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.


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.


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 jstevrtc on December 7th, 2009


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

MY STANDINGS (current record/last week’s)

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


  • Still two undefeated teams — Missouri St. is still undefeated seven games into their season.  The Bears have had some nice wins against Tulsa and Auburn along with some outside sharpshooting.  They are shooting almost 42% from three point range and holding opponents to under 60 points per game.
  • The Redbirds on the other hand are also 7-0, but against some questionable competition.  As expected, though, the veterans of Osiris Eldridge, Lloyd Phillips and Dinma Odiakosa have led the way for Illinois St. in scoring and minutes played.  At the same time this team has also escaped some close calls.  We may not know more about the Redbirds until their trip to Utah in a couple of weeks.
  • Evansville double OT thriller — Evansville went into Tennessee Tech this week trying to rebound from a couple of losses.  Who knew it would be one of the more dramatic games of the season so far.  Freshman Colt Ryan hit a 12-foot shot with five seconds remaining in the second overtime to lead the them to a thrilling 91-90 victory.  Ryan played a game high 47 minutes of the contest.
  • Drake hits new low — Usually when you setup your own tournament, schools usually set it up so they are likely to win it.  With Drake opening up against SIU-Edwardsville who is playing a full D-1 conference slate this season, you expected Drake to advance to the next day final at home.  Well instead, SIU-E knocked off the Bulldogs, 60-58.  SIU-E, by the way, went on to win the Drake weekend tourney.

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ATB: A Strange Sense of Distant Familiarity Fell Over UCLA…

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009


Word of the Day.  Exposure.  What we’re starting to see throughout this week of holiday hoops as good teams play other good teams is which teams are better than we all thought and which teams aren’t.  Like last night with Kentucky, some teams such as UCLA and Oklahoma are being exposed as works-in-progress with a lot of problems who are a long, long way from making any noise in March.  Others, such as Minnesota and Marquette, might be better than anyone thought they were and could be extremely underrated at this point in the season.  This is what’s great about this time of the year and all of these tournaments — it provides some clarity for how good these teams actually are — much moreso than the standard garbage game against Northeastern State U.

UCLA Gets Waxed in the 76 ClassicPortland 74, UCLA 47. Ben Howland took the worst loss of his UCLA era, as the Portland Pilots shot a blistering 57.9% from three-point land to defeat his Bruins in front of a large fanbase from nearby Westwood.  In a weird irony from the basketball weauxfgods, Steve Lavin, the last coach to get obliterated like this on the UCLA sideline, was there calling the game for ESPN.  Portland’s lead was as great as 31 (!!!) in the second half, and UCLA had trouble against a zone defense for the second time they’ve faced one this season. Pilot guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl (yeah, it really does always go in) led the Pilots with 15 points each, as the former hit three treys and the latter was a perfect 5-5 from downtown — the whole team ripped UCLA for 54% while the Bruins could only muster 33% from the field themselves. Meanwhile, UCLA is searching for leadership that has yet to show itself (Michael Roll?  James Keefe?) and has another tough matchup against Butler on Friday. Portland is beginning to turn some heads and has a chance to make real noise in this tournament if they can  beat #16 Minnesota tomorrow.  As for UCLA, the best way to sum it up may be like this

Portland UCLA Basketball

  • #16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73. Tubby Smith’s team looked the better squad from start to finish of this one.  Minnesota appeared much stronger, more athletic and quicker to the ball as the Gophers repeatedly got production from its deep bench (even with three players currently suspended).  The Minnesota bench contributed 46 pts (to 8 for Butler), but we were struck by how UM’s inside players such as Colton Iverson were getting to the rebounds and physically knocking Butler stars Matt Howard (who fouled out) and Gordon Hayward around.  The Gophers’ defense was in Butler’s face on everything, holding the Bulldogs to a tepid 33% from the field and (ouch) only 5-23 from deep.  While the big three of Hayward, Howard and Shelvin Mack combined for 56 pts, they were hard-earned, and the Minnesota defense was busy locking everyone else on the team up.  If Tubby gets his suspended players back in the lineup, his team could be one of the deepest in the Big Ten this year.
  • #8 West Virginia 85, Long Beach State 62.  LBSU looked completely outmatched today against WVU’s suffocating man-to-man defense and they were never really in the game.  The big story of course was that star forward Devin Ebanks dressed out but did not play, as his ‘personal issues’ seem to still be bothering him (snicker).  The Mountaineers hit twelve threes in a scintillating shooting peformance, led by Casey Mitchell, who went for 18 pts in only fifteen minutes of action.  In a nice sidenote, Jerry West’s son, walk-on Johnnie, also had a career-high eleven points to get in on the action.  Bottom line: WVU has the pieces, but Texas A&M will be a good test tomorrow.
  • Texas A&M 69, #19 Clemson 60. TAMU got into Clemson’s shorts defensively early in this game, and ultimately held the Tigers to 34% for the game and 3-18 from deep in a mild upset for the Aggies.  BJ Holmes and David Loubeau came off the bench to combine for 32 pts and 14 rebounds for Mark Turgeon, but the story of this game was their defense as only Trevor Booker (18/6) and Tanner Smith (14/5/3 assts) were able to get going.  Clemson will get well in a hurry with LBSU tomorrow, but A&M will need that defense against the top ten Mountaineers.

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009


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)


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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2009-10 Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2009


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

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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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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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 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 (16-6) (10-1)(1)
  2. Creighton (17-6)(7-4) (5)
  3. Illinois St. (18-4) (7-4)(2)
  4. Bradley (13-9) (7-4) (3)
  5. Evansville (14-7) (6-5) (6)
  6. Drake (14-9) (5-6) (4)
  7. Southern Illinois (10-12) (5-6) (7)
  8. Wichita St. (10-12) (4-7)  (8)
  9. Missouri St. (9-13) (2-9) (9)
  10. Indiana St. (4-18) (2-9) (10)

The Missouri Valley Conference is part of the ESPNU Bracketbusters event once again this season.  Matchups will be announced on ESPNU at 5:30 on Monday.  With the struggles of this conference this season, it will be interesting to see how many TV games they get this season. 

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2008


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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… 


  • 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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