Preseason NIT: Weakened Field But Still Special

Posted by rtmsf on August 17th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago we broke down what will arguably be the top holiday tournament of the 2010-11 season, the Maui Invitational.  The other Big Daddy of pre-conference tourneys, the Preseason NIT, released its brackets today, and at first blush, the field is not all that exciting this year.  Take a look at the below bracket and tell us where you get a little tingly thinking about the downstream matchup possibilities?

The only legitimate national contender in the field is Villanova, with 105-point scorer Corey Fisher returning along with a whole cadre of talented inside players including Mouph Yarou, Antonio Pena and Isaiah Armwood.  If the expectation is that productive freshmen become superb sophomores, then the Wildcats are a team with as much upside as anyone else in America next year.  The dropoff in talent from VU to the next best squad, Tennessee, is significant, but the real precipice occurs after that point.  The Vols lost Wayne Chism, JP Prince and Bobby Maze from their Elite Eight team, but they bring back star-in-waiting Scotty Hopson and add Tobias Harris to a solid cast of role players, so UT has a chance to be very good again.  We’d expect these two teams to sleepwalk their way to the finals on Black Friday in Madison Square Garden.

The third and fourth seeds and regional hosts Wake Forest and UCLA are two of the weaker teams we’ve seen in this position in some time.  Neither is a likely NCAA Tournament team next season, and it says here that both schools will have trouble getting out of their PNIT region despite the fact that it will be played on their home courts.  Wake returns two promising sophomores in CJ Harris and Ari Stewart, but the loss of all-ACC players Al-Farouq Aminu and Ish Smith, not to mention head coach Dino Gaudio (replaced by Jeff Bzdelik), will be too much for the duo to bear so early in the season — expect the Deacs to crumble against a strong VCU team with something to prove.  UCLA returns more than Wake Forest, but if you’ve somehow been in a fugue state for the past twelve months, the Bruin program has fallen on hard times due to poor recruiting, team chemistry and injury problems.  The talented but enigmatic Malcolm Lee returns along with several other young players (Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, Jerime Anderson), but the addition of five-star stud Josh Smith to the mix isn’t going to suddenly remind UCLA how to win games.  A second-round matchup against Pacific, with its top four players returning, or Nevada, always looking for a Pac-10 scalp as a member of the overlooked WAC, will be difficult for UCLA, even in Pauley Pavilion.

The one thing we will continue to give the PNIT folks credit for, though, is that they actually still understand the meaning of the word “Tournament.”  Yeah, yeah, we know that other entities get around it by using words like “Classic,” but a bracket is a bracket and it really only makes sense when a team advances into the later rounds by, you know, winning.  There are no guarantees — Villanova, Tennessee, Wake Forest and UCLA will actually have to beat two visiting teams to earn the privilege of a trip to New York City during Thanksgiving week to play in the World’s Most Famous Arena.  So from that perspective, we’ll still enjoy watching the Preseason NIT this November if for no other reason than they get it right.

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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 8th, 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  21-2  (12-1) (1)
  2. Wichita State 20-5 (9-4) (2)
  3. Illinois State  16-8 (7-6) (3)
  4. Indiana State  14-10 (6-7) (7)
  5. Missouri State  16-8 (6-7) (6)
  6. Creighton  12-12 (7-6)  (5)
  7. Bradley  12-11 (7-6) (8)
  8. Drake  11-14 (6-7)  (4)
  9. Southern Illinois   13-10 (5-8) (9)
  10. Evansville 6-17 (0-13) (10)  

STORIES OF THE WEEK

2010 Bracketbusters—The people in Bristol announced the  11 TV matchups for this season’s Bracketbusters for  Friday and Saturday, February 20th and 21st, while the other conference commissioners matched up the rest of the games of the other 76 teams.  Here are the matchups for the Valley teams and TV info for those selected to play on the ESPN family of networks:

  • Northern Iowa vs. Old Dominion, Friday, February 19th, 6PM, ESPN2
  • Wichita State  @ Utah State,  Saturday, February 20th, 11PM, ESPN2
  • Nevada @ Missouri State, Saturday, 2PM, ESPN2
  • Morehead State @ Ilinois State, Saturday, 4PM
  • Indiana State @ Green Bay, Saturday, 7PM
  • Loyola (Ill.) @ Creighton,  Saturday, 8:35PM
  • Drexel @ Bradley, Saturday, 7PM
  • Drake @ Cal State-Northridge, Saturday, 9PM
  • Western Michigan @ Southern Illinois, Saturday, 2PM
  • Illinois-Chicago @ Evansville,  Saturday, 7PM

Valley coaches in favor of expanded tournament—On the weekly Missouri Valley Conference teleconference, the question of expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams was deemed pretty favorable by the coaches in the Missouri Valley Conference.  With the Valley looking at a one bid for the third straight year, I guess you could understand why they would like it.  However, I still think it takes away from the integrity of the hard work done throughout the season and the build-up would not be the same when teams are expecting to go to the NCAA Tourney by default every year. 

Northern Iowa declared MVC champs—Ok, so mathematically several teams have a chance to catch up and tie or overtake Northern Iowa, but come on,  with five conference games remaining, Northern Iowa has basically run away with the Valley regular season crown while all the other teams are just beating each other up.  When the Panthers knocked off Wichita State last week, they staved off their final threat in the regular season.

Rivalry Week in Full Swing—The known rivalries in the Valley will all be in action this week.  Creighton heads to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois where the Salukis are looking to respond to the blowout the Bluejays handed to them last season on SIU’s home floor.   The Battle of I-76 between Bradley and Illinois State will be played again with Bradley seeking revenge for getting run off the court a couple weeks ago at Redbird Arena.  Drake and Northern Iowa hook up again as well in an in-state matchup.

TEAM BREAKDOWNS

CRUISE CONTOL

Northern Iowa (2-0 this week, 20-1 in last 21 games, 5 game win streak)—The Panthers are getting every team’s best shot, but they are continuing to find ways to win.  Against Wichita State on Wednesday, the Panthers survived a late rally by the Shockers to get the win.  Saturday they came from behind to beat Southern Illinois and Adam Koch scored the team’s last 11 points.  They hope to continue their domination against Drake and Bradley this week.

BUMPY HIGHWAY FOR  2nd-9th

Bradley (2-0 this week) – After going 0-2 last week, Bradley turned things around to go 2-0.  This is just one example of how the rest of the Valley has played this season.  A winning shot by Will Egolf gave Bradley a thrilling victory over Drake.  It is a big week for the Braves this week as they get a shot at the top of the conference with Northern Iowa and Illinois State.  The other good news for them is that both games are at home. 

Wichita State (1-1 this week)—The Shockers just seem to be coasting through under the radar for the most part.  After losing a heartbreaker against Northern Iowa  for their chance to try and catch them, the Shockers had to rally from 15 down in the final nine minutes against a shorthanded Indiana State team to pull out a victory.  It’s the little things that players like Aaron Ellis bring to the court for the Shockers that has helped them become so successful this season.  Games against Evansville and Missouri State should give Wichita State the opportunity to lock down their second place standing in the Valley.

Illinois State  (1-1 this week)— Win one, lose one….that is the mantra of the Valley over the past several weeks and the Redbirds have not been left out.   The big troubles have been road games with last week’s loss coming at Indiana State.  Illinois State is now 1-5 on the road.  With Bradley and Creighton on tap this week, can they get a road victory?  The other question—is Osiris Eldridge not playing as well this season compared to last?   Appears that way. 

Missouri State (1-1 this week)— The Bears are the highest scoring team in the Valley as well as trying to be a great defensive team as well.  In their win against Creighton this week, they displayed both as they went on 11-1 and 17-0 runs to take the Bluejays behind the woodshed, 70-52.  Creighton only had 30 points with nine minutes to go.  Southern Illinois and Wichita State give the Bears opportunities  to move up this week.

Creighton  (1-1 this week)—Creighton, like Illinois State, has big problems winning a road game.  After getting crushed at Missouri State this week, the Bluejays are now 2-11 in road/neutral games this season and it looks like they may not get a road victory the rest of the year.  Luckily they have two home games this week against Indiana State and Illinois State.  It is so dire for Creighton fans now, that the focus is almost off the men’s basketball team as fans find the Creighton Dance Team more interesting. 

Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores took a big blow this week losing point guard Harry Marshall along with Dwayne Lathan to injuries suffered during the Illinois State game that will pretty much take them out until the end of the season.   They had a valiant effort against Wichita State on the road, but didn’t have enough gas to keep the Shockers from stealing the victory down the stretch.  Creighton and Drake are on the schedule this week.

Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)— The Salukis couldn’t upset the Panthers even though they hoped their depth would be key this week, so they continue to be an average team.  Tony Freeman had weird feelings playing a game in the state of Iowa again.  They got a victory against Missouri State, but cannot relish in it too much because they turn around and play them again this week along with doormat Evansville

Drake (0-2 this week)—Drake had a nice run, but they have now lost three of four games.  The three losses have all come on the road.  Josh Young keeps getting accolades before he is crowned the school’s all-time scoring leader.  They host conference leaders Northern Iowa this week and travel to Indiana State. 

BLEW A TIRE AND ENGINE BROKE DOWN

Evansville (0-2 this week, 14 game losing streak)— Colt Ryan averaged 24 points in his two games this week against Creighton and Bradley. Before the end of the season, Ryan will shatter the freshman scoring record for this school.  Unfortunately, the Purple Aces continue to lose.  With the City of Evansville building a new Arena and the Aces expected to play there, will there be enough people in the seats to make the switch?  Wichita State and Southern Illinois the next ones to beat up on the Aces.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

Pretty much every game is key in the Valley this week, but here are the best matchups and a couple most people should be able to watch on TV.

  • 2/9—Illinois State @ Bradley (Local TV)—Yes, most won’t be able to watch this one, but Bradley has declared a “Blackout” as the Redbirds try to come in and sweep their home-home series this season.
  • 2/10—Northern Iowa @ Drake (Local TV throughout Iowa) –This game has to get mentioned because of an in-state rivalry and the Panthers are ranked in the top 25 so every game is important for them.
  • 2/13—Illinois State @ Creighton (Local TV in Omaha and Illinois)—This game will determine who will likely play on Thursday night in St. Louis in the MVC Tournament. 
  • 2/13—Northern Iowa  @ Bradley (Fox Sports Net)—Either at home or on the road, the Panthers have been dominating the Valley.  Can it continue in Peoria?
  • 2/14—Missouri State @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—The Shockers hope to lock in second place in the Valley with this game
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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 Missouri Valley

Posted by jstevrtc on December 14th, 2009

checkinginon

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

Current Records and My Standings (Last Week’s Rank)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • Missouri St. wins two more games.  The Bears are continuing to win, much to the chagrin of my pre-season rankings. I thought they would have at least 3 losses by now. Home court advantage was probably a help to their early success, but they also have two wins on the road and are in the middle of a three-game road trip. It would be pretty amazing if they finish the non-conference season undefeated by getting road wins at St. Louis and Arkansas, both very winnable games.
  • Creighton loses on the road again.  Creighton is now 0-5 on the road this season and could finish 2009 with a losing record which would be the first time in a long time. This week it was to George Mason as they led most of the game and collapsed in the last few minutes of the game, helped by a technical foul on coach Dana Altman with 18 seconds left in the game with Creighton up by two.  Creighton lost the game, 75-72.
  • Shockers looking pretty good.  Other than the loss to Pittsburgh in the CBE Classic, Wichita State  is playing some good basketball lately and have gained a lot of confidence with a couple road wins at UMKC and Cleveland State as well as some guarantee games at Koch Arena.  They will be a force come conference play.
  • UNI sweeps Iowa teams.  For the first time since 2006-07 season, UNI beat both Iowa and Iowa St. in the annual matchup between the Iowa schools. The Panthers are on a roll as of late and creating quite the resume’ with wins over Iowa, Iowa St., Boston College, and Siena.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

checkinginon

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

MY STANDINGS (current records)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Injuries, Illness and Suspensions—The Valley has started out with several injuries, illnesses and suspensions this season, causing some teams to play without some veteran leaders including:

  • Bradley lost Dodie Dunson for the season with a broken arm suffered in their game against Idaho State while Taylor Brown is serving a suspension for  an offseason battery charge.  Brown was the team’s leading scorer during the Labor Day trip to Brazil. 
  • Creighton lost Justin Carter to an MCL tear for 2-4 weeks, Casey Harriman was hospitalized with swine flu that turned to tonsillitis that turned to strep throat that turned into mononucleosis, while Chad Millard has been out with a foot injury since September.
  • Drake was without Josh Young due to a hip pointer injury.
  • Wichita St. was without Clevin Hannah for the first three games (including the upcoming CBE Classic game against Pittsburgh) due to a “paperwork” error on his amateur status

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Cooler Than You: Some Of The Best Of College Basketball

Posted by jstevrtc on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreviewJust about anyone can name the best teams in college basketball, and, as far as individual players, if you’re reading this site you can most likely reel off three or four of your own personal All-America teams.  But what about those individuals who specifically excel at a few of the more exciting aspects of the game?  There are certain plays that make everyone come out of their seats:  a massive and powerful dunk that liberates some poor defender of his pride;  a ridiculously long three-pointer, especially at crunch time; and a blocked shot where the ball goes into orbit.  And of course everyone loves basketball players with cool names.  So here they are:  RTC’s rankings of the best dunkers, best long-range bombers, best shot-blockers, and coolest names in the game today.

The Most Excellent Dunkers

Unlike the NBA All-Star Weekend, we’ll begin with the dunk artists.  Each player is listed with a link leading you to an example or two of his work.  Sorry, UConn fans.  We respect you and your team, but we had to put Summers over Robinson because…well, you know why.

  1. Paul George, Fresno State  (vs St. Mary’s 2008, practice video 2009, Open Gym 2009)
  2. Chris Wright, Dayton  (vs Ohio State 2008, vs Marquette 2008)
  3. Durrell Summers, Michigan State (vs UConn over S. Robinson 2009, vs Minnesota 2009)
  4. Stanley Robinson, Connecticut (vs Michigan State 2009, vs Villanova 2008)
  5. Isaiah Thomas, Washington  (Madness 09)
  6. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee (vs Arkansas 2009)
  7. Keion Bell, Pepperdine  (Madness 09, Madness 09 over 5 guys)

Honorable Mention (or, guys who will probably be on this list by year’s end): Will Coleman, Memphis; John Wall, Kentucky; Delvon Roe, Michigan State; Wes Johnson, Syracuse.

The All-Jeff Fryer Team

This list of the best long-range bombers is named after the legendary (in our minds) Loyola Marymount guard who still holds the record for most three-pointers made in an NCAA Tournament game, an incredible 11 against Michigan in 1990′s second round.  If you can catch that game on ESPN Classic, it is something to behold.  You have to be a little nuts to be a bomber; you have to forget your last miss like it never happened and be willing to keep firing even when they just won’t fall (our editors are familiar with this feeling).  Here’s our ranking of 25 of this season’s best:

  1. T.J. Campbell, Portland
  2. Rihards Kuksiks, Arizona State
  3. Jared Stohl, Portland
  4. Andrew Goudelock, College Of Charleston
  5. Mike Roll, UCLA
  6. Jerome Randle, California
  7. Brandon Hazzard, Troy
  8. Ryan Staudacher, Montana
  9. Corey Allmond, Sam Houston State
  10. Ryan Wittman, Cornell
  11. Josh Young, Drake
  12. Corey Stokes, Villanova
  13. Jonathan Tavernari, BYU
  14. Gordon Hayward, Butler
  15. Troy Cotton, Wisconsin-Green Bay
  16. Tweety Carter, Baylor
  17. Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas
  18. Corey Lowe, Boston University
  19. Ricky Harris, Massachusetts
  20. Mac Hopson, Idaho
  21. Andy Rautins, Syracuse
  22. Nic Wise, Arizona
  23. Willie Warren, Oklahoma
  24. Jimmy Langhurst, Robert Morris
  25. Kelvin Lewis, Houston

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2009

Current Records and my standings (Conference Record)(Last Week Rank)

  1. Creighton (23-6)(12-4) (2)
  2. Northern Iowa (18-10) (12-4)(1)
  3. Illinois St. (22-6) (11-5)(3)
  4. Bradley (16-12) (9-7) (4)
  5. Evansville (16-11) (7-9) (5)
  6. Drake (17-12) (7-9) (7)
  7. Wichita St. (14-14) (7-9) (6)
  8. Indiana St. (9-19) (6-10) (8)
  9. Southern Illinois (11-17) (6-10) (9)
  10. Missouri St. (11-17) (3-13) (10)

BRACKETBUSTERS

This weekend all 10 teams took part in the annual ESPN Bracketbusters event. Though the league went 7-3 in its games, 2 of the top three teams in the league suffered losses. The MAAC was not friendly to the Valley as Illinois St. lost to Niagara and Northern Iowa continued its slide losing to Siena. However, Creighton scored a nice win against George Mason to get talk going about a possible at-large berth.

BATTLE FOR THE TITLE

The battle for the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship has come down to the final week. 3 teams are still in the race and anything could happen this week as Creighton, Northern Iowa and Illinois St. battle it out. There are several scenarios that could have any of the three win the conference outright or even end in a 3-way tie. The MVC tournament could be really interesting.

Speaking of the Missouri Valley Tournament, I will be down in St. Louis as a fan, but also covering for Rush the Court the goings on in the Tournament from press row. This should be a lot of fun.

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by nvr1983 on February 8th, 2009

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

Current Records and My Standings (Conference Record)(Last Week Rank)

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

The Missouri Valley Conference is part of the ESPNU Bracketbusters event (February 21st) once again this season and received 4 games on one of the ESPN family of networks:

  • Illinois State at Niagara (2/20)
  • Miami (OH) at Evansville
  • Northern Iowa at Siena
  • George Mason at Creighton

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.17.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 17th, 2009

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This is a huge day here at RTC.  Not only will we be blogging with you all day with this BGTD nonsense, but we’ll also have a presence at ESPN GameDay live from Chapel Hill where our man on the ground will be taking questions and comments from you, the readers, so that you can finally ask Erin Andrews what shampoo she uses and where, exactly, does she find such perfectly fitted tops.  Or anything else you guys may want to know (within reason, of course).

RTC Live: Miami at UNC will be a sticky at the top of the page all day, so be sure to stop by and check it out as you put off going outside into the semi-Arctic environment known as the East Coast Midwest South Mountains USA this lovely Saturday.

As for this post, we’ve got the three-tv setup ready to roll, and with Notre Dame-Syracuse starting off the day in a few hours, we should probably try to get some sleep.  We’ll be back for that one (and all the others), but in the meantime, feel free to peruse our SYT preview of today’s big games.

11:52am – And we’re back.  Let’s get going.  Quick note – lamest sign just spotted at GameDay in CH – Everyone Still Predicts National championship?  Wow, props for creativity there, er, not.

Noon – What’s on your tv right now?  There’s an interesting mid-major on ESPN2 (N. Iowa at Drake).  The Noon FC games aren’t too exciting (Maryland at FSU; Ga Tech at NC State; USF at WVU) – we’ll keep an eye on each, but it’s looking mostly like Cuse-ND and UNI-Drake here.

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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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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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