Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Current records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week):
- Northern Iowa 12-1 (3-0) (3)
- Wichita State 13-2 (2-1) (1)
- Missouri State 12-2 (2-1) (2)
- Illinois State 11-3 (2-1) (5)
- Southern Illinois 9-3 (2-1) (4)
- Indiana State 10-4 (2-1) (6)
- Bradley 6-7 (1-2) (8)
- Creighton 6-8 (1-2) (9)
- Evansville 6-7 (0-3) (7)
- 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.
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.
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.