Garrett Stutz had 29 points against Evansville and Rayvonte Rice (Drake) and Anthony James (Northern Iowa) went 27 and 26, respectively, against each other in their game this week. A lot of individual performances are arising this season in a conference that is generally known for its defense.

Power Rankings

After the first week of MVC play, a lot of positions changed in the power rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses).

  1. Creighton (14-2, 4-1) (1)—Creighton had two wins this past week against Drake and Bradley, but one area they need to watch out for is in the turnover category. They had 35 turnovers in those wins. Luckily for them, they were able to outscore the competition and players other than McDermott are making an impact, especially Grant Gibbs. The defense locked down against Northern Iowa on Tuesday and they pulled out a tight win at home. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ATB: Kroger Kontroversy, Chris Mack’s Dunk, and a Bunch of Non-Upsets…

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. This was the first full weekend of conference play, and as expected, teams that hadn’t played many legitimate road games prior to the turn of the new year found life away from home in hostile environments to be considerably tougher than lacing another game up at home. It wasn’t the best of college basketball weekends, nor was it the worst, but as we begin to settle ourselves into competition within the family for the next two months, it’s time to separate legitimacy from fraudulence through actual play on the court around the nation. Let’s jump into this weekend’s action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Kentucky Student’s Half-Court Shot Causes Kroger Controversy.

Meet Vincent Swope. No, he actually isn’t an SEC official, he just plays one when he attends Kentucky basketball games at Rupp Arena. The freshman who has turned a referee getup into his game-day trademark in UK’s eRupption Zone was selected to shoot a half-court shot worth $10,000 during Saturday’s game versus South Carolina. As you can see above, his heave from mid-court was true. According to published reports, shortly after the ball found the bottom of the net and Swope ran around the court rightfully celebrating his newfound riches, a representative from Kroger Foods, the contest sponsor, approached him suggesting that he had violated the terms of the contest by stepping over the half-court line. In the pantheon of snaky moves, Kroger’s reported attempt to screw a young student out of his winnings due to a technicality would have reached a new level of shady business dealings. Luckily, Matt Jones at Kentucky Sports Radio became aware of the situation and immediately mobilized his legion of Twitter followers to #occupyKroger in an anti-corporate social networking throwdown that would make Ralph Nader and Naomi Klein proud. Within an hour of the game’s finish, Kroger had caved and in fact called Jones himself to beg for his forgiveness, asking him to pass along to Swope that the company would make good on his prize. As of Sunday evening, Swope says that he hasn’t yet received the money, but we’d wager that Kroger has learned its lesson and won’t drag their feet too long on paying him. Great work from KSR/Jones in ensuring the right outcome here.

[ed. note: Kroger reached out to us, taking the stance that the company never suggested to Swope that he would not be paid for his shot. This contradicts Swope’s accounting of the sequence of events to Matt Jones, but it appears that Kroger will in fact pay the freshman his winnings, which is all anyone wanted in the first place.]

Then, There Was This. Chris Mack Gives Up His Knee For a Xavier Win. In an exceptionally odd situation, Xavier head coach Chris Mack jumped in the layup line during Friday’s practice and, after dunking the ball once, ended up tearing his patellar tendon in a freakish accident trying to do it again. Andre Walker said afterward that Mack’s injury was “really weird… a freak accident,” and to that sentiment we certainly agree. First of all, props to Mack for trying just about anything to get his team off the schneid (XU had lost five of six before beating Fordham Saturday) and for still being able to dunk a basketball at the age of 42, but he probably should have wowed the players just once and left it at that! What a weird season it’s already been at Xavier.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

Share this story

Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Teams Being Sneaky: While the focus has been on Creighton by the media for most of the season, a couple of other teams are making some noise without a whole lot of fanfare.  Northern Iowa has won eight games in a row since the loss at St. Mary’s while Wichita State has a five-game winning streak of their own including wins over UNLV, Tulsa and Utah State.  The Bluejays may be slightly favored, but once the MVC gets into conference play, all bets are off.  This could be the year the Valley has been waiting for.
  • An RPI Update: The Missouri Valley Conference has four teams in the top 33 of the RPI this week. Northern Iowa leads the way at #4 followed by Creighton (#16), Wichita State (#32), and Indiana State (#33).  With these top four teams continuing to play well, heads will continue to turn.
  • Southern Illinois at Rock Bottom: After an 11-day break and a chance to regroup with their 1-3 record, the Salukis came out this week and lost at home against Western Kentucky and on the road at Western Michigan in two more uninspiring outings. This once proud team is hitting rock bottom. The bigger question now is whether Chris Lowery will make it through this season. It is possible for SIU to be 1-7 when they head out to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.

Gregg Marshall And The Shockers Are Scooping Up Quality Wins Left And Right.

Power Rankings

  1. Northern Iowa (9-1)—Northern Iowa switched spots with Creighton this week based on their great play and because their only loss was against St. Mary’s who currently ranks atop the RealtimeRPI. The Panthers have quietly had a nice run and have steadily improved over the past three weeks. Their sweep of Iowa and Iowa State make them the state champion among the four Division I Iowa schools. In addition, only Northern Iowa and Kentucky have wins over the Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East this year. Jake Koch is keeping the Koch tradition in being an impact player for Northern Iowa. He came up with 21 points in the win over Milwaukee and has continued to improve as the season has gone along. His brother Adam was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in the 2009-10 season. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • The MVC/MWC Challenge Runs To A Draw: Over the weekend, the Missouri Valley and Mountain West Conferences played the third annual MVC/MWC Challenge games.  With only eight teams left in the current Mountain West, there were only eight games played.  Although Boise State played two MVC teams in the past few weeks, only one of those games was a part of the Challenge.  The two biggest games involved Creighton and Wichita State.  The Bluejays came back from 17 points down in the first half to escape San Diego State with a victory.   On the other side of the coin, Wichita State destroyed UNLV behind Joe Ragland’s 31 points.  The Challenge will finish out in the 2012-13 season.
  • Valley RPI Rising: The MVC has been having some pretty good non-conference success this year.  So good, in fact, that the Valley heads into this week with the seventh highest conference RPI.  This is quite a difference from sitting at #11 last season at the same time.  With Northern Iowa, Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State and Missouri State all in the top 41 in the RPI, things are looking great for multiple NCAA bids this year.
  • Creighton In The Top Twenty: With several teams ahead of the Bluejays losing, Creighton moved up to #17 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll and they make their debut in the AP poll sitting at #19.  In the AP poll, this represents Creighton’s first appearance since November 2006 and their highest ranking since March 2003.
  • Ragland Has His Day: Wichita State’s Joe Ragland created a little history in the big win over UNLV.  He was the first Shocker since 2006 that scored more than 30 points in a game.  He was dead-on from behind the arc, going 8-9 against UNLV.  In the two games this week, he was 14-18 from the field and 11-13 from behind the three point line.

Joe Ragland Sliced And Shot His Way To A 30-Point Game In The Shockers' Win Over The Runnin' Rebels Sunday. (MVC-Sports.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.   You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was:

  • Creighton Cracks The Polls—This week, for the first time since March 2007, the Bluejays are ranked in one of the major polls.  They check in at #25 in the USA Today Coaches poll.  The last team from the MVC to be ranked by the coaches was Northern Iowa, which was 13th in the final USA Today Coaches poll at the conclusion of the 2009-10 campaign.  While many saw Creighton as a sleeper this season, they now have a large target on their back.
  • Wichita State Falls Short—Last season, Wichita State faltered in the Maui Invitational by missing some opportunities to get some big name wins and did not have everything completely come together until they won the postseason NIT.  This season, they also struggled to get the wins they need from their exempt tournament, the Puerto Rico Tip-off.  They did beat Colorado, but then lost to Alabama and Temple. The good news is that they probably have a few more opportunities outside of this tournament this season.
  • Seat on Fire In Carbondale—Many knew that Chris Lowery was on the hot seat at Southern Illinois coming into this season.  Three games in, the question is whether he should have been allowed to come back this season after all.  With an 0-3 start, including a loss against Division II Ohio Dominican, this could be another long season in Carbondale.

The McDermotts Have Creighton Crashing The Polls In November.

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (4-0)—Creighton has started the season on a roll and they appear to have the pieces surrounding Doug McDermott to make it a special year. Creighton won their first three games largely without the need of scoring from center Gregory Echenique, but after beating Iowa on Sunday, Echenique is in the mix now on the offensive end. Grant Gibbs has played like another point guard on the court taking some pressure off of Antoine Young. Right now there is a lot of unselfish play with 56 assists on 66 baskets in the first two games and 86 assists on 125 field goals for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

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

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • BracketBustedThere have been many comments over the past few years by coaches and fans about how the BracketBusters concept has been overloaded and that it does not help teams.  After the Missouri Valley Conference’s performance this past weekend in the event, it is obvious that they do not take it seriously.  While this used to be an event that featured the MVC, it has turned into an event to feature the Colonial and the Horizon instead and the MVC walks away as a laughingstock.  The three games featuring Valley teams were losses (Missouri State, Wichita State and Northern Iowa) and the league went 3-7 over the weekend with only #7 Drake, #8 Southern Illinois and #9 Bradley getting wins.  The Valley, everyone!
  • Don’t Expect More Than OneWhile last week I talked about the possibility of the MVC getting two bids to the NCAA Tournament, do not expect that now.  On top of the horrible Bracketbusters performances, this past week, the NCAA again invited several media members to take part in a Mock Bracketing exercise where they went through the process of putting together the teams that would participate in the NCAA Tournament.  In their proceedings, Northern Iowa won the MVC tournament and got the league’s automatic bid.  In their discussions the rest of the way, contenders like Wichita State and Missouri State were discussed little or not at all.  And this was all before BracketBusters this weekend.   So expect the MVC to be a one-bid league for the fourth season in a row.
  • Saluki StupidityThere are definitely some chemistry problems with the Southern Illinois basketball team.  Information came out this week on the reason for the three game suspensions of starters Gene Teague, Mykel Cleveland and reserve Troy Long.   They used airsoft rifles to shoot teammate Davante Drinkard and another unidentified victim in a borrowed women’s basketball player car while Cleveland also had an expired driver’s license.   This all happened the evening after Saluki head coach Chris Lowery said his team quit playing in their blowout loss to Drake at SIU Arena.
  • Final WeekThe league focuses on the final week of the regular season and the battle in St. Louis for the NCAA Tournament bid.  Wichita State and Missouri State will fight for the top two spots while Northern Iowa, Indiana State, Creighton and Evansville will set themselves up for the 3-6 seeds.  It will likely be Drake, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Illinois State playing on Thursday night.
  • Player of the Week— Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa—The senior continues to shine for Northern Iowa averaging 25 points and 5 assists per game this past week.  Although the Panthers split their games, Ahelegbe has picked up the slack for Northern Iowa as they finish up the season.  Ahelegbe has had nine games with more than 20 points this season.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—McDermott continues his Valley record-setting season, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game this week.  He has been very consistent and has not hit that freshman wall that most players do at some point during the season.  Creighton will need him to be playing well headed to St. Louis.

Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record)  (Last week rank)

  1. Wichita State (22-6) (13-3) (2)— The Shockers move up to the top spot heading into the final week basically because they were closer than Missouri State was in winning their respective BracketBuster game.  They were 0.8 seconds away from winning against VCU, but played behind most of the way.  Joe Lunardi had them going from last four in to the first four out in his bracketology.  They did get a win at Evansville earlier in the week and at least they have dedicated fans.   It will be hard for Wichita State to stay in the top spot, hosting Creighton and finishing things up at Missouri State.
  2. Missouri State (21-7) (13-3) (1)— The Bears have to pick themselves off the ground after getting just beat up at Valparaiso in the BracketBusters.  That was a huge loss for Missouri State where a win would have gained them consideration as an at-large contender.  With Missouri State having so much success this season, it has now become fashionable to go to Bear basketball games.  They go to Southern Illinois before hosting Wichita State in what should be a packed JQH Arena.  They need to win from here on out to get into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Northern Iowa (19-10) (10-6) (3)— The Panthers looked like they  had finally gotten over the loss of Lucas O’Rear with a win on the road at Bradley on Wednesday and had momentum going into the BracketBusters game against George Mason.  Northern Iowa looked good early against the Patriots, but ran out of gas down the stretch and made some crucial mistakes.  They could fall in the MVC tourney seeding if they lose a couple more, and it is a real possibility.  They host Indiana State before going to Creighton.
  4. Indiana State (15-13) (10-6) (5)— The Sycamores move up in the rankings despite their loss in the BracketBuster against Morehead State where they were outworked.  Their conference record is still better than Creighton’s and Indiana State has shown that they can win on the road. They swept all of the Illinois teams (Southern Illinois, Illinois State, and Bradley) on the road for the first time in school history.   They go to Northern Iowa this week before finishing up with Senior Day against Southern Illinois.
  5. Creighton (17-12) (9-7) (4)— The Bluejay’s road woes continue.  With the loss at Akron this weekend, they have now lost six in a row away from Qwest Center Omaha.   They head to Wichita State on Wednesday this week and if history is any indication, don’t expect a road win there.  Doug McDermott continues to be a bright spot being only the third freshman in Missouri Valley Conference history to get over 400 points and 200 rebounds.  Another bright spot is the fact that Creighton ranks second in the nation in sending opponents to the free-throw line only 14.2 times a game.   They finish the regular season hosting Northern Iowa with a checkerboard game.  
  6. Evansville (14-13) (8-8) (6)— The Aces have lost four of their last five games and may be running out of steam down the stretch with their latest losses against Wichita State and Murray State.  They fought hard against the Shockers while turnovers did them in against the Racers. They do have an opportunity to get a couple wins to finish the season against teams at the bottom of the league—Drake and Illinois State.  They need these wins to stay out of Thursday night in the MVC Tournament.  They will also be closing Roberts Stadium with their final game this week. 
  7. Drake (12-16) (6-10) (7)— Drake was the best team in the league to get a win at BracketBusters by defeating Detroit getting their highest scoring output since December.  They hope the momentum can carry them into the last week of the season against Evansville and Bradley.  If they get those wins, there is a slight possibility they may not have to play Thursday night and get into the top six, which could make them a tough out in the MVC Tournament.
  8. Southern Illinois (12-16) (5-11) (9)—At least Southern Illinois can say they won their BracketBuster game albeit in the final seconds against Green Bay.  Saluki fans are anxiously waiting for the season to be over after another subpar season.  They may get some satisfaction in ruining things for Missouri State on Wednesday night and messing up the seeding for Indiana State. Justin Bocot returned to action for the Salukis on Saturday night and contributed.  It is too bad the Senior had to suffer through so many injuries this season.  He might have made more of a difference for the Salukis if he was healthy all season.
  9. Bradley (10-18) (3-13) (8)—The Braves have shown some signs of life towards the end of the season, but it may not be enough for Jim Les to keep his job in Peoria.  The local media and fans see a lot that is unacceptable, including Les’ propensity to draw technical fouls.   They still have to go to their rival Illinois State this week which could be the deciding game there. 
  10. Illinois State (11-17) (3-13) (10)—Illinois State is not finishing strong and has lost their last six games.  Going into last week’s game they did not have a player averaging in double figures in scoring.  Jackie Carmichael and Austin Hill were averaging 9.9 points a game.  With Carmichael out against Creighton, Hill scored a career high 27 points.   Amazingly enough, they have a good possibility of finishing off the season with a couple of wins against Bradley and Evansville. 

A Look Ahead

The final week of conference season will decide the conference championship and seeding for the MVC Tournament.

  • 2/22—Indiana State @ Northern Iowa—The battle for the three-seed in the MVC tournament will be on the line.
  • 2/23—Creighton @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net)— These two teams do not like each other, and it will be a physical battle.  Creighton wants to spoil the Shockers’ opportunity for a conference championship while Wichita State needs this win to setup the showdown in Springfield with Missouri State.
  • 2/26—Northern Iowa @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—Senior day at Creighton is a tough place to get a win and this game could have seeding implications for the MVC Tournament.
  • 2/26—Wichita State @ Missouri State (ESPN2)—The likely showdown for the MVC regular season championship.  Missouri State took the game in Wichita and the Shockers are looking for payback.

Other National TV Games This Week:

  • 2/22—Bradley @ Illinois State (Fox Sports Net)
Share this story