Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • BracketBustedThere have been many comments over the past few years by coaches and fans about how the BracketBusters concept has been overloaded and that it does not help teams.  After the Missouri Valley Conference’s performance this past weekend in the event, it is obvious that they do not take it seriously.  While this used to be an event that featured the MVC, it has turned into an event to feature the Colonial and the Horizon instead and the MVC walks away as a laughingstock.  The three games featuring Valley teams were losses (Missouri State, Wichita State and Northern Iowa) and the league went 3-7 over the weekend with only #7 Drake, #8 Southern Illinois and #9 Bradley getting wins.  The Valley, everyone!
  • Don’t Expect More Than OneWhile last week I talked about the possibility of the MVC getting two bids to the NCAA Tournament, do not expect that now.  On top of the horrible Bracketbusters performances, this past week, the NCAA again invited several media members to take part in a Mock Bracketing exercise where they went through the process of putting together the teams that would participate in the NCAA Tournament.  In their proceedings, Northern Iowa won the MVC tournament and got the league’s automatic bid.  In their discussions the rest of the way, contenders like Wichita State and Missouri State were discussed little or not at all.  And this was all before BracketBusters this weekend.   So expect the MVC to be a one-bid league for the fourth season in a row.
  • Saluki StupidityThere are definitely some chemistry problems with the Southern Illinois basketball team.  Information came out this week on the reason for the three game suspensions of starters Gene Teague, Mykel Cleveland and reserve Troy Long.   They used airsoft rifles to shoot teammate Davante Drinkard and another unidentified victim in a borrowed women’s basketball player car while Cleveland also had an expired driver’s license.   This all happened the evening after Saluki head coach Chris Lowery said his team quit playing in their blowout loss to Drake at SIU Arena.
  • Final WeekThe league focuses on the final week of the regular season and the battle in St. Louis for the NCAA Tournament bid.  Wichita State and Missouri State will fight for the top two spots while Northern Iowa, Indiana State, Creighton and Evansville will set themselves up for the 3-6 seeds.  It will likely be Drake, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Illinois State playing on Thursday night.
  • Player of the Week— Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa—The senior continues to shine for Northern Iowa averaging 25 points and 5 assists per game this past week.  Although the Panthers split their games, Ahelegbe has picked up the slack for Northern Iowa as they finish up the season.  Ahelegbe has had nine games with more than 20 points this season.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—McDermott continues his Valley record-setting season, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game this week.  He has been very consistent and has not hit that freshman wall that most players do at some point during the season.  Creighton will need him to be playing well headed to St. Louis.

Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record)  (Last week rank)

  1. Wichita State (22-6) (13-3) (2)— The Shockers move up to the top spot heading into the final week basically because they were closer than Missouri State was in winning their respective BracketBuster game.  They were 0.8 seconds away from winning against VCU, but played behind most of the way.  Joe Lunardi had them going from last four in to the first four out in his bracketology.  They did get a win at Evansville earlier in the week and at least they have dedicated fans.   It will be hard for Wichita State to stay in the top spot, hosting Creighton and finishing things up at Missouri State.
  2. Missouri State (21-7) (13-3) (1)— The Bears have to pick themselves off the ground after getting just beat up at Valparaiso in the BracketBusters.  That was a huge loss for Missouri State where a win would have gained them consideration as an at-large contender.  With Missouri State having so much success this season, it has now become fashionable to go to Bear basketball games.  They go to Southern Illinois before hosting Wichita State in what should be a packed JQH Arena.  They need to win from here on out to get into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Northern Iowa (19-10) (10-6) (3)— The Panthers looked like they  had finally gotten over the loss of Lucas O’Rear with a win on the road at Bradley on Wednesday and had momentum going into the BracketBusters game against George Mason.  Northern Iowa looked good early against the Patriots, but ran out of gas down the stretch and made some crucial mistakes.  They could fall in the MVC tourney seeding if they lose a couple more, and it is a real possibility.  They host Indiana State before going to Creighton.
  4. Indiana State (15-13) (10-6) (5)— The Sycamores move up in the rankings despite their loss in the BracketBuster against Morehead State where they were outworked.  Their conference record is still better than Creighton’s and Indiana State has shown that they can win on the road. They swept all of the Illinois teams (Southern Illinois, Illinois State, and Bradley) on the road for the first time in school history.   They go to Northern Iowa this week before finishing up with Senior Day against Southern Illinois.
  5. Creighton (17-12) (9-7) (4)— The Bluejay’s road woes continue.  With the loss at Akron this weekend, they have now lost six in a row away from Qwest Center Omaha.   They head to Wichita State on Wednesday this week and if history is any indication, don’t expect a road win there.  Doug McDermott continues to be a bright spot being only the third freshman in Missouri Valley Conference history to get over 400 points and 200 rebounds.  Another bright spot is the fact that Creighton ranks second in the nation in sending opponents to the free-throw line only 14.2 times a game.   They finish the regular season hosting Northern Iowa with a checkerboard game.  
  6. Evansville (14-13) (8-8) (6)— The Aces have lost four of their last five games and may be running out of steam down the stretch with their latest losses against Wichita State and Murray State.  They fought hard against the Shockers while turnovers did them in against the Racers. They do have an opportunity to get a couple wins to finish the season against teams at the bottom of the league—Drake and Illinois State.  They need these wins to stay out of Thursday night in the MVC Tournament.  They will also be closing Roberts Stadium with their final game this week. 
  7. Drake (12-16) (6-10) (7)— Drake was the best team in the league to get a win at BracketBusters by defeating Detroit getting their highest scoring output since December.  They hope the momentum can carry them into the last week of the season against Evansville and Bradley.  If they get those wins, there is a slight possibility they may not have to play Thursday night and get into the top six, which could make them a tough out in the MVC Tournament.
  8. Southern Illinois (12-16) (5-11) (9)—At least Southern Illinois can say they won their BracketBuster game albeit in the final seconds against Green Bay.  Saluki fans are anxiously waiting for the season to be over after another subpar season.  They may get some satisfaction in ruining things for Missouri State on Wednesday night and messing up the seeding for Indiana State. Justin Bocot returned to action for the Salukis on Saturday night and contributed.  It is too bad the Senior had to suffer through so many injuries this season.  He might have made more of a difference for the Salukis if he was healthy all season.
  9. Bradley (10-18) (3-13) (8)—The Braves have shown some signs of life towards the end of the season, but it may not be enough for Jim Les to keep his job in Peoria.  The local media and fans see a lot that is unacceptable, including Les’ propensity to draw technical fouls.   They still have to go to their rival Illinois State this week which could be the deciding game there. 
  10. Illinois State (11-17) (3-13) (10)—Illinois State is not finishing strong and has lost their last six games.  Going into last week’s game they did not have a player averaging in double figures in scoring.  Jackie Carmichael and Austin Hill were averaging 9.9 points a game.  With Carmichael out against Creighton, Hill scored a career high 27 points.   Amazingly enough, they have a good possibility of finishing off the season with a couple of wins against Bradley and Evansville. 

A Look Ahead

The final week of conference season will decide the conference championship and seeding for the MVC Tournament.

  • 2/22—Indiana State @ Northern Iowa—The battle for the three-seed in the MVC tournament will be on the line.
  • 2/23—Creighton @ Wichita State (Fox Sports Net)— These two teams do not like each other, and it will be a physical battle.  Creighton wants to spoil the Shockers’ opportunity for a conference championship while Wichita State needs this win to setup the showdown in Springfield with Missouri State.
  • 2/26—Northern Iowa @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—Senior day at Creighton is a tough place to get a win and this game could have seeding implications for the MVC Tournament.
  • 2/26—Wichita State @ Missouri State (ESPN2)—The likely showdown for the MVC regular season championship.  Missouri State took the game in Wichita and the Shockers are looking for payback.

Other National TV Games This Week:

  • 2/22—Bradley @ Illinois State (Fox Sports Net)
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Checking in on… the Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • Missed OpportunitiesThis week, several teams missed opportunities to really shake things up in the Missouri Valley Conference.  Missouri State had a great opportunity to get a commanding lead in the standings and stay undefeated, but lost to Indiana State on a last-second shot by Jake Kelly to tie the game with a foul.  He calmly sank the free throw and the Sycamores found themselves tied with Missouri State for a short time in the standings.  Creighton had an opportunity to move up a couple of games, but lost to Missouri State on Saturday with Kyle Weems coming through with late-game heroics for the Bears.

  • 3OT Thriller In what could have shaken the standings a little more, Indiana State went into Wichita and gave the Shockers all they could handle taking the game to three overtimes.  Wichita State eventually pulled out the win.

  • Standings Stay PutAs a result of the ups and downs of everyone this week, the standings and power rankings stay the same.  Slowly, as mentioned last week, Northern Iowa has worked its way up back into the mix and scored a key victory over Wichita State.  With Creighton and Missouri State on for this week, it should be another crazy week in the Valley.
  • Player of the Week—Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa—Ahelegbe has been the key cog in bringing Northern Iowa back into the MVC race.  He averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 assists and shot 61.1 percent from the field this week in the two Panther victories.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Jake Odum, Indiana State–The freshman has continued to impress as the leader on the court for the Sycamores.  He had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the three-overtime game against Wichita State.  His presence on the court will decide whether Indiana State continues to win games or not.

Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week’s rank)

  1. Missouri State (16-4) (8-1) (1)— Missouri State had a wide range of emotions this week.  First was the last second loss in Terre Haute against Indiana State, which carried over into the game with Creighton.  Missouri State was down the whole game by as many as 15 points until the final 11 minutes of the second half, where they fought back to steal the win against the Bluejays.  They get to face the state of Iowa this week by going to Drake and hosting Northern Iowa.
  2. Wichita State (16-4) (7-2) (2)— The Shockers have went through almost the same set of emotions, a bit of an emotional gut check.  The Shockers have had some problems defending home court in conference play after losing two straight against Missouri State and Northern Iowa.  They almost lost their third straight at home before winning in triple overtime against Indiana State.  This week they take a trip to Southern Illinois before hosting Bradley.
  3. Indiana State (12-8) (7-2) (3)— The Sycamores are the surprise team of the season which there always seems to be lately in the MVC.  Their six-day stretch of basketball was one to remember.  Indiana State had their biggest test of the season in games against Missouri State and Wichita State.  While being able to steal one against the Bears, They could not steal another one on the road at Wichita State.  Evansville comes to town this week and has been the only other team in the conference to beat Indiana State.  I’m sure Indiana State will be hungry for that one.   Then, a road trip to Creighton who may be looking for revenge against the Sycamores.
  4. Northern Iowa (14-6) (6-3) (4)— The Panthers have been able to fly under the radar for the most part and have snuck back into the race.  They have won six of their last seven games including wins at Wichita State and Drake last week.  They host Creighton and then go to Missouri State. If the Valley season has been any indication, don’t be surprised to see Northern Iowa sitting at the top of the conference standings by the end of the week.  Some are hoping that their Bracketbusters opponent will put up a better fight. 
  5. Creighton (13-8) (5-4) (5)— The Bluejays have had several opportunities slip through their fingers.  They came out on fire against Bradley but really struggled in the second half.  Creighton has had second half problems all season and that caught up to them again in Springfield when they could not hold a lead against Missouri State in the final minutes.  Creighton has now lost games against Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri State, and Indiana State on final possessions and  have had second half breakdowns against BYU, Northwestern, Missouri State, and Wichita State.  Creighton needs someone other than Antoine Young to be able to create plays in the backcourt.  The Bluejays is tougher than last year, but not tough enough.   
  6. Evansville (10-9) (4-5) (6)— The Aces have been average this season as their record indicates.  They lost against Southern Illinois but came back to beat Bradley. Pieter van Tongeren has improved for Evansville.  They head to Indiana State, who they have beaten already and have a quick turnaround for the return game against Southern Illinois
  7. Southern Illinois (10-10) (4-5) (7)—The Salukis are sitting in the position that the media picked them in to start the season, but they are getting better, just inconsistent.  They gave Illinois State their first conference win of the season which takes them back a couple of steps. The injury to Gene Teague really hurt them this season, but he has now returned to the lineup. They host the Shockers this week before hitting the road back to Evansville.
  8. Drake (8-12) (3-6) (8)— Drake is trying to see what they can do in preparation for next year since things have not turned out as they had hoped.  They did get a win against Illinois State to give them some confidence, but then laid an egg against Northern Iowa.   They get to play spoiler against Missouri State this week before heading to Illinois State.
  9. Illinois State (9-11) (1-8) (9)— The Redbirds got their first win in the conference against Southern Illinois which gives them a boost before their rival game against Bradley.  They hoped that year four under Tim Jankovich would not have turned out the way it has. 
  10. Bradley (6-14) (0-9) (10)— What else can you say about Bradley?  They played probably one of their best halves of basketball against Creighton in the second half on Wednesday night and tried to come back against Evansville, but were too far down to get a victory.  Andrew Warren continues to be a scoring machine for Bradley and unfortunately isn’t in the same breath of Jimmer Fredette due to the team’s struggles. 

A Look Ahead

The grueling conference season continues with several big games on the schedule this week.

  • 1/26—Creighton @ Northern Iowa (ESPNU)—Creighton has struggled with Northern Iowa in recent years, but a win here is needed by both teams to have a chance for the top of the league.   Greg McDermott returns to where his coaching career took off and brings his son who originally signed with Northern Iowa.  It will definitely be an interesting return.
  • 1/26—Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—The Shockers are trying to keep par with everyone else and winning on the road is always important, especially at SIU Arena.
  • 1/26—Illinois State @ Bradley (Local TV)—Both teams are the bottom dwellers in the league, but their rivalry is always fierce.  Jim Les’ job may be on the line for Bradley in this one.
  • 1/29—Indiana State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)—Indiana State doesn’t want to feel left out in the conference race and getting more wins against the teams like Creighton will help solidify the run they have had during conference season.
  • 1/30—Northern Iowa @ Missouri State (ESPNU)—If the cards fall right earlier in the week and Northern Iowa gets revenge for the conference opener in Cedar Falls that the Bears won, then the Panthers could be sitting at the top of the league after Sunday night.  The always adventurous Missouri Valley Conference.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.12.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 12th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Although the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer was granted an exception, tonight is the NCAA-mandated start of the college basketball season. Here are five games to keep an eye on this evening. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#18 Georgetown @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on Comcast-D.C. and WSKY Hampton Roads (VA) (****)

Georgetown & ODU Re-Convene a Solid Rivalry Tonight (WaPo/J. McDonnell)

 Perhaps the most anticipated game of the night features two teams starting a new era without their best players. Gone are Greg Monroe of Georgetown and Gerald Lee of Old Dominion, but each team returns its four other starters. Both teams are known for playing excellent defense and a slower tempo style, so tonight’s game figures to be in the 50s or low 60s as a consequence of that. Among the Georgetown returnees are Austin Freeman, the Big East preseason POY, and senior point guard Chris Wright. Freeman is a terrific all-around player and a major threat from the three-point line for the Hoyas. If you’re looking for a good indication of the final result during the game, look no further than the enigmatic Wright. In games where he scored ten points or less last year, Georgetown was just 3-7. When he had at least 11 points, the Hoyas were 20-3. In contrast to past Georgetown teams, this group of Hoyas will run their offense almost exclusively through their backcourt. Freeman, Wright and Jason Clark are arguably Georgetown’s best players and none of them happen to be taller than 6’3. That isn’t to say Georgetown has nobody up front. Julian Vaughn returns for his senior season after transferring from Florida State at the conclusion of his freshman year. Last year against Old Dominion, Vaughn had 13 points on 5-8 FG. Gerald Lee was saddled with foul trouble and thus a non-factor in the game (six points and only one rebound). With Lee now departed, Vaughn may have another good game in the paint for Georgetown. For the Monarchs of ODU, four starters return from a 27-win team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their key players in this game will be Frank Hassell battling inside with Vaughn, point guard Kent Bazemore and Ben Finney who had 13/6/5 assts the last time these teams met. That last meeting was on campus at Georgetown, a game won by the Monarchs. In fact, the visiting team has won every game in this series since it started in the 2006-07 season. Bazemore is an interesting player. He’s a lefty point guard (there are actually two other lefties on the ODU roster) who shot the exact same percentage from the floor and the free throw line last year (48.6%). For Blaine Taylor’s team, free throw and three-point shooting could cause major problems in this game, especially against a defense as tight as Georgetown’s. Keyon Carter is Old Dominion’s best returning three-point shooter and he only shot 34.7% from behind the arc last season. This should be a hard fought, close game that may come down to the final possession. Georgetown was a difficult team to prepare for last year as they had the talent to beat both NCAA finalists Duke and Butler, but also lost games to the likes of Ohio, Rutgers and South Florida. Good guard play and a solid effort from Vaughn should allow Georgetown to grab a nice road win to start the season. For ODU, Hassell must contain Vaughn while Finney and Bazemore have to hold their own against Georgetown’s vaunted backcourt. If Taylor’s team can hold the Georgetown backcourt in check, look for the Monarchs to pull out a win. We hate to go cliché but that’s easier said than done.

Northern Iowa @ #11 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

The last time Northern Iowa won a game, this happened. Times have changed as Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder have graduated. This is Kwadzo Ahelegbe’s team now. The senior averaged 10.6 PPG last season and now anchors a relatively young team. Against Syracuse’s strong 2-3 zone tonight, Northern Iowa must work the ball into the paint and free throw line area effectively. To do that, sophomore Jake Koch must start to become the impact player coach Ben Jacobson hopes he’ll be. Playing largely behind Eglseder last year, the Ashwaubenon, WI, native only played 13.6 minutes a game last year. He’ll be counted on for much more this time around, along with Johnny Moran and Lucas O’Rear. For UNI to win tonight the guards must be on fire shooting over the zone and Koch has to avoid foul trouble. The Panthers have nobody else on the roster 6’8 or taller who saw any significant action last season. Look for Syracuse to take advantage of that and eat Northern Iowa alive in the paint. The player most likely to do just that is freshman stud Fab Melo. At 7’0 and 265 lbs, Melo is a force inside for which UNI has no answer. You could see a really big freshman debut for Mr. Melo this evening. Syracuse just has too much up front for Northern Iowa to contend with. Rick Jackson, Melo and everybody’s favorite breakout candidate Kris Joseph should dominate at home for the Orange. The backcourt tandem of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine only adds to the ‘Cuse’s talent and depth (we haven’t even mentioned their bench). Both can play the point and shoot it well from the arc. All in all, Jim Boeheim’s club just has too much talent for Northern Iowa tonight. We’d be surprised if the final margin was less than ten points.

Oakland @ West Virginia – 9 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

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

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Upper Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Upper Midwest Region (MI, WI, MN, IA, NE, SD, ND)

  • Kalin Lucas – Sr, G – Michigan State.  Few elite players and certainly no other senior elite players will enter this season as more of an unknown quantity than Kalin Lucas. Coming off a solid junior season where he averaged 14.8 points and 4.0 assists per game, Lucas and the Spartans were poised for yet another run at the Final Four before a torn Achilles tendon in the second round against Maryland supposedly ended those hopes along with the possibility that Lucas might declare for the 2010 NBA Draft, already lacking in depth at the point guard position. We all know what happened instead (MSU rallied to yet another Final Four even without their starting point guard).  All indications point to Lucas having recovered from the untimely injury to near 100%, but we can’t help but wonder if his explosiveness, which already was a concern for NBA teams, might be compromised. Lucas is certainly fast enough when he gets going in the open court, but his first step has never been at the level of the other elite point guards he has been compared to and a potential reluctance to push off that torn left Achilles tendon may hinder that more. Despite the questions, Tom Izzo is certainly happy to have Lucas and his all-around skills and intangibles back in East Lansing—there are very few All-American point guards in BCS conferences that stick around for their senior season—and if Michigan State is going to make a push to yet another Final Four it will be Lucas who will again be the driving force. Having lost the enigmatic but explosive Raymar Morgan and equally enigmatic but troublesome Chris Allen, Izzo will expect Lucas to carry an increased offensive load while still distributing the ball to wings Durrell Summers and Draymond Green along with the talented Delvon Roe, who has yet to fulfill the promise he showed coming out of high school. If Lucas is able to meet those expectations, he could have a senior season much like one of his Spartan predecessors (Mateen Cleaves) that results in the Spartans cutting down the nets in Houston next April.

Lucas Returns For a Last Final Four Shot

  • Blake Hoffarber – Sr, G – Minnesota. Here’s the thing about Blake Hoffarber: he’s probably not the best player on this Minnesota team, maybe not even the third or fourth best player, but he is absolutely critical to their success, perhaps the most important player on the team in that regard. Guys like Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, Ralph Sampson, III, and Colton Iverson, are all probably more talented and more complete players than Hoffarber, but last year’s Golden Gopher results tell the tale of a team that succeeded when Hoffarber succeeded and failed when he failed. In the 15 games in which Hoffarber scored ten or more points last season, Minnesota went 13-2; in the remaining 20 games when he scored less than ten, they were 8-12. The lesson is simple: Hoffarber needs to score for this team to be successful. And given that Hoffarber’s offensive game is almost entirely predicated on hitting spot-up threes, maybe the true impact player here should be Joseph or Nolen, getting Hoffarber good looks on drive-and-dish. Or maybe it should be Sampson and Iverson for sucking in defenders in the post or kicking out offensive rebounds that eventually find their way into Hoffarber’s hands. But the point remains, Hoffarber needs to get and hit threes for the Gophers to be successful. His offensive numbers tell the story well, as last season Hoffarber was the most efficient offensive player in the nation, but only used 14% of all Gopher possessions when he was in the game. He scored a total of 351 points last season, 255 of which came from behind the arc (at an impressive 46% clip, leading to an effective field goal percentage of 67.3%, good for fourth in the nation). Of the remaining 96 points, 28 came from the line, meaning he scored just 34 hoops inside the arc, less than one point per game. Basically, Hoffarber is the very essence of a pure shooter – you really don’t need to worry about him going around anybody and the only open looks he’ll create for teammates is when he draws defenders to him at the line and rotates the ball around the arc. Sure, he contributes a handful of rebounds a game and rarely turns the ball over, he passes pretty well and is a decent if unspectacular defender, but when it comes right down to it, he’s “just a shooter” – one of the best in the nation upon whom the Golden Gophers’ chances depend, but in the end, still “just a shooter.”

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Morning Five: 10.20.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 20th, 2010

  1. We’re still not over the Robbie Hummel/ACL news from this past Saturday morning, but in the wake of that awful (re-)injury, the gents over at Fanhouse have put together their Costliest Injuries Team — “costly” signifying the delta between what each injured player’s team became and what they would likely have achieved were it not for the injury. If a list of injuries can be called a good list, this one’s comprehensiveness qualifies it as such. The only addition we’d make (you knew we’d have to chime in with something, right?) would be Kenny Smith’s broken wrist from 1984 which sucked all the air out of North Carolina’s title hopes after they had breezed to a 17-0 start (and it’s Curtis Sumpter, not Chris). 
  2. Because as a college basketball fan you can never have enough Gary Parrish in your life, here’s his list of Preseason All-America teams along with a Player of the Year selection that should get the Franklin Street crowd even more hyped for this season.
  3. We were impressed by the frank honesty from the article FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman posted soon after the Hummel news broke. Obviously the injury changes that Boilermaker team, but is Purdue really “in shambles” as the title suggests? In addition to what can indeed be seen on stat sheets, we know Hummel would have brought so much value that has nothing to do with what’s found in the box scores. But Purdue has the other two of its top three scorers returning in E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (the latter only 0.2 PPG behind Hummel from tying him as second scorer on the team last year), both of them second team All-Americans, according to Mr. Parrish above. They also have their best distributor (and best A/TO ratio by far) returning in Lewis Jackson (3.3 APG), a rising junior who’s only enhanced that skill over the summer. The loss of Hummel is terrible, but it’s not exactly a steaming pile of rubble they’re dealing with in West Lafayette.
  4. We love the confidence of Northern Iowa chief Ben Jacobson when asked about the 2010-11 edition of his Panthers in the wake of last season’s NCAA Tournament upset of Kansas and serious personnel losses due to graduation: “We’re going to be good.” UNI said goodbye to Jordan Eglseder, Sports Illustrated cover boy Ali Farokhmanesh, and Missouri Valley POY Adam Koch, but that hasn’t dashed hopes in Cedar Falls. The first order of business in following up last year’s success, according to senior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe? “It’s just about forgetting about it…What we’ve done lately is practice three times and work on defense. We didn’t go in and watch the Kansas game.” Lead on, Kwadzo.
  5. ESPN’s Dave Telep (how’s that look, Dave?) probably hasn’t finished unpacking his boxes in them new digs at the worldwide leader, but here he notes how the ever-increasing value of surehandedness at the 1-spot in today’s game hasn’t been lost on West Virginia, who landed two point guard prospects earlier this week in Ryan Boatright and Jabarie Hinds, the latter hailing from current Mountaineer forward Kevin Jones’ old high school near The Bronx. Boatright is ranked as the 6th-best PG and 36th player overall in the class of 2011; Hinds is the ranked 22nd among PGs but both are listed as “four-star” recruits.
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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.22.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)

  • Lower-seeded teams like Cornell, Washington, Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s advancing to the Sweet 16 surprised college basketball fans all over, but Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was not among them, saying that “there’s not a big gap” between teams in the tournament. Of course, he said that after winning by an average of 22.5 points in the first two games, but college basketball coaches never stretch the truth, right?
  • When junior forward Wesley Johnson visited Boeheim at the Syracuse campus to inquire about transferring, the hall-of-fame coach initially turned him down. Luckily for the Orange, he changed his mind.
  • With the big dog in the state back at home watching, the Kansas State Wildcats will be carrying the Sunflower State banner. The Wildcats beat up on their Sweet 16 opponent, Xavier, pretty good in early December in the Little Apple, but Fran Fraschilla says the Musketeers are a different team these days.
  • Pitt and head coach Jamie Dixon are in the unfamiliar position of having to watch the Regional Semifinal round, but the Panthers will be strong contenders heading into the 2010-11 season, when they are expected to return all of their key contributors except graduating senior guard Jermaine Dixon.
  • Gonzaga fans on the other hand will likely have to sweat out some key personnel decisions in the offseason, including the possibility that head coach Mark Few could leave and return to his alma mater, Oregon, to take over the program from recently fired Ernie Kent. With a sparkling new arena in Eugene and all the money that Nike can throw at him, this is undoubtedly the biggest run that another school has made at the popular and successful coach who has reportedly declined numerous other offers from big-name schools in the past. But, while point guard Matt Bouldin having played his last game in a Zag uniform and freshman forward Elias Harris a promising NBA prospect, some big changes could be coming to the recent prototype for mid-major success (no matter how much they despise the term).

Midwest Region Notes (Tom Hager)

  • If there was any question that Northern Iowa might suffer from a hangover after the upset over Kansas, the team did not even wait for Saturday night to end before already getting focused for the next round of games.
  • In addition to his ability to hit clutch shots, Ali Farokhmanesh has also been improving on the defensive end.  Although Kwadzo Ahelegbe usually covers the best guard each game, Farokhmanesh held Sherron Collins to 0-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
  • Joe Rexrode reminded fans today that although Michigan State will miss Kalin Lucas in their next game against UNI, it won’t be the first time the Spartans played shorthanded this year.  In addition to the injury Lucas suffered against Wisconsin, he was also suspended earlier in the season for disappointing Tom Izzo as the team’s leader.  Chris Allen was also suspended earlier this season, and Durrell Summers was benched for a walk-on.
  • As good as Evan Turner has been lately, the Bleacher Report’s Drew Gatewood points out that he turned the ball over nine times against Georgia Tech and had eight turnovers against UC-Santa Barbara.  With the Vols ranking #7 in defensive efficiency, Turner’s assignment may become even more difficult.
  • Although Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press may be getting ahead of himself, he says Tennessee is very close to the first Final Four in UT history.  According to Wiedmer, UNI has overachieved and Michigan State is banged up, so the OSU matchup could be the deciding game in who will advance to the national semifinals.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: First Round 03.18.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 18th, 2010

Best first flight of games ever?  It just might be.  Right now the Selection Committee are looking like a bunch of geniuses.  We have confidence in the second flight of games bringing some excitement, too.  We popped for the DirecTV package so we’ll be monitoring every game:

  • Ohio vs Georgetown
  • East Tennessee State vs Kentucky
  • Northern Iowa vs UNLV
  • Washington vs Marquette
  • San Diego State vs Tennessee
  • Wake Forest vs Texas
  • Lehigh vs Kansas
  • Montana vs New Mexico

After what we saw this afternoon, we suggest you join us for our live-blogging feature this evening.  Get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and by all means let us know in the comments section what you’re watching and how you’re celebrating this unofficial national holiday.  We’ll start at around 7 PM ET.  See you there!

7:00: That’s OK Hemogoblin.  Though scheduling a fantasy baseball draft TODAY??  Hmmm…  Anyway, Butler is polishing off UTEP in a game that is going to screw up a lot of brackets.  UTEP was a popular upset pick for the first round, and sometimes beyond.  Frankly, I expected more from Arnett Moutrie at the forward spot.  Zero points today.

7:30: OK, sorry there, folks.  Had a quick  dinner break, which I tried to time right so it would happen during the single-game interval.  Didn’t hit it.  We haven’t missed much.  Kentucky has started pretty hot against ETSU and UNLV has taken an early lead over Northern Iowa.

7:52: Kentucky is shooting 70% to start this game.  YEESH.  They’re already up 41-16 against ETSU.  At what point do you pull the starters to rest for the second game against either Wake or Texas?

7:58: Anyone want to wake up Georgetown?  The Armon Bassett/D.J. Cooper tandem has been quite effective for the Bobcats, so far a combined 6-12 and 15 of Ohio U.’s 33 points.

8:02: Goodness.  John Wall already has seven assists.  Let’s see what else is on…

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Breaking Down the Bracketbusters…

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Special to RushTheCourt.  Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!

The BracketBuster matchups are out, and as promised, RTC is here with some analysis of some of the top games!  Five Colonial Athletic Association teams lead the pack into these February weekend matchups. The Western Athletic Conference drew four bids and the Missouri Valley drew three.  One problem with the BracketBusters? Five of the television games will be on ESPNU, which of course means they’re not available on ESPN360.  However I’d say there are five games where you must, to quote another piece here, “quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live.”

Friday 2/19  (RPI)

Old Dominion (#46) @ Northern Iowa (#17)  – 7 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360

Get to Know Gerald Lee

The Monarchs will travel to Cedar Rapids to play where the Panthers have won every home game by an average of 14 points per game entering this week. 6’8 UNI senior Adam Koch is a tough-to-contain inside presence, scoring a team high 12.7 points per game. 6’10 ODU senior Gerald Lee will likely be assigned to the task of guarding Koch, an he has been a beast this year for the Monarchs, shooting 53% from the field and leading the team with 14.3 points per game. The matchup to watch in this game will be to see if Old Dominion can defend Koch on the inside while keeping their shooters, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 ppg) and Senior Ali Farokhmanesh (team high 42 3-pointers made), at bay. Both teams are first in their respective conferences in FG percentage defense at eerily similar numbers: Old Dominion’s 39.5% FG-defense is 21st while Northern Iowa’s 39.9% ranks 37th nationally. The Monarchs have had some defensive trouble lately, trying zones at Northeastern on Saturday when facing a team with similar size and offensive weapons as the Panthers, to give up a season high 59.5% field goal percentage. 

Saturday 2/20 (RPI)

Siena (#44) @ Butler (#19) – 11 am on ESPN2/ESPN360

The owner of the nation’s longest winning streak, Siena at thirteen straight, will go into an extremely tough environment at Butler in Saturday’s first Bracketbuster game. The Saints are led by 6’5 senior Edwin Ubiles and his 15.8 points per game as he makes his case for MAAC Player of the Year despite some lingering shoulder issues. Alex Franklin plays bigger than his 6’5 frame to lead the Saints down low with 16.1 points per game. On the other side, Butler’s Gordon Hayward has been a beast for the Bulldogs this year, scoring 16.1 points per game and tying a season-high 25 in Sunday’s comeback win over UW-Milwaukee. Hayward, a sophomore, is already attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack has scored 15 points per game and Matt Howard, when not in foul trouble, scores 11 points per game. Howard has been tough to defend inside, going off for 23 points in Butler’s nine-point loss to Minnesota, but has had issues with foul trouble, getting disqualified in three of the Bulldogs’ four losses. It will be interesting to see how Siena defends Hayward and Howard and how this veteran Saints team led by seniors Ubiles, Franklin and Ronald Moore can contain this explosive offense on the road.

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RTC Interview: Seth Davis On College Basketball, His New Show, & Fannovation

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2010

Last week, RTC spoke with Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS to talk about a variety of topics on college basketball and a new promotion for Coke Zero. This is not the first time we have spoken with Seth as we interviewed him last March for the launch of his book “When March Went Mad” about the 1979 championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Before the interview officially began, Seth expressed his displeasure about not getting linked every day in the Morning Five. We would give you the transcript of that discussion, but Chinese government regulations prohibit us from doing so.

Ed. Note: This interview took place last week, but due to some transcribing issues we are just putting it up now.

Seth Davis: Man of Intrigue

RTC: I guess we will start with your alma mater. Duke is looking strong again this year, but is different than they usually look as they are not relying on the outside shooting as much as a complete game. A lot of people have been talking up Duke. Do you think this is the year they can make it back to the Final Four?

SD: I do. I think they are legit. It’s kind of funny. Here they are ranked 5th or 6th in the country, putting together a great record, and there is not a lot of buzz about Duke right now. It’s funny to say that because they are so ubiquitous on television, but I think that we have all seen them get off to these great starts the past few years before they fall in the tournament. This team does things that those teams did not primarily defend and rebound. Those things are very important assets to carry into the tournament because at some point you are going to have an “off” shooting night and I think back for example to when they lost in the 2nd round to West Virginia. I think West Virginia was like +16 on the boards. At some point the shots aren’t going to fall. This team has the ability to overcome that so I don’t know from strictly a talent standpoint if I would put them on the Texas, Kentucky, and Kansas level, but do I think of them on a short list of contenders to get to the Final Four? Absolutely. I think by the way they will have a great chance of getting a #1 seed if they win the ACC regular season and then win the [ACC] tournament. I would be surprised if they aren’t a #1 seed.


RTC: Sticking with a US News & World Report College Rankings theme. Another team that has really made a lot of news this year is Cornell with a lot of close losses to very good teams, but that doesn’t impact their RPI and NCAA seeding as much as some people would think. How good is this team? How high do you think they could be seeded and how far could they go in the NCAA tournament?
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2009

seasonpreview

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. 

mvc-logo-2

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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NCAA Preview: Northern Iowa Panthers

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Northern Iowa (#12, West, Portland pod)
vs. Purdue (#5)
Thurs., 3/19 at 2:30 PM
Vegas Line: Northern Iowa, +8

General Profile
Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference, Automatic Bid
Coach: Ben Jacobson (3rd season), 59-37
08-09 Record: 23-10, 14-4
Last 12 Games: 8-4, 5 straight wins
Best Win: 57-51, Auburn, 11/29/08-Chicago Invitational
Worst Loss: 74-65, @, Wyoming, 12/13/08
Off. Efficiency Rating: 109.9, 57th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 98.9, 129th

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s):
Adam Koch, 12.3 pts./game, 5.1 rebounds /game and Kwadzo Ahelegbe, 10.3 pts./game, 3.2 assists/game
Unsung Hero: Ali Farokhmanesh, 73 3-pointers, 38% from three.
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): None
Key Injuries: None
Depth: 30.7% (177th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: The team is still pretty young. Only one Senior on the team.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: They get hot from 3
Will Make an Early Exit if…: They do not control the tempo

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 2005-06, First round exit (Wisconsin)
Streak: 1
Best NCAA Finish: 1989-90, 2nd round
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (minimum 8 appearances)

Other
Distance to First Round Site: 1,912 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: Kurt Warner, MVP quarterback for St. Louis Rams and most recently starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals in the past Super Bowl
School Wishes It Could Forget: Rick Hartzell. Rick was both Athletic Director and an NCAA referee at the same time he was at Northern Iowa. Since he left Northern Iowa, he is still an NCAA referee and now referees Missouri Valley Conference games except for ones involving Northern Iowa. Some question whether he should be involved in refereeing these games because of his former affiliation with UNI and how that could affect games that directly impact Northern Iowa.
Prediction: With the right matchup, this Northern Iowa team could be a real pain for a major conference team that just got in on the bubble. The guard play is tough and they can shoot from anywhere. With a 7 footer that can provide some inside play, they could have an inside/outside presence. They could probably get to the 2nd round, but not the Sweet 16.
Major RTC stories: N/A

Preview written by Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball

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