Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • MVC/MWC Challenge: The Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference hooked up again this season for a “challenge” series between the two conferences.  Last season, the Valley won the series 5-4.  This year has been a completely different story, with the MWC shellacking the Mo Valley 8-1 in last week’s games.  Missouri State did not participate in this year’s challenge because the Mountain West Conference only has nine teams. With the Bears performing well this season, maybe the conference is second-guessing their methodology.
  • Maniscalco Out for the Season: First, it was Taylor Brown who was declared out for the season for Bradley due to some cardiac condition that requires him to rest.  Now it is point guard Sam Maniscalco who has been shut down for the season because of slow recovery from ankle surgery during the offseason.  With two key players no longer in the mix for the Braves this season, the faithful in Peoria may have a frustrating year.   With Duke in the wings this coming week, you can bet the line is changing for that game.
  • Valley Troubles Against the Power 6: The Missouri Valley Conference is still showing signs that it has not risen up to a multiple bid conference once again.  Over the past two weeks, the losses against the Power Six conferences have continued to mount— Purdue,  St. Johns,  Notre Dame and Connecticut, to name a few.  The Valley is 3-11 against the power conference teams.  There are a few opportunities yet for some nice wins, but there aren’t many left.
  • Drake Doesn’t Love Alaska: Drake spent their Thanksgiving up in Alaska as a part of the Great Alaska Shootout.  They were destroyed by St. John’s in the second night of competition.  In their final game against Weber State, the Bulldogs had a one point lead with less than six seconds left.  They were then called for a technical foul after slamming the ball on the ground after a foul was called.  Drake walked away from the tournament 1-2.
  • Questionable Losses: Not only are member schools losing against the power conferences, they are also losing against beatable teams like Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee.  The other problem is games on the road.  The Valley is a disastrous 2-17 in true road games so far this season.  On the flip side, the MVC is 25-6 at home.
  • Player of the Week: Will Creekmore, Missouri State. Creekmore has been the most solid player for the Bears and maybe even in the Valley so far this season.  He is one of two players in the conference that has scored in double figures in every game played this season so far.  In his last four games against Pepperdine, Pacific, Arkansas-Little Rock and Central Arkansas, he has averaged 12.5 points and nearly six rebounds per game.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Doug McDermott, Creighton – McDermott is the other player in the league to score in double figures in every game played this season.  He has been the only player honored for newcomer of the week honors by the conference for the first three weeks and the true freshman has been a needed force for the Bluejays, who have struggled to have veteran players step up and make an impact.

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

  1. Missouri State (6-2) (4): The Bears have been the most consistent team so far this season.  They closed out the NIT Tip-Off with wins over Pepperdine and Pacific along with Arkansas-Little Rock last week to get their twelfth straight win at home.  This is the same Arkansas-Little Rock team that beat up on fellow conference member Illinois State.  The freshmen are being integrated nicely into this team.   A big game against Oklahoma State is on their slate this week.
  2. Wichita State (5-2) (3): The trip to the Maui Invitational was not what the Shockers hoped for.  They were minutes away from knocking off eventual tournament champ Connecticut but gave away the game late.  They finished with two wins against Chaminade and Virginia, but they were not Michigan State and Kentucky. Wichita State has very few chances to build a nice non-conference resume, especially since they lost a big one to San Diego State, a game which some Shocker fans weren’t even able to watch.
  3. Illinois State (6-2) (5): The Redbirds have one more win than Wichita State and Missouri State, but all their opponents, save UNLV, have an RPI under 200 except for UNLV. Against the Runnin’ Rebels, they suffered their worst loss ever at Redbird Arena, an 82-51 throttling. An NCAA Tournament surprise from last season, Ohio, is on the schedule for Illinois State this week.
  4. Northern Iowa (4-2) (7): The Panthers are starting to gel together after a tough loss against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  They gave Iowa State their first loss this past week and extended their home winning streak to 18.  They also garnered a win in the MVC/MWC Challenge against TCU.  They have to leave the friendly confines of the McLeod Center and head to Iowa this week.
  5. Evansville (3-3) (6): Evansville has moved up in the list with their victory at Butler last week.  Head coach Marty Simmons lost so much weight during the offseason that he is now using his old suits as a part of a Share a Suit program launched in Evansville.  They have a nice opportunity to make some noise at home against North Carolina this week before a matchup with lowly Maryland-Eastern Shore.   Roberts Stadium will be sold out when the Tar Heels come to town.
  6. Bradley (4-4) (1): After starting 4-0, the Braves have dropped four straight to halt the positive momentum.  This is a bad time for Bradley to try and build some team chemistry; the injury bug might just save Jim Les and give him another year or so.  They have been jinxed with injuries almost every year under his tenure.  They head to Cameron Indoor this week to take on the Duke Blue Devils before taking on end of the semester finals.
  7. Creighton (4-4) (2): Creighton had three winnable games slip away from them this past week against Northwestern, BYU and Nebraska.   Kenny Lawson has not played well as of late, averaging less than eight points per game on 9-25 shooting his last three games. The Preseason Player of the Year has not had a smooth start into his senior season.  The uneven play of the Bluejays concerns head coach Greg McDermott.   A home game against St. Joseph’s  will close out a tough stretch for Creighton before Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique becomes eligible.
  8. Southern Illinois (4-4) (8): The Salukis have started off strong in most of their games, but do not have enough to sustain it for 40 minutes and their offense is really struggling which is prompting changes in the lineup.  The Salukis finished the last 7:34 of the game against New Mexico without a field goal and trailed by as much as 18 in the second half.  Their high-profile games against Illinois, Purdue, and New Mexico did not turn out as hoped and now they have to use the rest of the non-conference season to see if they can put together a team that will not finish last in the conference.
  9. Indiana State (3-5) (10)—The Sycamores finally played their first home game last week, going on the road to battle Notre Dame and coming up short.  After the slow start, they are starting to do better in their execution.   DePaul comes to town this week, but it will only be ISU’s second home game this season.
  10. Drake (2-4) (9)—Drake has lost three straight games and have to go on the road again this week to Eastern Michigan.  Though it is a winnable game, the Valley schools have not been very good on the road and don’t bode well for a team that really needs a win.  Their sports information director abruptly resigned, too.  I hope it wasn’t because of the basketball team.

A Look Ahead

There are some big games this week with a mini MVC/ACC Challenge along with some other nice games.

  • 12/7—Northern Iowa @ Iowa (Big 10 Network)—The Panthers took out one in-state rival in Iowa State last week.  They will now go on the road to take on the Hawkeyes, who almost squeaked one out against ACC foe Wake Forest last week.
  • 12/8—DePaul @ Indiana State (Local TV)—Neither school has a very good record, and both probably will not contend for their conference championships this season.   However, for the Sycamores, it is still a game against a power conference school.  It could help the conference as a whole.
  • 12/8—Bradley @ Duke (ESPN2)—Before the season started, this game looked like a great opportunity for the Braves to see what they were made of and if they would be a contender in the Valley this season.  But with two All-Valley players out for the season, Bradley is a shell of itself and this one could get ugly on national television.
  • 12/8—North Carolina @ Evansville (ESPNU)—Roy Williams brings the Tar Heels to Evansville in the second of a three game series for a chance for Tyler Zeller to play in front of hometown fans.  There is a reason they are playing against the Sycamores instead of Indiana, Butler or Louisville.
  • 12/11—Missouri State @ Oklahoma State (Local TV)—The Bears open this three game series down in Stillwater.  This is a great opportunity for Missouri State to up their profile and could be a key victory for them on their resume come March.
  • 12/11—St. Joseph’s @ Creighton (Local TV)—Creighton University’s president is retiring from Creighton in July.  Guess who is coming in to replace him?  The current President of St. Joseph’s, Timothy Lannon.  He plans to be there for the game as well as Bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
  • 12/11—Southern Illinois @ Western Kentucky (Fox College Sports)—Their new four game series starts up in Bowling Green.   Both of these teams were known as mid-major powerhouses over the past decade.  The Salukis are nowhere near where they used to be, but the Hilltoppers are still pretty good.  These teams always have great games against each other.
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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

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

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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Missouri Valley Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

 

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

PRESEASON vs. ACTUAL RESULTS

As you can see from the preseason predictions I made on the Missouri Valley conference back in October versus how things ended up, the MVC turned out to be difficult to predict this year as none of the teams performed as expected other than Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

I originally was not sold on the Panthers, but as the season wore on, I could see the cohesiveness and all the little things this group of players do to win games.  Even with the suspension of Jordan Eglseder in three of the final four games, they were able to rally for the most part and continue their dominance in the Valley.  Wichita State may have surprised some, but the Shockers appear to be back in the Valley picture after a few year absence from relevance.  The work Gregg Marshall has done to build this team back up from scratch has paid off.  The question now is whether it is enough to get to an NCAA Tournament postseason.

HELLO SAINT LOUIS

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament will take place this coming week at the Scottrade Center in downtown Saint Louis.  Rush the Court will be live in St. Louis this week to keep you updated on the things going on at Arch Madness.  Here is how the bracket shapes up:

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

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

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Northern Iowa  24-3  (14-2) (1)
  2. Wichita State 22-7 (11-5) (2)
  3. Illinois State  20-8 (10-6) (3)
  4. Creighton  14-14 (8-8)  (4)
  5. Bradley  14-13 (8-8) (5)
  6. Indiana State  16-12 (8-8) (6)
  7. Missouri State  18-10 (7-9) (7)
  8. Drake  13-16 (7-9)  (8)
  9. Southern Illinois   15-12 (6-10) (9)
  10. Evansville 7-20 (1-15) (10)  

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Bracketbusters Dominance—The Missouri Valley Conference had a nice showing in Bracketbusters this past weekend, going 7-3 against the competition and  2-1 in televised games.  Northern Iowa had all eyes watching them Friday night to kick off Bracketbusters as they dominated Old Dominion from the Colonial.    On Saturday, Missouri State came from behind to knock off Nevada, however in the nightcap, Wichita State got down early and was not able to  make up the difference in the loss to Utah State.             

More Suspensions in Valley- First it was Nick Evans from Southern Illinois (who eventually left school), P’Allen Stinnett from Creighton, and Jordan Eglseder from Northern Iowa with suspensions.  Now for the third time this season, Taylor Brown from Bradley is serving a suspension from the Braves.  This time it is over some Tweets he made that did not fit into the standards required by head coach Jim Less with respect to social networking.

Last Week of Regular Season—This will be the last week of regular season games in the Valley.  But surprisingly enough, there are still several seeding implications that could occur.  There are enough scenarios that could put Indiana State as high as a #3 seed and Illinois State as low as a #6 seed.  A resident Valley expert has all the likely scenarios laid out for this week.

SEEDING THINGS OUT

As we go into the final week of the MVC regular season, teams are still trying to seed themselves for the conference tourney in St. Louis the first week of March.  Let’s see where everyone stands right now.

  • Northern Iowa (2-0 this week)—Northern Iowa still appears to be the class of the Valley this season.  With their wins over Creighton and Old Dominion this week, they actually appeared to play better without the suspended Jordan Eglseder.   Lucas O’Rear has taken over the starting spot during the suspension and his toughness has been enough to help carry the Panthers.  Here is life as a Panther fan.  They finish out the season  this week against Evansville and Illinois State.
  • Wichita State (1-1 this week)—The Shockers are starting to falter down the stretch.  After almost losing against Evansville for the second time in a week and some questionable columns by the local beat writers, Wichita State fell to Utah State on the road in Bracketbusters.  Any chance of an at-large look is pretty much out the window for them with their non-conference schedule coming back to haunt them.  They need to finish strong against Bradley and Southern Illinois to hold on to their second place position.
  • Illinois State  (2-0 this week, won 6 of last 7)—Breathing down the neck of the Shockers is Illinois State.  The Redbirds are on a roll this week after defeating Missouri State and Morehead State.  Their current winning streak is at five and they are finding ways to win games.  One interesting stat to note— Osiris Eldridge and Dinma Odiakosa are trying to become the first players from the same team to win the league’s scoring and rebounding titles since 1992.  This could be a big week for Illinois State as they close out the regular season against conference champs Northern Iowa.   It could be a preview of the  MVC tournament finals.
  • Creighton  (1-1 this week) – Between the game against Northern Iowa at the beginning of the week and against Loyola-Chicago in the Bracketbusters, the Bluejays looked like two totally different teams.  They were torched in Cedar Falls against Northern Iowa before returning home to pull away from Loyola-Chicago.  Center Kenny Lawson has now hit 2 of 3 three-point attempts in the last two games, his first three pointers in his career.  Creighton tries to stay above .500 as they finish against rival Southern Illinois and have senior day against Bradley. 
  • Bradley (1-1 this week)—The Braves started the week with a loss at Indiana State before defeating Drexel for their Bracketbuster matchup.  Without Taylor Brown, the Braves went with a zone defense for the whole game.  Again the Braves will not finish in the top three in the conference.  The question is, will Jim Les ever take them to the top of the league much less take them back to the NCAA Tourney?
  • Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores have been up and down lately.  They have no problems winning at home, but like the rest of the Valley, have a hard time winning on the road.  But they are keeping their head afloat  with eight active players on the roster and could get a good matchup in the MVC tourney if they can beat Illinois State and Missouri State this week. 
  • Missouri State (1-1 this week)—Missouri State ran out of gas against Illinois State this week but then in front of a nationally televised audience came back from being five points down late to beat Nevada in Bracketbusters.   Head Coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t mind the WAC referee crew that came in for that game.  Heck, they might be better than the referees that normally do Valley games in my mind.  Drake and Indiana State are on the menu this week for the Bears and are both very winnable games.  Really with how this team ended up doing this season, it is too bad Cuonzo Martin probably won’t win Valley Coach of the Year honors. 
  • Drake (2-0 this week)— Mark Phelps is working to get the Bulldogs to finish strong.    They win the time-zone award this week as they went out to Cal State-Northridge for their Bracketbusters game and walked away with a win.  Missouri State and Evansville are on the slate this week.  How they finish the season here could go a long way for next season.
  • Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)— The Salukis are about to end their season with a losing record for the second consecutive season.  Many are wondering if there will be a any shakeups during the offseason and whether the recruiting class that was so hyped up two seasons ago is now a bust.  Southern Illinois is a shell of its former self and I see that there needs to be some type of change during this offseason if Chris Lowery expects to get another pass.  Or he may take off for another coaching opportunity. Firing Lowery probably won’t solve many problems.   A lot of questions without many answers.  They will try to feel a little better about themselves if they can get a win against Creighton this week before heading to Wichita State to finish the regular season. 
  • Evansville (0-2 this week)—The Purple Aces are building themselves up to prepare for next season.  They almost pulled off another stunning upset against Wichita State and just missed out on Illinois-Chicago.  Games like this will probably prepare them for next season when they can start over.   Speaking of starting over, Kaylon Williams, who transferred from Evansville after last season is now opening up the recruiting race as he finishes up junior college.   After losing 17 of their last 18 games, Evansville has two more chances for another win this week against Northern Iowa and Drake. 

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

Catch the Valley during the last week of the regular season as the top teams in the Valley get one more showcase to the nation.

  • 2/23, Creighton @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—Both with down seasons, but still rivals.  SIU tries to avenge being destroyed at home a year ago by the Bluejays. 
  • 2/24, Wichita State @ Bradley (Local TV)—Bradley is trying to get a different seed.  Wichita State tries to keep theirs.
  • 2/27, Illinois State @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—This game was chosen as the “Wildcard” game by ESPN.  Northern Iowa hopes they don’t meet the Redibirds in the MVC Tournament.
  • 2/27, Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—A telling sign of the way the MVC has been gradually been flipped over.  Wichita sitting in the top part of the league while the Salukis head for their second consecutive losing season. 
  • 2/28, Bradley @ Creighton (Local TV)—This is always an entertaining game.  Two seasons ago Cavel Witter went off for 42 points in a crazy game.  It is his Senior day, how does he finish his career at Creighton? 
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2010

Current Records and my standings, (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Northern Iowa  19-2  (10-1) (1)
  2. Wichita State 19-4 (8-3) (2)
  3. Illinois State  15-7 (6-5) (3)
  4. Drake  11-12 (6-5)  (4)
  5. Creighton  11-11 (6-5)  (6)
  6. Missouri State  15-7 (5-6) (7)
  7. Indiana State  13-9 (5-6) (9)
  8. Bradley  10-11 (5-6) (5)
  9. Southern Illinois   12-9 (4-7) (8)
  10. Evansville 6-15 (0-11) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Northern Iowa wrapping things up—The Panthers are sitting pretty at 10-1 in the conference and survived a threat from Missouri State this weekend.  Northern Iowa’s ability to hang on and finish games will make them a tough out.  As they head into February, they are setting themselves up for an at-large bid to the Big Dance whether they win the conference tourney or not.  Keep an eye on this team down the stretch.  Many coaches in the Valley feel they will be a multiple bid league this season.

Bracketbusters pairings announced this week—Once again for the 8th year, the made for TV Bracketbusters event is ready to be promoted throughout this month leading up to Bracketbuster Saturday on February 19th.  Out of the 98 teams in the event this season, 22 teams will get on TV and those pairings will be announced this week.  Here are some predictions and here are some others.

P’Allen Stinnett Suspended indefinitely—Big news this week was the announcement by Dana Altman of the Creighton Bluejays that P’Allen Stinnett has been suspended from the team indefinitely.  Stinnett was highly regarded as a freshman and made an impact early with 23 points in the second half off the bench in his first collegiate game against Depaul to bring Creighton back to victory.  Over the past couple of seasons, Stinnett’s stats have leveled out and has had problems holding in his emotions, gathering nine technical fouls (including one this week against Missouri State in where he “felt like he needed a T”)  in two and a half seasons.  There has been no explanation on how long he has been suspended and if he will eventually return to the team.

Free throw shooting Valley—The Missouri Valley conference is pretty stable at the free throw line.  Four MVC teams are in the top 20 in the nation at the stripe. Indiana State (76.7%) is fifth, followed by Wichita State in eighth (75.5%), Drake at 13th (75.1%), and Missouri State in 19th (74.8%).

SEPARATING THEMSELVES

Northern Iowa (2-0 this week)— As mentioned above, Northern Iowa is just cruising through the league getting victories against in-state rival Drake and then surviving down in Springfield against Missouri State.  They are eagerly anticipating their Bracketbusters opponent which some say could be Old Dominion, while others are saying Louisiana Tech.  They hope to return a favor to Wichita State this week as they host the Shockers who have been the ones to defeat the Panthers so far in the conference season.  They will also host a struggling Southern Illinois team.

Wichita State (1-0 this week)—The Shockers are trying to keep pace with Northern Iowa by getting victories over Illinois State and Southern Illinois.   Wichita hopes to have a chance at the league title by trying to beat Northern Iowa for the second time this season.  But it will be a lot tougher on the road.   They do not want to be like the 2004-05 team down the stretch.  The Sycamores of Indiana State will be visiting Koch Arena this week as well.  It is very likely the Shockers will be one of the Bracketbuster TV games.

MEDIOCRE AT BEST

Illinois State  (1-1 this week)— The Redbirds are one of several Valley teams that cannot seem to find consistency, causing a huge logjam in the middle of the conference.  They missed an opportunity to move up the ladder by losing to Wichita State earlier in the week, but then just completely demolished in-state rival Bradley this past weekend.  If the Redbirds are to be a factor, they need someone else other than Osiris Eldridge to be on the court making plays and that guy is Lloyd Phillips.  They hope the momentum gained from the Bradley win will take them to victories against Indiana State and Drake this week.

Missouri State (1-1 this week)—Missouri State lost a couple close contests this week against Creighton and split seconds from taking down Northern Iowa.  The Bears are now sitting on the outside looking in on the conference race.   They are the top scoring team in the league, but last in scoring defense.   It will not be any easier for them as they will take on conference stalwarts Southern Illinois and Creighton this week.

Drake (1-1 this week)—Drake is a bit of a surprise in the conference.  After losing their first four conference games, they have reeled off six wins in their last seven games and are coming together quite well as a team.  Against Creighton, they had their largest crowd of the yearJosh Young will become Drake’s all-time leading scorer before the season is over.  They will be tested on the road this week at Bradley and Illinois State.  They get two wins this week, and this will be the Valley turnaround of the year.

Creighton  (1-1 this week)—With the suspension of P’Allen Stinnett, the Bluejays overcame some adversity to get the win in Peoria.  But the additional loss of Darryl Ashford for the  game at Drake was a little too much. Stinnett had this to say to the Omaha World Herald in a text message. “I need to find some way to play hard and channel my emotions in a positive way. I apologize to Creighton, to my team and my coaching staff in my failure to represent the university with the respect and attitude that I should.”  Creighton tries to stay alive with games against Evansville and a trip to Missouri State this week.

Indiana State (2-0 this week)—Subject to streakiness, the Sycamores have been one of the more confusing teams in the conference.  This week they won two games against Southern Illinois and Evansville breaking a 5-game losing streak tradition that they seem to have every season at some point in the conference season.   That probably means they will go 0-2 against Wichita State and Illinois State.

MAKING AN APPEARANCE

Southern Illinois (1-2 this week)—Southern Illinois started a three game week by getting an out of conference visit by Western Kentucky which they won and thought they were turning a corner, but then they could not get by Indiana State and lost to Wichita State at home.  Could Creighton and Southern Illinois both finish with a losing record and at the bottom of the conference?  That could be a possibility.  With Missouri State and Northern Iowa on the slate this week, Southern Illinois has a lot to worry about.

Bradley (0-2 this week) – At the beginning of the season, I saw Jim Les squarely on the hot seat and many people including Bradley fans couldn’t believe I would say that.  But how do things look now in Peoria?  First they come out cold against Creighton starting the game 2-17 from the field, and although they came back, it was not enough to get the win.  Then they travelled along I-76 to take on rival Illinois State and were basically run out of the gym.  They could look on the bright side, but I don’t know if it will help.  It will be interesting how they do against a surging Drake and really down Evansville team this week.

Evansville (0-2 this week, 12 game losing streak)—The Aces are working hard, and they keep games fairly close, as evidenced by losses against Missouri State and Indiana State this past week, but they just cannot get a win.  Injuries are not a concern — the team’s all healthy.   A visit to Creighton and at home against Bradley are on the slate this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are able to pick up a win against the Braves.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The battle for the middle of the pack and staying out of Thursday in St. Louis continues this week

  • 2/3, Wichita State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV in both markets)—Wichita’s last chance to make a run at UNI for the conference championship. Too bad this game isn’t available to a wider audience.
  • 2/6,  Creighton @ Missouri State (Local TV in Omaha)—Both teams need a win badly.
  • 2/6,  Drake @ Illinois State (Local TV in Illinois)—Drake is on a roll but a win here would really be a surprise.   The Redbirds, on the other hand, still want to be in the running and talked about.
  • 2/6, Southern Illinois @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—The Panthers aren’t the flashiest team in the world, but they find ways to win.  The Salukis are not the Salukis of old.
  • 2/6, Bradley @ Evansville (Fox Sports Net)—Interesting in that it’s a chance for Evansville to get their first conference win of the season.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 11th, 2010

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

Current Records and my standings, (Conference Record) (Last Week):

  1. Northern Iowa  14-1  (5-0) (1)
  2. Wichita State 13-2 (4-1) (2)
  3. Missouri State  13-3 (3-2) (3)
  4. Illinois State  12-4 (3-2) (4)
  5. Indiana State  11-5 (3-2) (6)
  6. Bradley  7-8 (2-3) (7)
  7. Southern Illinois   9-5 (2-3) (5)
  8. Creighton  7-9 (2-3)  (8)
  9. Drake  6-11 (1-4)  (10)
  10. Evansville 6-8 (0-5) (9)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Valley sitting 10th The Missouri Valley Conference is sitting 10th right now in the Pomeroy ratings with Northern Iowa sitting up on top at #33 with Wichita State and Missouri State at #62 and #68 respectively.  In 2006 when the Valley had so much success and got four teams into the NCAA Tournament, six teams were in the top 60.  It will be interesting to see what kind of rankings they can end up with at this rate.  The conference is getting back to the national scene, but the numbers still are not where they were a few years ago and they are just hoping to get at least more than one team in the Big Dance this season.

Northern Iowa ready to run away — Speaking of Northern Iowa, the Panthers look like they could run away with the Valley this season.  With road victories already at Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Creighton, they have set themselves up for a chance to run away with the conference.  However, they still have all those teams at home.  Last season the Panthers struggled down the stretch, losing a lot of games in their own building.   A game in Wichita on January 19th is one to circle on the calendar as you may see the first game between the two leaders in the Valley.

Teams separating themselves — There are several other teams in the Valley trying to separate themselves from the rest of the pack to make the Valley less weird and wacky compared with past seasons.   Wichita State is playing extremely well right now along with Missouri State and Illinois State wanting to have a say.  A dark horse could be Indiana State.

Historically top teams need to check into rehab — Last season it was Southern Illinois suffering a losing record for the first time in ten years.  This season it may be Creighton headed to a losing season, sitting at 7-9 right now.   Southern Illinois may still end up joining them by the time the season is over as they have now lost three straight.  It is very unusual to see one of these two teams heading to the bottom of the league, but if both end up down there by season’s end, then there will be a lot more questions going forward.

TEAMS TO BEAT

Northern Iowa (2-0 this week)—As mentioned above, the Panthers are getting a lot of attention especially with a 13 game winning streak, but also as the only undefeated team in conference play after big road wins at Southern Illinois and Illinois State this past week.  Some feel that UNI deserves to be ranked.  They better be careful for what they wish for.  This week Northern Iowa gets to host Bradley and Indiana State which looks like an easy enough task, but there might be an upset in there that could turn things upside down.

Wichita State (2-0 this week)—The Shockers keep plugging along, getting wins against Creighton and Missouri State.  Wichita State had a 25 point lead at Missouri State before barely holding on at the end to get the win.  The Shockers, however, still look to play a full 40 minutes but have a lot of weapons.  The controversy in that game was that a fan in the Missouri State crowd shoved Toure Murry to the ground.  Likely no punishment for the fan.  They might have found that full 40 minutes on Saturday night as they took revenge against Creighton over last season’s MVC tournament game shocker with a rowdy home crowd and took Creighton out right from the beginning of the game.   They will be tested this week as they hit the road for both of their games against Indiana State, and a return game with Creighton in Omaha.

AVERAGE WEEK

Missouri State (1-1 this week)—Missouri State thought they could just show up to their JHQ Arena home court and notch a win, but Wichita State kicked them in the mouth to remind them that their non-conference success was nothing on which they could hang their hat.  Though they made a valiant effort to come back, it wasn’t enough, and they lost their first one at home.  They were able to rebound from that game to pound Bradley this week as Kyle Weems led the way with 30 points in that win.  Road trips to Drake and Bradley this week await the Bears.

Illinois State (1-1 this week) –The Redbirds got off on a good note this week to defeat Evansville as expected, but then laid an egg in front of a national television audience in their loss to Northern Iowa.  Though they remember the troubles with Northern Iowa over 300 days ago in the MVC Tournament finals, it was not enough for them to pull the upset.   Illinois State will fly under the radar this week against Evansville and Drake.  If they expect to be in the Valley race, they need to win both of these games this week.

Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores have to be kicking themselves in that they had an opportunity to get a win at Bradley before losing in overtime after a furious comeback in the second half.  At least they were able to turn it around to blow out Evansville.  Indiana State is increasingly looking like a better and better team and could be in the mix in the conference race, but they cannot let games like Bradley slip away.  They also need to avoid the injury bug.  Last week it was Jake Kelly, now they hold their breath on leading scorer and rebounder Dwayne Lathan and a leg injury.   With Wichita State and Northern Iowa on the schedule this week, this could be a make or break point for Kevin McKenna and his team.

Bradley (1-1 this week)—Bradley needed overtime to get past Indiana State and then  lost at Missouri State this week.  There are doubters on whether this Bradley team can improve the rest of the season, but do not count them out.  With games against Northern Iowa and Missouri State this week Bradley needs to wake up now if they want to stay in the race.  Really, Sam Singh is in his final year at Bradley.

Creighton (1-1 this week)—Funny how both teams that have the most veteran coaches (Jim Les – Bradley), have teams on which they aren’t sure what they really have.  Creighton survived after a pesky Drake team took them to the wire earlier in the week, and then they were “not ready” for the Koch Arena crowd in Wichita.  In addition, Creighton forward Casey Harriman said, “We think we have it, but we don’t.  We need to recognize our record and where we’re at in the league. We have to do something about it.  Yeah, we are Creighton, but we’re not the Creighton of old. We’re not getting it done, and we need to pick it up.”  They need to do it in a hurry; Southern Illinois and Wichita State come to town this week.

Drake (1-1 this week)—Drake almost pulled out a win at Creighton this week, but then was able to come back against Southern Illinois to steal a victory in Carbondale.  The Bulldogs were looking to turnaround their season against SIU, and that is exactly what happened.  Drake is going to be one of those teams throughout the rest of the season that could play spoiler to other teams’ conference hopes.  This week, Missouri State and Illinois State get to head to Des Moines to play with the Bulldogs.

STRUGGLING THIS WEEK

Southern Illinois (0-2 this week)—Is Chris Lowery’s job really on the line in Carbondale?  Yes, Southern Illinois struggled mightily last season, but they were on their way back up, right?  Well, this week after the loss to Northern Iowa, there were quotes from Lowery criticizing the crowd for not getting behind his team.  Then, a writer at ESPNChicago called for Lowery’s job.  People on the Salukitalk message board were talking about bringing Lowery boo signs to the arena, as well.  There was just a full explosion on that board about Lowery.  With the collapse in the final minutes against Drake this past Saturday to give them a three game losing streak, there are probably even more boo birds out there, and questions as to whether or not Lowery’s job is secure.   They hit the road to Creighton and Evansville this week.

Evansville (0-2 this week)—Another week and another couple of Evansville losses.  But they also lost another player as Bryan Bochie decided to leave school and basketball all together.  But coach Marty Simmons thinks Bochie leaving will be a positive on the team.   Will they show up to play Illinois State and Southern Illinois this week?  Probably, but don’t expect them to walk away with a win.  Maybe when they host Drake in a couple of weeks.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The Valley does not have a lot of compelling matchups this week due to many top teams playing bottom feeders, but here are the best of the crop (or at least the ones you can watch on TV):

  • 1/12, Bradley @ Northern Iowa (ESPNU)—The Panthers try to stay undefeated in conference play.
  • 1/13, Southern Illinois @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—These two teams have historically sat at the top of the conference, but these rivals are fighting to just stay relevant in the conference race.
  • 1/16, Indiana State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV)—The Sycamores want to be in the race, and a win at Northern Iowa would be huge.
  • 1/16, Wichita State @ Creighton (ESPN2)—The second matchup in a week, this time on ESPN2 as the Bluejays try to make it a closer game at home.
  • 1/17, Illinois St. @ Drake (ESPNU)—The Redbirds have been flying a little under the radar with Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Missouri State getting all the attention.  This is a chance to showcase what they bring to the table.
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Creighton (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Northern Iowa (23-6, 13-5)
  3. Wichita St. (23-8, 12-6)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-8, 12-6)
  5. Illinois St. (23-7, 11-7)
  6. Bradley (19-10, 10-8)
  7. Indiana St. (17-13, 8-10)
  8. Drake (13-18, 5-13)
  9. Evansville (10-19, 3-15)
  10. Missouri St. (9-21, 2-16) 

All-Conference Team.  This is a guard laden league which will populate the Missouri Valley All-Conference team this season.

  • Kevin Dillard (G), So., Southern Illinois ( 12.2 pts., 4.2 ast.)—The bright spot for Southern Illinois last season is a tenacious ball handler and defender.
  • Clevin Hannah (G), Sr., Wichita St. (11.2 pts. 4.3 ast.)—Hannah comes in as the leader for the Shockers which will make some noise this season.
  • Osiris Eldridge (G), Sr., Illinois St. (14 pts, 6 reb.)–Last season he had Champ Oguchi as a security blanket and kept him from trying to take over the game himself.  His all around game development will probably garner him Conference Player of the Year honors.    
  • Justin Carter (G), Sr., Creighton  (8.1 pts, 5.5 reb.)—Over the summer, Carter has emerged as the leader of the Bluejays.
  • Adam Koch (F), Sr., Northern Iowa (12.1 pts., 5.1 reb.)—Koch was a solid player last season to help lead the Panthers to the conference championship and will get the opportunity again as the team returns pretty much everyone.

6th Man.  Jake Kelly (G), Jr., Indiana St. (Transfer from Iowa)—Jake got a surprise this fall as the NCAA allowed him to be an active player on the Sycamore team instead of having to sit out a year like transfers usually must.  Due to the death of his mother, Kelly returned home to Indiana last season and announced he was transferring to Indiana St.  Getting immediate eligibility will solidify the backcourt for the Sycamores.

Impact Newcomer.  Wayne Runnels (F), Jr., Creighton—Wayne was an all around sports star in high school and could have probably played any sport he wanted to.  He decided on basketball.  The JC transfer will make an immediate impact for the Bluejays. 

mvc-logo-2

What You Need to Know.  For several years, the Missouri Valley Conference was a multiple bid conference for the NCAA Tournament, but the runs by Wichita St. and Bradley to the Sweet 16 in 2006 seem like a distant memory.  The past two seasons, the MVC has only managed to get their one automatic bid into The Dance.  Drake went in 2008 and Northern Iowa went last season.  Both teams won the regular season title and conference tournament.   Although Creighton shared the regular season championship with the Panthers last season, the Bluejays were on the outside looking in for the 2nd straight year while Southern Illinois had their first losing season in 10 years.  Considering the unexpected the last two seasons, things may be returning back to the norm this winter.  Casual fans of the conference may see familiar names at the top this season as Creighton, Southern Illinois and Wichita St. will be in the mix, while last season’s champion  Northern Iowa returns almost everyone to a team that surprised everyone by the time conference play rolled around.   Illinois State has risen toward the top the past couple of seasons and although they again have Player of the Year candidate Osiris Eldridge in the lineup, the supporting cast may not be enough this season to keep them there. 

Predicted Champion.  Creighton Bluejays (NCAA Seed:  #9)—There are so many teams that believe they will be the best this season, but Creighton will slip to the top.  Creighton worked it’s way back up to the top of the league down the stretch last season winning 11 of the last 12 regular season games before getting embarrassed by Illinois St. in the MVC Conference Tournament semifinals.   Yes, Creighton lost MVC POY Booker Woodfox.  Yes, Creighton lost four year starting PG Josh Dotzler.  Yes, emerging big man Kenton Walker transferred.  Those are definitely big holes to fill.  But the returning core includes senior Justin Carter who was a JUCO transfer a year ago and by the second half of the season became comfortable and dominated the boards.  He has appeared to take a leadership role over the summer.  P’Allen Stinnett is fun to watch and it will be important to see if he has matured enough to also be a leader.   Antoine Young emerged as the guy to lead the point for the Bluejays, but watch out for Andrew Bock to settle in as the Dotzler type of point guard Coach Dana Altman is used to and  to utilize Young’s skills in his ability to drive to the basket at the off guard spot.  The question mark is the inside game where Kenny Lawson is the only real veteran returning to the post position.  Chad Millard is a little out of position in the post, but is the next  tallest player on the team.  Wayne Runnels comes in from the JUCO ranks and is expected to make an impact right away to help a team that ranked last in the Valley last season in rebound margin.  A couple other players on the roster are expected to step up on a team that likes to rotate players constantly leaving the opening for others to make plays.  Creighton also has the potential to have the best non-conference schedule in the league which will give them a little more wiggle room whether they win the conference or not.

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RTC Aftermath: MVC Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Patrick Marshall is in St. Louis all weekend covering the MVC Tournament for RTC.

Today you experienced our live blog of the Bradley-Southern Illinois game in the quarterfinal round of the MVC tournament.  This game was up and down for both teams.    Both teams were ready to go:

siu-warmupsbradley-warmups

Bradley won this game by hitting timely shots and wearing out the Salukis.  The Salukis shot only 35% from the field and Kevin Dillard, one of SIU’s bigger scorers was held scoreless in playing all 40 minutes of the game.

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Missouri Valley Conference Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the MVC and Big 12 Conferences.  He will be reporting from the MVC Tournament this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri.

mvc-final-standings-comparison

The Missouri Valley Conference finished regular season play this last week with Northern Iowa and Creighton sharing the MVC regular season crown.  Due to the complicated tie-breaker formula, Northern Iowa received the 1-seed for the MVC Tournament and Creighton the 2nd.   My preseason predictions weren’t exactly what happened, but like the whole bizarre Valley season usually is, the middle was all muddled up.   No one expected Northern Iowa to be as good as they were in conference play and at the same time, it wasn’t expected to see Southern Illinois take such a nosedive so fast in the past two seasons.

The MVC released their postseason awards on Tuesday with Booker Woodfox from Creighton getting the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year honors.  Woodfox leads the nation in 3-point shooting at 50.9% and averaged almost 16 points a game.  Champ Oguchi from Illinois St. received the Newcomer of the Year award.  I’m a little surprised that Bryan Mullins won the Defensive Player of the Year honors when he missed almost the whole last half of the conference season.  Maybe it is a lifetime award or something.

This Thursday night starts what is affectionately known as Arch Madness.  I will be down in St. Louis covering things for Rush The Court with a planned RTC Live for at least one game each day starting Friday and other daily updates.  I will also have all-access to the postgame news conferences and other media information.  If you have things you want me to check out or have questions for the coaches or players – but I won’t be the guy that got kicked out of the Creighton game last weekend—then be sure to ask.

Let’s take a look at the matchups starting on Thursday:
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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the MVC and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week Rank):

  1. Illinois St. (10-0) (1)
  2. Creighton (8-2) (2)
  3. Drake (9-3) (4)
  4. Evansville (8-2) (3)
  5. Missouri St. (7-3) (5)
  6. Northern Iowa (6-5) (7)
  7. Bradley (5-5) (6)
  8. Wichita St. (5-5)  (9)
  9. Southern Illinois (4-6) (8)
  10. Indiana St. (2-8) (10)

The non-conference season for the Missouri Valley Conference basically ended this past week with conference play starting next Sunday.  The non-conference games left for the Valley this coming week are most teams playing lower level competition that should result in wins for the Valley.  Since Conference play will have started by the time I report for RTC, here is a little recap of what I expected versus what we got from the Valley in the Non-Conference.

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2008-09 Season Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

 

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Creighton  (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Southern Illinois  (25-6, 14-4)
  3. Bradley  (22-8, 12-6)
  4. Illinois St.  (22-8, 10-8)
  5. Drake  (21-10, 10-8)
  6. Indiana St.  (17-13, 7-11)
  7. Wichita St.  (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Northern Iowa  (15-15, 6-12)
  9. Evansville  (14-15, 6-12)
  10. Missouri St.  (13-17, 4-14)

WYN2K.  Last season, Drake was predicted to finish 9th in the league and ended up having a dream season, winning the conference and the conference tournament, only to be knocked out by Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament in a thrilling game.  Most coaches from the Missouri Valley after a successful season jump ship and embrace the hype of their ability to move up into the major conferences – Steve Alford (Iowa at the time), Bruce Weber (Illinois), Matt Painter (Purdue), Greg McDermott (Iowa St.), Mark Turgeon (Texas A&M) and now Drake’s head man, Keno Davis.  Davis jumped at the Providence job 26 days after taking Drake to its first NCAA Tournament in many, many years.  The question that needs to be asked is whether Drake was that good or if the Valley was down last year.  It was probably a combination of both.   In the past, the Missouri Valley Conference has had multiple teams make the NCAA Tournament and the known teams in the conference will be making their return.  Creighton has been in the postseason (NCAA or NIT) a conference-record eleven straight seasons and Southern Illinois last year broke their six-year streak of getting into the NCAA Tournament.  Creighton has a ton of experience coming back whereas Southern Illinois is going back to their roots of tough defense and a solid floor general.  Drake will not reach the same level as  last year  as they have their third different head coach in as many years.  If Drake didn’t have the year they did last year, the story of the Valley would have been Illinois St.  First year coach Tim Jankovich (who was an assistant at  Kansas) was able to take advantage of the recruits of former coach Porter Moser and led this team to an unbelievable season themselves, but got destroyed on national TV in the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship game by Drake (79-49) and that was probably what kept them from being considered for the Big Dance.  Valley Preseason  Player of the Year Osiris Eldridge will be back to try to lead the Redbirds to another successful season.  After getting to the finals of the inaugural CBI postseason tournament, Bradley  is a tested team with experience that will make some noise this year.  Former Creighton assistant and second-year head coach Kevin McKenna has started to turn the Indiana St. team around and will show improvement.   Gregg Marshall is still trying to have the same success with Wichita St. that he had at Winhrop, but still has a lot of work to do.  Northern Iowa gets out of the gate a ltitle behind with several injured players, one suspended for the first three games and one waiting until semester’s end to become eligible. MVC cheerleader and resident little man Barry Hinson is out at Missouri St. and did not leave a lot behind.  Evansville is Evansville, although they have the advantage of returning all five starters from last season.  

Predicted Champion.  Creighton (NCAA #9).  Creighton is the obvious choice as they have eight players returning that played 12 or more minutes a game.  They also led the nation in bench scoring last year and there is enough talent on this team that the two players leading the nation in scoring off the bench without receiving a start (Booker Woodfox and Cavel Witter) may still not start this season.  P’Allen Stinnett is the Jays’ POY candidate that can amaze and wow people with his athleticism, but will need to be a leader this season and play with emotion like he is known for (keeping it contained to keep from bugging officials and unnecessary fouls).  Justin Carter comes in from the JUCO ranks as a scorer who may be able to step into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.  The frontcourt may be a little suspect since they only have three players over 6’8 but it appears they have been to the weight room and if they make the impact as expected, they will solidify this team.  Coach Dana Altman plans to have the high-pressure full-court defense back in motion this year to create turnovers.  The veteran coach, the returning player experience and the ability to play high-pressure defense is what will cause Creighton to rise to the top.  Also having eleven straight 20+ wins in a season is a streak that this team will not want to break.  This team should be able to get to the NCAA Tournament and win a couple of games to continue to build this program.  Here’s POY candidate P’Allen Stinnett rising up for a dunk.

NCAA/NIT Teams. 

  • Southern Illinois (NCAA #13). SIU had a high-profile non-conference schedule last season due to recent success, but came up short in justifying their hype.  Fortunately, the Salukis still have a high-profile non-conference schedule, but at the expense of playing marquee home games and instead going on the road to try to regain their notoriety.  They have the opportunity to be the featured team with the likes of Duke, Michigan and UCLA by being a part of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic if they win their home regional and advance to New York.  They are also part of the John Wooden Tradition game against St. Mary’s.  So the opportunities are there to be back in the spotlight for the Valley.  SIU will be led by senior point guard Bryan Mullins who was the Valley Defensive Player of the year and a solid leader.  The supporting cast is hyped as SIU’s best recruiting class ever and they had the opportunity to go to Canada over Labor Day to get familiar and some early playing time.  However a little blow came after the Canada trip when 3-point specialist Joshua Bone (at least he has seemed like that every time I have watched him) had a tough trip and decided to leave the team once they returned. That is one less player with experience.  So there will be a bit of a learning curve this season for Southern Illinois, but their tradition and fan base will keep them in contention and they should have enough to make it back to the NCAAs after settling for the NIT last season. 
  • Bradley (NIT).  People reading this who are knowledgeable of the Valley probably think I am crazy for having Bradley ranked so high compared to their own views and what other publications have written.  However, it was three short seasons ago that Bradley was in the Sweet 16.  Like it or not Jim Les has developed quite a program with Bradley.  Last season because of injuries, suspensions and other various reasons, the actual starting lineup that was expected to be on the floor didn’t occur very much, but last year’s team was a solid team. Being able to be a part of the initial CBI basketball tournament gave them the chance to play longer than most Valley teams and an opportunity to improve in areas for this season.  With the trio of point guard Sam Maniscalco, guard Andrew Warren and forward Theron Wilson provide a good starting group of players that if the newcomers gel could make some noise.  However, Bradley probably does not have enough firepower to win the Valley this season,  and are otherwise borderline in making the NCAA tournament so they probably will be in the NIT.
  • Illinois St. (NIT).  The Illinois St. defense was a stalwart last season as they were 11th nationally in points allowed per game (59.3).  Osiris Aldridge will be looked upon to continue his conference leading scoring along with the additions of transfers Champ Oguchi (Oregon) and Landon Shipley (Austin Peay).  The Redbirds’ frontcourt will be decimated to start the year as forwards Brandon Sampay and Bobby Hill are expected to be out until January due to injuries.  So this team will just be starting to gel under a cupcake non-conference schedule and these players will be coming back once conference season starts.  It may take a while for this team then to adjust to the higher level of play and integrating these players back into the lineup which will keep Illinois St. from returning to the Big Dance this season.  The non-conference slate that has an RPI average of 215 is well below standards of the Valley and will not jump onto anyone’s page as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament.  Unless they win the conference tournament, it is the NIT for them.
  • Drake (NIT).  Mark Phelps takes over the Bulldogs and has now been tasked with high expectations after last year’s remarkable season.  Gone is the point guard, Adam Emmenecker, who really made things gel for Drake last season.  However they return “Bucky” Cox who likes to shoot threes more than play inside and All-MVC pick Josh Young at guard.  Keno Davis did not go too deep into his bench last season so a lot of players come in inexperienced.  Also, Davis did not really talk to players extensively and sort of let the players play their game.  On the other hand, new coach Phelps is more of  a talker, telling the team the things they need to do that may take some adjustment.  Both the coach and the team like the 3-ball so that will help the team stay on a common ground, but the moving back of the 3-point line will affect them if they live and die by the three.  The Bulldogs are the hunted and not the hunters this season and will suffer through a year of transition and will probably settle for the NIT this season.  In the meantime, Drake fans will still have this to remember… 

Others. 

  • Indiana St.  This team took a hit when its leading returning scorer Marico Stinson unexpectedly left the team and the university, but is on an upswing with a solid coach.  Look for them to make some noise next season.
  • Wichita St.  Only one returning starter and several new players will still try to find an identity while Gregg Marshall tries to look like he is not mad at the world.
  • Northern Iowa.  UNI gets out of the gate a little slowly with injuries and players missing from the team that won’t be able to play right away.  With coach Ben Jacobsen on the hot seat, he cannot afford to have another mediocre season after what Greg McDermott did with the team before Jacobsen’s tenure.  It may show the recruiting or coaching ability is not there. 
  • Evansville.  This team is still rebuilding as half the team is still freshman and sophomores though they have an advantage of returning all five starters.  However, they will need  a lot of help inside and that is not there yet. 
  • Missouri St.  The most exciting thing Missouri St. fans have to look forward to is the new $67M JQH Arena.

RPI Boosters / Key Games.

The key to this conference getting multiple bids is to have success against BCS and high mid-major teams.  Unfortunately, home games for the Valley teams are far and few between.

  • Missouri St. @ Auburn  (11.14.08)
  • Bradley @ Florida (CBE Classic)  (11.16.08)
  • Southern Illinois @ 2K Sports College Classic vs. Duke and Michigan/UCLA, but of course have to get out of their regional to get to New York.  (11.20-21.08)
  • Missouri St. vs. Arkansas  (11.22.08)
  • Wichita St. @ Old Spice classic vs. Georgetown and Maryland, Michigan St., or Gonzaga.   (11.27-30.08)
  • Northern Iowa vs. Marquette (Chicago Invitational)  (11.28.08)
  • Northern Iowa vs. Auburn (Chicago Invitational)  (11.29.08)
  • Indiana St. @ Depaul  (11.29.08)
  • Drake vs. Vanderbilt (Cancun Tourney)  (11.29.08)
  • Wichita St. @ Texas Tech  (12.03.08)
  • Creighton @ St. Josephs  (12.06.08)
  • Indiana St @ Louisville  (12.06.08)
  • Bradley @ Michigan St.  (12.07.08)
  • Creighton vs. Dayton  (12.10.08)
  • Indiana St. @ Purdue  (12.13.08)
  • Evansville @ North Carolina  (12.18.08)
  • Southern Illinois v. St. Mary’s  (12.20.08)  (Wooden Tradition)
  • Creighton vs. Depaul (in Vegas possibly)  (12.23.08)

Drake and Northern Iowa also benefit from a state law requiring Iowa and Iowa St. to play both Valley teams each year which adds and extra large conference school to their schedule. (ed. note: apparently this is a myth… thanks, readers)

 

Then you have the key conference games that will decide the conference champ.

  • Creighton vs. Southern Illinois (01.14.09)
  • Bradley vs. Illinois St.  (01.29.09)
  • Southern Illinois vs. Creighton  (02.14.09)
  • Drake vs. Southern Illinois (02.25.09)
  • Creighton vs. Illinois St.  (02.26.09)
  • Drake vs. Bradley  (02.28.09) 

Neat-O Stat.  Home Sweet Home.  The Missouri Valley Conference is known for defending its home court.  Southern Illinois is 92-6 in overall home games since 2001-02 and is 61-2 against conference opponents at home during that same period.  During that same period, Creighton is 97-17 at home.  Since Creighton opened the Qwest Center in 2003-04, the Jays are 66-13 at home.   These are just a couple of examples of why major conference teams don’t want to visit Valley schools. 

65 Team Era.   The MVC is a multiple-bid league, having before last season gone a decade between single-bid years (1998 to 2008).  In the 24-year history of this era, the league has only gotten one bid seven times, and even got as many as four in the high-water mark of 2006.  Despite an average seed of #10.2 over this period, the Valley has gone 22-45 (.329) and put seven different teams into the Sweet 16, including S. Illinois in 2007 and both Wichita St. and Bradley in 2006.  What’s more, in the last six years, MVC teams play teams tough, losing by an average of 6.1 pts in their knockout games (only one double-digit loss in 14 games).  We see 2008 as a one-year blip, and have no reason to believe the MVC won’t continue to put numerous teams into the Dance and have them succeed.    

Final Thoughts.  If Creighton plays to its potential they could easily run away with the conference and have a chance to make some noise in the Big Dance.  The 2-5 spots will be a dog fight between the established Southern Illinois and the questions of the one-year wonders of Drake and Illinois St.  Bradley will stick its nose in and cause a little disruption in the league similar to what Drake did last year and could be the big surprise.  If the Valley teams can win their high-profile non-conference games, the league will be recognized again as a powerful conference.  No significant wins by the Valley in the non-conference could unfortunately put them in obscurity for another season.  However, I say to look for the Valley to be a multiple-bid league once again this season and to make an impact on the college basketball world. 

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