Ten Most Pivotal Moments of the 2013-14 Season

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 16th, 2014

Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many  Napier Clutch Shots

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots

  • 10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
  • 9. Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
  • 8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
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Wichita State Might Have the Necessary Tools to Reach Perfection

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 17th, 2014

“Play angry” became Wichita State’s motto on its fantastic run to last year’s Final Four. The motto has stuck this year and been a part of the longest winning streak and best start in school history. But last Saturday night the Shockers’ motto was more “play with fire” than anything else, as they survived an 18-point halftime deficit and raucous road atmosphere against Missouri State to stay unbeaten. Playing with fire is exactly what Wichita State will continue to do as the team attempts to post the first undefeated regular season since St. Joseph’s turned the trick in 2003-04. Wichita State passed its next test with a dominant home win over Bradley on Tuesday night, but not every game will be in the friendly confines of Koch Arena and against a team that came in having lost nine of 10. It’s not that the Shockers aren’t good enough to pull off a perfect regular season, but two axioms of the often wacky and unpredictable world of college basketball are: a) that it’s hard as hell to play on the road, and b) it sure isn’t easy to win them all. Last Saturday’s win in Springfield illustrated why a perfect season, even in a down conference, is so hard to achieve; but it also showed that Gregg Marshall’s Shockers could just have what it takes to make it happen.

Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker bottled up Missouri State in the second half of their overtime win (Wichita Eagle, www.kansas.com).

Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker bottled up Missouri State in the second half of their overtime win. (Wichita Eagle, www.kansas.com).

The recipe for the upset was in full swing against Wichita State last Saturday: a home team red-hot from the three-point line in front of a rabid crowd. The undefeated season talk had already slowly begun to gain steam, but this was the type of game that many predicted would prevent it from happening. Wichita State will, after all, be the the Super Bowl game for every Missouri Valley team this season. Yet the perfect record was still alive when the Shockers tipped off against Bradley, and in battling back against Missouri State, they showed that even if they run into a similar situation against Indiana State in Terre Haute or Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls (or anywhere else, for that matter), they have shown the ability to keep sneaking out road wins.

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AAC M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 19th, 2013

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  1. We weren’t the only folks who thought Memphis‘ effort Tuesday night was commendable. The Tigers played very well in a one-possession loss to almost-full-strength Florida and came back from multiple large deficits to make a game of it. Rob Dauster is right; this loss shouldn’t feed in to the “Memphis can’t win the big game” narrative because the Tigers are much better and tougher and experienced than they have been in the past. Their recruiting class outside of Austin Nichols has done little this season, but that hasn’t been a big deal because all of Memphis’ veterans are playing so well. Joe Jackson was terrific and he has outplayed expectations slightly this year as the leader of Josh Pastner’s band. The Tigers showed a lot of moxie in fighting back against one of the most athletic teams in the country and they proved they are a legitimate Top 25 team along the way.
  2. UConn was anxious to get back to work last night against Stanford after 12 days off and maybe the extended break wasn’t a good thing as the Huskies couldn’t shoot the ball at all in the second half as the Cardinal held on late for a two-point win. UConn’s high-wire act was bound to bite them at some point and Stanford is a good team, but it was still disappointing considering the Huskies led by as much as 13 in the game. Shabazz Napier had his worst game of the season offensively and neither Omar Calhoun nor Ryan Boatright picked up any of the slack. The Huskies need to shoot well to win and that unpredictability is why many still don’t consider them a true national title contender despite the fact that they have still only one loss. You’ve got to give uneasy credit to whomever put together UConn’s schedule this season, because things don’t get any easier when the Huskies cross the country this weekend to play at Washington.
  3. I agree and disagree with what Kevin Ware had to say about the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry being “old and boring.” The larger point he is making is true. The rivalry is about the fans more than anything else, and the media obviously overhypes it. The fringe of both fan bases is the closest thing to SEC football lunacy in college basketball and I’m not sure there have been more “that’s sounds like it could be true” rumors that have passed through the ether of the message boards. I am not complaining, it’s a fantastic rivalry to write about and watch, but I’m not buying Ware’s “most players aren’t from here” remarks. The players may hail from the Southwest or the Northeast but I just can’t believe that this game doesn’t mean more to them than any other non-conference game, and nearly all conference games as well. I will buy that players don’t hate each other as individuals, but they are competitors and they will be more hyped to play the Wildcats than they were to play Missouri State, even if they couch their quotes in feigned indifference.
  4. When Richard Pitino took the job at Minnesota, you just knew that father and son were going to find a way to play each other. Well now it’s happened sooner than most expected as the two teams will open next season on a military base in Puerto Rico and the Pitino family television pieces are already writing themselves. The two have played each other before when Louisville thumped Florida International last season, but the younger Pitino should have considerably more talent at his disposal in Minneapolis next season. Yeah, it is a little bit cheesy and the novelty will wear off eventually, but I am all for a little father-son rivalry, so maybe I will be secretly pulling for the Golden Gophers.
  5. Cincinnati’s offense this season can be best summed up by coach Mick Cronin explaining that he thought it was better in the team’s 44-43 win Tuesday over Pittsburgh because they rebounded more of their missed shots. Offensive rebounds are nice and all, but the Bearcats aren’t going to win a lot of games by fiercely grabbing offensive rebounds only to be followed by another missed jump shot. They aren’t exactly an offensive machine, but Cronin also hinted that some of his inexperienced players like Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas need to become more confident shooters. Of course it would also be nice if senior leader Justin Jackson played with some consistency too.
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How Shocking Would a Perfect Wichita State Regular Season Be?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 18th, 2013

Last March, they were college basketball’s flavor of the month. This season, the Wichita State Shockers may be spending more than just a few weeks as the taste of the town. With Tuesday night’s 72-67 victory over Alabama now in the books, there’s nothing but clear skies and smooth sailing ahead for Gregg Marshall’s team. Old MVC foil Creighton is now competing in the Big East, and with a concluding schedule that features just one current top-100 team, the prospects of a WSU perfect regular season may have just bounded over that line separating dreams from reality. The Shockers should be favorites, and usually heavy ones, in every one of its contests from here on out. But all that isn’t to say that Wichita State is likely to complete this monumental task. No historian is needed to examine the case of 2012 Murray State; those Racers could tell you how owning a loss-column “0” makes February wins that much more of a chore. Opposing teams play harder, their fans cheer louder, and all the while, the national spotlight grows ever brighter. So, no the job won’t be easy. But pair a tough, talented Shockers team with that manageable remaining schedule, and you at least give the laser-focused Marshall a shot at steering them through unblemished.

Gregg Marshall's Team Improved To 11-0 With A Win In Tuscaloosa Tuesday Night. Don't Hold Your Breath -- It Might Be Awhile Before The Shockers Perfect Beginning Ends.

Gregg Marshall’s Team Improved To 11-0 With A Win In Tuscaloosa Tuesday Night. Don’t Hold Your Breath — It Might Be Awhile Before Anyone Messes With The Shockers’ Perfect Start.

If Wichita State ends up being the last team chasing perfection, and Jameer Nelson and his 2004 St. Joe’s team also happens to take their cues from the 1972 Miami Dolphins, then here are the three dates that appear most primed for a Hawks’ champagne party.

January 11 at Missouri State

The Bears failed to show off on Tuesday night, losing 90-60 at Louisville, but they won’t be the last team this season to depart the Yum! Center humbled. Paul Lusk’s team is still 8-2 on the year, and with five eminently winnable games of their own before January 11, they could easily enter this Saturday night date with the Shockers laced with momentum. The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the MVC preseason poll and have done little wrong to this point, but this would stand as a significantly bigger upset than the two games listed below.

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AAC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 17th, 2013

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  1. Tonight is a big one for the AAC as two of the name-brand programs that will actually still be in the conference next season are playing in New York as part of the Jimmy V Classic. There are few stages at this point in the season that are bigger than the Jimmy V Classic and to represent half of this year’s field is a big deal. Both games are big tests for Memphis and Cincinnati but there is one team with a lot more at stake at Madison Square Garden — Mick Cronin’s Bearcats. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten anybody worth talking about and they were mildly embarrassed in the Crosstown Classic by Xavier over the weekend. We have harped on the Bearcats’ offensive struggles, but perhaps surprisingly, the team’s biggest issue is an apparent lack of toughness. I am still putting the finishing touches on my white paper Advanced Methods of Quantifying Toughness, so it’s easier to just say they weren’t great on either end of the floor against the Musketeers. Still, toughness is ostensibly supposed to be one of the Bearcats’ hallmark competencies and they didn’t do a great job on the glass or defending the three-point line, so it would probably help if they toughened up in those areas.
  2. As a college basketball fan, it would have been awesome to see Florida’s much-hyped freshman Chris Walker suit up for the Gators tonight, but I bet Memphis fans are breathing a sigh of relief. Well okay, so it wasn’t likely that Walker was going to light the world on fire, but Memphis only plays two real big men in Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin (and Florida already had a size and athleticism advantage to begin with). The game will obviously be competitive, but it will be especially interesting to see how the personnel decisions on both sides shake out. Memphis will want to play three guards and the Gators will probably want to rotate Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith at small forward — both of whom are too big and athletic for the Tigers’ guards. Josh Pastner is going to have to bring his A-Game to face a coach as good as Billy Donovan, and it will be fun to watch them match wits tonight.
  3. Although it will have no effect on the 2013-14 season, the news of UConn guard Rodney Purvis‘ shoulder surgery still made headlines on a slow news day. Purvis transferred from North Carolina State and is sitting out this year anyway, so it makes sense to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder now so he can be ready for next season. I know… fascinating stuff. But it gives us an excuse to talk about Purvis, a former McDonald’s All-American who started 23 games as a freshman for the Wolfpack. He transferred without much fanfare but he is an athletic 6’4″, 200-pounder, who scored in double figures in 12 games last season. Granted, most of those games came before conference play and he was a bit more inconsistent as the competition improved, but he will be expected to take on the lion’s share of the load Shabazz Napier leaves behind. I don’t really know how what I just wrote has anything to do with his impending surgery, but that’s fine. Just log those few sentences away for now and call me out when I self-plagiarize for an impact transfer preview for next season.
  4. The conference’s banner program will also be in action tonight as Louisville hosts Missouri State. The Bears aren’t the same mid-major headache they once were, but they are 8-1 on the season and their only loss was on a neutral floor to Virginia, so they will be dangerous. Head coach Rick Pitino is especially worried about their potent three-point shooting ability, and while he is overstating their offensive brilliance a bit, he would be wise to make sure his team defends the three-point line. In the end, there is little chance that Missouri State has enough defensive ability to hang with the Cardinals on the road, even if Louisville is still missing scoring point guard Chris Jones. The bottom line is that the Bears will probably make it interesting in the first half but Louisville has more than enough horses to pull away in the second 20 minutes.
  5. The South Florida Bulls play host to Dunk City tonight as Brett Comer, Chase Fieler and the rest of the Florida Gulf Coast will be in town for an intrastate match-up. Although they are probably the less recognizable team, the Bulls will play as the favorites as the Eagles are struggling to recapture the magic from last season and have lost three of their last four games. Of course they are still the more compelling storyline for ESPN.com and thus Myron Medcalf wrote a worthy profile of life after last season’s NCAA Tournament run that is worth reading. It’s not AAC news necessarily… or like …at all. But we are equal-opportunity providers and when we see a good story with some connection to the league, you better believe we are posting it.
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Night Line: Clarity Proves Ever Elusive in Wacky Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by BHayes on February 13th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Back in January, there was a time where we thought we actually knew what was going on in the Missouri Valley Conference. We were confident that Creighton was a top-10 team and that Wichita State was nearly as good as the Shockers of a year ago. Surely Illinois State had been exposed as a fraud, a once trendy sleeper pick to win the league before losing their first six conference games. And our early January convictions on Missouri State? Entering conference play without a D-I win, the Bears looked like one of the worst teams in the country, much less the Valley.

Jake Odum And Company Took A Loss Tuesday Night They Really Could Not Afford

Jake Odum And Company Took A Loss Tuesday Night That They Really Could Not Afford

Well, at least Evansville and Northern Iowa have avoided confusing us too much over the past month. The constantly evolving complexion of the conference took on yet another look Tuesday night, as Indiana State suffered a costly 67-65 loss at the hands of Missouri State. The Sycamores had been one of the league’s positive stories of late, as a recent surge had them entering Springfield as MVC co-leaders. If you are looking for narratives from the other side of the ledger, look no further than those of ISU’s fellow top-of-the-Valley dwellers, Creighton and Wichita State. The Bluejays have toiled through multiple losing streaks in the past month, and in what should be a daunting task, will take the floor at the McLeod Center tomorrow night seeking to avoid stretching their current losing streak to three. Wichita State can tell the Jays all about three-game losing streaks, as a mind-numbing loss to Southern Illinois highlighted the Shockers’ recent skid. Wichita and Creighton are still far closer to being in the field of 68 than out, but if current trajectories hold, it won’t be long before these losses become as crippling as Indiana State’s was tonight.

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It Wasn’t Easy, But Gregg Marshall Has Worked His Magic at Wichita State

Posted by dnspewak on January 24th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC contributor. He filed this report following Wednesday night’s Wichita State victory at Missouri State. 

On March 6, 2009, Gregg Marshall walked to the podium in the bowels of the Scottrade Center in St. Louis and delivered perhaps the most difficult postgame press conference of his career. Minutes earlier, Creighton’s Booker Woodfox banked in a jumper as time expired in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, even though replays showed a possible clock malfunction. Mass chaos all around. Reporters were interviewing the Missouri Valley commissioner in the hallway and demanding answers. The Shockers had heroically rallied from 22 points down, but this controversial shot sent them to the CBI.

Carl Hall Looks Like a Grown Man, Much Like The Rest Of His Team (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Carl Hall Looks Like a Grown Man, Much Like The Rest Of His Team. (Photo credit: AP Photo)

Marshall’s press conference got emotional right away. He told us how his young child was begging him to appeal to the commissioner’s office, pleading for something to be done to rectify the situation. There was nothing anybody could do. The Shockers lost the game, and in two seasons, Marshall’s record at Wichita State stood only at 28-37. He left Winthrop for this? Marshall had been the king of the Big South. He had qualified for seven NCAA Tournaments with the Eagles and thrashed Notre Dame in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Now, he was trying to re-establish himself and his style of play all over again in the tough-as-nails Missouri Valley. Mark Turgeon hadn’t exactly left him a perfect situation when Marshall had taken over in 2007, but this proud program with a rabid fan base was going to need to see some improvement. And soon.

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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2013

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Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • A Two-Team Race, Or Is It? Heading into last weekend, it looked to be a two team race between Creighton and Wichita State in the MVC. But don’t count Indiana State out of the mix. The Sycamores’ RPI is high right now and they have won three of their last four games. Also keep an eye out for Evansville, Bradley, and Northern Iowa to be a thorn in the contenders’ sides, hoping to score some upsets to keep things interesting. So far, the Bluejays and the Shockers have been able to mostly avoid those four teams, but Wichita State will play three of its next four games against Bradley, Indiana State and UNI. If you know anything about the Valley, anything can happen when two teams lace them up so this race is far from over yet.
Will Carl Hall's Return Keep Wichita State Atop The MVC?

Will Carl Hall’s Return Put Wichita State Over The Top? (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle)

  • McDermott Continues To Light It Up: Doug McDermott continues to impress the nation with some extraordinary numbers. Since the start of 1996-97 season, no player has averaged more than 20 points per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the three-point line for an entire season. The Creighton junior is currently averaging 24.1 points per game and shooting 52.5% from beyond the arc. In addition, he is averaging 28 points per game and shooting 59.5 percent from deep in five road games this season. His offensive efficiency has continued in the last three games by shooting 62% from the field, 72% from three and averaging a ridiculous 31.6 points per game. He has already scored 29 points or more in seven games this season. He is without question a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate.
  • Hall Returns With Fire: Wichita State’s Carl Hall had been out the last several weeks with a thumb injury. Of the injuries that the Shockers have suffered this season, losing Hall hurt the most. After missing the first six games of conference play, he returned this past week and he was ready to play. The senior only scored two points but grabbed 10 rebounds in a victory over Illinois State, but against Creighton, Hall added the scoring back to his game by going for 17 points and 13 rebounds (including six offensive) to lead the Shockers to a narrow victory. The only thing he needs to shake the rust from is his free throw shooting. Hall went 3-of-8 in the two games, including a 1-of-6 disaster against Creighton after starting the season 20-of-23. He may be the difference-maker that Wichita needs if the Shockers are to win an MVC championship.

Power Rankings (Overall, Conference, Last Week)

  1. Wichita State (17-2) (6-1) (2)–The Shockers sit in first right now based on their win over Creighton this past weekend. Do I think they are the better team? I guess I do for now. I will be watching to see how both Creighton and Wichita fare in their next games and how they react to last weekend’s result. Wichita State got a boost from the return of Hall to help offset his 8-of-20 shooting from the three-point line against the Bluejays. Their rebounding has been outstanding, out-boarding their opponent in each conference game this season. They are grabbing almost nine more boards each game than their opponent. Wichita State is now #14 in the RPI and is 6-1 against the top 100 and 3-0 versus the top 50.  Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO…the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2013

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Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • MVC Race Already Heating Up–What a wild first week in Missouri Valley Conference play. Creighton, as expected is sitting at 3-0. Gregg Marshall doesn’t get enough credit for reloading Wichita State and the Shockers are at 3-0 as well. After that, things get really interesting. Indiana State, Evansville, Bradley and Missouri State are all sitting at 2-1. None of those four teams were mentioned in the top echelon at the start of the season, but each of them have wins over others that weren’t expected. The biggest surprises are Northern Iowa sitting at 1-2 and Illinois State sitting at 0-3. The Panthers were expected to be a sleeper in the league this year, but after a tough non-conference slate where they did not win as much as they had hoped, they started off MVC play at 0-2 before defeating Illinois State on Saturday. The Redbirds were expected to be league contenders along with Creighton, but they have had a lot of things go wrong for them this season. While it is still early, some of these situations may build upon themselves making for another crazy season. What it may hurt in the long run, though, are the number of NCAA bids come March.
Illinois State Has Pulled a Disappearing Act This Season

Illinois State Has Pulled a Disappearing Act This Season

  • McDermott Still Reaping Rewards–Doug McDermott has been playing very well since Thanksgiving. As a result, he has continued to be recognized for his talent. He received the Lute Olson Midseason Player of the Year award, and ESPN recognized him as its Player of the Month in December. He’s third in the country in scoring at 23.1 points per game, is averaging 7.3 boards per contest, and is shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc. Those are numbers that are hard to ignore. Through his first three conference games, McDermott has also averaged 23 points a game while fighting off sickness over the past two games. He is on the verge of carrying Creighton on his shoulders, but luckily he has not had to since the Bluejays have been pretty balanced and different players have stepped up when needed. He should remain in the National Player of the Year conversation throughout, but it may become tougher to put up the same outstanding numbers in conference play that he did in the non-conference season.
  • Drugs Become Problem–A few weeks ago, Illinois State’s Geoffrey Allen was indefinitely suspended from the team and was soon after arrested for trying to sell marijuana. The newest incident involving drugs now surrounds Bradley’s Will Egolf. The sixth-year center was arrested as the year rolled over to 2013, accused of possession of a controlled substance. It turns out that he was purchasing Vicodin to help him manage the pain resulting from knee injuries he has suffered over the past few years. Those knee injuries ultimately allowed him to gain a sixth year of eligibility. He did not make the trip to Wichita this past weekend and it now appears that he will be suspended for a minimum of three games, but this transgression could ultimately end his career. These two incidents should raise a red flag to other MVC schools to remain vigilant and aware of what their players are doing and what may be affecting their play. I hope this doesn’t become a trend because it sort of gives the league a black eye.

Reader’s Take 

 

Power Rankings (conference record and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (14-1) (3-0) (1)–If you don’t know by now, Creighton is not just a one-man show with Doug McDermott. McDermott sat on the bench during a key stretch in the second half against Indiana State and the Bluejays were able to come back from a deficit and take a lead with the play of Gregory Echenique and Ethan Wragge. Avery Dingman has stepped up with the loss of Josh Jones and everyone is doing their part to contribute to the Bluejays success. Probably the biggest development has been the play of Austin Chatman who took over the point guard duties this season. In the first three conference games, Chatman has 21 assists to only 6 turnovers. A 3.5/1 assist-turnover ratio is pretty good. Read the rest of this entry »
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Who Won the Week: Duke, UC Irvine and Texas (sorta) …

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 21st, 2012

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Duke

Mason Plumlee has led Duke in rebounding 10 times in 11 games as the Blue Devils are 11-0 while ranked third in strength of schedule. (AP Photo)

Mason Plumlee has led Duke in rebounding 10 times in 11 games as the Blue Devils are 11-0 while ranked third in strength of schedule. (AP Photo)

The week couldn’t have gone much more perfectly for the Blue Devils than it did. Achieve top ranking? Check. Land a top recruit? Check. Win both games handily? Check and check. Yes, Duke should probably send some flowers to Butler for knocking off preseason favorite Indiana, but who would have looked at the two teams before Saturday and thought the Hoosiers were better? Outside of the state of Indiana, I’m guessing few would. The Blue Devils (11-0) have the nation’s best body of work, and have dominated it in such a fashion that they look to be the nation’s top team convincingly, and this is before prized prospect Jabari Parker picked Mike Krzyzewski’s squad over Michigan State and BYU. On the court, Mason Plumlee, who has led Duke in rebounding 10 times so far, carried his team to an 88-47 win over Cornell with 18 points and nine rebounds Wednesday and followed that up the next night with 21 points and 15 boards in a 76-54 win over Elon. And as an added bonus, the youngest Plumlee, freshman Marshall, already made a brief return to the court against Cornell coming back from a foot injury.

(Related winners: Mason Plumlee, Butler. Related losers: Indiana, Michigan State, BYU, Cornell, Elon, and especially North Carolina – more to come.)

LOSER: Eastern Kentucky

The Ohio Valley’s Colonels started their season off hot, winning nine straight games before a weekend matchup at also-undefeated Illinois. The major-conference team expectedly pulled Eastern Kentucky apart, winning 66-53, but it was what happened next that wrapped up a bad week in Richmond, Ky. On a rare road trip to a MEAC school, the Colonels were tripped up by North Carolina A&T, who pounded the ball inside while shooting 55 percent from the field and stifling Eastern Kentucky’s guard-oriented offense by holding it to 40 percent shooting. The Bulldogs also nearly doubled up the Colonels on the glass, sealing the game. So much for a hot start.

(Related winners: North Carolina A&T, the 457 Bulldogs fans who watched the game in person. Related losers: Murray State and the Ohio Valley Conference, which both need every break they can get come March.)

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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2012

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Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • Realignment May Finally Hit the MVCSince 1995, only the Missouri Valley Conference and the Ivy league have not been affected by conference realignment. That may change soon depending on what happens with the seven catholic schools that are breaking away from the Big East. A lot of overtures to an “All-Catholic” league have been on peoples’ wish lists for some time, but many thought that it could never become a reality. Now with these teams looking to start their own league, they need more members. It seems natural that Creighton would be on that list. A lot of scrambling and rumors have led some to believe that Evansville was also looking to head to the Horizon league. While this speculation has been squashed by both Creighton and Evansville officials, you would have to think that if this new league gets big enough, that the Bluejays would be in the mix. The panic button hasn’t been hit yet, but every school in the Valley should have a backup plan just in case the league loses one or more members.
A thumb injury to Carl Hall reduces the margin of error for Wichita State.

Wichita State’s New Year’s resolution is to get Carl Hall healthy again.

  • Losses to Top Teams–Wichita State lost to Tennessee last week, but it wasn’t until the practice after that game when they lost Carl Hall to a hand injury that will keep him out of action for a month. Hall has been the steady force for the Shockers while they implement a slew of new players into the mix this season. With the Valley grind so close to its arrival, they will need Hall’s presence and leadership to get on the right foot as conference play gets started. Making matters worse, freshman guard Ron Baker will be sidelined for at least six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. Baker isn’t as important a player as Hall, but it leaves a 25 minute-per-game gap that will need to be filled as well. Creighton also lost a key player for an undetermined time with guard Josh Jones. Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska on December 6. An atrial flutter in his heart has sidelined the Bluejays’ sixth man for at least a month. He will have a procedure performed and could be cleared again at some point, but it is hard to tell whether he will be able to come back or if he even would want to. His energy and smile is infectious and his performance on the court, like an 18-point outburst against UAB earlier this season, will be missed and may raise some questions about Creighton’s depth.  For Illinois State, they make the news in the wrong way with Geoffrey Allen first being suspended from the team and then arrested for selling marijuana.  Although Allen didn’t play much this season, news like this can be a distraction to the team as it moves forward.
  • Surprise of the Non-conference Season–The MVC has been full of surprises this season, including the notion that Bradley and Southern Illinois look ahead of schedule. Bradley’s second year under Geno Ford appears to be on the right track as the Braves have been able to get some nice wins on the road, something that they had trouble doing the past few seasons. If they can win out in the non-conference season, they could look better than some of the other teams that were expected to be ahead of them.  For the Salukis, Barry Hinson put together a schedule that could definitely give a troubled team a big confidence boost. Southern Illinois won’t win any strength of schedule contests, but they have been playing together, winning close games, and even getting some road wins. They both will finish the non-conference season with .500 records or better. The current bottom third of the conference — Indiana State, Drake, and Missouri State — are a bit of a surprise in that they are on the opposite end of things right now. The biggest disappointment has to be Missouri State. The Bears are 0-8 against Division I competition as a result of a lot of injuries. With the road they are going down, they could head into conference play still looking for that first D-I win.

Power Rankings (current record and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (10-1) (1)–The Bluejays keep winning and are coming off of a trip to California where they didn’t have the best night of shooting but were still able to come out with a double-figure victory. In all of Creighton’s wins this season, they have had a winning margin by 10 or more points. Doug McDermott continues his spectacular play as of late and has the nation’s best scoring average per 40 minutes over the past two seasons  at 29.3 points per game. He has had back-to-back 30-point games, which is a first for Creighton in more than 20 years. Creighton is 8-1 against power conference teams over the past two seasons. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • McDermott Looking Like Last Season – If you have been watching any Creighton games this season, it might have seemed that Doug McDermott was starting out a little slowly compared to last season. That may have been expected as more teams have started to regularly double- or even triple-team the All-American. However, it may also have been related to the time he took off in the summer to take a break from hoops more than anything. Over the past three games, McDermott has scored 80 points since the Bluejays’ home loss to Boise State. In the past four games, he has shot 17-of-24 from three-point range, and he is now fifth in the nation in scoring  (22.7 PPG) and shooting 52.3% from the three-point line. Right now his minutes per game are running below last season’s as well. Teams will have to decide to pick their poison against McDermott with his skill set both inside or outside. If he continues this torrid pace, it will be hard to deny him strong consideration for eventual National Player of the Year honors.

There’s no denying that Doug McDermott is in one of his patented grooves.

  • Still Undefeated — Wichita State is still one of only 14 teams in Division I that is still undefeated. Sitting at 9-0, the Shockers are off to their best start in school history. They have never started the season at 10-0, but will have the chance on Thursday night against Tennessee. With all of the holes that Gregg Marshall has had to replace going into this season, it is quite an accomplishment for his team to be off to this great of a start. Whether it is still figuring out the lineup or the depth they are developing, nine players are averaging 14 minutes or more of playing time a game. At the same time, they are dominating opponents with only two games within single digits (VCU & Air Force). Against the rest of their opponents, they have won by an average of 18 points per contest.
  • Who is Next? — Creighton and Wichita State look to be at the top of their games right now. But really, who is next in the MVC pecking order? The rest of the league has been pretty inconsistent so far as we head into the final two weeks of non-conference play. Fortunately for Illinois State, it is sitting at a solid third due to the schedule it has played, putting it at #45 in the RPI. Amazingly enough, Southern Illinois is sitting at fourth with an RPI of #113. Northern Iowa, despite playing in the stacked Battle 4 Atlantis is sitting 7th in the league with an RPI of #182. By going 0-3 in that tournament, it has been a deep hole that the Panthers have had to get out of. As a league, the MVC is the ninth best conference in the nation, just ahead of the West Coast Conference. These next couple of weeks will hopefully separate some teams in the conference and that can lead into momentum entering conference play to help keep the RPI up.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (9-1) – Since losing to Boise State on November 28, the Bluejays went on a rampage against their past three opponents — St. Joseph’s, Nebraska and Akron — to a win margin of at least 16 points or more. It has started with the play on the defensive side of things limiting opponents from getting open looks from three as well as hedging off ball screens a lot better. We all know about McDermott, but Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman have been distributing and holding onto the ball efficiently. Gibbs has had 27 assists and one turnover and Chatman with 13 assists and 4 turnovers during this three game stretch. Gibbs for the season has a ridiculous 7.3/1 assist turnover ratio for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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