Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)
- Northern Iowa 24-3 (14-2) (1)
- Wichita State 22-7 (11-5) (2)
- Illinois State 20-8 (10-6) (3)
- Creighton 14-14 (8-8) (4)
- Bradley 14-13 (8-8) (5)
- Indiana State 16-12 (8-8) (6)
- Missouri State 18-10 (7-9) (7)
- Drake 13-16 (7-9) (8)
- Southern Illinois 15-12 (6-10) (9)
- 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?