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)

Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

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

A Look Back

BracketBusters MatchupsBracketBuster matchups were announced last week, and the Missouri Valley Conference was awarded three games on national television.

  • 2/18, 6PM, ESPN2–VCU @ Wichita State
  • 2/19, 4PM, ESPN2Missouri State @ Valparaiso
  • 2/19, 6PM, ESPN2–George Mason @ Northern Iowa

The other matchups between the other conference members:

  • Creighton @ Akron
  • Evansville @ Murray State
  • Morehead State @ Indiana State
  • UW-Green Bay @ Southern Illinois
  • Illinois State @ Western Michigan
  • Detroit @ Drake
  • Bradley @ Tennessee-Martin

Bradley Has a Winning Week – After starting conference play 0-11, Bradley has reeled off a couple of wins against Creighton and Southern Illinois.  In the game against the Bluejays, the game was moved up four hours to avoid a snowstorm that still left Creighton stranded.  The Salukis on the other hand were blown out at home by Drake before coming to Bradley.  The Braves were able to take advantage of the other team’s struggles to garner a couple of wins and a glimmer of hope that Jim Les will be back next season.

Southern Illinois ImplodingIf you were watching last Wednesday night, you saw Southern Illinois get torched by Drake’s outside shooting.  What you may not have seen was Chris Lowery calling out his team, saying they “quit” during the game.   To make matters worse, at the end of the week, it was announced that three players, including two starters, were suspended for three games based on an assault incident on campus.   The SIU program has a lot to sort out.

Northern Iowa Suffers a BlowLucas O’Rear was injured Wednesday evening against Illinois State.  The man of much facial hair ended up suffering a fractured ankle and is now out for the rest of the season.  This is a big blow for the Panthers in their run back up the Valley standings.  Without him, Northern Iowa suffered a loss to Drake and now have to regroup for the final stretch run to try and get their third straight MVC regular season championship.

Player of the Week—Andrew Warren, Bradley—The play of Warren has been overshadowed by the performance of Bradley as a team this season.  However, the talented guard has been carrying this team on his shoulders and continued that this week.  He averaged 23 points and almost seven rebounds in the two victories against Creighton and Southern Illinois.

Newcomer of the Week—Rayvonte Rice, Drake—The freshman led the way for Drake this week in their two victories averaging 21 points a game over Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa this week.  In a year dominated by Doug McDermott from Creighton, Rice has been coming on as of late.  Both Rice and McDermott will lead their respective teams against each other this week.

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

  1. Wichita State (20-4) (11-2) (1)—The Shockers have quietly made their way to the top and are holding on to the conference lead after two wins this week over Drake and Indiana State.  After Southern Illinois on Tuesday, the Shockers go on a tough run to end the season at Northern Iowa, at Evansville, the BracketBusters game against VCU, hosting Creighton and then finishing at Missouri State.   If Wichita State makes it through this stretch of games, they definitely deserve the MVC regular season crown.  One interesting note is that there has not been a Wichita State player that has won a weekly award from the MVC offices, and it has been suggested that they decline the award if a Shocker does get one. 
  2. Missouri State (18-6) (10-3) (3)— The Bears have hit a bit of a wall losing two of their last three and surviving against Indiana State on Saturday.  However, the schedule is favorable for Missouri State as four of their final five conference games are against teams at the bottom of the league.  It should make for an interesting race between the Bears and the Shockers.   A missing part of Missouri State’s team this year has been Adam Leonard. If the Bears are going to have a solid run to finish the season, Leonard is going to have to step things up.  He has spent extra time in the gym.  Hopefully for them, it reflects well down the stretch. 
  3. Northern Iowa (17-7) (9-4) (2)— The Panthers  had won eight in a row before and looked like they were rolling until Lucas O’Rear went down against Illinois State which led to the letdown against in-state rival Drake.  Three of the final five conference games are on the road including going to Evansville this week for what appears to be a typical “trap” game.  They then have a showdown with Wichita State on Saturday night which will decide if they still have a chance for the top of the mountain.  Will Dick Vitale actually be in Cedar Falls for their BracketBuster game?  I wouldn’t hold my breath. 
  4. Creighton (15-10) (7-6) (4)—The Bluejays endured the embarrassment of allowing Bradley to get their first conference win of the season.  They did rebound to knock off a hot Evansville team and are now putting themselves in a good position to secure a top-four seed in the MVC Tournament.   But they can’t let down against Drake and Southern Illinois this week.   Doug McDermott continues to put up some amazing numbers—such that he could earn himself awards at the end of the year, including a spot on the All-MVC team. 
  5. Evansville (13-10) (7-6) (6)— Evansville started off the week with a nice win against Missouri State even without leading rebounder and second leading scorer Kenneth Harris.   However, they ran into a Creighton team with something to prove and took down the Purple Aces to be tied for fourth place in the Valley race.  One thing is for sure, they will not be cellar dwellers this season and the team has made some great strides.  They get to host Northern Iowa this week before heading to Peoria to take on Bradley.
  6. Indiana State (12-12) (7-6) (5)— The Sycamores are coming back to earth after their hot conference start.  They have now lost five straight games after playing against the top teams in the league.  I guess they have to be satisfied with moral victories.   However a date with Illinois State and Drake might be what they need to finish off strong.  
  7. Drake (10-14) (5-8) (9)—Drake won both of their games this week and jumped out of the bottom of the league.  They hit 16 three-pointers their win against Southern Illinois and held off Northern Iowa to beat their in-state rival.  If it was up to Rayvonte Rice, he thinks they could go on a big run to get to the postseason.  Creighton comes to town on Tuesday before heading to Terre Haute for a date with Indiana State.
  8. Bradley (8-16) (2-11) (10)—Teams will take wins any way they can get them.  For Bradley, that first conference win came against Creighton.  With that win and a victory against Southern Illinois, who they caught at the right time, Bradley enjoys the month of February.  January was winless, but in February, they have two wins already.  They get to play the role of spoiler, going to Springfield to take on Missouri State and celebrate alumni weekend against Evansville.
  9. Illinois State (11-13) (3-10) (8)—The Redbirds are back to their struggling ways after winning three in a row.  It wasn’t a surprise that they lost to Wichita State and Northern Iowa, but they did keep things close.  Any game in the MVC is a possible upset and you never know what is going to happen.  They can spoil the party for everyone with the Sycamores and the Bears coming to town this week.
  10. Southern Illinois (10-14) (4-9) (7)— We have talked about already how Southern Illinois has hit rock bottom.  Fans are getting tired of the once proud program that will be missing the postseason for the third year in a row.  It will cost the school dearly to send Chris Lowery packing, but it may be the only option after spending millions of dollars remodeling SIU Arena and playing to a half full crowd.  One way or another, things must change

A Look Ahead

Look out for these games:

  • 2/8—Northern Iowa @ Evansville (No TV)—The Panthers are struggling without Lucas O’Rear and head for their second straight road game without him.  Evansville has been hot and could knock them off.
  • 2/8—Southern Illinois @ Wichita State (Local TV in both markets)—The Shockers are the dominant team in the league at this point and SIU is in shambles right now.  However, there is always a chance for a shock here, pardon the pun.
  • 2/9—Bradley @ Missouri State (Fox Sports Net)—Bradley has a couple conference wins under their belt and could play the role of spoiler.  Missouri State needs to keep winning.
  • 2/12—Wichita State @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—This is a big game for both teams, but even bigger for Northern Iowa to try and catch up to the Shockers.   The Shockers on the other hand are trying to pull away from the rest of the league.  A special 9PM CST start for this one.
  • 2/13—Southern Illinois @ Creighton (ESPNU)—Is this one of the final games in the Chris Lowery era at SIU?  Creighton is looking for a good seed for the MVC Tournament.  Oh yeah, and it is a rivalry game, but that is sort of lost in the mix at this point.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • Indiana State Is For Real Indiana State came into the week with a 4-1 conference record, but many were not convinced they were a legitimate contender based on the teams they have played so far—mainly teams in the bottom of the league.  However, the Sycamores escaped with a big win against Creighton on the last second lay-in by Carl Richard to take them to 6-1 in league play heading into this week.

  • Bradley and Illinois State Remain Winless Both of these schools have yet to win a game in conference play after sitting last season towards the top of the league.  For the Braves, this is their worst start in MVC  history while the Redbirds have not suffered a start to conference play like this for eight years.
  • Defense Part of the EliteMissouri State, Wichita State, and Indiana State are 1-2-3 in scoring defense which has been the key in those three teams sitting at the top of the conference.   Missouri State is keeping teams at just over 28% shooting from three-point land compared to almost 40% last season.
  • Player of the Week—Aaron Carter, Indiana State—The senior for the Sycamores has taken advantage of his expanded role over the past few weeks being a key component in the wins over Creighton and Bradley this week.  He averaged 17 points including 8-of-13 from three point range and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Mamadou Seck, Southern Illinois—Seck has been a bright spot amongst the struggles Southern Illinois has had averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game in their two losses this week.  He had 17 of the team’s 31 rebounds in the loss to Missouri State.

Power Rankings (Record, Conference Record) (Last Week’s Record)

  1. Missouri State (15-3, 7-0) (1)— The Bears are still rolling along with wins over Southern Illinois and Bradley this week.  They have learned from their mistakes from last season which has turned things around for them this season.   This week will be a big test to see whether it can stay undefeated in conference play with a road trip to Indiana State and then the return game against Creighton Saturday afternoon on ESPN2. 
  2. Wichita State (15-3, 6-1) (2)—The Shockers had a successful road trip this week with wins at Creighton and Drake.  Wichita State wore down the Bluejays with their athleticism while they just ran the Bulldogs off the court.  All six of their conference wins have been by 14 points or more, and their 4-0 start on the road is the first since 1964-65.  David Kyles, who was blazing hot at the beginning of the season, cooled off as conference play began, but might have gotten his shot back against Creighton.  However, Garrett Stutz strained knee in the game against Creighton and may be limited for a period of time.   They host two big games against the rejuvenated Northern Iowa Panthers and the surprising Indiana State. 
  3. Indiana State (11-7, 6-1) (4)— The Sycamores have started 6-1 in league play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season and a big part of it is the play of freshman point guard Jake Odum.  The local product has been a solid leader for Indiana State while at the same time the team has overcome player injuries by Jake Kelly and Dwayne Latham allowing others like Aaron Carter step up.  As these players are coming back, Indiana State has built itself some good depth.   By the end of this week, the Sycamores could be sitting at the top of the league if it can get wins against Wichita State and Missouri State.  Their biggest concern is getting more fans at home games
  4. Northern Iowa (12-6, 4-3) (6)— Hello…the Panthers are still around.  While many, like myself, wrote off Northern Iowa a couple of weeks ago, they have rebounded by winning four of their last five games and have entered back into the MVC race, including the ugly 46-44 win last Wednesday night.  Lucas O’Rear was suspended for a game for violating a team rule, but returned to the starting lineup and had a career high 18 points and added 10 rebounds in his second career double-double in the win against Illinois State.  They still need some help, but can make more strides with Wichita State and Drake on the schedule this week.
  5. Creighton (12-7, 4-3) (3)— The Bluejays are not able to win games right now.  Creighton has lost two straight home games for the first time since the Qwest Center opened in 2003 when they lost to Missouri State last week and Wichita state this past week.  A white-out and  $1 sodas and $1 beers were not enough to take down the Shockers ending a 17-game home winning streak against Wichita State.  After the stunning loss against Indiana State, they hope to get back to winning ways at home against Bradley and stealing a game at league leader Missouri State this week. 
  6. Evansville (9-8, 3-4) (8)— The Purple Aces won two games this week against Drake and Illinois State leaving them in the middle tier of the league. The wins are due to balanced scoringColt Ryan may have finally found some other teammates that want to score some points and play ball, including point guard Troy Taylor.   It is very possible they could notch a couple more wins this week as they take on Southern Illinois and winless Bradley.
  7. Southern Illinois (9-9, 3-4) (5)— Just when you thought the Salukis had things turned around and could have a decent conference season, they have now lost three of four, including their eighth straight loss to Northern Iowa on the road, and find themselves sitting with a .500 record for the season.   The limited play of Gene Teague is keeping SIU from controlling the paint.   The bottom of the league battles continue with Evansville and Illinois State on the schedule. 
  8. Drake (7-11, 2-5) (7)— Drake has lost five of their last six and if it wasn’t for Illinois State and Bradley being even worse, the Bulldogs would be sitting at the very bottom of the league.  They might actually get another win this week as they host Illinois State, but that may be the last one they get for the next month.  If their travel problems are any indication, this could be a long rest of the season for the Bulldogs. 
  9. Illinois State (8-10, 0-7) (9)—Illinois State and Bradley are fighting for that bottom spot.  Luckily head coach Tim Jankovich has a pass for this season and they can build some experience for 2011-12. They are definitely tired of losing and they haven’t even played Bradley yet this season.   
  10. Bradley (6-12, 0-7) (10)— Some are talking about Jim Les losing his job at the end of the season despite the injuries they have suffered.  If Indiana State’s reaction to injuries is any indication, then it could be very well be Les’ last season in Peoria.  They still haven’t said “quit,” but how long until they do?   

A Look Ahead

As Missouri Valley Conference play hits mid-season, there are a lot of key games going this week.

  • 1/18—Illinois State @ Drake (Local TV)—Illinois State is looking for their first conference win and this might be their chance to get one.
  • 1/19—Northern Iowa @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net)—The Panthers are trying to stay in the race while the Shockers are looking to stay at the top to fight Missouri State and Indiana State down the stretch.
  • 1/19—Missouri State @ Indiana State (Local TV, both markets)—The Bears are trying to stay undefeated in conference play.  A win here could almost seal things up for Missouri State with all the road wins they have gotten and have a favorable schedule the second half of the season.
  • 1/22—Creighton @ Missouri State (ESPN2)— Creighton was dismantled in Omaha in the second half against Missouri State.  The Bluejays will need to get a big road win here to stay on the outside, looking in.  Creighton is basically fighting for seeding in the MVC tournament from here on out.
  • 1/22—Indiana State @ Wichita State (Local TV)—The Sycamores finish their week against the top of the league and could be sitting at the top of it with a win in Wichita.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • Finals Make a Slow Week—The Missouri Valley Conference was quiet for the most part this week as teams had less time on the practice court and fewer games to be played due to finals.  Each team only played once this past week except Wichita State and Northern Iowa.
  • Schedule AnomaliesSpeaking of scheduling, a few schools have had some extended time off.  Bradley has not played since their December  8 loss at Duke, but the Braves play two games this week before Christmas.  Southern Illinois has had 11 days in between games since the December 11 loss at Western Kentucky.   Indiana State lost to Purdue this past Saturday and does not play again until conference play begins on December 29.   In addition, the winning percentage of The Valley as a whole is at its lowest since 2003.  These are not good times for this league.
  • Echenique’s DebutCreighton fans have been waiting for almost a year for Gregory Echenique to step on the court for the Bluejays.  In his debut on Saturday night, Echenique scored 12 points, grabbed five rebounds and tallied three blocks in 18 minutes of action.  Two games against Western Illinois and Samford will let Echenique get more court time before conference season.
  • Player of the Week—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems has shown a lot of consistency in the non-conference season and his 26 points and eight rebounds led the way in the Bears’ win against Saint Louis this week.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Kenneth Harris, Evansville.—Harris was instrumental in Evansville gaining a victory against Middle Tennessee this week with his 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds.  The Aces had to hold on after blowing a 21-point lead in the final twelve minutes of the game.

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

  1. Wichita State (8-2) (2)—The Shockers played twice this week with a warm-up game against Alabama A&M before hitting the road with what amounted to basically a road game against LSU.  Garrett Stutz hit a three-pointer with eight seconds to go to give Wichita State a two-point lead and they held on for the win.  I know I had Toure’ Murry as the MVC Player of the Year this season, but he is really struggling as of late, including a 3-12 performance against LSU and five turnovers.  Tulsa comes to town before the holidays to close out the non-conference slate.
  2. Missouri State (7-3) (1)—Missouri State earned a nice win against Saint Louis on Saturday, and only fall in the rankings due to the competition they played this week compared to Wichita State.  However, I still think that overall, Missouri State is still slightly ahead of the Shockers.  The Bears play Arkansas State in a rematch of the opening round of the NIT-Tipoff.  Defensive intensity is still something they are working on.
  3. Northern Iowa (7-3) (4)— Northern Iowa heads to Las Vegas this week for a great opportunity to get a couple of wins against the top conferences in the nation.  However, even though Indiana and Colorado have potential this season, they still aren’t the top teams in their respective conferences.  At the same time these could be significant wins come March.  Kerwin Dunham has been absent lately because of plantar fasciitis.  Injuries are not good for any team trying to make the postseason.
  4. Illinois State (7-3) (3)—The Redbirds might have an opportunity here come conference play.  They didn’t win against the toughest teams in their non-conference slate, but Tim Jankovich has had a nice opportunity to play a lot of players and lineups to prepare for conference season, including Blake Mishler.  They close out on the road at UNC-Wilmington on Monday.
  5. Creighton (6-4) (5)— Creighton gets a chance to solidify their rotation with a couple of buy games this week before Christmas.  Even though Gregory Echenique looked good on Saturday night, they barely beat a bad Idaho State team, which shows they still have a ways to go.
  6. Evansville (5-4) (7)—The Purple Aces created a lot of unnecessary drama on Saturday with their win over Middle Tennessee, who they met for the second time this season.  Evansville appears to have a lot more potential than the likes of Southern Illinois and Indiana State at this point.  They definitely won’t end up in the cellar.
  7. Southern Illinois (5-5) (6)—The Salukis have not played since December 11 and may have to shake the rust off against Northern Illinois before preparing for conference play.  One thing I know they probably have been working on is rebounding.  But they are still looking for that leader they have not had since Bryan Mullins was there.
  8. Indiana State (5-6) (8)—The Sycamores battled Purdue this past weekend, but just came up short in their final game of the non-conference season.  They now have until December 29 to prepare for Bradley in their conference opener which now looks like a winnable game.  They also have two very capable players in Jake Kelly and Dwayne Lathan, but they have put a little too much pressure on themselves.
  9. Bradley (4-5) (9)— The Braves are still recovering from their blowout at Duke and will play two games this week against Jackson State and Detroit. Jim Les has the opportunity to finalize his rotation and hopefully find the players that will ultimately replace Taylor Brown and Sam Maniscalco who are both out for the season with injury.   Now add backup point guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards to the injury list with a sprained knee.   Dodie Dunson is now the only option at point guard for Bradley.
  10. Drake (4-5) (10)— Drake came up short against their in-state rival Iowa, but have a couple games this week against Dartmouth and Chicago State.  A loss to either of these teams could mean disaster for this young team.  They also have to understand how to break the press.

A Look Ahead

There are only a couple games before the holidays and the start of conference season that are of significance.

  • 12/21—Tulsa @ Wichita State at Intrust Bank Arena (Local TV)—After the thrilling victory against LSU on a neutral court this past weekend, the Shockers leave their normal comfy confines of Koch Arena to instead play downtown at the brand new Intrust Bank Arena against the always tough Tulsa.  This could end up being their best win of the non-conference season.
  • 12/22—Detroit @ Bradley (No TV)—With the injuries Bradley has had to deal with this season, this game will be an interesting one to see if they can pull out what might have looked like a guarantee win at the beginning of the season.
  • 12/22-23—Northern Iowa at Las Vegas Classic (CBS College Sports)—The Panthers head to Las Vegas right before Christmas to play a couple of games.  They open first on Wednesday against Indiana and then play either Colorado or New Mexico on Thursday.  These could be two great wins for Northern Iowa after the slow start they have had this season and set them up with some great confidence before the start of conference play.
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Checking in on… the Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • ACC Beatings: The Missouri Valley Conference was featured this week in a pair of games on Wednesday night—a sort of ACC/MVC challenge.  It wasn’t much of a challenge for Duke and North Carolina to dispose of Bradley and Evansville both by over 25 points.  Fans love the idea of the matchups, but the end result on national TV may not be the best for the league.
  • Missouri State Quietly Consistent: Everyone anointed Wichita State the preseason favorites.  Some thought Creighton was ready to break out even with a new coach.  There were others that said Northern Iowa would just reload.  But very quietly, Missouri State has strung together the most consistency so far.  They put up over 100 points last weekend against Central Arkansas and rode a four-game winning into Saturday’s game with Oklahoma State.  Granted, they haven’t won against the best teams they have played (Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Tulsa), but are at least not losing to teams they shouldn’t.
  • Scoring Drought: The Missouri Valley Conference against Iowa, Duke and North Carolina this week were only able to score as many as 49 points.  Against Iowa, Northern Iowa’s cold shooting woes only garnered them 39 points.   Evansville hosted North Carolina but could muster only 49 points while Bradley went to Duke and only put up 48.  The conference was 4-6 this last week because they could not score any points – aside from a few “Power Six” foes, the MWC played good defense, as reflected by the opponent scoring totals.
  • MVC As A One-Bid League: It is becoming clearer that the MVC is going to be a one-bid league this season.  Through Saturday’s games, the league is an unimpressive 49-38.  A lot of losses have come against teams the league has no business playing at this point.  As Kyle Whelliston wrote this week, the Valley needs to start playing regularly against teams in leagues currently around them to bring the league back up.
  • Player of the Week: — Dwayne Lathan, Indiana State: Lathan is starting to come on for the Sycamores.  Against DePaul last week, Lathan had 24 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.  If Indiana State is going to surprise people this season come conference play, Lathan will have to carry the team on his shoulders.
  • Newcomer of The Week — Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott is the only consistent newcomer right now.  He continues the start of his career of scoring in double figures in every game he has played and is currently ahead of pace on Creighton’s all-time leading scorer, Rodney Buford.

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

  1. Missouri State (6-3) (1)—Missouri State is on a roll right now (outside of Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State) and seem to be the most consistent in the league routing Central Arkansas 101-61 with six players in double figures.  Will Creekmore, who is one of only two players in the league to score in double figures every game this season is dealing with a dislocated finger on his non-shooting hand.  With Adam Leonard struggling and having health issues, Creekmore will be needed to team with Kyle Weems to keep their pace going.
  2. Wichita State (6-2) (2)—The Shockers have been flying off of everyone’s radar after their failure at San Diego State.  Their problem right now is that they play in spurts but cannot put together a long stretch of consistent play.   They have a game against Alabama A&M on Monday to try and get more consistency before taking on LSU after finals.
  3. Illinois State (7-3) (3)—Illinois State still has a ways to go, but they are still sitting towards the top this week because the rest of the league does not want to play any better.   Against Ohio, D.J. Cooper, a player who ISU head coach Tim Jankovich tried heavily to recruit, torched the Redbirds for 29 points including the game-winner.  Justin Clark is hoping to get on track.  He was 0-for-17 from three point range before hitting one against Ohio this week.
  4. Northern Iowa (4-3) (5)— Speaking of the three pointer, the Panthers were 6-30 from the arc against Iowa in their 51-39 loss on Tuesday.  Northern Iowa is 1-22 all time in Iowa City and are probably glad they don’t come back for another couple of years.  With a rebuilding team like Northern Iowa, they take one step forward and then two steps back.  The Panthers made it 19 wins in a row at home by beating Morehead State Saturday night.
  5. Creighton (4-4) (7)—The Bluejays have lost to a top 25 team, a potential top 25 team, the coach’s former team and their in-state rival in a span of two weeks.  After the loss to Nebraska on Sunday, the new coaching staff probably suffered their first negative reaction from fans during the transition to Greg McDermott.  Kenny Lawson will get some help down in the post with Gregory Echenique becoming eligible at the end of the first semester this week.  Echenique wants to live up to the expectations many have already put upon him.
  6. Southern Illinois (5-4) (8)— Southern Illinois won two straight this week before heading to Western Kentucky.    The Salukis will not play another game for 11 days.  It will be interesting to see whether the time off will help them regroup before conference season.   What has emerged for Southern Illinois is their frontline of Carlton Fay, Gene Teague and Mamadou Seck.  Lowery made the tweek to the lineup by starting Seck and it appears to be paying off.
  7. Evansville (4-4) (4)—Evansville started their week off with a one-point loss to Air Force in the MVC/MWC challenge, but then had the opportunity to take on North Carolina.  The Tar Heels ran out early against the Purple Aces and didn’t look back.  Clint Hopf and Tyler Zeller are both local products, but never faced each other until this game.   Evansville hopes to rebound against Middle Tennessee this week as they finish up a same season home and home with them.  The Aces lost to Middle Tennessee in their first meeting this season.
  8. Indiana State (4-5) (9)— After being called out for lack of toughness in the loss against Wyoming last week,  they bounced back to beat DePaul for the first time since 1979—In the Final Four with Larry Bird with the Sycamores.  Indiana State is slowly climbing the ladder as they appear to be coming together as a team.
  9. Bradley (4-5) (6)—Bradley is in shambles right now.  The Braves have lost five in a row after starting out 4-0 and the blasting at Duke this week has not helped things.   They have to put the pieces back together and Jim Les thinks that, “They are close to turning this thing around.”  One bright spot was the emergence of freshman Walt Lemon, Jr.  leading Bradley in scoring against Duke.  Their next game is not until December 20.
  10. Drake (3-4) (10)— Drake broke a three-game losing streak with a gutsy win at Eastern Michigan last week.   Drake returned to the Knapp Center for the first time in a month with their game on Sunday against Boise State.  Frank Wiseler is gradually coming back from his Achilles injury that he suffered over the summer.  With the Valley suffering like they are, don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs are able to take advantage of things once conference season rolls around.

A Look Ahead

With finals week this week, there are limited choices, but some games worth paying attention to once the weekend arrives.

  • 12/18—Idaho State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court)—Many Creighton fans had this date circled on their camera for the debut of Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique.  The Bluejays specifically tried to schedule three games between now and the conference opener on December 29 to get Echenique some playing time.
  • 12/18—Iowa @ Drake (Local TV)—The battle for Iowa supremacy concludes as the Hawkeyes visit the Knapp Center.  The Bulldogs need this win not only for them, but to help the conference profile.
  • 12/18—Indiana State vs. Purdue at Conseco Fieldhouse (Big Ten Network)—The Sycamores and Boilermakers get together for the Boilermaker Blockbuster which was revived for the first time since 2003.
  • 12/18—Wichita State vs. LSU in Bossier City, LA (Local TV)—This closes out a three-game series between these two teams where each team played on their home court and the final game of the series was at a neutral site.  But in reality it is basically a home game for the Tigers in this one.  Wichita State needs this one to get a key win on their resume.  LSU is not the answer, but they are still a Power Six conference team.
  • 12/18—St. Louis @ Missouri State (No TV)—This is a rare A-10 vs. MVC matchup in this one.  Both teams want to make noise in their respective conferences, so this should be a good game, but too bad it is not on TV.
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