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 rtmsf on February 16th, 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  22-3  (13-2) (1)
  2. Wichita State 21-6 (10-5) (2)
  3. Illinois State  18-8 (9-6) (3)
  4. Creighton  13-13 (8-7)  (6)
  5. Bradley  13-12 (8-7) (7)
  6. Indiana State  15-11 (7-8) (4)
  7. Missouri State  17-9 (7-8) (5)
  8. Drake  11-16 (6-9)  (8)
  9. Southern Illinois   14-11 (6-9) (9)
  10. Evansville 7-18 (1-14) (10)  

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • Northern Iowa clinches conference—UNI clinched a share of the MVC title on Wednesday night with their win against Drake.  They will go into the MVC Tournament as the number one seed with everyone else in the conference gunning for them to give the Valley an opportunity to get more than one team into the NCAA Tournament.  However, some pundits including Jerry Palm don’t believe that Northern Iowa is in yet, even as an at-large.   The Mock NCAA exercise has the Panthers as a 13 seed.   It will be up to the Panthers to hold up down the stretch as they struggled a year ago in this same position.
  • Eglseder Suspended for Three Games– Northern Iowa may have run into a problem though as their center Jordan Eglseder was arrested Saturday night for drunk driving.  Eglseder was stopped in his vehicle by officers at about 3 a.m. Sunday. Officers observed Eglseder’s vehicle committing a traffic violation and followed the vehicle for a couple of blocks before stopping it.  Eglseder was administered a field sobriety test at the scene and failed it.  He is now suspended for three games at a minimum and could affect how UNI finishes the regular season and the big game against Old Dominion on Friday becomes even bigger. 
  • Evansville being the spoiler—The other team in the Valley to even have a little consideration as to tourney talk was Wichita State.  The Shockers have been trying to pad their resume a little more down the stretch.  Unfortunately, they ran into Evansville who were on a 14-game losing streak.  You expected that the Purple Aces would get a win at some point.  They ended up getting it against Wichita State.  This victory has opened up a chance for second place in the conference and the Shockers are back on their heels.
  • Bracketbuster week—This weekend is Bracketbuster weekend.  Northern Iowa and Wichita State need wins in this event to give the Valley a little more credibility.  The Panthers host Old Dominion on Friday night and the Shockers go out to Utah State in the final game of the day.  Missouri State is also on the ESPN family of networks against Nevada which may not be of any real significance for either school.  Some people have their own opinion about Bracketbusters. 

THE AVERAGE VALLEY

Once again teams are beating up on each other this week without any consistency down the stretch.  Let’s take a look at the Valley teams.

  • Illinois State  (2-0 this week)— The Redbirds have been the most successful team this week, getting victories on the road at their rival Bradley and at Creighton on Saturday.  Some of the Illinois State fans were not to excited about the shirts some of the Bradley fans wore to the game.   The Redbirds have now won three games in a row by a total of seven points to take over sole possession of third place in the Valley.   They host Missouri State in a conference seeding game and then  Morehead State next weekend in Bracketbusters.
  • Northern Iowa (1-1 this week)—The Panthers got past their in-state rival Drake this week, but then after celebrating winning a share of the Valley regular season title, they were surprised by Bradley.   They are being celebrated as Iowa’s team of the decade.  That is quite an accomplishment since there are teams from the Big 10 and the Big 12 also in the state.  The Panthers will get some love at home this week as they host Creighton and then kick off Bracketbusters Friday night against Old Dominion. 
  • Bradley (1-1 this week)—Bradley was pretty fired up to take on Illinois State this week in the return game of their rivalry after getting smoked in Normal the week before.  Unfortunately it was not enough as Bradley lost a two-point decision to the Redbirds.  The black uniforms may not be the answer.  In a turn of events, Northern Iowa came in and Bradley took it to them from the beginning and put themselves back into contention to avoid Thursday night in St. Louis.  The win against Northern Iowa was the first victory for Bradley against a ranked team at the 27-year old Carver Arena.  A conference game at Indiana State this week is on the slate before hosting Drexel in their Bracketbusters game Saturday night. 
  • Wichita State (1-1 this week)—The Shockers are starting to get a little complacent as they head down the stretch.  Losing two of their last three games going into the game against Missouri State, the Shockers are playing themselves out of consideration for an at-large much less a good seed in the conference tournament.  They are looking like last season’s Creighton team that just missed getting into the NCAAs.   They may be thinking their program is returning to prominence, but they need to slow down a bit.  After surviving at home against Missouri State, where they are now 15-0, they need wins this week against Evansville and at Utah State in the Bracketbusters to keep them from a total collapse.
  • Missouri State (1-1 this week)—The Bears are full of confidence right now and are getting their momentum back at the right time.  After starting the season 12-1, Missouri State has been up and down throughout the rest of the conference season.   Missouri State had Wichita State on the ropes Sunday night, but could not pull out the victory.   It will be a big game for the Bears at Illinois State on Wednesday before hosting Nevada in the Bracketbusters this weekend.
  • Creighton  (1-1 this week) –Justin Carter swished a half-court shot in practice to end it early and to give the team a smile leading into the Bluejays’  golden opportunity to solidify their third place position by getting a win against Illinois State.  However, they couldn’t get the win and the Redbirds are now 7-1 against the Bluejays over the past four seasons.  It is very possible they will meet again in St. Louis.  P’Allen Stinnett’s suspension is now permanent until the end of the season.  It will be interesting to see if he returns to the Bluejays next year.   The Bluejays hit the road against conference champs Northern Iowa before hosting Loyola (IL) in Bracketbusters this weekend.   
  • Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores are trying to stay afloat with their top three scorers already out for the season.  They hung around but did not have enough against Creighton.  However, it is always nice to play at home and they were able to get some confidence in a win against Drake while only committing three turnovers.   Bradley comes to town this week before hitting the road against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Bracketbusters.
  • Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)—The Salukis are not finishing the season strong and are again headed towards a disappointing season.  They just hope they do not finish with a losing record again.  Not finishing games has been their main problem this season.  Nick Evans, who had not played since the Creighton game on January 13, has left the team due to personal reasons.  SIU heads to Drake before hosting Western Michigan in this weekend’s Bracketbusters.
  • Evansville (1-1 this week)—At long last, Evansville got a conference win and it was against one of the better teams in the conference in Wichita State.  In the process of beating the Shockers, Colt Ryan broke the  school’s freshman scoring record.  The Aces play the Shockers again this week, but on the road.  Illinois-Chicago pulls the short straw and gets to go to Evansville for their Bracketbuster game.
  • Drake (0-2 this week, 4-game losing streak, lost 5 of 6)—Drake has now gone on a big slide after earlier threatening to become a contender in the conference.  Seth VanDeest will be quite the player to contend with over the next few seasons for Drake.   A battle of the bottom with Southern Illinois on the slate before taking a trip out to California to take on Cal-State Northridge for their Bracketbuster game.  How that matchup is good for both schools is beyond me and is one of the examples of the bad things that can happen because of the Bracketbuster format.   

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The few Valley teams on TV for Bracketbuster weekend hope to make some noise.  At the same time, almost one Valley team on the tube all week long. 

  • 2/16, Creighton @ Northern Iowa (Fox Sports Net)—This game has a lot less significance than it did at the beginning of the season, but still should be a good one to watch. 
  • 2/17, Evansville @ Wichita State (No TV)—The Shockers hope to give a little payback after Evansville notched their first conference win of the season against them last week. 
  • 2/17, Missouri State @ Illinois state (Fox Sports Net)—A positioning game for the MVC Tournament
  • 2/19, Old Dominion @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—A featured game of Bracketbusters with two of the top teams in the field.  It is the Valley vs. the Colonial conferences. 
  • 2/20, Nevada @ Missouri State (ESPN2)—A middle of the road Bracketbuster game that may not mean anything at the end of the season as both teams probably need to win their conference tournaments to get into the Big Dance. 
  • 2/20, Wichita State @ Utah State (ESPN2)—The final game of Bracketbusters should be a key one for either team and many may stay awake for this one.
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Eglseder Suspended Three Games for DUI

Posted by jstevrtc on February 14th, 2010

Northern Iowa big man Jordan Eglseder has been suspended for three games as a result of his arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning for drunk driving.

According to a report at DesMoinesRegister.com, Panthers coach Ben Jacobson announced the suspension and his disappointment with Eglseder’s actions.  Eglseder himself released a statement noting, “I made a regretful decision last night,” and apologized to UNI basketball fans and indeed the entire university.

Not that there’s any good time for this kind of thing, but it’s especially bad for UNI right now.  They suffered their third loss of the season yesterday, a 68-59 defeat at the hands of Bradley, and are trying to build some momentum heading into the Missouri Valley conference tournament and the NCAA.  The Panthers have been to the NCAA Tournament five times, including last year’s 61-56 loss to Purdue in the first round as a 12-seed.  Their only victory came as a 14-seed in 1990, a 74-71 first round victory over Missouri, and have a very good chance of adding to that this year.  Eglseder leads UNI in rebounding at 7.6 RPG, is their second-leading scorer at 12.2 PPG, and is statistically the Panthers’ most efficient player.

Eglseder will miss home games against Creighton and Old Dominion, and a road trip to Evansville.  He should be back for the final regular season home game of his career on February 27th against Illinois State.

Aside from Eglseder, the only true center on the team is 6’10 redshirt freshman Austin Pehl, who has only appeared in five games for an average of 1.6 minutes.  Then it’s another freshman, 6’9 forward Jake Koch (2.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 11.6 MPG, played in all 25 games this year), the brother of senior Adam Koch, UNI’s leading scorer.  The Panthers will rely on both Koch brothers, as well as junior forwards Lucas O’Rear and Kerwin Dunham, for a few more minutes and a little more production in Eglseder’s absence; this is not a new concept for UNI, as Eglseder averages only about 22 minutes per game.

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

Standings & Records (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Northern Iowa  17-2  (8-1) (1)
  2. Wichita State 15-4 (6-3) (2)
  3. Illinois State  14-6 (5-4) (3)
  4. Drake  10-11 (5-4)  (8)
  5. Bradley  10-9 (5-4) (6)
  6. Creighton  10-10 (5-4)  (4)
  7. Missouri State  14-6 (4-5) (5)
  8. Southern Illinois   11-7 (4-5) (9)
  9. Indiana State  11-9 (3-6) (7)
  10. Evansville 6-12 (0-9) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Wichita State/Northern Iowa game was as expected—The matchup of the top two teams in the conference was quite the game this week.  Getting the TV exposure is needed for the MVC.  Wichita State came out fast against the Panthers to take a dominant lead in front of a raucous home crowd to halftime.  Maybe it was the extra attention that Northern Iowa was getting by being ranked the day before or the fact that the Shockers hosted another ranked team at home in the same season for the first time in almost 15-20 years.  But the Panthers erased the deficit early in the second half and seemed as though they were going to pull out the victory the same way they have all season, but did not have enough as the Shockers upset the Panthers and once again put the Valley race back in play for several other teams.

Opportunities lost, others gained—With Northern Iowa losing this week, Wichita State, Creighton and Illinois State could have taken advantage of the situation in the MVC standings.  However, Creighton lost to Illinois State, Illinois State lost to Southern Illinois and Wichita State turned around and lost to Drake.  Bradley and Drake, who have been struggling this season, have taken advantage of those losses to move up the Valley standings.   It is now anyone’s game, but it is extremely important that either Wichita State or Northern Iowa decide to take over the league and somebody else win the Valley tournament if they expect to get more than one team into the NCAA Tournament this season.

Saint Louis wants to be part of the Valley?—Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus made it quite clear that they would rather be a part of the Missouri Valley Conference instead of the A10.  The question is, could that really happen?  And if so, would they drop a team or add another to make the conference twelve?  Butler? Western Kentucky?  Apparently there are no plans for any MVC expansion, but does make an interesting discussion.

POSITIVE WEEK

Drake (2-0 this week, 5 game winning streak) — Drake has been on fire, now on a five-game winning streak including a dominating win against Wichita State on Saturday.   Players are stepping up while Craig Stanley is out with an injury.   The Bulldogs will be squarely in the conference race with wins against Northern Iowa and Creighton this week. What a turnaround this might be after having a horrible non-conference season and losing to teams like SIU-Edwardsville at home.

Bradley (2-0 this week, 3 game winning streak) – Bradley all of a sudden is making a turnaround with a three-game winning streak with wins this past week against Southern Illinois and Evansville.  Defense has been the key to their resurgence.   Bradley could move up into the top three of the conference with wins over Creighton and Illinois State this week.

CAN’T DECIDE

Northern Iowa (1-1 this week) — The Panthers ranking and Sports Illustrated article were probably a little too much to handle this week heading into their game against Wichita State while opening the door to the rest of the conference to say they are beatable.  Northern Iowa is in no way guaranteed the NCAA tournament as their Athletic Director can attest after his participation in a mock NCAA selection committee exercise.   Jordan Eglseder looks like a different player this season and appears to be a dominant inside threat in the Valley.  The hottest team in the conference, Drake, is coming to town before a trip to Missouri State is on the schedule this week.

Wichita State (1-1 this week) — Wichita gave Northern Iowa their best shot and sent a message to the Panthers that they are contenders for the league, but then must have had a hangover in getting drilled by Drake.    You would have thought Wichita was completely out of the race after this loss.    They hope to get back on track against Illinois State and Southern Illinois

Illinois State  (1-1 this week) — The Redbirds came from behind Wednesday night against Creighton by dominating the inside with Dinma Okiakosa setting the standard, but then suffered an overtime defeat to Southern Illinois.   This will be a key week for them with games against Wichita State and Bradley.

Missouri State (1-1 this week) — Missouri State blew a 24-point second half lead against Indiana State before surviving in overtime.  They then lost a see-saw battle against Creighton.  A key to the Bears’ continued success is the health of Adam Leonard. He has been experiencing back spasms that may keep him out of games down the line.  They will need him for the games against Evansville and Northern Iowa this week.

Creighton  (1-1 this week) — Creighton let another halftime lead slip away, this time at Illinois State.  They were on the verge of collapsing but hit an amazing 15-15 from the free throw line in the second half to get a win against Missouri State.  Are the Bluejays playing scared?  Some are starting to think that including the players.  Road trips to Bradley and Drake won’t make things any easier this week.

Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)—Just when you thought the Salukis were about to pack it in for the second consecutive season (with a loss to Bradley at home), screams for Chris Lowery’s exit out of town grows louder and louder, and academic problems with Gene Teague,  they survived against Illinois State in overtime.   A road trip to Indiana State before hosting Wichita State are on the slate this week.

PACKING IT IN

Indiana State (0-2 this week) — Indiana State took 30 minutes to wake up against Missouri State and almost came back to defeat them, but came up short.   Although they were in range of Northern Iowa, they could not steal a win from there.  The loss of Dwayne Lathan has really hurt this team.   They have few opportunities left to make a conference run, but could have some success hosting Southern Illinois before heading to Evansville this week.

Evansville (0-2 this week, 10 game losing streak) — It doesn’t really matter who Evansville is playing anymore, they just don’t have enough to win games.  Rebuilding is hard, especially at Evansville.   Missouri State and Indiana State are on the slate this week and could be a spoiler for those teams.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The Wild and Wacky Valley.  You have to see it:

  • 1/25, Western Kentucky @ Southern Illinois (Fox College Sports)—A very odd out of conference matchup for the Salukis and Hilltoppers during conference season that looked more attractive at the beginning of the season.  Not so much now, but still likely a good game.
  • 1/27, Creighton @ Bradley (Local TV)—Great matchup for both teams that are looking to position themselves for St. Louis.
  • 1/27, Drake @ Northern Iowa (Local TV)—Drake wants respect.  Best way to get it is against conference leader UNI.
  • 1/27, Illinois State @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net)—Koch Arena is a great college basketball environment.  See it in action on TV.
  • 1/30, Bradley @ Illinois State (Fox Sports Net)—I think the loser of this game will end up playing on Thursday in the play-in games in the MVC tournament.
  • 1/30, Creighton @ Drake (Local TV)—Even though Drake didn’t get the win in Omaha a couple weeks ago, the effort jumpstarted them into their current streak.  A great I-80 matchup.
  • 1/30, Northern Iowa @ Missouri State—This game isn’t going to be on TV, but it will be a battle in Springfield by these two teams.
  • 1/31, Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (ESPNU)—The Shockers want to separate themselves from the rest of the Valley contenders, but the Saluki’s may not let them at home.

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: November/December

Posted by zhayes9 on October 18th, 2009

seasonpreview

To get our readers excited for the endless possibilities of 2009-10, I’ve compiled an extensive list of the top 65 college basketball games of the upcoming season. Any true college hoops fan knows why we selected the number 65. Splitting up this season preview feature into three posts the next three Mondays (November/December, January and February/March), hopefully this list will provide you with the most vital of dates to circle on your calendar. Coaches are realizing more and more the importance of compiling a respectable non-conference slate to boost RPI/SOS numbers and provide their team adequate experience and preparation for the grind of conference play. Let’s lead off with the first batch of potentially memorable meetings during the first two months of the season:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

November 17- Gonzaga at Michigan State (#59 overall)- The featured game in ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon pits a backcourt-laden Gonzaga squad in the first of many difficult road tests against a top-five Michigan State team. The State backcourt of Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious will be given a true test from the Bulldogs trio of scoring senior Matt Bouldin, deep marksman junior Stephen Gray and emerging sophomore Demetri Goodson.

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November 17- Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis (#64 overall)- A young and largely inexperienced Memphis team will receive a stiff test right away with the likely #1 team in the nation- Kansas. Guards Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie must shoot well from deep for the Tigers to stay competitive. Former JUCO standout Will Coleman and burly senior Pierre Henderson-Niles will have their hands full down low with likely All-American Cole Aldrich.

November 19- North Carolina vs. Ohio State in NYC (#39 overall)- November and December means one thing: plenty of electrifying non-conference action at Madison Square Garden. This semifinal matchup could prove the best. Ohio State has their entire team returning besides the underwhelming B.J. Mullens and return defensive stalwart David Lighty from injury. They could definitely surprise the inexperienced Heels, who should have a distinct frontcourt advantage with Dallas Lauderdale sidelined.

December 1- Michigan State at North Carolina (#10 overall)- The Spartans and Heels meet in a rematch of the national title game that once again headlines this year’s ACC/Big Ten challenge. State may be able to avenge those two harsh defeats a year ago by taking advantage of the point guard mismatch. With Ty Lawson no longer around, Kalin Lucas could dominate against Larry Drew or Dexter Strickland. On the flip side, Draymond Green should have his hands full with a loaded UNC frontline.

December 5- North Carolina at Kentucky (#8 overall)- Notice a trend with this list so far? Roy Williams has challenged his team with an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, and this early season matchup in Lexington should be one of the best on the early season. There will be loads of projected lottery picks on the floor in this one, from North Carolina’s Ed Davis to Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South and Mid-South) are located here.

It’s time for the sixth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of rust belt and farming states that we like to call the Lower Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

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Ed. Note: for the purposes of our analysis in this region, Butler was considered a high-major program.

  • Cole Aldrich – Jr, C – Kansas. Much like North Carolina one October ago, Kansas appears to be the unanimous selection to begin the season atop every poll and ranking. One of the main reasons for such accolades is the continued improvement of Cole Aldrich, the Kansas double-double machine in the post. Remember the national semifinals against UNC in 2008 when Aldrich burst onto the scene recording eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a then career-high 17 minutes? That was the night college hoops fans first saw what Aldrich can provide for Bill Self and his Jayhawks. In a full season of play, Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were the anchors behind Kansas’ surprising run to a #3 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cole Aldrich and a pretty good player named Blake Griffin were the only players in the Big 12 to average a double-double in 2008-09. Speaking of stats, Aldrich’s triple-double in the second round against Dayton – 13/20/10 blks- was the first recorded triple double in KU’s illustrious basketball history. Aldrich led the conference in blocks with at 2.7 BPG, finished second in rebounding at 12.4 RPG, second in FG% at 60% and tenth in FT% at an impressive 79% for a 6’11 center.  Aldrich possesses great length, a high motor and displays the fundamentals under the basket that Self loves. The insane talent around Aldrich this season will only put less of a load on his shoulders as the big man can rely on Collins for the clutch outside shot, Xavier Henry on the wings, Thomas Robinson on the block or Tyrel Reed to knock down the long-range three. But the pressure will be on Aldrich to provide a post presence that simply cannot be matched in the Big 12 (sorry Dexter Pittman).  If he achieves his potential, a national POY award isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Kansas’ prized junior center.
  • Craig Brackins – Jr, F – Iowa St. Craig Brackins won’t get half the airtime this season as any of the other high-major names on this list, but he could end up becoming the best player of the group when it’s all said and done.  It’s not as if Brackins came out of nowhere – he was a five-star recruit out of Brewster (NH) Academy in 2007, and he turned down offers from Indiana and Pitt, among others – but, when you play in the Big 12 and your team is generally an afterthought (4-12 in 2008-09), it’s tough to get noticed.  But noticed he got on Jan. 24th in a nationally-televised home game against the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Brackins sliced and diced the vaunted Jayhawk defense for 42/14 in a losing effort that had Bill Self afterwards stating that the lanky center could be the “best player in the country today.”  That single game may have put the Iowa State star on the casual fan’s radar screen, but it’s not like Brackins wasn’t tearing it up against everyone else too:  32/16 against N. Iowa; 28/17 against Jacksonville St.; 38/14 against Houston; 25/13 against Nebraska.  The all-Big 12 first teamer nearly averaged a double-double for the season (20.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG) despite seeing hard and fast double-teams every time he touched the ball.  It was widely presumed that Brackins would jump into the NBA Draft last summer after such a spectacular season; after all, projections for him of the lottery and mid-first round were prevalent.  However, Brackins said that he had some unfinished business to attend to at ISU (meaning, getting the Cyclones to an NCAA Tournament), and he returned to what should be an improved squad with 6’7 juco transfer Marquis Gilstrap’s arrival on the blocks and a solid returning backcourt of Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger.  The only true weakness he has exhibited so far in his career is his 28% from beyond the arc, but with more firepower on the team this year he may be less inclined to feel like he has to do it all (Brackins attempted 37% of ISU’s shots last year).  Regardless of how the team’s season plays out in 2009-10, there should be no doubt that Brackins is on the short list of best post men in America.  With another year of seasoning under his belt at the collegiate level, however, we could be looking at a top five pick next June.  Don’t flip the channel so quickly if you see that Iowa St. is playing on the tube this year – it may be one of your few chances to see one of the best big men in the country.
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Set Your Tivos: 02.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2009

Set Your TivosI’m back with another edition of Set Your Tivos, which should be daily now until the NCAA tournament where you won’t need your Tivo because you’ll be glued to your couch for 3 weeks. Obviously the big game of the night at RTC East will be our RTC Live coverage of #1 Pittsburgh at Providence, but there are a lot of games for you to watch when you are not following our coverage and sending in your questions/comments to us courtside.

#1 Pittsburgh at Providence at 7 PM on The Big East Network, Fox Sports, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: As I mentioned before, this will be the site of the 4th installment of RTC Live so we’ll be covering this game from the lay-up lines until they turn out the lights. The Friars come in needing a signature win (beating a depleted Syracuse team in Providence doesn’t qualify) to bolster their chances of getting an at-large bid as I can’t remember seeing any “bracketologist” with the Friars in the NCAA tournament right now despite the fact that they have an 8-7 record in the Big East going into their game tonight. Pitt comes in as the #1 team in the country following their win at previous #1 UConn in a game where DeJuan Blair destroyed Bill Russell Hasheem Thabeet. After all the talk by Jim Calhoun and ESPN about how Thabeet was the Big East POY, Blair has thrown his hat into the ring as a potential Big East POY candidate. Blair, who is averaging 15.8 PPG and 13.0 RPG, has 22 points and 23 rebounds against the Huskies and followed it up with 20 points and 18 rebounds against DePaul. Providence coach Keno Davis will counter with. . .ok, he has nobody who can guard Blair if the Pitt big man avoids dumb fouls. Providence doesn’t really have an athlete of the caliber of Sam Young that Jamie Dixon has, but few teams in the country do. Davis does have a fairly deep rotation with seven players averaging more than 8.0 PPG. Davis will have to hope that Weyinmi Efejuku has a big game and that Sharaud Curry can give Levance Fields (still over 4 to 1 for his assist to turnover ratio) some trouble. The Friars will probably keep the game close for 30 minutes to keep this RTC co-editor entertained, but in the end the Panthers should have enough

Penn State at Ohio State at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a pretty big game for both teams. They both are probably in the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, but both could use a little work on their resume to guarantee a bid and move up a seed line or two. Penn State has bounced back to a 3-game losing streak to pick up two solid wins (Minnesota and at Illinois) while Ohio State has struggled recently losing their last 3 games by a combined 10 points. We’ll be watching two potential first team Big Ten members (Evan Turner and Talor Battle) as the winner of that match-up will probably determine the outcome of this game since this game will likely come down to the last few minutes. In any event, we’re just hoping that this game will be slightly more aesthetically pleasing than the last time Penn State took the court.

Northern Iowa at Illinois State at 8:05 PM on GameTracker: After dominating the Missouri Valley Conference for most of the season, the Panthers have fallen apart losing 3 straight and 4 of their last 5 games falling into a tie for the conference lead with Creighton. The losing streak has taken them out of consideration for an at-large bid so they need to right the ship before the MVC tournament (covered by Rush the Court). The Redbirds are coming off a BrackerBusters loss at Niagara and will be looking to rebound against a Northern Iowa team that it lost to by 4 points on the road at the end of January. Neither team really has a superstar player you should focus on, but they both have  a lot of depth. UNI has 5 players averaging between 9.0 and 11.6 PPG (Adam Koch, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Jordan Eglseder, Ali Farokhmanesh, and Johnny Moran) while Illinois State has 5 players averaging between 9.1 and 14.9 PPG (Champ Oguchi, Osiris Eldridge, Lloyd Phillips, Emmanuel Holloway, and Dinma Odiakosa).

I couldn’t find this one listed on any TV stations so I threw up a link for GameTracker. If any of you know what channel(s) this game will be televised on, post the info in the comment section and I will update this.

Florida at #18 LSU at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: LSU is running away with the SEC regular season title and a win here would essentially clinch it for them unless they lose their last 3 (at Kentucky, home against Vanderbilt, and at Auburn), which I don’t think will happen. Billy Donovan‘s Gators are most likely in, but could use a marquee win to solidify their resume for the Selection Committee. [Side Note: What happens to Donovan's reputation if his team fails to make the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years immediately after winning back-to-back titles?] Nick Calathes (18.6 PPG) will have to have a big game as LSU has 2 guys who can fill it up in Marcus Thornton (20.5 PPG) and Tasmin Mitchell (16.8 PPG). I’m expecting this one to be close, but for LSU to pull away in the last 2-3 minutes.

#25 FSU at Boston College at 9 PM on ESPNU: FSU is already in the tournament and BC is most likely in as well (wins over UNC and Duke should guarantee you a spot even if you do blow a game against Harvard) so both teams are playing for seeding right now. One interesting thing about this game that a lot of people might not be aware of is that FSU still has a shot of catching UNC for the ACC regular season title. Even though FSU has been the more consistent team (see the aforementioned BC loss to Harvard), I think that Tyrese Rice and Jeff Trapani will be enough to overcome Toney Douglas, who is amazingly the only double-digit scorer (20.5 PPG) on a top 25 team.

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2008

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

Missouri Valley Conference Week in Review (Nov. 14-23)

Current Records and my standings:

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

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Creighton—Creighton kicked off the season a week ago against New Mexico and looked like they were going to suffer a big loss at home.  However, they outscored New Mexico 40-16 in the final 10 minutes of the game led by P’Allen Stinnett with 30 points and Booker Woodfox with 26 points.  Creighton also got a win against The Summit conference favorite Oral Roberts this past Saturday afternoon.  The Jays may lose a little of their depth however as they go on a two-game road trip this next week with forward Justin Carter injuring his achilies on a thuglike play by Oral Robert’s Marcus Lewis.  The extent of the injury is not known at this time.  Guard Cavel Witter led the Jays in scoring in their other two games this week which makes Creighton a tough team to prepare for as several players can score.

TEAMS DOING WELL

Southern Illinois— I was all set to give Southern Illinois the team of the week if they happened to win one of their games in Madison Square Garden this week in the Coaches vs. Cancer just because they were one of the host teams and put on the same level as Duke , UCLA, and Michigan.  There was even a great behind the scenes look by Sports Illustrated on how the Salukis prepared for their trip to New York.  However, the Salukis are a young team and could only play 30 minutes with the likes of Duke and UCLA.  The Valley was on the national stage and laid an egg.   I suppose realistically I expected SIU to be playing Michigan in their 2nd game which was probably winnable, so maybe I am being too hard on them.  However, they did have a nice win against UMass this week before going to New York and have a couple emerging players in Carlton Fay and Kevin Dillard.  Though they are 2-2 (or 1-2 if you don’t count the D2 win), they get a “Doing Well” for scheduling the way they did to be involved in this tournament.  SIU’s next game is another road game against the always tough Western Kentucky.

Evansville—Evansville is probably the surprise to start the season so far with a 3-0 mark as far as being undefeated compared to a few other Valley teams that are unexpectedly stumbling.    However, they did get some nice wins against a middle of the pack Austin Peay and Oakland teams.  Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger are leading the team as expected in scoring and team leadership.  Ely had a double-double in the opener.

Illinois St.—Illinois St. started the season on the road against a tough Wright St. team coming away with a victory and won the cupcake SMU Classic against low-RPI Alabama St., SMU and re-classifying first year Houston Baptist.   The team is basically a bunch of players built around Valley POY candidate Osiris Eldridge and Oregon transfer Champ Oguchi.  At least in the win against Alabama St. to kick off the SMU Classic didn’t feel like a win to Illinois St. and they are trying to improve.  They rank high in my rankings right now just because they played four games this week.   Hopefully the non-conference schedule won’t become an Achilles Heel come the end of the season.

Missouri St.—Missouri St. started the season with a couple games on the road against Auburn and Central Michigan losing the Auburn game and opened the new JQH Arena against Arkansas with a nice win.  Another blotch for the SEC.  They have almost a week until their next game against Utah.

TEAMS THAT ARE STRUGGLING

Bradley—Bradley started off with a nice victory over Illinois-Chicago, but then got blasted by Florida after a fast start made it look like they would be competitive in that game.   Bradley was taking part in the CBE Classic as a last minute entry after the Top of the World Classic was announced it wouldn’t exist anymore late last summer.   Bradley will be busy this week as they get the short end of the CBE classic and play 3 games in Ft. Myers against Florida-Gulf Coast, Richmond and UMKC Monday–Wednesday and then East Tennessee St.  back at home on Saturday.

Drake—Drake opened the season with new coach Mark Phelps and against a “rebuilding” Butler team and lost at home.  Some Drake fans were already calling for Phelps’ head after one game.  Just amazing. Then the team turned it around and beat Morehead St. and South Dakota St.  The jury is still out on this team until we see how they do in Cancun this week.

Northern Iowa—Northern Iowa is a team trying to recover from a slew of injuries as they struggled to beat a bad Denver team and then went on the road to lose at Illinois-Chicago at one point in the second half going 7 minutes without a field goal.  The positive note is that Jordan Eglseder is recovering well from his injuries and is averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds a game so far while Johnny Moran is getting comfortable with the team.   UNI started their Chicago Invitational games Sunday afternoon winning against Texas Southern.

Wichita St.—This team has a lot to do after getting an opening weekend win against a Florida A&M team that was already beaten around pretty good by Kansas St. a couple nights earlier.  Even though they remembered the bad loss against UMKC the year before, they went out and lost again to them this season, only it was at home.  The sellout crowds at Koch Arena won’t like these types of things going on for long.   Free throw shooting is something they need to improve on as they are 29-49 (59%) from the Free Throw line.   They will be thrown into the gauntlet in the Old Spice Classic this coming week.

Indiana St.—Indiana St. didn’t even play their first game until the 18th and lost at Northern Illinois 86-79.  North Texas came to town on Sunday and beat Indiana St. as well.   The team is having a terrible time adjusting to life without Marico Stinson who was their leading scorer and left the team just before the season.   The Sycamores have a busy week ahead with 3 games on the docket including a game at Depaul.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Southern Illinois  vs. Duke and vs. UCLA—I was tempted to have the Creighton vs. New Mexico to be the game of the week since I was there for that one and the exciting comeback, but I think the bigger games were the Coaches vs. Cancer games involving Southern Illinois.  SIU played their down and dirty defense in these games and were in the games for most part. However, Duke got 47 free throws and UCLA got 26 free throws in the games while the Salukis only got 19 and 15 in both games which was the difference.   Unfortunately for SIU and the Valley those losses may come to haunt them come the end of the season.   But at the same time Davidson benefited from all of their “challenging” games  that they lost last season and look how well they did.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Josh Young, Drake—This was tough since there really wasn’t anyone in particular that stood out, but Josh was a scoring machine in the first two games for Drake averaging around 27 points a game including a 34 pt. performance against Morehead St.  Shy Ely from Evansville, Jordan Eglseder from Northern Iowa and Cavel Witter from Creighton were also considered.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The Valley has not helped itself by losing games it should not lose and not coming up big against the BCS conference teams.  However, there are several opportunities over this next week for the Valley to get some good wins:

  • 11/25, Creighton vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (Local Omaha TV)—This is a dangerous trap game that will give Creighton a good challenge on the road against the favorites of the Sun Belt.
  • 11/26, Southern Illinois vs. Western Kentucky (Fox College Sports Atlantic)—Western Kentucky is always tough and another road test for the young Salukis.
  • 11/27-30, Wichita St @ Old Spice Classic (ESPN  Family of Networks)—Wichita St. gets a matchup against Georgetown in the first round with Siena or Tennessee the next day.  Then with Oklahoma St., Maryland, Gonzaga and Michigan St., the Shockers will have their hands full, but a chance to turn their season a particular direction.
  • 11/28 Northern Iowa vs. Marquette and 11/29 vs. Auburn in Chicago—Part of the Chicago Invitational tournament.
  • 11/29, Creighton vs. Nebraska (Fox Sports Midwest)—This in-state rivalry is always a good game that packs the building and a chance for a win against the Big 12.  I’ll be there for that one.
  • 11/29, Drake vs. Vanderbilt in Cancun (CBS College Sports)—The SEC is down this year it appears, so Drake could steal a win here.
  • 11/29, Evansville vs. Butler—Butler has been historically tough over the last few years, so this could be a good win for Evansville and a chance to stay undefeated.
  • 11/29, Indiana St. vs  Depaul—A chance to play a Big East team.
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