NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.18.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 18th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • Ohio State standout Jared Sullinger has basketball in his blood. If you recall, his older brother, JJ, pieced together a solid career for the Buckeyes in the early 2000′s
  • Marquette head coach Buzz Williams believes Xavier guard Tu Holloway would receive acclaim similar to Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette if he played in a major conference. A high compliment, but it might be a bit of an exaggeration.
  • With the memory of his late mother always in his mind, Indiana State guard Jake Kelly has led the Sycamores all season. It is tough not to root for a kid like Kelly, as he has battled through all kinds of adversity throughout his career.
  • Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim believes that freshman big man Fab Melo is the Oranges’s “X-Factor” in this season’s tournament. This is a bit stunning to me, as Melo spent most of the conference campaign relegated to the bench.
  • Georgia head coach Mark Fox may get a chance to battle his mentor, UNC head coach Roy Williams, if both teams advance to the second round. Fox got his start in the coaching world as a volunteer assistant at Kansas.

Southeast

  • Florida guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton were key in the Gators’ rout of UC-Santa Barbara. The duo has battled inconsistency all season, but yesterday might be a sign of good things to come.
  • After a fairly below average start to the regular season, Gonzaga is finally starting to look like the team they were thought to be. The Zags proved this in their upset of St. John’s.
  • Pittsburgh big man Gary McGhee will seek revenge on his prep nemesis, Matt Howard, when the Panthers battle Butler in the second round. During the Indiana high school basketball and AAU seasons, McGhee never won a game against Howard.
  • Wisconsin got a big contribution from forward Mike Bruesewitz in the Badgers’ victory over Belmont. The sophomore forward recovered from a late-season injury to provide Bo Ryan‘s squad the necessary spark off the bench.
  • UCLA head coach Ben Howland will not rest following his squad’s victory over Michigan State. The Bruins have a big matchup with Florida on Saturday.

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Missouri Valley Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2011

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

Postseason Preview

The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament will be a dogfight this season as a lot of teams feel like they have a great chance at winning it all.  The top six seeds all have legitimate shots at winning.  Games are not always about who has the best players, but who ultimately gets the best matchups.

 

  • Who’s HotMissouri State is definitely the team to beat.  They are on a roll with six straight conference wins to end the season.  A lot of teams have troubles matching up with the Bears as Kyle Weems plays more like a guard than a forward.  If everything goes like it has the past couple of seasons in the MVC, then you will see Missouri State heading to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Who’s NotNorthern Iowa is definitely the team who, despite the decent seed, is really struggling right now.  Ad nauseam we have talked about the loss of O’Rear to the Panthers, but it is apparent they have not found someone to patrol the paint like he did.  Losing six of their last seven doesn’t help either.  If Creighton uses their frontcourt to their advantage, then the Panthers will likely be out after the first round.
  • Watch Out ForIndiana State.  The Sycamores are tougher than people are giving them credit for and could surprise Wichita State as both teams are incredibly deep and match up well with each other.  Indiana State took them to triple-overtime at Koch Arena, which is as tough as any place in the nation to win a game.  The Shockers have struggled to finish out the season, and were a few seconds away from finishing the season 0-3.
  • Tournament Prediction—In what could be considered another down year for the Missouri Valley Conference, there is a small chance that if Missouri State and Wichita State met in the finals of the MVC Tournament that both teams might make it into the NCAA Tournament.  However, with their conference tournament occurring a week before all the major conferences play their conference tournament, it is very likely the selection committee will have forgotten by then about the MVC tournament runner-up.

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Checking in on… the Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • Missed OpportunitiesThis week, several teams missed opportunities to really shake things up in the Missouri Valley Conference.  Missouri State had a great opportunity to get a commanding lead in the standings and stay undefeated, but lost to Indiana State on a last-second shot by Jake Kelly to tie the game with a foul.  He calmly sank the free throw and the Sycamores found themselves tied with Missouri State for a short time in the standings.  Creighton had an opportunity to move up a couple of games, but lost to Missouri State on Saturday with Kyle Weems coming through with late-game heroics for the Bears.

  • 3OT Thriller In what could have shaken the standings a little more, Indiana State went into Wichita and gave the Shockers all they could handle taking the game to three overtimes.  Wichita State eventually pulled out the win.

  • Standings Stay PutAs a result of the ups and downs of everyone this week, the standings and power rankings stay the same.  Slowly, as mentioned last week, Northern Iowa has worked its way up back into the mix and scored a key victory over Wichita State.  With Creighton and Missouri State on for this week, it should be another crazy week in the Valley.
  • Player of the Week—Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa—Ahelegbe has been the key cog in bringing Northern Iowa back into the MVC race.  He averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 assists and shot 61.1 percent from the field this week in the two Panther victories.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Jake Odum, Indiana State–The freshman has continued to impress as the leader on the court for the Sycamores.  He had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the three-overtime game against Wichita State.  His presence on the court will decide whether Indiana State continues to win games or not.

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

  1. Missouri State (16-4) (8-1) (1)— Missouri State had a wide range of emotions this week.  First was the last second loss in Terre Haute against Indiana State, which carried over into the game with Creighton.  Missouri State was down the whole game by as many as 15 points until the final 11 minutes of the second half, where they fought back to steal the win against the Bluejays.  They get to face the state of Iowa this week by going to Drake and hosting Northern Iowa.
  2. Wichita State (16-4) (7-2) (2)— The Shockers have went through almost the same set of emotions, a bit of an emotional gut check.  The Shockers have had some problems defending home court in conference play after losing two straight against Missouri State and Northern Iowa.  They almost lost their third straight at home before winning in triple overtime against Indiana State.  This week they take a trip to Southern Illinois before hosting Bradley.
  3. Indiana State (12-8) (7-2) (3)— The Sycamores are the surprise team of the season which there always seems to be lately in the MVC.  Their six-day stretch of basketball was one to remember.  Indiana State had their biggest test of the season in games against Missouri State and Wichita State.  While being able to steal one against the Bears, They could not steal another one on the road at Wichita State.  Evansville comes to town this week and has been the only other team in the conference to beat Indiana State.  I’m sure Indiana State will be hungry for that one.   Then, a road trip to Creighton who may be looking for revenge against the Sycamores.
  4. Northern Iowa (14-6) (6-3) (4)— The Panthers have been able to fly under the radar for the most part and have snuck back into the race.  They have won six of their last seven games including wins at Wichita State and Drake last week.  They host Creighton and then go to Missouri State. If the Valley season has been any indication, don’t be surprised to see Northern Iowa sitting at the top of the conference standings by the end of the week.  Some are hoping that their Bracketbusters opponent will put up a better fight. 
  5. Creighton (13-8) (5-4) (5)— The Bluejays have had several opportunities slip through their fingers.  They came out on fire against Bradley but really struggled in the second half.  Creighton has had second half problems all season and that caught up to them again in Springfield when they could not hold a lead against Missouri State in the final minutes.  Creighton has now lost games against Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri State, and Indiana State on final possessions and  have had second half breakdowns against BYU, Northwestern, Missouri State, and Wichita State.  Creighton needs someone other than Antoine Young to be able to create plays in the backcourt.  The Bluejays is tougher than last year, but not tough enough.   
  6. Evansville (10-9) (4-5) (6)— The Aces have been average this season as their record indicates.  They lost against Southern Illinois but came back to beat Bradley. Pieter van Tongeren has improved for Evansville.  They head to Indiana State, who they have beaten already and have a quick turnaround for the return game against Southern Illinois
  7. Southern Illinois (10-10) (4-5) (7)—The Salukis are sitting in the position that the media picked them in to start the season, but they are getting better, just inconsistent.  They gave Illinois State their first conference win of the season which takes them back a couple of steps. The injury to Gene Teague really hurt them this season, but he has now returned to the lineup. They host the Shockers this week before hitting the road back to Evansville.
  8. Drake (8-12) (3-6) (8)— Drake is trying to see what they can do in preparation for next year since things have not turned out as they had hoped.  They did get a win against Illinois State to give them some confidence, but then laid an egg against Northern Iowa.   They get to play spoiler against Missouri State this week before heading to Illinois State.
  9. Illinois State (9-11) (1-8) (9)— The Redbirds got their first win in the conference against Southern Illinois which gives them a boost before their rival game against Bradley.  They hoped that year four under Tim Jankovich would not have turned out the way it has. 
  10. Bradley (6-14) (0-9) (10)— What else can you say about Bradley?  They played probably one of their best halves of basketball against Creighton in the second half on Wednesday night and tried to come back against Evansville, but were too far down to get a victory.  Andrew Warren continues to be a scoring machine for Bradley and unfortunately isn’t in the same breath of Jimmer Fredette due to the team’s struggles. 

A Look Ahead

The grueling conference season continues with several big games on the schedule this week.

  • 1/26—Creighton @ Northern Iowa (ESPNU)—Creighton has struggled with Northern Iowa in recent years, but a win here is needed by both teams to have a chance for the top of the league.   Greg McDermott returns to where his coaching career took off and brings his son who originally signed with Northern Iowa.  It will definitely be an interesting return.
  • 1/26—Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—The Shockers are trying to keep par with everyone else and winning on the road is always important, especially at SIU Arena.
  • 1/26—Illinois State @ Bradley (Local TV)—Both teams are the bottom dwellers in the league, but their rivalry is always fierce.  Jim Les’ job may be on the line for Bradley in this one.
  • 1/29—Indiana State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)—Indiana State doesn’t want to feel left out in the conference race and getting more wins against the teams like Creighton will help solidify the run they have had during conference season.
  • 1/30—Northern Iowa @ Missouri State (ESPNU)—If the cards fall right earlier in the week and Northern Iowa gets revenge for the conference opener in Cedar Falls that the Bears won, then the Panthers could be sitting at the top of the league after Sunday night.  The always adventurous Missouri Valley Conference.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011

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

RTC is interested in learning how to improve our Checking In On… series in each conference.  Let us know in the below poll where we can improve this weekly piece (feel free to add specific comments).  Thanks.

A Look Back

  • Indiana State On The RiseAfter a rough start in non-conference play, the Sycamores have been improving, jumping out to an early 4-1 record in conference play.  A lot of it has been without Jake Kelly and Dwayne Latham.  First year head coach Greg Lansing is seizing the opportunity to move Indiana State up in the pecking order in the league.
  • Early Season Wins On The RoadMissouri State is building up big road wins early this conference season against the top teams in the league.  The Bears already has wins in their back pocket at Northern Iowa, at Creighton, and at Wichita State.  It may be the way Cuonzo Martin handles his bench.  With the way thing are going with Missouri State winning on the road, they are setting themselves up for having the biggest advantage once February comes around.
  • Not A Guard League This SeasonThe Missouri Valley Conference has been known historically as a guard-oriented league, but several teams are relying on their frontcourt players to lead them along:   Missouri State’s front line of Kyle Weems and Will Creekmore, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Kenny Lawson, and Gregory Echenique, and Southern Illinois’ Gene Teague, Mamadou Seck and Carlton Fay are examples of players that are carrying their teams that are not necessarily guards.
  • Player of the Week—Carlton Fay, Southern Illinois—This week, Fay was instrumental in the wins against Bradley and Illinois State in averaging almost 20 points a game for the Salukis.  He had 33 points against Illinois State, including two free throws at the end to seal the win.  They will need him to perform big to keep
  • Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—It may seem like this is a little biased, but facts are facts—McDermott has been consistent week to week.  This week he averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game in the three games played this week.  A close second is Mamadou Seck from Southern Illinois, but he only had two good game performances this week.  McDermotts three solid games put him over the top.

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

  1. Missouri State (13-3) (5-0) (2)— It is looking more and more like the team to beat this season is Missouri State.  The Bears have gone out on the road and improved from their 1-17 record over the past two seasons to 3-0 so far this season.  Against Creighton this week, it was about making adjustments at halftime, which resulted in easy layups.  Against Wichita State, it was getting out to an early lead and just taking it to the Shockers before holding on to the victory.   They now host Southern Illinois and put their 17-game home winning streak on the line.  They are in this for the long haul.
  2. Wichita State (13-3) (4-1) (1)— The Shockers in some respects has sort of flown under the radar  as they probably haven’t been talked about as much as other teams, especially with the success of Missouri State.   They had an easy start with games against Drake, Bradley, Evansville and Illinois State, which are a combined 3-17 in conference play.  The loss against Missouri State on Sunday may be a wake-up call to them.  Their next big test will be at Creighton on Wednesday night.  They may have found the point guard they have been looking for in Demetric Williams.
  3. Creighton (12-5) (4-1) (3) — The Bluejays suffered from inconsistent play at the beginning of the week.  They played a solid first half against Missouri State, but blew an 11-point lead in the second half at home and were outscored 47-26, and did not defend their home court.  The first half against Southern Illinois wasn’t much better, but Creighton rebounded with a come-from-behind overtime victory at Southern Illinois and held on for a win at Evansville.  Kaleb Korver has finally come around in his scoring with career highs at Southern Illinois and Evansville.   Wichita State comes to town and a road trip to surprising Indiana State will be important to them to try and stay in the top half of the league.
  4. Indiana State (9-7) (4 -1) (8)— Right now, the Sycamores are the surprise of the league.  Although the wins have come against the bottom of the league and mostly at home, they are still sitting in a good situation.  They destroyed defending champion Northern Iowa 70-45.  Indiana hopes their defense will be the thing that helps them win on the road.  They will already have the return game with Bradley on Wednesday, but then will host Creighton on Sunday.  They could be in the top three next week.
  5. Southern Illinois (9-7) (3-2) (4)— The Salukis’ up-and-down season continues.  They did get wins against Bradley and Illinois State, but couldn’t put rival Creighton away down the stretch with Carlton Fay missing key free throws toward the end of regulation.  Fay rebounded with 33 points including a three pointer with 12 seconds remaining to help secure the win against Illinois State.  Right now they are just a middle of the pack team and road trips to Missouri State and Northern Iowa will not be easy.
  6. Northern Iowa (10-6) (2-3) (5)— The Panthers got their first conference win against Evansville, but were destroyed by Indiana State on Friday night.  Lucas O’Rear then broke team rules and was suspended for the Bradley game on Sunday.  Northern Iowa has some problems to solve if it wants to be in any type of contention down the stretch.   The biggest problem is three-point shooting.  They are shooting the same number of shots, but fewer of them are going in.  If the Panthers hit better than 34% from three, then they are 6-1.
  7. Drake (7-9) (2-3) (9)—Drake has lost three of their last four games and are having problems hanging on to the ball and rebounding—many fundamental things that are needed to win games.  One positive is the performance of Aaron Hawley and Ben Simon off the bench. They will head to Evansville before battling Wichita State at the Knapp Center.
  8. Evansville (7-8) (1-4) (6)— The Purple Aces are reeling, losing all three of their games this week.  It probably has not helped that three of the first five conference games have been on the road.  Colt Ryan and Denver Holmes were quite the duo last season, but Holmes has been pretty quiet this season and hopes he is turning things around.   Drake and Illinois State are on the slate this week.  It is very possible the bottom four teams in the league right now will battle it out for those positions.
  9. Illinois State (8-8) (0-5) (7)— Tim Jankovich knew that he had some rebuilding to do, but probably didn’t expect to start 0-5 in conference play.  They went 0-3 this week and just missed defeating Southern Illinois on Sunday.   The Redbirds have now lost against all of the top teams in the league.  They get Northern Iowa and Evansville this week at home—they are hoping the schedule can help them get some wins.
  10. Bradley (6-10) (0-5) (10)— You wonder if Jim Les would like to start the season over, as nothing seems to be going right for them.  The Braves are still looking for their first conference win, and at this point, it isn’t looking good.  Fans and beat writers are trying to stay positive about the Braves.  I guess one other positive thing to look at is at least Carver Arena got a good review.  They host Indiana State and Missouri State this week.

A Look Ahead

Some great games at the right time this week, as conference play enters the second week.  It will be more intense with three games for each school between Tuesday and Sunday.   

  • 1/12—Wichita State @ Creighton (Local TV—KMTV and Cox-Kansas)— This is actually a pretty good non-rivalry where both schools really do not like each other.  These two teams always play their best against each other.
  • 1/12—Southern Illinois @ Missouri State (No TV)—Both programs are on opposite sides of where they used to be a decade ago, but Southern Illinois wants to stay in contention.  They have to beat Missouri State to stay in the race.
  • 1/16—Creighton @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net)—The Sycamores have been the surprise in the league so far. They would like to continue that run against the Bluejays.
  • 1/16—Missouri State @ Bradley (ESPNU)—At the beginning of the season, this looked like a key matchup, but now Bradley is just trying to not finish last in the MVC.  At the same time, this would be a loss that the Bears do not need for their conference run.
  • 1/16—Southern Illinois @ Northern Iowa (Local TV—WSIU and PSN)—The Panthers and Salukis are trying to claw their way back in and both teams are searching for answers to get some wins.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • First week of Conference Play—The Missouri Valley Conference started conference play this week as each team had two games on the schedule.  In the first televised game of the season on the Fox Sports Net package, Missouri State and Northern Iowa took things down to the wire.  With Kyle Weems being pretty much ineffective for the Bears, he hit a three pointer with 2.5 seconds left to give Missouri State a one point victory against the defending champion Panthers.
  • Northern Iowa starts 0-2—The Panther s have started conference season 0-2 with a couple of thrilling games against Missouri State and Southern Illinois which were decided in the final seconds.   With the two losses, history may still be on their side since they seem to be exceptions to the rule.   Since 1993-94, only one team (Northern Iowa, a 2008-09 co-champion) has won at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title without winning its regular-season opener — and UNI lost Wednesday night.  Further, 15 of the last 16 regular-season champs (or co-champs) have opened 2-0 or better in MVC play, with UNI in 2008-09 once again serving as the exception.   So either they will become the next exception to the rule or they’re already essentially eliminated from contention on January 1st , one week into conference season
  • Three team race? –At this point of the season, it would appear the best scenario for the Valley to have multiple bids is for Wichita State, Missouri State and Creighton to continue winning and separating themselves from the rest of the league.  The rest of the league has questionable records and even if teams like Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa can rise up out of the Valley regular season; their records still may not be palatable to the selection committee to consider more than the conference tournament champion.

Player of the Week— Jermaine Mallett, Missouri State –Mallett matched his career high of 22 points in the win against Illinois State this week and averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds.  He was key in the comeback against Northern Iowa and helped lead the Missouri State Bears to an early 2-0 conference mark.

Newcomer of the Week— Doug McDermott, Creighton—Once again, McDermott garners newcomer of the week honors as he averaged 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this week including a 28 points and 10 rebounds against Drake on Saturday night.  McDermott‘s 28 points were the most for a Creighton freshman since Ryan Sears scored 29 against Wyoming in 1997.

Power Rankings (Overall and conference records in parentheses, and last week’s ranking)

  1. Wichita State (11-2) (2-0) (1)— The Shockers have held serve with their convincing victories over Evansville and Bradley, but those teams are far from the best in the conference.  In the win against Evansville, Wichita State still scored 91 points even though they went through over a nine minute stretch where they scored only 10 points.  They will likely have a couple more appetizers with Drake and Illinois State this coming week before the showdown with Missouri State next Sunday. 
  2. Missouri State (10-3) (2-0) (2)— Missouri State looked a little out of sorts against Northern Iowa on Wednesday before the thrilling come back and big road victory in Cedar Falls. The past two seasons the Bears were 1-17 in road games before the win against the Panthers.   Then after getting a win against Illinois State in their home opener, they are well on track.  People will point to Kyle Weems, Adam Leonard or Jermaine Mallett as keys to Missouri State’s success, but it may actually be Will Creekmore that will make or break them.  They will have two big tests this week with the top of the league as they travel to Creighton on Tuesday and host Wichita State on Sunday.  They have a great opportunity to put some distance between the rest of the league.
  3. Creighton (10-4) (2-0) (4)— Creighton took a huge monkey off their back in the victory against Illinois State on Wednesday.  The Bluejays seven had lost  of their past eight meetings with the Redbirds coming into that game.  With the win, the four year seniors of Kenny Lawson, Jr., Casey Harriman and Kaleb Korver have beaten every team in the league at home and on the road during their career.  Drake played physical with the Bluejays on Saturday night, but they were able to fend off the Bulldogs to start 2-0.   One key player that may be missing for a while is sharpshooter Ethan Wragge.  He has been fighting plantar fasciitis all season.  After a few games of action, his foot is back in a boot and it is unknown when he is going to return now.   Missouri State comes to town before a two game road trip a rival Southern Illinois and Evansville.
  4. Southern Illinois (7-6) (1-1) (6)— Southern Illinois makes the big jump of the week after bouncing back from the loss against Drake to steal one against Northern Iowa.  Having a short memory was important for the Salukis this week as Carlton Fay hit a shot with two seconds remaining to help SIU knock off the Panthers.  This could be a big week for Southern Illinois as they travel to Bradley and then host Creighton and Illinois State.  They could be in the thick of things if they can go undefeated in this week’s stretch.
  5. Northern Iowa (8-5) (0-2) (3)— As noted above, the Panthers suffered some crushing losses early, losing their first two games by a total of three points.   The word of the week might be panic, but like we talked about earlier, there is still plenty of time to turn things around.  Northern Iowa can feast on Evansville, Indiana State and Bradley this week to try and get back in the race.   is second in the league in scoring through the first week averaging 21.5 points a game.
  6. Evansville (7-5) (1-1) (7)— The Purple Aces were blown out by Wichita State to open play but rebounded to take a close one against Indiana State. Evansville would like to get out of the shadow of other Indiana schools, but it is a long road.  Evansville could be in some trouble again as they travel to Northern Iowa and Missouri State before hosting Creighton on Sunday.
  7. Illinois State (8-5) (0-2) (5)—The Redbirds started where I projected by losing their first two games.  A week after saying they aren’t hitting the panic button yet, they may be ready to.    Hitting the road for two of three games this week can’t be too exciting.  Neither is the home matchup against Wichita State. 
  8. Indiana State (6-7) (1-1) (9)— The Sycamores won against the injury riddled Bradley team but could not hold off their in-state rival Evansville.   A couple of home games might be what is needed to give first year coach Greg Lansing an opportunity to make some noise early.  However, they will have to do it without Jake Kelly.  The senior who transferred from Iowa a couple of seasons ago has not had good luck in Terre Haute.  Kelly suffered a knee injury ending his season early last season and now he has a stress fracture in his foot this season that could keep him out of action for an unspecified time.
  9. Drake (6-7) (1-1) (10)—The Bulldogs up and down season continues.  They got an opening night win against Southern Illinois but then ran out of gas against Creighton in Omaha.  The theme most of the season for Drake were turnovers, but against Creighton it was rebounding.  They were outrebounded 45-24.   Their road trip continues to Wichita State before hosting a couple of home games against Indiana State and Bradley.   Rankings 8-10 could change significantly after this week.
  10. Bradley (6-7) (0-2) (8)— Bradley has lost seven of their last nine games and failed to secure a conference win this week.  The Braves are playing three of their first five conference games on the road and could lose another home game on Tuesday against Southern Illinois.   Bradley has always seemed to get socked with a weird conference schedule.  One positive for Bradley is Andrew Warren who is currently riding on 38 consecutive free throw makes, the second longest streak in Bradley history.   

A Look Ahead

Some great games at the right time this week as conference play enters the second week.  It will be more intense with three games for each school between Tuesday and Sunday.

  • 1/4—Missouri State @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—Both teams come into this game at 2-0 in conference play and will be a good challenge to see who can take the early lead in the conference.
  • 1/4—Southern Illinois @ Bradley (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—Bradley has started off 0-2 while Southern Illinois is looking to build on their last second win against Northern Iowa.  The Braves could be out of the race early with a loss here.
  • 1/7—Creighton @ Southern Illinois (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—This is always a heated rivalry although it has cooled a bit the past few seasons because both programs have been trying to get back to their top level status.  Nonetheless, it should be a good one to catch on a Friday night.
  • 1/9—Missouri State @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—The Bears and Shockers were picked in the preseason to battle it out for the conference championship this season.   This is the first of their two matchups with this one at the always tough Koch Arena.
  • 1/9—Bradley @ Northern Iowa (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—It is weird to think that Northern Iowa might be on the outside looking in for the first time in the past couple of seasons after starting 0-2.  With the third game in a week, it will be interesting to see if the Panthers can walk away with a winning record or end up at the bottom of the Valley standings.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2010

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 AnomaliesSpeaking 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 DebutCreighton 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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Missouri Valley Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

 

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

PRESEASON vs. ACTUAL RESULTS

As you can see from the preseason predictions I made on the Missouri Valley conference back in October versus how things ended up, the MVC turned out to be difficult to predict this year as none of the teams performed as expected other than Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

I originally was not sold on the Panthers, but as the season wore on, I could see the cohesiveness and all the little things this group of players do to win games.  Even with the suspension of Jordan Eglseder in three of the final four games, they were able to rally for the most part and continue their dominance in the Valley.  Wichita State may have surprised some, but the Shockers appear to be back in the Valley picture after a few year absence from relevance.  The work Gregg Marshall has done to build this team back up from scratch has paid off.  The question now is whether it is enough to get to an NCAA Tournament postseason.

HELLO SAINT LOUIS

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament will take place this coming week at the Scottrade Center in downtown Saint Louis.  Rush the Court will be live in St. Louis this week to keep you updated on the things going on at Arch Madness.  Here is how the bracket shapes up:

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 5th, 2010

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

Current records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week):

  1. Northern Iowa 12-1 (3-0) (3)
  2. Wichita State 13-2 (2-1) (1)
  3. Missouri State 12-2 (2-1) (2)
  4. Illinois State 11-3 (2-1) (5)
  5. Southern Illinois 9-3 (2-1) (4)
  6. Indiana State 10-4 (2-1) (6)
  7. Bradley 6-7 (1-2) (8)
  8. Creighton 6-8 (1-2) (9)
  9. Evansville 6-7 (0-3) (7)
  10. Drake 5-10 (0-3) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Northern Iowa mowing down the Valley — Those that don’t consider Northern Iowa the class of the Valley need to have their head examined (including myself, before now).  The Panthers are on an 11-game winning streak after following a tough road win against Creighton in Omaha with victories against Evansville and Missouri State to race out to a 3-0 conference record in the first week.

Should be an interesting Conference Season — After the first week, six teams have gotten out to 3-0 or 2-1 records.  The games have all been mostly competitive so far and it will be interesting to see if a few teams will break out of the pack or if they will be spending the season beating up on each other, which may hurt their postseason plans.  If this conference is going to have multiple bids this season, there will need to be a few teams that need to separate themselves, or it could end up being a one-bid league again.  I am sure Bradley and Creighton still think they have something to say about things as well.

TEAMS TO BEAT

Northern Iowa (3-0 this week) — As mentioned above, the Panthers have won three games to start the conference season.  Their shooting percentage against Creighton was not that great, but they left Omaha with a win.  It took a second half rally to get past Missouri State.  The next big test for them will come this week with a road trip to Southern Illinois and Illinois State.

SOLID WEEK

Southern Illinois (2-1 this week) — The Salukis are trying to re-establish themselves as the cream of the Valley once again.  They are definitely starting off better than they did last season.  Things looked pretty good when they took out Indiana State and Bradley earlier this week, but then they played mediocre basketball against the Illinois State Redbirds and couldn’t get over the hump to steal a victory there.  Luckily for the Salukis they get some home cooking this week as they host conference leader Northern Iowa and Drake.

Missouri State (2-1 this week) — Missouri State will be interesting to watch during conference season.  They have been a surprise so far with their non-conference record as well as two victories over Evansville and Illinois State to start conference season.  A loss against Northern Iowa was a bit expected.  The jury is still out on this team and it will be interesting to see how they react by hosting Wichita State and Bradley this week.  Adam Leonard has the nickname “Iceman” now with his cool demeanor and free throw shooting ability with the game on the line.

Wichita State (2-1 this week) — Wichita had been riding high after getting some votes for the Top 25 and several feature articles on them.   They started off the conference season, however, at Illinois State, and had their nine-game winning streak snapped.  They then summoned the moxie to turn around and get wins at home against Bradley and Drake.  This week will be an important week for them as they go to conference surprise Missouri State and host Creighton.   If Wichita is going to continue to be successful, it falls on the shoulders of David Kyles and Garrett Stutz.   In other news, the city of Wichita is excited to open a brand new arena in town, but the Shockers are probably only going to play once or twice a year there.

Indiana State (2-1 this week) — Kevin McKenna is really starting to show why he was hired to take over the reins of the Indiana State team a couple seasons ago.  This team is really playing at a high level right now.  After starting off on the wrong foot against Southern Illinois and losing Iowa transfer Jake Kelly for the season with a torn ACL, they were been able to turn things around and knock off Creighton (where McKenna used to be an assistant for Dana Altman) and then Drake on the road.  If the Sycamores get wins against Evansville and Bradley this week, look out MVC.  Another family tie for McKenna and Altman is that Altman’s son, Jordan, is the Graduate Assistant at Indiana State this season.

Illinois State (2-1 this week) — The Redbirds were another team flying high after knocking off Wichita State to open conference play with their defense, but then stumbled at Missouri State.  They were able to respond with a nice home victory against Southern Illinois.  A trip to Evansville and then hosting conference leader Northern Iowa is on the slate this week.

ROCKY START

Bradley (1-2 this week) — Bradley broke a three-game losing streak by defeating Drake on the road with Andrew Warren giving the Bulldogs nightmares to start off the conference season, but then suffered two losses against Southern Illinois and Wichita State.  Bradley was also without one of their better players in Taylor Brown against Wichita State on Sunday due to a decision by coach Jim Les.   It doesn’t get any easier for Bradley this week as they have Indiana State and Missouri State waiting in the wings for them.

Creighton (1-2 this week) — Creighton was hoping to start the slate clean after a disappointing non-conference season by getting the first crack at the Northern Iowa Panthers.  But the problems that were plaguing Creighton throughout the season against quality competition hit them again.   Bad free throw shooting and not being able to hold on to leads led to their downfall.  A road trip to Indiana State did not bring any relief either as they lost that one, as well.  This led to a two-hour players-only team meeting.  A salvaged win against Evansville on Sunday might be a start of something.  Some people are a bit too concerned about P’Allen Stinnett’s Facebook status, rather than basketball.  Drake and Wichita State are on the slate this week for the Bluejays.

ALREADY IN TROUBLE

Evansville (0-3 this week) — Evansville has started 0-3, but have been right there the whole way in each of their games, losing by small margins.   One big bright spot for the Purple Aces has been the play of freshman Colt Ryan.  In the game against Creighton on Sunday, he single-handedly kept Evansville in the game with his 26 points on 8-16 from the field and 6-11 from three-point range to go along with five assists.   They could be the spoiler in the conference this season, especially if they get their low post problems solved.  Indiana State and Illinois State probably aren’t looking forward to seeing the Aces this week.

Drake (0-3 this week) — Drake is destined to be the doormat of the league this season, evidenced by losing to Bradley, a second half breakdown against Indiana State at home and then just getting completely dismantled at Wichita State.  They now hit the road to visit Creighton and Southern Illinois, two venues that don’t like to let road teams walk away with victories.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

Conference season is well underway and there are a few great matchups this week.

  • 1/6, Wichita St. @ Missouri State (Local TV)—Missouri State is undefeated at home this season. Can Wichita go in to Springfield to get what would look to be a solid win at this point?
  • 1/6, Northern Iowa @ Southern Illinois (ESPNU)—Both teams are at the top of the Valley right now and this winner gets a leg up in the early MVC race.
  • 1/9, Northern Iowa @ Illinois State (ESPN2) —If Northern Iowa gets past SIU earlier in the week, it will be interesting if they can continue the road run. The Panthers already have three big road wins already against the historically tough Valley home venues.
  • 1/9, Bradley @ Missouri State (Local TV)—Bradley had high expectations heading into the season, but have some very disappointing performances. The winner here will have a turnaround of sorts, whereas the loser could spiral down quickly.
  • 1/9, Creighton @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—Many say that Creighton vs. SIU is the rivalry of the Valley, but I really think that Creighton vs. Wichita State is a bigger rivalry between the fan bases and it has spilled over to the court as well. The first meeting of two within a week of each other.
  • 1/10, Evansville @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net)—If Indiana State wants to consider themselves a contender, they should win this nationally televised game. For Evansville, it is a chance to showcase their phenom, freshman guard Colt Ryan.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2009

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

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

  1. Missouri State  (10-0) (1)
  2. Wichita State (10-1) (2)
  3. Northern Iowa  (8-1) (3)
  4. Southern Illinois (7-2) (5)
  5. Illinois State (8-2)  (4)
  6. Indiana State  (7-3) (7)
  7. Evansville (6-3) (8)
  8. Bradley  (5-5) (6)
  9. Drake  (5-6)  (9)
  10. Creighton  (4-6)  (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • MVC-MWC Challenge winding down—The Valley continues to lead the challenge against the Mountain West Conference 4-3 heading into the final weekend of games.  Illinois State went on the road to defeat Utah and Creighton had a chance to close out the conference’s victory but lost a huge lead on New Mexico and left Albuquerque with a loss.  Now it is up to Drake and Northern Iowa this coming weekend to close out the first year of a several year agreement for each conference to play one another.  In the coming years all of the Challenge games will be played in a one-week time period instead of throughout the non-conference season.
  • Wichita State takes down ranked team—Wichita invited a ranked Texas Tech team into Koch Arena, the first non-conference ranked team to visit since Kansas in the 1991-92 season, and sent them home with a loss.  That must be why teams like that don’t come back or want to play Wichita at home. 
  • Missouri St.  heading to undefeated non-conference record—Missouri St. defeated St. Louis Saturday night and Rick Majerus is ready to anoint the Bears as the winners of the Valley for this season.  Well, they are still undefeated and could stay that way if they can steal a win in Arkansas Tuesday night.   Could this be Drake version 2.0?

TEAMS DOING WELL

  • Missouri St (1-0 this week)—As mentioned above, Missouri St. is one of a few undefeated teams in the nation right now.  It is due to their defense.  The Bears finish out the non-conference slate in Fayetteville with a “lucky they still have a team”  Arkansas squad.   About the only thing wrong with Missouri State is Will Creekmore’s jersey.
  •  Wichita St (1-0 this week)—Wichita continues to be on a roll.  Andy Katz asked whether Wichita would be undefeated if they had Clevin Hannah and he was able to play against Pitt at the CBE Classic.  Either way, the Shockers are the real deal this season.    They host North Dakota State this week to complete their non-conference slate.
  •  Northern Iowa  (1-0 this week)—Head Coach Ben Jacobson went back home to North Dakota this past week, but brought his UNI team in to take a victory.  Northern Iowa is at about the same point as Wichita right now.  Coach Jacobson is pretty happy with his team now, but he wasn’t at the beginning of the season.  They host Wyoming this week as a part of the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • Southern Illinois (2-0 this week) –You can tell the reputation of the Salukis has taken a hit when they went out to Vegas this week in an invitational but their games were overshadowed by the women’s matchups in the same tournament.   However in both games this weekend against San Diego and San Francisco, SIU pulled out one point wins to complete a solid non-conference slate until a late January game against Western Kentucky.  Southern Illinois is off for the holidays until conference play starts in a week and a half. 
  • Evansville (2-0 this week)—Evansville is continuing to build themselves back up with two wins this week.  They took a blow with Kavon Lacey, one of their emerging team leaders, going out for the season with knee surgery.  However, they are really spreading the scoring around and starting to come together.  A big road test at Austin Peay this week will see how far they have actually come. 
  • Indiana St. (1-0 this week)—The Sycamores escaped with a win in Toledo this week on a Jake Kelly basket with  six seconds left and they are now again without point guard Harry Marshall who has had a lot of discipline problems at Indiana State.  The Sycamores look like a solid team, but they don’t need these distractions.  A trip to IUPUI this week will test them.

TEAMS WITH WORK TO DO

  • Drake (0-1 this week)—Drake lost to Iowa this week and they sort of have to feel bad that a key player for the Hawkeye team that beat them was then arrested later that evening for public intoxication.  However, Coach Phelps feels pretty good about the recent recruiting classes, but can they produce on the court?    San Diego State comes to town as the possible deciding game of the MVC/MWC Challenge.
  • Bradley (0-2 this week)—This team is on the verge of collapse.  Not only is Dodie Dunson out for the year with a broken arm, but they also lost Dyricus Simms-Edwards to a foot injury for 3-6 weeks.  Bradley lost this week to Loyola on a crazy off-balance half court shot and then got absolutely blown out by Iowa State Sunday.    The Braves now sit in limbo with a three-game losing streak for nine days until conference season starts at Drake.
  • Creighton (1-1 this week)—Many do not have a good read on this Creighton team this season.  They have been so close in so many games against tough competition, but lack the killer instinct to finish the games.  The latest collapse was in New Mexico this weekend.  Creighton was up 15 points at one point in the first half, shooting almost 75%, but then New Mexico finished the first half cutting into the lead and by the middle of the second half the Lobos made the adjustments needed and pulled out a come-from-behind win.   They get a snoozer in Houston Baptist this week with their only wins this season coming so far on their home court. 
  • Illinois State (1-1 this week)—Illinois State has had enough chinks in their armor exposed to lose on the road to Ohio, but then came back to get a big win at Utah as part of the MVC/MWC Challenge.   The Redbirds need another player to step up to help Osiris Eldridge and that player might be Austin Hill.  The Redbirds get a snoozer of their own with Grambling State this week.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

A light week due to the holidays and very few key games except for the conclusion of the MVC/MWC Challenge, but also the last week of non-conference action for the MVC.  Conference play will start after the Christmas holiday.

  • 12/22, San Diego St. @ Drake—Drake is starting to turn things around, but this will be a tough game against the Aztecs that could decide the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • 12/22, Missouri St. @ Arkansas—Although Arkansas has so many problems, this could be a nice road win for the Bears and a great close to their amazing non-conference season. 
  • 12/23, Northern Iowa @ Wyoming—A key matchup in the MVC/MWC Challenge’s final games.  UNI is on a roll lately.
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Creighton (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Northern Iowa (23-6, 13-5)
  3. Wichita St. (23-8, 12-6)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-8, 12-6)
  5. Illinois St. (23-7, 11-7)
  6. Bradley (19-10, 10-8)
  7. Indiana St. (17-13, 8-10)
  8. Drake (13-18, 5-13)
  9. Evansville (10-19, 3-15)
  10. Missouri St. (9-21, 2-16) 

All-Conference Team.  This is a guard laden league which will populate the Missouri Valley All-Conference team this season.

  • Kevin Dillard (G), So., Southern Illinois ( 12.2 pts., 4.2 ast.)—The bright spot for Southern Illinois last season is a tenacious ball handler and defender.
  • Clevin Hannah (G), Sr., Wichita St. (11.2 pts. 4.3 ast.)—Hannah comes in as the leader for the Shockers which will make some noise this season.
  • Osiris Eldridge (G), Sr., Illinois St. (14 pts, 6 reb.)–Last season he had Champ Oguchi as a security blanket and kept him from trying to take over the game himself.  His all around game development will probably garner him Conference Player of the Year honors.    
  • Justin Carter (G), Sr., Creighton  (8.1 pts, 5.5 reb.)—Over the summer, Carter has emerged as the leader of the Bluejays.
  • Adam Koch (F), Sr., Northern Iowa (12.1 pts., 5.1 reb.)—Koch was a solid player last season to help lead the Panthers to the conference championship and will get the opportunity again as the team returns pretty much everyone.

6th Man.  Jake Kelly (G), Jr., Indiana St. (Transfer from Iowa)—Jake got a surprise this fall as the NCAA allowed him to be an active player on the Sycamore team instead of having to sit out a year like transfers usually must.  Due to the death of his mother, Kelly returned home to Indiana last season and announced he was transferring to Indiana St.  Getting immediate eligibility will solidify the backcourt for the Sycamores.

Impact Newcomer.  Wayne Runnels (F), Jr., Creighton—Wayne was an all around sports star in high school and could have probably played any sport he wanted to.  He decided on basketball.  The JC transfer will make an immediate impact for the Bluejays. 

mvc-logo-2

What You Need to Know.  For several years, the Missouri Valley Conference was a multiple bid conference for the NCAA Tournament, but the runs by Wichita St. and Bradley to the Sweet 16 in 2006 seem like a distant memory.  The past two seasons, the MVC has only managed to get their one automatic bid into The Dance.  Drake went in 2008 and Northern Iowa went last season.  Both teams won the regular season title and conference tournament.   Although Creighton shared the regular season championship with the Panthers last season, the Bluejays were on the outside looking in for the 2nd straight year while Southern Illinois had their first losing season in 10 years.  Considering the unexpected the last two seasons, things may be returning back to the norm this winter.  Casual fans of the conference may see familiar names at the top this season as Creighton, Southern Illinois and Wichita St. will be in the mix, while last season’s champion  Northern Iowa returns almost everyone to a team that surprised everyone by the time conference play rolled around.   Illinois State has risen toward the top the past couple of seasons and although they again have Player of the Year candidate Osiris Eldridge in the lineup, the supporting cast may not be enough this season to keep them there. 

Predicted Champion.  Creighton Bluejays (NCAA Seed:  #9)—There are so many teams that believe they will be the best this season, but Creighton will slip to the top.  Creighton worked it’s way back up to the top of the league down the stretch last season winning 11 of the last 12 regular season games before getting embarrassed by Illinois St. in the MVC Conference Tournament semifinals.   Yes, Creighton lost MVC POY Booker Woodfox.  Yes, Creighton lost four year starting PG Josh Dotzler.  Yes, emerging big man Kenton Walker transferred.  Those are definitely big holes to fill.  But the returning core includes senior Justin Carter who was a JUCO transfer a year ago and by the second half of the season became comfortable and dominated the boards.  He has appeared to take a leadership role over the summer.  P’Allen Stinnett is fun to watch and it will be important to see if he has matured enough to also be a leader.   Antoine Young emerged as the guy to lead the point for the Bluejays, but watch out for Andrew Bock to settle in as the Dotzler type of point guard Coach Dana Altman is used to and  to utilize Young’s skills in his ability to drive to the basket at the off guard spot.  The question mark is the inside game where Kenny Lawson is the only real veteran returning to the post position.  Chad Millard is a little out of position in the post, but is the next  tallest player on the team.  Wayne Runnels comes in from the JUCO ranks and is expected to make an impact right away to help a team that ranked last in the Valley last season in rebound margin.  A couple other players on the roster are expected to step up on a team that likes to rotate players constantly leaving the opening for others to make plays.  Creighton also has the potential to have the best non-conference schedule in the league which will give them a little more wiggle room whether they win the conference or not.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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Big 10 Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

The Season That Was
Politicians often talk about “Two Americas” – there’s the super-rich, lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills, and then there’s the rest of us. Well, this year, there were “Three Big Tens.” First, there was Michigan State, who won the conference title in a walk by four games. That’s the largest margin in a very long time (over 10 years). And just like this little credit crisis hasn’t forced Warren Buffett to fly coach [Ed. Note: Having read about Warren, he might fly coach anyways.], Raymar Morgan‘s long bout with pneumonia didn’t slow down the Spartans one bit. We predicted Michigan State to win, we just didn’t know it would be this easy.

Then there’s the middle, which was filled with parity. Second place through ninth place was separated by 3 games. Call it the Big Ten’s middle class. Purdue didn’t develop into the team everyone thought they would. Sure, Robbie Hummel‘s extended absence hurt, but it was really the big steps back taken by E’Twuan Moore and Keaton Grant that made the biggest difference. Illinois actually overachieved this season, after last year’s debacle. The truth is that the Illini weren’t that bad last year, but suffered a lot of close losses. A big turnaround was to be expected. But to go from 16 wins to 23 (and counting) without adding a single player of significance was beyond optimistic. That’s exactly what Bruce Weber‘s team did though. Wisconsin will see their streak of 30-win seasons come to an end this year, and despite what you might read or hear about this team, it was the defense that let them down. In fact, the Badgers sported the league’s best offense on a per possession basis. But without twin towers Brian Butch and Greg Steimsma, opponents shot much better from inside the arc.

Penn State continued its happy-go-lucky ways, going 10-8 in conference play despite being outscored (handily) by its opponents. But good for the Nittany Lions, it’s wins that punch Dance tickets, not scoring margins. Ohio State might have had the most talent in the league, but finished right in the middle of the pack. We said that before the season started that Ohio State would be hard-pressed to improve on last year’s performance. We were right – Thad Matta is finding out that landing All American Recruits isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Speaking of attrition, Northwestern had virtually none, and that went a long, long way into fueling their best post-war season. The Wildcats will come up short for landing an NCAA Tourney bid unless they win the conference tournament, but that shouldn’t diminish the job Bill Carmody‘s done. Another turnaround was present in Ann Arbor, where John Beilein has Michigan on the brink of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 10 years. The Wolverines have looked like giant killers that took down Duke, UCLA, and nearly UConn; but this is also the same team that was outscored by opponents in conference play. They need to find that early-season magic for the stretch run. Minnesota has been somewhat of an oddball team as well this year in that this is the worst field goal shooting team in the conference, but they’re also tied for the best free throw shooting team in the conference. Clearly they have the talent to score more, but it just hasn’t happened.

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