Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference
A Look Back
- Battle for Seeding—The last two weeks of the season will be about seeding for the MVC Tournament. No one wants to be the team that has to play four consecutive days for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana State, Creighton, Evansville, and Drake are fighting to stay out of that #7-seed hole.
- Unpredictable Valley—If you don’t pay attention to the Missouri Valley Conference for a period of time, you will get lost on everything happening in the league with the surprise upsets and close games. Wichita State was beaten by Southern Illinois on their home court. Northern Iowa lost Lucas O’Rear and they have gone from a possible third straight MVC championship to trying to stay out of the play-in game in St. Louis. Last-place Bradley has won three of their last four after starting 0-11 in conference play. Indiana State and Evansville could finish in the top four, which has been unheard of. Hold on tight, it will be a crazy ride.
- Multiple Bids?—Joe Lunardi has had Missouri State and Wichita State in his bracket for the past couple of weeks and the Bears and Shockers have separated themselves in the Valley race. However, if the MVC wants to make sure they really are a multiple-bid league this season, Missouri State and Wichita State has a small margin of error. They will definitely need to win their Bracketbuster games this weekend and play into the finals of the MVC Tournament. At worst, one of the two will need to make the finals of the MVC tournament for the league to get two teams in this season. Otherwise, the MVC will again be a one-bid league for the fourth year in a row. With these odds, who knows who will win the conference tournament.
- Player of the Week— Kyle Weems, Missouri State—The potential MVC Player of the Year continues his march, averaging 23 points and six rebounds a game, which also includes 7-13 from three-point range in their two wins this week against Bradley and Illinois State. Those numbers come with only playing 28 minutes a game in both contests. Missouri State is very tough to stop when he gets going.
- Newcomer of the Week— Jake Odum, Indiana State—The freshman continues to lead the Sycamores. He averaged over 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in their two wins this week against Illinois State and Drake. He drives the offense for Indiana State.
Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week rank)
- Missouri State (20-6) (12-3) (2)— The Bears are back on the winning track this week with wins over Bradley and Illinois State. Missouri State is known for man-to-man defense, but they broke out the zone last week and expect to see it more. They are winning the games they need to be winning and will need to continue that this week when they host Drake on Tuesday before stepping out of conference in the BracketBusters against Valparaiso.
- Wichita State (21-5) (12-3) (1)— Wichita State was stunned at home when Southern Illinois came to town and knocked off the Shockers. However they took that fury out on the road at Northern Iowa where they just shut down the Panthers and walked away with a dominant victory. The Shockers hope they have found their point guard in Joe Raglund. They will have a couple more big tests this week against the surging Evansville Purple Aces before hosting Virginia Commonwealth as one of the feature games on BracketBusters Friday night.
- Northern Iowa (18-9) (9-6) (3)—The Panthers have continued to struggle without Lucas O’Rear and have lost three games in a row since the injury. Coach Ben Jacobson says they miss O’Rear, but that they just need to play better. Northern Iowa is fading down the stretch and will likely be bunched up in the 3-7 positions in the conference and will need to get things going to get the best seed possible in the MVC Tournament, but there is no doubt that the rest of their season is in murky waters. They go to Bradley who have won three of the past four and then host George Mason in BracketBusters.
- Creighton (16-11) (8-7) (4)— Creighton is really struggling with winning on the road in the MVC. After starting 3-0 on the road to begin MVC play, the Bluejays have lost their last five on the road and continue to be lacking two to three plays a game that they need in order to win. Illinois State comes to town before hitting the road to Akron which would be a lot better matchup in men’s soccer than men’s basketball. They played a full 40 minutes against Southern Illinois on Sunday night, probably their first 40 full minutes of great play all season. Doug McDermott isn’t Harrison Barnes, but he has made a splash this season of historic proportions.
- Indiana State (14-12) (9-6) (6)— Indiana State is back on the winning track after losing five in a row with wins over Illinois State and Drake this week. The Sycamores start what constitutes “the rest” of the MVC after the top three teams. The key here is seeding for the MVC tournament where that is their only chance to get to the NCAA Tournament. They go to Southern Illinois this week before hosting Morehead State as a part of the BracketBusters. Jake Odum is the one who makes or breaks the success for Indiana State. But their bench is pretty helpful too.
- Evansville (14-11) (8-7) (5)—The Purple Aces have had an up and down week, first, taking advantage of Northern Iowa’s troubles and knocking them off, but then couldn’t keep down last place Bradley. Scary, but if you look at teams that might make a run in the MVC Tournament and get the auto-bid for the NCAA Tournament, you could put some money on Evansville right now as they could be the surprise. Colt Ryan is known as their scorer, but senior Kavon Lacey has stepped up his game, making them tougher. They get to host Wichita State this week before getting a nice matchup in BracketBusters with Murray State. A couple wins here, and people will have to be on the lookout.
- Drake (11-15) (6-9) (7)—Drake’s up and down season continues with a home victory against Creighton and a road letdown at Indiana State. Like Creighton, the Bulldogs have troubles winning on the road in conference play sitting at 1-6 in such contests. They hit the road again to Missouri State on Tuesday, so expect that record to go to 1-7. Then they host Detroit on Saturday. Ryan Wedel is trying to be the leader of this team and hopes to lead them into the improbable postseason.
- Bradley (9-17) (3-12) (8)—The Braves are all of a sudden the hottest team in the Valley right now and is creating headaches for the rest of the league. They have won three of their last four and gave Missouri State all they could handle in getting that one loss. They are now playing with nothing to lose and getting a couple wins makes them spoilers for the rest of the season. They try to spoil Northern Iowa’s season on Tuesday before hitting the road to Tennessee-Martin in the BracketBuster matchup.
- Southern Illinois (11-15) (5-10) (10)—After having one of their worst weeks ever last week, the Salukis have bounced back to have an average one. First they knocked off Wichita State in one of the more surprising upsets of the season but then laid a huge egg against Creighton. The Salukis have suffered from recruiting the wrong players and the long term effects have been catastrophic and patience is wearing thin. They now get two home games this week with Indiana State and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
- Illinois State (11-15) (3-12) (9)—The Redbirds conference season has been full of streaks starting with losing their first eight, winning the next three, and are now suffering through another four game losing streak. Illinois State tried their best to spoil some things for Missouri State but just came up short. For a team that contended for conference championships the past few seasons, this has to be tough for Illinois State fans to understand why they have struggled so much this season. They hit the road this week at Creighton and then to Western Michigan.
A Look Ahead
The week starts with conference play, but then the big weekend of BracketBusters will be a big test for teams.
- 2/15—Wichita State @ Evansville (Local TV)—Evansville is still playing well and a win against Wichita State will really put a wrench into the conference race, and the outside possibility of the MVC getting two bids this season.
- 2/16—Indiana State @ Southern Illinois—Indiana State has one last run in them to finish in the top four in the league. It starts with Southern Illinois. The Salukis on the other hand are trying to save face for next season wondering if they will have a new coach or not.
- 2/18—Virginia Commonwealth @ Wichita State (ESPN2)—This is definitely one of the feature games of the Bracketbusters weekend and will be one not to miss. The CAA and the MVC have had some pretty good games over the past few seasons because of BracketBusters. The Shockers need this one to get a quality win on their resume that is clearly missing.
- 2/19—Missouri State @ Valparaiso (ESPN2)—This is the game that Missouri State fans wanted so they would not have to travel to the coasts for a game before the final week of MVC competition.
- 2/19—George Mason @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—Northern Iowa feels they still have something to prove and they need this game more than George Mason does. However, George Mason isn’t coming to lose and what looked like a great matchup has now lost some luster.
Other Games on National TV This Week:
- 2/15—Northern Iowa @ Bradley (Fox Sports Net)
- 2/16—Illinois State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)