Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 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 a Bust: Last weekend was the annual Bracketbusters event that the MVC has been involved in since its inception. In recent years, fans and even coaches haven’t been too fond of the Bracketbusters with the argument that being involved in this doesn’t help them. The fact remains that the Valley hasn’t really proved that they are past the Bracketbusters. In the five television games last weekend, the conference went 2-3 with league leaders Wichita State and Creighton the only ones to walk away with wins. As a whole, the league went 4-6. Missouri State and Northern Iowa were the big losers in this one in their losses to Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth. The CAA has dominated the MVC in this series.
  • Shockers and Bluejays NCAA-Bound: Wichita State and Creighton have solidified their status as at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament with their wins this past weekend. The Shockers are ranked now in both polls while Creighton is hanging around just outside of the top 25. The latest projections have the Shockers as high as a #4 seed and Creighton around a #6 seed. Unless there is a total collapse, both of these teams should be in even if they do not win the MVC Tournament. They both could make a run once they do get to the NCAA’s.
  • MVC Seeding Still in the Air: It’s the final week of the conference season and seeding for the middle six teams in the league is still to be decided with this week’s games. Illinois State, Missouri State, Evansville, Northern Iowa, Drake and Indiana State will all be fighting to stay out of the Thursday night play-in games in the MVC Tournament.

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

Wichita State and Creighton are the clear top players in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Any team in the middle of the league could emerge as a threat to get the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MVC Tournament.

  1. Wichita State (24-4, 14-2) (1): Wichita State is on a roll and appear to be the best non-power six conference team in the nation. They are 12-1 since losing to Creighton on New Year’s Eve and do not look like they are letting up at all. Everything seems to be falling from the field, their defense has been solid and they have a big guy that can shoot the three.  All great tools for a postseason run. Head coach Gregg Marshall hopes that Wichita State can now get the media coveragethey deserve.

    Gregg Marshall hopes that Wichita State can now get the media coverage they deserve (AP)

  2. Creighton (24-5, 13-4) (2): Creighton spent its week trying to survive — first with a come-from-behind win against Long Beach State with an Antoine Young buzzer-beater and then another comeback job, this one in overtime over Evansville Tuesday. Both games were at home.   One thing about Creighton that has helped them this season has been the walk-ons.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 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:

  • Creighton Knocked Off, Twice—Creighton went into Cedar Falls with an 11-game winning streak, but left with a loss against Northern Iowa. The Panthers’ Anthony James was the hero in this one. After an Antoine Young three-pointer to tie the game up with just under five seconds to play, James went the length of the court, dribbled in and then bounced out for a step-back three over the outstretched arms of Doug McDermott and drained it sending the Northern Iowa fans into a frenzy. Creighton was cold from the field again and lost against Evansville taking some luster off of Saturday’s game against Wichita State. Northern Iowa now takes the momentum of that win into Wichita to take on the Shockers on Wednesday. For Creighton, they are hoping to survive.

  • Stutz is Stud—After concerns of Wichita State’s Garrett Stutz having some back problems and his ongoing health mentioned here last week, he spent last week proving everyone wrong.  Stutz went out and scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Missouri State and then turned around and had 24 points and 15 rebounds against Indiana State. He went over 1,000 points in his career as a Shocker. Over the past four games he has averaged almost 25 points and ten rebounds per game. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Northern Iowa and Creighton this week.
  • Braves Hitting Bottom—Normally, you wouldn’t talk much about a team that is 6-19 and 1-12 in the conference, but it is hard not to after the week Bradley had. The Braves lost by 30 to Evansville last Wednesday and then lost to rival Illinois State by 30 on Saturday, Bradley’s worst loss in the series since 1909. It is the first time in the storied program history that it has lost by 30 or more points in back-to-back games. Geno Ford has a long road ahead of him to bring this program back to relevance. Maybe the only good news is that four of their last six games are at home.

Garrett Stutz Has Powered The Shockers Past Creighton In The Latest RTC Power Rankings.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

Wichita State has moved up to #1 with Creighton’s loss to Evansville. The rest of the league had little movement, but the Panthers are back in the conversation.

  1. Wichita State (20-4, 11-2) (2): The Shockers are the team to watch over the next few weeks. Although they appear to be a solid bet to make the NCAA Tournament, a couple wrong steps here or there may throw them on the bubble.  Toure Murry is on pace to reach the top 10 in Wichita State career scoring. He is already there in games played, three pointers, free throws made, assists, and steals. He will have to be a factor down the stretch for the Shockers to be successful. The defense has been big too as they held Missouri State to 10-33 shooting in the second half last week.
  2. Creighton (21-4, 11-3) (1): By now, the different teams in the league know that if they can contain Doug McDermott in some way, they have a chance against the Bluejays. The supporting cast had been pretty efficient in picking up the pieces, but struggled against Northern Iowa and Evansville — which led to the losses. That completely contrasts the performance against Illinois State earlier in the week when the Bluejays scored 102 points. The players are having a lot of fun this season as teammates Jahenns Manigat and McDermott interview each other. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Missouri Valley’s March Back to Prominence

Posted by dnspewak on January 19th, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. You can find him on Twitter @dspewak. He filed this report following Creighton’s 66-65 victory at Missouri State in Springfield on Wednesday. 

No need to remind Paul Lusk about the strength of the Missouri Valley Conference this season. During the past five days, his Missouri State team has lost three games by a total of four possessions. “It’s just one tough game after another,” Lusk said. “You have to go play good basketball in this league.” That’s a theme across the Valley in 2011-12, as the conference looks poised to earn multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.  Even in a 66-65 loss, the Bears’ game against Creighton at JQH Arena Wednesday night serves as a prime example of the MVC’s rise. Missouri State forced the Bluejays into 11 first-half turnovers, held the nation’s second-leading scorer to just 15 points and kept an animated home crowd involved by playing the #19 team to the final possession. Had Anthony Downing’s jumper at the buzzer fallen, a middle-of-the-pack team would have completed a sweep of the league’s top contender and Wooden Award candidate Doug McDermott. 

And nobody would have blinked an eye. “I think parity is a sign of strength in a league,” commissioner Doug Elgin said. “Absolutely, I think the league is much better this year than it was a year ago. And I think if you look at the talent that’s coming into the league, we’re going to be stronger next year still.”

Creighton's Nailbiter on Wednesday is an Example of MVC Parity (photo by the Associated Press)

The results from non-conference play support Elgin’s opinion. Thanks to a strong performance against other leagues in November and December, the MVC ranks eighth in conference RPI right now, above the Pac-12, Conference USA and the West Coast Conference. Wichita State, the other main contender for a league title and an at-large bid, embarrassed UNLV by 19 points at home. Illinois State beat Rutgers on a neutral floor, while Drake and Northern Iowa both beat Iowa State. But the best example of the MVC’s parity may be Indiana State, which lost again on Wednesday to fall to 2-6. Yet the defending tourney champs still won at Vanderbilt earlier this season and represented itself well on national television with two victories in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving week.

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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 4th, 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

  • Wild Play Underway—As Missouri Valley Conference play started this week, you can pretty much throw everything away you learned in the non-conference season. Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa, who expect to be at the top of the league this season, have already lost home conference games. Only two teams were able to get through the first week unscathed—Missouri State and EvansvilleTis the season to focus on basketball.
  • Evansville and Missouri State Leading The Way—After disappointing non-conference play, both the Purple Aces and the Bears are starting on the right foot in conference play. Evansville came back from behind to get a big road win at Northern Iowa while Missouri State shocked Creighton on their home court to open MVC play. The defending MVC champs got an MVP performance from Kyle Weems as he scored 25 of his career high 31 points in the victory over the Bluejays. That performance earned him some national honors this week.
  • Creighton Still Ranked—Despite the loss against Missouri State at home, the Bluejays turned around and got themselves a big win on the road at the other MVC favorite, Wichita State. With that win, Creighton is still ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll at #24, while just falling out of the AP poll. If Creighton eventually falls out of the polls, don’t be surprised if you do not see another MVC team in the top 25 this season with the way conference season has started. However, some early bracketology projections have three MVC teams that could make the NCAA Tournament.

Kyle Weems Reminded Everyone That There's More To The Valley Than Doug McDermott (MVC-Sports.com)

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (12-2, 2-1) (1)— With the week that was, Creighton is sticking in the top spot for this week. Although they lost to Missouri State, they came back to beat Wichita State on the road. Doug McDermott has been recognized more in conference play with each team focusing the defense on him. Grant Gibbs, however, continues to be the glue for Creighton. While most of the attention on him has been his passing ability, he turned up the scoring against the Shockers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 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:

  • Multiple Bid Talk—As the Valley non-conference season comes to a close, there is a lot more talk that the MVC will get more than its one automatic bid this season.  Creighton and Wichita State appear to be the strongest in the league right now, but Indiana State and Northern Iowa are close behind.  These four teams were talked about before the season started and have delivered in non-conference play.  There are some good wins and some bad losses.
  • Creighton Dominating—The Bluejays have received a lot of attention behind the performances of Doug McDermott.  They capped off their non-conference season by defeating Northwestern to go 3-0 against the Big Ten.  Granted, the three teams they beat (Northwestern, Nebraska, and Iowa) may finish at the bottom of the league, but that is still impressive.  McDermott is second in the nation in scoring, while Creighton as a team leads the nation in assists.
  • Jankovich Ejected—It is not uncommon for coaches to get a little emotional in a game to the point that they get a technical foul.  However, it is more rare for the coach to get a second technical foul in a game to get themselves ejected from the game, much less before halftime.  This is exactly what happened to Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich last week when the Redbirds hosted Arkansas-Little Rock.   Jankovich was ejected by referee Gerry Pollard with 2:31 to go in the first half after a disputed foul called on a Redbird.

It May Not Be Long Before We Start Running Out Of Superlatives For Doug McDermott. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Power Rankings

Let’s take a look at each team and how they did in the non-conference side of things.

  1. Creighton (10-1)— The Bluejays have probably had the best possible outcome during their non-conference season.  They already have more road wins this season than they did all of last season.  Doug McDermott has been the star for this team scoring over 20 points in the last 10 games.  However, the other bright point of Creighton’s performances have been from Gonzaga transfer Grant Gibbs.  Gibbs had 22 assists over the last two games.  The connection between McDermott and Gibbs has been a key combination for Creighton this season.  As a team they lead the nation in assists.   Things are going so well this season, there are even stories about the dancing grandma in the stands.
  2. Wichita State (9-2)— The Shockers started off a little slow, but have been pretty dominant as they closed out their non-conference season.  They suffered a couple of losses in the Puerto Rico Tip-off tournament, but have rebounded to get wins over UNLV, Utah State and Tulsa.   One thing that will help Wichita State in conference play is depth.  They have nine players averaging ten minutes or more of action a game. Read the rest of this entry »
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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 »
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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 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 Continues Up the Top 25—With a lot of teams in the lower part of the top 25 losing this week, Creighton moved up in the coaches poll from #25 to #23 while also receiving more votes in the AP poll putting them at #26. So far the Bluejays have not disappointed including their 104-81 victory over Campbell and winning the Dale Howard Classic.
  • Valley Stock Rising—The Missouri Valley Conference has had some great success so far in the non-conference season. There are only 27 teams in Division I still undefeated. Only three non-BCS leagues still have undefeated teams. Two of those teams are Creighton (5-0) and Missouri State (4-0). The Valley is 37-16 so far including a 24-4 home mark.
  • Northern Iowa Bounces Back—The Panthers made an impressive showing in South Padre by getting wins against Rice and Providence. Since the loss at St. Mary’s, Northern Iowa has won their last four and are getting good contributions from players like Seth Tuttle, who averaged 11 points and 6.3 rebounds in the last three games. 

Greg Lansing And Jake Odum Have The Sycamores On The Rise. (Matt Kryger/Indianapolis Star)

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (5-0)— Creighton continues to roll along. In their only game this week, the Bluejays started the game hitting their first 13 shots of the game putting them up 18 points early on Campbell. Creighton continued to blister the nets the rest of the game and set a school record shooting 70.4% from the field for the game. Creighton also dished out 30 assists on 38 baskets for the game. They currently lead the nation in assists while placing third in points per game.
  2. Indiana State (6-1)—The Sycamores continue to build upon last year’s success by playing with a lot of poise during the Old Spice Classic. After beating Texas Tech in the first round, the Sycamores took it to the wire against Minnesota before losing to the Gophers. Indiana State rebounded to get a win over Fairfield to take third place.  Five players finished in double-figures. The balanced scoring right now by Indiana State will keep opponents off balance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 11.25.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 25th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Preseason tournaments continue to roll on with the NIT Season Tip-Off championship as well as semifinal action at the Old Spice and 76 Classic along with the Battle 4 Atlantis. Although we don’t know the championship matchups in those tournaments, be sure to check out the finals at Atlantis on Saturday and the Old Spice and 76 Classic on Sunday for those TBD games.

Minnesota vs. Indiana State (at Orlando, Florida) – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN (**)

Trevor Mbakwe Is a Beast Inside

  •  The Golden Gophers escaped an upset-minded DePaul team on Thursday afternoon behind another double-double from Trevor Mbakwe, his fourth in five games. Against an Indiana State team that is better than DePaul, Minnesota must assert itself inside, protect the ball and defend better. Tubby Smith’s team has a huge height advantage over the Sycamores, especially with swingman Rodney Williams standing at 6’7”. The potential is there for Williams to have a huge game given his size and athleticism. Indiana State can rotate taller players in off its bench but Minnesota has more than enough talent in the paint to play well. However, the Gophers can’t afford 17 turnovers and a 1-9 night from three point range again as they did against DePaul.
  • The major concern for Greg Lansing has to be rebounding the basketball against a team with lots of strength and size up front. Indiana State was out-rebounded and out-shot by Texas Tech but forced 18 Red Raider turnovers and got to the foul line 31 times. The Sycamores shoot 78% from the stripe and must use that to their advantage against a Minnesota team with an awful defensive free throw rate (#249). With sophomore point guard Jake Odum breaking down the defense and finding open players, that shouldn’t be a big problem given Minnesota’s propensity to foul. Indiana State shoots 37.1% from three point land as a unit with Jordan Printy taking the majority of those shots and converting 38.5% of the time. ISU must make threes because it is not going to have an easy time scoring inside against Minnesota’s size.
  • For the Sycamores to pull the upset, we feel they have to play a zone. Going to a zone is risky when your team has trouble rebounding to begin with but it may be their best bet. If Indiana State can pack its defense in the paint and limit the Gophers inside, that’ll force the Minnesota guards to jack up deep shots, something they’re not particularly good at. Playing a zone also minimizes foul trouble, a huge issue with only three major contributors over 6’8” on the Indiana State roster. It sounds simple but this game should come down to whichever team can execute its game plan better: inside scoring for Minnesota and three pointers plus solid interior defense for Indiana State.

#19 Florida State vs. Harvard (at Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas) – 4:30 PM EST on Versus (***)

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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 »
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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 »
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RTC Summer Updates: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 27th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our MVC correspondent, Patrick Marshall.

The summer has been a busy one for the Missouri Valley Conference. They are hoping the 2011-12 season will be one that sees the conference become a multiple-bid league again.  They haven’t had multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament since the 2006-07 season.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Coaching Changes: The MVC only had two coaching changes in the offseason.  First, after leading Missouri State to its first MVC regular season title, Cuonzo Martin was lured away from the Bears to Tennessee.  He was replaced by Purdue assistant Paul Lusk, who weeks earlier might have been in line to succeed Matt Painter had Painter left Purdue to become the new head coach at Missouri.  He has Valley ties as a player at Southern Illinois in his college days, where he helped the Salukis to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.  On the flip-side, Bradley head coach Jim Les was fired after nine seasons with the Braves.  After taking Bradley to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2005-06 season, he had trouble getting the team back to that level.  Les was replaced by Kent State head coach Geno Ford.  These moves have caused a bit of a frenzy as Kent State filed a lawsuit against Bradley due to the way they hired Ford.  Les has since been named the new head coach at UC Davis (where his son currently plays), and he too has filed a lawsuit of his own against his former school disputing the settlement he was paid from his dismissal.  Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson were speculated for many jobs over the summer, but they both chose to stay with their respective schools.
  • Creighton’s International Duo: Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique have had a summer to remember.  McDermott spent the end of June through the middle of July playing for the Team USA U-19 squad helping the team to a fifth place finish in Latvia.  McDermott led the team in three-pointers made, was second in minutes, and third in scoring for the American team during the FIBA Championships.  McDermott’s frontcourt counterpart Echenique is currently in Venezuela as a member of his nation’s national team.  Echenique and his teammates will try to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in Argentina at the beginning of September before he returns to Creighton for the fall semester.
  • League Talent: There have been several different examples of decisions made by the league’s top talent this offseason.  First off is the 2011 MVC Player of the Year, Kyle Weems.  Weems earned his degree from Missouri State, and with a year of eligibility remaining, he could have easily decided to transfer to a different school to play right away, especially with a new coach coming into town.  Instead, he decided to stay in Springfield for his senior season.  In an opposite move, Bradley’s Sam Maniscalco was a senior last season for the Braves, but he spent much of it recovering from an ankle injury.  Early last season it was decided that he would shut things down and apply for a medical redshirt, which he received.  Then came the firing of Les.  During Maniscalco’s redshirt season, he was able to complete his degree.  With a year of eligibility still remaining and a new coach coming to town, the all-MVC player decided to transfer and finish his college career at Illinois.  Finally, you have Drake’s Ravonte Rice.  A runner-up for the MVC Freshman of the Year last season, Rice has not kept it secret that he isn’t necessarily happy at Drake, but that he isn’t going to transfer… at least not yet.  This is a pivotal year for the Bulldogs, as two years worth of the conference’s best recruiting classes are now sophomores and juniors that have had marginal success.  How Drake does this year could determine whether Rice stays or goes.

Despite a coaching transition going into his senior year, 2011 MVC Player of the Year Kyle Weems will stick it out for the Bears. (Missouri State University)

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • Battle for SeedingThe last two weeks of the season will be about seeding for the MVC Tournament.  No one wants to be the team that has to play four consecutive days for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.  Indiana State, Creighton, Evansville, and Drake are fighting to stay out of that #7-seed hole.
  • Unpredictable ValleyIf you don’t pay attention to the Missouri Valley Conference for a period of time, you will get lost on everything happening in the league with the surprise upsets and close games.  Wichita State was beaten by Southern Illinois on their home court.  Northern Iowa lost Lucas O’Rear and they have gone from a possible third straight MVC championship to trying to stay out of the play-in game in St. Louis.  Last-place Bradley has won three of their last four after starting 0-11 in conference play.  Indiana State and Evansville could finish in the top four, which has been unheard of.  Hold on tight, it will be a crazy ride.
  • Multiple Bids?—Joe Lunardi has had Missouri State and Wichita State in his bracket for the past couple of weeks and the Bears and Shockers have separated themselves in the Valley race.  However, if the MVC wants to make sure they really are a multiple-bid league this season, Missouri State and Wichita State has a small margin of error.  They will definitely need to win their Bracketbuster games this weekend and play into the finals of the MVC Tournament.  At worst, one of the two will need to make the finals of the MVC tournament for the league to get two teams in this season.  Otherwise, the MVC will again be a one-bid league for the fourth year in a row. With these odds, who knows who will win the conference tournament.
  • Player of the Week— Kyle Weems, Missouri State—The potential MVC Player of the Year continues his march, averaging  23 points and six rebounds a game, which also includes 7-13 from three-point range in their two wins this week against Bradley and Illinois State.  Those numbers come with only playing 28 minutes a game in both contests.  Missouri State is very tough to stop when he gets going.
  • Newcomer of the Week— Jake Odum, Indiana State—The freshman continues to lead the Sycamores.  He averaged over 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in their two wins this week against Illinois State and Drake.   He drives the offense for Indiana State.

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

  1. Missouri State (20-6) (12-3) (2)— The Bears are back on the winning track this week with wins over Bradley and Illinois State.  Missouri State is known for man-to-man defense, but they broke out the zone last week and expect to see it more.   They are winning the games they need to be winning and will need to continue that this week when they host Drake on Tuesday before stepping out of conference in the BracketBusters against Valparaiso.
  2. Wichita State (21-5) (12-3) (1)— Wichita State was stunned at home when Southern Illinois came to town and knocked off the Shockers.  However they took that fury out on the road at Northern Iowa where they just shut down the Panthers and walked away with a dominant victory.  The Shockers hope they have found their point guard in Joe Raglund.  They will have a couple more big tests this week against the surging Evansville Purple Aces before hosting Virginia Commonwealth as one of the feature games on BracketBusters Friday night. 
  3. Northern Iowa (18-9) (9-6) (3)—The Panthers have continued to struggle without Lucas O’Rear and have lost three games in a row since the injury.  Coach Ben Jacobson says they miss O’Rear, but that they just need to play better.   Northern Iowa is fading down the stretch and will likely be bunched up in the 3-7 positions in the conference and will need to get things going to get the best seed possible in the MVC Tournament, but there is no doubt that the rest of their season is in murky waters.   They go to Bradley who have won three of the past four and then host George Mason in BracketBusters. 
  4. Creighton (16-11) (8-7) (4)— Creighton is really struggling with winning on the road in the MVC.  After starting 3-0 on the road to begin MVC play, the Bluejays have lost their last five on the road and continue to be lacking two to three plays a game that they need in order to win.  Illinois State comes to town before hitting the road to Akron which would be a lot better matchup in men’s soccer than men’s basketball.  They played a full 40 minutes against Southern Illinois on Sunday night, probably their first 40 full minutes of great play all season.  Doug McDermott isn’t Harrison Barnes, but he has made a splash this season of historic proportions
  5. Indiana State (14-12) (9-6) (6)— Indiana State is back on the winning track after losing five in a row with wins over Illinois State and Drake this week.  The Sycamores start what constitutes “the rest” of the MVC after the top three teams.   The key here is seeding for the MVC tournament where that is their only chance to get to the NCAA Tournament.  They go to Southern Illinois this week before hosting Morehead State as a part of the BracketBusters.   Jake Odum is the one who makes or breaks the success for Indiana State.   But their bench is pretty helpful too.
  6. Evansville (14-11) (8-7) (5)—The Purple Aces have had an up and down week, first, taking advantage of Northern Iowa’s troubles and knocking them off, but then couldn’t keep down last place Bradley.  Scary, but if you look at teams that might make a run in the MVC Tournament and get the auto-bid for the NCAA Tournament, you could put some money on Evansville right now as they could be the surprise.  Colt Ryan is known as their scorer, but senior Kavon Lacey has stepped up his game, making them tougher.   They get to host Wichita State this week before getting a nice matchup in BracketBusters with Murray State.  A couple wins here, and people will have to be on the lookout. 
  7. Drake (11-15) (6-9) (7)—Drake’s up and down season continues with a home victory against Creighton and a road letdown at Indiana State.  Like Creighton, the Bulldogs have troubles winning on the road in conference play sitting at 1-6 in such contests.  They hit the road again to Missouri State on Tuesday, so expect that record to go to 1-7.  Then they host Detroit on Saturday.  Ryan Wedel is trying to be the leader of this team and hopes to lead them into the improbable postseason. 
  8. Bradley (9-17) (3-12) (8)—The Braves are all of a sudden the hottest team in the Valley right now and is creating headaches for the rest of the league.  They have won three of their last four and gave Missouri State all they could handle in getting that one loss.  They are now playing with nothing to lose and getting a couple wins makes them spoilers for the rest of the season.  They try to spoil Northern Iowa’s season on Tuesday before hitting the road to Tennessee-Martin in the BracketBuster matchup.
  9. Southern Illinois (11-15) (5-10) (10)—After having one of their worst weeks ever last week, the Salukis have bounced back to have an average one.  First they knocked off Wichita State in one of the more surprising upsets of the season but then laid a huge egg against Creighton.  The Salukis have suffered from recruiting the wrong players and the long term effects have been catastrophic and patience is wearing thin.   They now get two home games this week with Indiana State and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
  10. Illinois State (11-15) (3-12) (9)—The Redbirds conference season has been full of streaks starting with losing their first eight, winning the next three, and are now suffering through another four game losing streak.  Illinois State tried their best to spoil some things for Missouri State but just came up short.   For a team that contended for conference championships the past few seasons, this has to be tough for Illinois State fans to understand why they have struggled so much this season.   They hit the road this week at Creighton and then to Western Michigan. 

A Look Ahead

The week starts with conference play, but then the big weekend of BracketBusters will be a big test for teams.

  • 2/15—Wichita State @ Evansville (Local TV)—Evansville is still playing well and a win against Wichita State will really put a wrench into the conference race, and the outside possibility of the MVC getting two bids this season.
  • 2/16—Indiana State @ Southern Illinois—Indiana State has one last run in them to finish in the top four in the league.  It starts with Southern Illinois.  The Salukis on the other hand are trying to save face for next season wondering if they will have a new coach or not.
  • 2/18—Virginia Commonwealth @ Wichita State (ESPN2)—This is definitely one of the feature games of the Bracketbusters weekend and will be one not to miss.  The CAA and the MVC have had some pretty good games over the past few seasons because of BracketBusters.  The Shockers need this one to get a quality win on their resume that is clearly missing.
  • 2/19—Missouri State @ Valparaiso (ESPN2)—This is the game that Missouri State fans wanted so they would not have to travel to the coasts for a game before the final week of MVC competition.
  • 2/19—George Mason @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—Northern Iowa feels they still have something to prove and they need this game more than George Mason does.  However, George Mason isn’t coming to lose and what looked like a great matchup has now lost some luster.

Other  Games on National TV This Week:

  • 2/15—Northern Iowa @ Bradley (Fox Sports Net)
  • 2/16—Illinois State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
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