Big West Breakdown: Injuries Could Dictate Tight Race

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 12th, 2015

Here is a fun fact: four of the six players named to the Preseason Big West All-Conference Team are either currently injured or no longer playing college basketball. UC Santa Barbara’s Alan Williams has missed extended time with a shoulder ailment; UC Irvine has been without Mamadou Ndiaye for the majority of its games because of a foot injury; Corey Hawkins sat out UC Davis’ last two contests due to a leg issue; and Isaac Fotu – ruled ineligible in October – opted to leave Hawaii and turn pro before the season started. And as if that hasn’t made the already-up-for-grabs league hard enough to handicap, additional key injuries and unexpected surprises in the standings – namely UC Davis (currently in first place) and Cal State Northridge (one game out of last) – certainly have. With roughly half the slate remaining and some of the injured due back soon, let’s examine the top contenders, the possible returnees, and who might be best positioned come March.

The Top Four

UC Santa Barbara's Alan Williams has been out with a shoulder injury. (AP)

UC Santa Barbara’s Alan Williams has been out with a shoulder injury. (AP)

  1. UC Davis – 18-4 (8-1). The Aggies, picked seventh in October, have vastly exceeded expectations and sit alone atop the conference, thanks largely to their offense – the 25th-most efficient in college basketball. But the schedule significantly ramps up over the next month (UC Davis has faced the easiest slate to this point) and Hawkins – likely Big West Player of the Year – is battling a leg ailment.
  2. Long Beach State – 13-2 (7-2). Things were looking peachy for Long Beach State until it fell at home to UC Irvine on Saturday, a banged-up team which had just lost to UC Davis by 19 points. Road trips to Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis still loom, but 49ers boast an all-conference guard – senior Mike Caffey (17.4 PPG) – and, most importantly, remain healthy.
  3. UC Irvine – 14-9 (7-2). Beset by injuries nearly all season, preseason favorite UC Irvine still finds itself only one game out of first place. Saturday night’s road win at Long Beach State was huge, especially considering the Anteaters had been blown out at home two nights before and were without point guard Alex Young. They will need him back (not to mention 7’6’’ Ndiaye – discussed below) going forward; like UC Davis, Russell Turner’s club faces a difficult schedule down the stretch.
  4. UC Santa Barbara – 11-11 (4-4). The Gauchos probably can’t win the conference at this point, but they can make things interesting – both in the regular season and conference tournament. Four of their five most difficult remaining tests are at home, but any serious run ultimately comes down to the health of Alan Williams.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Harvard, Jalen Cannon, Jim Les & Rice

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 10th, 2015

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

Harvard. One could argue that Harvard’s season was at stake against Yale on Saturday, or at least close to it. The Crimson, 4-1 in Ivy League play, faced the prospect of falling two games back of the undefeated Bulldogs and severely damaging their hopes for a fourth-straight outright conference title. A victory for Tommy Amaker’s group would even up the records with a return game in Cambridge still ahead on March 6; a loss, and Harvard’s NCAA Tournament destiny would no longer rest in its own hands even if it did beat Yale next month. This was about as “must-win” as it gets in early February.

Harvard regained control of the Ivy League on Saturday. (Robert F. Worley / The Harvard Crimson)

Harvard regained control of the Ivy League on Saturday. (Robert F. Worley / The Harvard Crimson)

Yet the pivotal showdown would have been even direr for Harvard had it not been for some late-game heroics the night before. Trailing Brown by two with only a few seconds left, it took reigning Player of the Year Wesley Saunders corralling his own miss and banking in a shot at the buzzer just to send Friday’s game into overtime. In the extra period, the Crimson controlled things – ultimately winning by two – and Saunders finished with a career-high 33 points. “We’ve had these kind of games against Brown,” Amaker said afterwards, referring to his team’s third overtime victory in as many seasons against the always-pesky Bears.

Call it ‘survival,’ call it what you want, but a win is a win – and Harvard made the most of its second life the following night in New Haven. After an ugly 20 minutes of basketball (Harvard took a 16-11 lead into the locker room), the Crimson held on to their advantage throughout the second half, beating the Bulldogs 52-50 in their own house. Saunders again led the way, scoring 16 points and hitting two clutch free throws in the closing seconds, and in a matter of 24 hours Amaker’s team went from the brink of disaster to re-establishing control of the Ivy League. “We’ve taken these kinds of shots from the other teams the last few years; we’ve been up to the challenge,” he remarked afterward. With Harvard returning home for six of its final eight contests – including the Yale game in a few weeks – the Crimson’s ability to take those shots and respond when it mattered most has put them in good position to retain the conference crown and return to the Big Dance.

Honorable Mentions: St. Bonaventure (2-0: at Davidson, vs. VCU); Boise State (2-0: at Utah State, vs. San Diego State); Ohio (2-0: vs. Akron, vs. Eastern Michigan); Vermont (2-0: vs. Maine, at Stony Brook); IPFW (2-0: vs. South Dakota State, vs. Oral Roberts)

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Checking In On… The Big West

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2012

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Long Beach State Falls on Buzzer Beater: After leading Creighton for most of the game including the entire second half, Long Beach State had their hearts broken when Bluejays guard Antoine Young hit a go-ahead fade away jumper that swished through the basket with 0.3 seconds remaining in the game. There were many positive takeaways from the effort including 49ers point guard Casper Ware drawing more national attention with the game being televised on ESPN2. The Creighton crowd even rushed the court (prematurely, as it turned out), showing a certain amount of respect for Long Beach. Nonetheless, it’s a devastating loss on paper for Long Beach, who would have been a likely at-large with a win in Omaha. Now, they most likely have to win the Big West Tournament to go dancing.
  • Big West Goes 6-3 in BracketBusters: Even including Long Beach State’s late disappointment, the Big West all in all had a pretty solid collective effort in this year’s BracketBuster match-ups. Other notable wins included UCSB’s 72-64 triumph on the road at Utah State, where the Aggies are notoriously tough to beat (even in a down year), Pacific’s 66-64 win against Idaho State on an overtime buzzer beater, and UC Davis battling back from a 21-point deficit to take down Northern Arizona 69-65. Most of these games had little actual impact on each team’s 2011-12 remaining season, but a win for conference pride and RPI benefits is still a nice extra credit.
  • UCI Alum to Coach NBA All-Star Game: This one is a bit removed from current Big West play, but still worth a mention nonetheless. Former Anteater Scott Brooks, the current Oklahoma City Thunder head coach, has been named the coach for the West squad for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game. Brooks and his staff earned this honor due to the Thunder owning the conference’s best record at the break. Hopefully, Brooks can continue to bring glory to UC Irvine and the Big West through his successes in the NBA.

The Beach Has The Regular Season Title All Wrapped Up, But Will It Need A Conference Tournament Championship To Go Dancing? (Stephen Carr/Long Beach Press-Telegram)

Power Rankings

  1. Long Beach State (20-7, 13-0) – The 49ers officially clinched at least a share of the Big West regular season title after beating UC Santa Barbara soundly for the second time this season. Despite the loss to Creighton which could have been the icing on the cake in terms of an at-large bid, Long Beach is clearly playing like they can smell blood. Call it a second peak or just a season-long determined effort, but it’s clear that Long Beach State is playing as well as they have played all season with the finish line in sight.
  2. Cal State Fullerton (18-7, 9-3) – The Titans are now firmly in second place in both the real Big West standings and in these power rankings. After beating Montana State convincingly in the BracketBuster, the Titans rallied from an eight-point deficit with 4:29 to play against Pacific to win 69-68. Coach Bob Burton’s deep squad is the one group of offensive talent in the Big West that can give Long Beach State a run for their money. Their 14th in the nation PPG at 78.8 and 11th best field goal percentage at 49% will be put on the line in an epic regular season finale against Long Beach State at Titan Gym. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 13th, 2012

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was:

  • Long Beach State Draws Creighton At Home: The 49ers’ last chance to boost their nonconference slate and RPI through the ESPN BracketBuster couldn’t have turned out much better, as they drew a ranked Creighton team on national TV. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone so well for the Bluejays since the announcement as they have lost three straight including a blowout loss to Wichita State. Regardless, the away game in Omaha on ESPN2 will be a great opportunity for Dan Monson’s team to make one last statement on national TV before the end of the season. If Long Beach is to entertain any notion of an at-large bid, this game is a must-win.
  • Titans, Tigers Surge: With the Big West Tournament less than a month away, the standings are beginning to stabilize. Cal State Fullerton, aka Transfer U, has really gelled over the last month. They have won six of their last seven, thrusting themselves into talk of being the second-best team in the league, ahead of UC Santa Barbara. Likewise, Pacific has improved vastly under the legendary coaching of Bob Thomason, winning five of its last seven. The Tigers find themselves tied for fourth at 6-6 with Cal Poly, much better than their early season struggles would have predicted.
  • Davis Finally Gets First Win : Eighteen losses in a row was enough for  UC Davis, as the Aggies finally pulled out their first Division I win of the year on Feb. 9 against Cal State Northridge. With a 1-11 mark in conference play, the Aggies are only a game down from the 2-10 Matadors, but are automatically in the Big West Tournament due to Northridge being ineligible for post-season play. That virtually guaranteed first round matchup between UC Davis and Long Beach State should be a real nail-biter.

Casper Ware And The 49ers Face The Creighton Bluejays, Who Are Looking To Break A Three-Game Losing Streak.

Power Rankings

  1. Long Beach State (19-6, 12-0) – It has been more smooth sailing in Long Beach over the past two weeks, with four more wins to keep the 49ers unbeaten in Big West play. Although all of their opponents have geared up for better than usual performances against Long Beach State, it seems like Casper Ware and crew have been able to turn it up a notch down the stretch, putting away games comfortably in the end. It was also a record-setting week for Ware and T.J. Robinson with Ware became the all-time career assists leader at Long Beach State and Robinson becoming the all-time career rebound leader in the Big West Conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 28th, 2012

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Long Beach State Halfway Home: UC Riverside’s David Chavarria was one made free throw away from handing the 49ers their first conference loss of the season on Thursday, with the game all tied up at 63 and two seconds left. Fortunately for Long Beach State, he missed, and the game went into overtime. Coach Dan Monson’s crew proceeded to take control of the extra period, propelling the 49ers to a 77-70 win and a sparkling 8-0 conference record halfway through the 16-game schedule. Thursday’s UCR game would have been a classic letdown game after Saturday’s impressive blowout of UC Santa Barbara on national television, but it’s clear that Long Beach State is determined to win out.

    Dan Monson Has Long Beach State Playing Excellent Basketball

  • Cal Poly Ties NCAA Record: The Mustangs made their first 11 three-pointers against Cal State Northridge on January 21, tying the all-time NCAA record for consecutive made threes. Cal Poly shut an incredible 71.4% on the night from long distance, going 15-21. Of course, they followed that up by shooting a paltry 3-29 the following game against Pacific (10.3%). The two nights added together equal 18-50, good for 36%, or their approximate season average.
  • Big West Lands Slew of Midseason Transfers: Some of the future stars of the Big West officially enrolled for the spring semester recently, with Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton the big winners. Arizona State star and southern California native Keala King is transferring to Long Beach after averaging 13.7 points in 13 games with the Sun Devils this year. Rumored to have character issues since high school, it will be interesting to see if King can settle in to lead the new era of 49er basketball along with fellow transfers Tony Freeland (DePaul) and Edgar Garibay (Loyola Marymount). In addition, Cal State Fullerton pulled in yet another D-I transfer (they currently have eight on their roster) in UTEP’s Darius Nelson, a freshman who never played a game for Tim Floyd. While some D-I transfers have excelled as expected (Orlando Johnson comes to mind), others haven’t received as much playing time as anticipated (Nate Garth, Johnson’s teammate).

Casper Ware And The 49ers Have Control Of The Big West. One Question Sure To Be Asked Is Whether They Have The Insurance Policy Of An At-Large Resume Worthy Of A Bid. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Long Beach State (15-6, 8-0) – Long Beach State fans were able to let out a huge sigh of relief on Thursday against UCR during the aforementioned missed free throw from David Chavarria with the game on the line, as Long Beach went on to complete the first half of conference play at a perfect 8-0. What’s more impressive is that arguably their three toughest games in conference, on the road against Cal Poly, UCSB and UCR, will all go down in the books as wins. Their supposed biggest test coming into conference play against UCSB at the Thunderdome, a game televised nationally on ESPNU, turned out to be a laugher, as the 49ers ran away with a lopsided 71-48 win. The question going forward remains the same: can Long Beach’s heavily used starting group stay fresh and maintain enough energy to close the season strong? Edis Dervisevic being reinstated from his academic suspension helps as the 49ers look to keep their NCAA at-large chances alive. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #19 – Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2011

David Gao of Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • LBSU 49ers Poised to Finally Strike Gold: After winning the Big West by four games last year, Long Beach State had to settle for the NIT after UC Santa Barbara upset them in the Big West Tournament finals. This year, four of last year’s top five scorers return for LBSU, and all as fourth-year seniors. But even if a Big West Tournament win isn’t in the cards, Coach Dan Monson will garner national attention and even a possible at-large bid with an incredibly tough non-conference slate featuring the likes of Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and Xavier.

Long Beach State Star Guard Casper Ware (#22) Plays Much Bigger Than His 5'10" Frame Might Suggest. (credit: S. Dachman)

  • Three Straight for the Gauchos?: USA World University Games team member Orlando Johnson will look to take an up-and-down UC Santa Barbara team back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Some may see last year’s bid as a bit of a fluke, as the Gauchos were only a five-seed in the conference tournament, but scored a Big Dance berth anyway when they won the final against regular season champion Long Beach State. Seniors James Nunnally and Jaime Serna return as well, while D-I transfers Nate Garth and Keegan Hornbuckle become eligible for the first time this year, making this Gauchos team, on paper, even stronger.
  • Will Les Be More?: At UC Davis, gone is former coach Gary Stewart after eight seasons (and his not-so-illustrious 88-148 record), replaced by former Bradley coach Jim Les, who joins his son Tyler, a sophomore on the team. The elder Les spent nine years at Bradley, where he famously took the Braves to the Sweet Sixteen in 2005-06, knocking off a highly-seeded Kansas team in the process. However, his last two teams fizzled, just as Stewart’s Aggies did the last two years despite having highly touted players Mark Payne and Joe Harden on the roster. Harden and Payne are both gone now, but Big West Co-Freshman of the year Josh Ritchart returns with former Cal guard Eddie Miller.
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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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Morning Five: 03.07.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 7th, 2011

  1. One of the great stories of this season has been the return of St. John’s to the center of the national hoops stage, there’s no doubt about it. They said goodbye to ten players during their Senior Night festivities on Saturday, and this article from the New York Post uses exclusive testimonials from each of those ten departing fellows to illustrate why, as writer Lenn Robbins puts it, “there might never have been a more emotional, more meaningful Senior Night in St. John’s basketball history.”
  2. The day that Washington State’s Klay Thompson was charged with possession of marijuana, his father (and former Laker) Mychal Thompson was scheduled to substitute for Max Kellerman on a Los Angeles sports radio show. Not only did Thompson keep his hosting commitment, he openly addressed and answered questions about the topic of his son’s mistake with straightforward, honest talk. An interesting summary, this, from T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times.
  3. Jim Les played for Bradley in college, and was hired as the Braves’ head coach in 2002. He had BU in the Sweet 16 as recently as 2006. He’s posted a 154-140 mark at the school. During one three year stretch, his teams won at least 21 games a season. It wasn’t enough. The school relieved Les of his coaching duties on Sunday, two days after the Braves lost in their second game of the MVC Tournament to Wichita State.
  4. Hey, Notre Dame backers — how proud of your team are you? Few pre-season prognosticators predicted a year like this for you, and zero predicted that you’d be in the running for a 1-seed in the Tournament. The Chicago Tribune gives the Irish their props and discusses what they have to do to lock up a #1.
  5. Where do you stand on the Brandon Davies/BYU drama? Well, we now know where Tim Tebow (a name we never thought would appear on this site) and Amare Stoudemire stand: they’re behind Davies and want him to play. Stoudemire leaves NO doubt where he stands (wow, Amare!) but we especially loved the end of Tebow’s comments: “I don’t know. I don’t even know the situation, but I just always think about giving people a second chance. Maybe he deserves one, but I don’t know the situation.” Gotcha. Thanks, man.
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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 MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

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

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

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

A Look Ahead

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

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

Other National TV Games This Week:

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