Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference
A Look Back
Missed Opportunities—This 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 Put—As 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.