Missouri Valley Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

 

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

PRESEASON vs. ACTUAL RESULTS

As you can see from the preseason predictions I made on the Missouri Valley conference back in October versus how things ended up, the MVC turned out to be difficult to predict this year as none of the teams performed as expected other than Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

I originally was not sold on the Panthers, but as the season wore on, I could see the cohesiveness and all the little things this group of players do to win games.  Even with the suspension of Jordan Eglseder in three of the final four games, they were able to rally for the most part and continue their dominance in the Valley.  Wichita State may have surprised some, but the Shockers appear to be back in the Valley picture after a few year absence from relevance.  The work Gregg Marshall has done to build this team back up from scratch has paid off.  The question now is whether it is enough to get to an NCAA Tournament postseason.

HELLO SAINT LOUIS

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament will take place this coming week at the Scottrade Center in downtown Saint Louis.  Rush the Court will be live in St. Louis this week to keep you updated on the things going on at Arch Madness.  Here is how the bracket shapes up:

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

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

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Northern Iowa  24-3  (14-2) (1)
  2. Wichita State 22-7 (11-5) (2)
  3. Illinois State  20-8 (10-6) (3)
  4. Creighton  14-14 (8-8)  (4)
  5. Bradley  14-13 (8-8) (5)
  6. Indiana State  16-12 (8-8) (6)
  7. Missouri State  18-10 (7-9) (7)
  8. Drake  13-16 (7-9)  (8)
  9. Southern Illinois   15-12 (6-10) (9)
  10. Evansville 7-20 (1-15) (10)  

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Bracketbusters Dominance—The Missouri Valley Conference had a nice showing in Bracketbusters this past weekend, going 7-3 against the competition and  2-1 in televised games.  Northern Iowa had all eyes watching them Friday night to kick off Bracketbusters as they dominated Old Dominion from the Colonial.    On Saturday, Missouri State came from behind to knock off Nevada, however in the nightcap, Wichita State got down early and was not able to  make up the difference in the loss to Utah State.             

More Suspensions in Valley- First it was Nick Evans from Southern Illinois (who eventually left school), P’Allen Stinnett from Creighton, and Jordan Eglseder from Northern Iowa with suspensions.  Now for the third time this season, Taylor Brown from Bradley is serving a suspension from the Braves.  This time it is over some Tweets he made that did not fit into the standards required by head coach Jim Less with respect to social networking.

Last Week of Regular Season—This will be the last week of regular season games in the Valley.  But surprisingly enough, there are still several seeding implications that could occur.  There are enough scenarios that could put Indiana State as high as a #3 seed and Illinois State as low as a #6 seed.  A resident Valley expert has all the likely scenarios laid out for this week.

SEEDING THINGS OUT

As we go into the final week of the MVC regular season, teams are still trying to seed themselves for the conference tourney in St. Louis the first week of March.  Let’s see where everyone stands right now.

  • Northern Iowa (2-0 this week)—Northern Iowa still appears to be the class of the Valley this season.  With their wins over Creighton and Old Dominion this week, they actually appeared to play better without the suspended Jordan Eglseder.   Lucas O’Rear has taken over the starting spot during the suspension and his toughness has been enough to help carry the Panthers.  Here is life as a Panther fan.  They finish out the season  this week against Evansville and Illinois State.
  • Wichita State (1-1 this week)—The Shockers are starting to falter down the stretch.  After almost losing against Evansville for the second time in a week and some questionable columns by the local beat writers, Wichita State fell to Utah State on the road in Bracketbusters.  Any chance of an at-large look is pretty much out the window for them with their non-conference schedule coming back to haunt them.  They need to finish strong against Bradley and Southern Illinois to hold on to their second place position.
  • Illinois State  (2-0 this week, won 6 of last 7)—Breathing down the neck of the Shockers is Illinois State.  The Redbirds are on a roll this week after defeating Missouri State and Morehead State.  Their current winning streak is at five and they are finding ways to win games.  One interesting stat to note— Osiris Eldridge and Dinma Odiakosa are trying to become the first players from the same team to win the league’s scoring and rebounding titles since 1992.  This could be a big week for Illinois State as they close out the regular season against conference champs Northern Iowa.   It could be a preview of the  MVC tournament finals.
  • Creighton  (1-1 this week) – Between the game against Northern Iowa at the beginning of the week and against Loyola-Chicago in the Bracketbusters, the Bluejays looked like two totally different teams.  They were torched in Cedar Falls against Northern Iowa before returning home to pull away from Loyola-Chicago.  Center Kenny Lawson has now hit 2 of 3 three-point attempts in the last two games, his first three pointers in his career.  Creighton tries to stay above .500 as they finish against rival Southern Illinois and have senior day against Bradley. 
  • Bradley (1-1 this week)—The Braves started the week with a loss at Indiana State before defeating Drexel for their Bracketbuster matchup.  Without Taylor Brown, the Braves went with a zone defense for the whole game.  Again the Braves will not finish in the top three in the conference.  The question is, will Jim Les ever take them to the top of the league much less take them back to the NCAA Tourney?
  • Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores have been up and down lately.  They have no problems winning at home, but like the rest of the Valley, have a hard time winning on the road.  But they are keeping their head afloat  with eight active players on the roster and could get a good matchup in the MVC tourney if they can beat Illinois State and Missouri State this week. 
  • Missouri State (1-1 this week)—Missouri State ran out of gas against Illinois State this week but then in front of a nationally televised audience came back from being five points down late to beat Nevada in Bracketbusters.   Head Coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t mind the WAC referee crew that came in for that game.  Heck, they might be better than the referees that normally do Valley games in my mind.  Drake and Indiana State are on the menu this week for the Bears and are both very winnable games.  Really with how this team ended up doing this season, it is too bad Cuonzo Martin probably won’t win Valley Coach of the Year honors. 
  • Drake (2-0 this week)— Mark Phelps is working to get the Bulldogs to finish strong.    They win the time-zone award this week as they went out to Cal State-Northridge for their Bracketbusters game and walked away with a win.  Missouri State and Evansville are on the slate this week.  How they finish the season here could go a long way for next season.
  • Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)— The Salukis are about to end their season with a losing record for the second consecutive season.  Many are wondering if there will be a any shakeups during the offseason and whether the recruiting class that was so hyped up two seasons ago is now a bust.  Southern Illinois is a shell of its former self and I see that there needs to be some type of change during this offseason if Chris Lowery expects to get another pass.  Or he may take off for another coaching opportunity. Firing Lowery probably won’t solve many problems.   A lot of questions without many answers.  They will try to feel a little better about themselves if they can get a win against Creighton this week before heading to Wichita State to finish the regular season. 
  • Evansville (0-2 this week)—The Purple Aces are building themselves up to prepare for next season.  They almost pulled off another stunning upset against Wichita State and just missed out on Illinois-Chicago.  Games like this will probably prepare them for next season when they can start over.   Speaking of starting over, Kaylon Williams, who transferred from Evansville after last season is now opening up the recruiting race as he finishes up junior college.   After losing 17 of their last 18 games, Evansville has two more chances for another win this week against Northern Iowa and Drake. 

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

Catch the Valley during the last week of the regular season as the top teams in the Valley get one more showcase to the nation.

  • 2/23, Creighton @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—Both with down seasons, but still rivals.  SIU tries to avenge being destroyed at home a year ago by the Bluejays. 
  • 2/24, Wichita State @ Bradley (Local TV)—Bradley is trying to get a different seed.  Wichita State tries to keep theirs.
  • 2/27, Illinois State @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—This game was chosen as the “Wildcard” game by ESPN.  Northern Iowa hopes they don’t meet the Redibirds in the MVC Tournament.
  • 2/27, Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—A telling sign of the way the MVC has been gradually been flipped over.  Wichita sitting in the top part of the league while the Salukis head for their second consecutive losing season. 
  • 2/28, Bradley @ Creighton (Local TV)—This is always an entertaining game.  Two seasons ago Cavel Witter went off for 42 points in a crazy game.  It is his Senior day, how does he finish his career at Creighton? 
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

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

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

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

TEAM BREAKDOWNS

CRUISE CONTOL

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

BUMPY HIGHWAY FOR  2nd-9th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLEW A TIRE AND ENGINE BROKE DOWN

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

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

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

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

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2010

Current Records and my standings, (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Northern Iowa  19-2  (10-1) (1)
  2. Wichita State 19-4 (8-3) (2)
  3. Illinois State  15-7 (6-5) (3)
  4. Drake  11-12 (6-5)  (4)
  5. Creighton  11-11 (6-5)  (6)
  6. Missouri State  15-7 (5-6) (7)
  7. Indiana State  13-9 (5-6) (9)
  8. Bradley  10-11 (5-6) (5)
  9. Southern Illinois   12-9 (4-7) (8)
  10. Evansville 6-15 (0-11) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Northern Iowa wrapping things up—The Panthers are sitting pretty at 10-1 in the conference and survived a threat from Missouri State this weekend.  Northern Iowa’s ability to hang on and finish games will make them a tough out.  As they head into February, they are setting themselves up for an at-large bid to the Big Dance whether they win the conference tourney or not.  Keep an eye on this team down the stretch.  Many coaches in the Valley feel they will be a multiple bid league this season.

Bracketbusters pairings announced this week—Once again for the 8th year, the made for TV Bracketbusters event is ready to be promoted throughout this month leading up to Bracketbuster Saturday on February 19th.  Out of the 98 teams in the event this season, 22 teams will get on TV and those pairings will be announced this week.  Here are some predictions and here are some others.

P’Allen Stinnett Suspended indefinitely—Big news this week was the announcement by Dana Altman of the Creighton Bluejays that P’Allen Stinnett has been suspended from the team indefinitely.  Stinnett was highly regarded as a freshman and made an impact early with 23 points in the second half off the bench in his first collegiate game against Depaul to bring Creighton back to victory.  Over the past couple of seasons, Stinnett’s stats have leveled out and has had problems holding in his emotions, gathering nine technical fouls (including one this week against Missouri State in where he “felt like he needed a T”)  in two and a half seasons.  There has been no explanation on how long he has been suspended and if he will eventually return to the team.

Free throw shooting Valley—The Missouri Valley conference is pretty stable at the free throw line.  Four MVC teams are in the top 20 in the nation at the stripe. Indiana State (76.7%) is fifth, followed by Wichita State in eighth (75.5%), Drake at 13th (75.1%), and Missouri State in 19th (74.8%).

SEPARATING THEMSELVES

Northern Iowa (2-0 this week)— As mentioned above, Northern Iowa is just cruising through the league getting victories against in-state rival Drake and then surviving down in Springfield against Missouri State.  They are eagerly anticipating their Bracketbusters opponent which some say could be Old Dominion, while others are saying Louisiana Tech.  They hope to return a favor to Wichita State this week as they host the Shockers who have been the ones to defeat the Panthers so far in the conference season.  They will also host a struggling Southern Illinois team.

Wichita State (1-0 this week)—The Shockers are trying to keep pace with Northern Iowa by getting victories over Illinois State and Southern Illinois.   Wichita hopes to have a chance at the league title by trying to beat Northern Iowa for the second time this season.  But it will be a lot tougher on the road.   They do not want to be like the 2004-05 team down the stretch.  The Sycamores of Indiana State will be visiting Koch Arena this week as well.  It is very likely the Shockers will be one of the Bracketbuster TV games.

MEDIOCRE AT BEST

Illinois State  (1-1 this week)— The Redbirds are one of several Valley teams that cannot seem to find consistency, causing a huge logjam in the middle of the conference.  They missed an opportunity to move up the ladder by losing to Wichita State earlier in the week, but then just completely demolished in-state rival Bradley this past weekend.  If the Redbirds are to be a factor, they need someone else other than Osiris Eldridge to be on the court making plays and that guy is Lloyd Phillips.  They hope the momentum gained from the Bradley win will take them to victories against Indiana State and Drake this week.

Missouri State (1-1 this week)—Missouri State lost a couple close contests this week against Creighton and split seconds from taking down Northern Iowa.  The Bears are now sitting on the outside looking in on the conference race.   They are the top scoring team in the league, but last in scoring defense.   It will not be any easier for them as they will take on conference stalwarts Southern Illinois and Creighton this week.

Drake (1-1 this week)—Drake is a bit of a surprise in the conference.  After losing their first four conference games, they have reeled off six wins in their last seven games and are coming together quite well as a team.  Against Creighton, they had their largest crowd of the yearJosh Young will become Drake’s all-time leading scorer before the season is over.  They will be tested on the road this week at Bradley and Illinois State.  They get two wins this week, and this will be the Valley turnaround of the year.

Creighton  (1-1 this week)—With the suspension of P’Allen Stinnett, the Bluejays overcame some adversity to get the win in Peoria.  But the additional loss of Darryl Ashford for the  game at Drake was a little too much. Stinnett had this to say to the Omaha World Herald in a text message. “I need to find some way to play hard and channel my emotions in a positive way. I apologize to Creighton, to my team and my coaching staff in my failure to represent the university with the respect and attitude that I should.”  Creighton tries to stay alive with games against Evansville and a trip to Missouri State this week.

Indiana State (2-0 this week)—Subject to streakiness, the Sycamores have been one of the more confusing teams in the conference.  This week they won two games against Southern Illinois and Evansville breaking a 5-game losing streak tradition that they seem to have every season at some point in the conference season.   That probably means they will go 0-2 against Wichita State and Illinois State.

MAKING AN APPEARANCE

Southern Illinois (1-2 this week)—Southern Illinois started a three game week by getting an out of conference visit by Western Kentucky which they won and thought they were turning a corner, but then they could not get by Indiana State and lost to Wichita State at home.  Could Creighton and Southern Illinois both finish with a losing record and at the bottom of the conference?  That could be a possibility.  With Missouri State and Northern Iowa on the slate this week, Southern Illinois has a lot to worry about.

Bradley (0-2 this week) – At the beginning of the season, I saw Jim Les squarely on the hot seat and many people including Bradley fans couldn’t believe I would say that.  But how do things look now in Peoria?  First they come out cold against Creighton starting the game 2-17 from the field, and although they came back, it was not enough to get the win.  Then they travelled along I-76 to take on rival Illinois State and were basically run out of the gym.  They could look on the bright side, but I don’t know if it will help.  It will be interesting how they do against a surging Drake and really down Evansville team this week.

Evansville (0-2 this week, 12 game losing streak)—The Aces are working hard, and they keep games fairly close, as evidenced by losses against Missouri State and Indiana State this past week, but they just cannot get a win.  Injuries are not a concern — the team’s all healthy.   A visit to Creighton and at home against Bradley are on the slate this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are able to pick up a win against the Braves.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The battle for the middle of the pack and staying out of Thursday in St. Louis continues this week

  • 2/3, Wichita State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV in both markets)—Wichita’s last chance to make a run at UNI for the conference championship. Too bad this game isn’t available to a wider audience.
  • 2/6,  Creighton @ Missouri State (Local TV in Omaha)—Both teams need a win badly.
  • 2/6,  Drake @ Illinois State (Local TV in Illinois)—Drake is on a roll but a win here would really be a surprise.   The Redbirds, on the other hand, still want to be in the running and talked about.
  • 2/6, Southern Illinois @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—The Panthers aren’t the flashiest team in the world, but they find ways to win.  The Salukis are not the Salukis of old.
  • 2/6, Bradley @ Evansville (Fox Sports Net)—Interesting in that it’s a chance for Evansville to get their first conference win of the season.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2010

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

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week):

  1. Northern Iowa  16-1  (7-0) (1)
  2. Wichita State 14-3 (5-2) (2)
  3. Illinois State  13-5 (4-3) (4)
  4. Creighton  9-9 (4-3)  (8)
  5. Missouri State  13-5 (3-4) (3)
  6. Bradley  8-9 (3-4) (6)
  7. Indiana State  11-7 (3-4) (5)
  8. Drake  8-11 (3-4)  (9)
  9. Southern Illinois   10-6 (3-4) (7)
  10. Evansville 6-10 (0-7) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Big Game Week—Have your TVs tuned to ESPNU on Tuesday night as the top two teams in the conference have their first matchup of the season.  Northern Iowa  tries to take another road game in conference play, having already won at some of the toughest places in the conference—Southern Illinois, Creighton and Illinois State.  They will try to conquer probably the loudest and rowdiest crowd at Wichita State.    On the other side of the coin, Creighton and Illinois State who are tied right now for third in the conference will also be playing each other on Tuesday night.  If Northern Iowa wins Tuesday night, it looks like things will be coming down to a fight for second place in the conference, as UNI could run away with the Valley — and we are not yet into February.

Missouri State starting to slide—The Bears were the talk of the conference coming into conference season, but Cuonzo Martin probably wishes they weren’t so heralded, since they’re playing like most people expected them to play once conference season started.   They now have lost four out of their last five games and are essentially taking themselves out of the MVC race.

Creighton and Drake surging—The Bulldogs and Bluejays have both had some struggles winning games this season but are now on a roll.  Creighton has won four of their last five games  and Drake has won three straight, with surprising wins over Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Missouri State.

Lets take a look at the MVC at just about the halfway point to see where teams are headed:

TEAMS TO BEAT

Northern Iowa (2-0 this week, 15 game winning streak)—Northern Iowa just keeps winning and have their longest winning streak in school history.   They are the toast of not only the Valley but of the state of Iowa as well.  They aren’t the fastest, the best-shooting, or the most imposing team on the court, but they keep finding ways to win with different players stepping up on different nights.  They survived against Bradley and then decimated Indiana State this week.  Wichita State will be big game for them, but they can survive if they don’t win that one.  That could, however, set up a trap game in the return game against the Sycamores later in the week.

Wichita State (1-1 this week, won 5 of last 6)—Wichita had been flying high until they came into the Qwest Center Saturday to take on Creighton.  After jumping out to an early lead the week before and turning on the cruise control the rest of the way, in the return game it looked like the same thing would happen.  But the Shockers were called for too many fouls, and Creighton hit their charity shots to give Wichita State their first loss in six games and keep a losing streak in Omaha intact since 1992.  They don’t have time to sulk on this one as Northern Iowa comes to town on Tuesday and then WSU hits the road again to Drake.  Toure Murry is on his way to being one of the elite Shocker players if he continues his play.

ON THE RUN

Creighton  (2-0 this week, won four of last five)—Considering the way that Creighton played in their two games  this week, you wish they could have played like this since the beginning of the season.  First was a dramatic last second shot by Antoine Young to get the victory against Southern Illinois earlier in the week, and then they had to shrug off a really bad shooting night to hit 22-of-30 free throws and survive the final seconds to edge out a one point victory against Wichita State.  Creighton received a late Christmas gift as Rutgers big man Greg Echenique decided to transfer to the Bluejays and will be eligible in December.  He cannot wait to get started. This week doesn’t get any easier for the Bluejays as they travel to Illinois State before returning home to host Missouri State.

Drake (2-0 this week, three game winning streak)—This feels weird putting Drake up in this spot, but they are two seconds away from a four-game winning streak and the Bulldogs are now playing their best basketball of the season with victories over Missouri State and Illinois State.  The big reason is coach Mark Phelps decision to give his senior players more minutes on the court.  Drake is setting themselves up for a victory over Evansville this week, and could surprise Wichita State, especially if they lose against Northern Iowa earlier in the week.  Fear the Drake.

HEADING DOWN THE WRONG PATH

Illinois State  (1-1 this week, two of four conference wins against Evansville)—Don’t be fooled by the Redbirds at this point in the conference season.  If Osiris Eldridge is not putting up his normal points, this team may not be able to have other people step up all the time like they did against Evansville , but if he does, then no one else gets involved and they are having problems winning games, like against Drake Sunday night.   The easy wins are gone with their series against Evansville completed.  Creighton comes to town this week and then they head to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois.  Illinois State could be headed for a freefall if they aren’t careful.

Bradley (1-1 this week, 3-7 in their last 10)—Bradley is the most inconsistent team in the conference to this point in the season.  The PJ Star outlines this pretty well.  They have a lot of problems winning on the road as they are 1-3 on the road so far in conference play.  They just missed a big win against Northern Iowa, losing by a deuce.  They may go 1-1 again this week when they go to Southern Illinois and then host Evansville.

Indiana State (0-2 this week, lost threfo of last four)—Just as I was about to jump aboard the Indiana State bandwagon, the Sycamores lost out on a great opportunity to put themselves in a great position in conference play.  The losses to conference leaders Wichita State and Northern Iowa is a big blow.  Instead of getting ahead of others in trying to get to the top of the MVC, they are now in a six-team race to not have to play one of the dreaded Thursday night play-in games of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.  Harry Marshall has stepped up his game, and now we will have to see if the rest of the team steps up as well.    They have an opportunity to redeem themselves on the road against Missouri State and when they host Northern Iowa in the return game.

Missouri State (0-2 this week, lost four of last five)—Missouri State is well on its way to a freefall, unable to win games on the road.  Like Bradley, the Bears are 1-3 on the road in conference play. But they were able to go 3-1 on the road in non-conference play.  That is the difference between non-conference and conference play; it is a lot harder to win on the road against teams in your own league.   The first half has been the key for the Bears as they keep “laying eggs.”  They are in a lot of trouble if they lose both games against Indiana State and Creighton this week.

Southern Illinois (1-1 this week, lost four of last five)—The Salukis are pretty lucky they didn’t lose at Evansville Saturday night.  With rumors of head coach Chris Lowery headed to Depaul at the end of the season and Lowery seemingly losing his players during a four game losing streak, they were still able to salvage a win against Evansvile.  Against Creighton on Wednesday night, Nick Evans got into a little altercation with Creighton’s Chad Millard which led to Evans’ ejection.  He was also out for the Evansville game because of that.  It is important for SIU to beat Illinois State and Bradley at home this week if they expect to return to the postseason.  Otherwise they are headed for their second consecutive losing season.

Evansville (0-2 this week, eight game losing streak)—Evansville can only play spoiler mode at this point in the season, though their seven point loss to Southern Illinois was the closest they have come to winning a conference game.   Colt Ryan is the best thing going for the Purple Aces right now — oh, and how they conduct themselves.  Can they get their first conference win against Drake or Bradley this week?

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

This week, the Valley’s two top teams finally meet up, and there are several other intriguing matchups this week.

  • 1/19, Northern Iowa @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—Easily the game of the week as the matchup of the two top teams of the conference takes place.
  • 1/19, Indiana State @ Missouri State (Fox Sports Net)—Who will step up to the plate to turn things around for either team?
  • 1/20, Bradley @ Southern Illinois (Local TV)–Both teams need a win badly to stay in contention.
  • 1/20, Creighton @ Illinois State (Local TV)—Although Creighton has been struggling this season as a whole, they are right in the conference race and can score a key win against Osiris Eldridge and the Redbirds.  Eldridge tears Creighton apart every time he plays them.
  • 1/23, Wichita State @ Drake (ESPNU)—Drake hopes to continue their surge while Wichita State tries to stay at the top. Things will be turned upside down in the Valley if Drake wins this one.
  • 1/24, Missouri State @ Creighton (Local TV)—Two teams headed in the opposite direction.  Can the Bears steal one in Omaha or is their early season start going to become irrelevant?
  • 1/24, Northern Iowa @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net)—The Sycamores need this win, and could give Northern Iowa their first conference loss — if UNI is still undefeated in conference play at that time.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2009

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

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • MVC-MWC Challenge winding down—The Valley continues to lead the challenge against the Mountain West Conference 4-3 heading into the final weekend of games.  Illinois State went on the road to defeat Utah and Creighton had a chance to close out the conference’s victory but lost a huge lead on New Mexico and left Albuquerque with a loss.  Now it is up to Drake and Northern Iowa this coming weekend to close out the first year of a several year agreement for each conference to play one another.  In the coming years all of the Challenge games will be played in a one-week time period instead of throughout the non-conference season.
  • Wichita State takes down ranked team—Wichita invited a ranked Texas Tech team into Koch Arena, the first non-conference ranked team to visit since Kansas in the 1991-92 season, and sent them home with a loss.  That must be why teams like that don’t come back or want to play Wichita at home. 
  • Missouri St.  heading to undefeated non-conference record—Missouri St. defeated St. Louis Saturday night and Rick Majerus is ready to anoint the Bears as the winners of the Valley for this season.  Well, they are still undefeated and could stay that way if they can steal a win in Arkansas Tuesday night.   Could this be Drake version 2.0?

TEAMS DOING WELL

  • Missouri St (1-0 this week)—As mentioned above, Missouri St. is one of a few undefeated teams in the nation right now.  It is due to their defense.  The Bears finish out the non-conference slate in Fayetteville with a “lucky they still have a team”  Arkansas squad.   About the only thing wrong with Missouri State is Will Creekmore’s jersey.
  •  Wichita St (1-0 this week)—Wichita continues to be on a roll.  Andy Katz asked whether Wichita would be undefeated if they had Clevin Hannah and he was able to play against Pitt at the CBE Classic.  Either way, the Shockers are the real deal this season.    They host North Dakota State this week to complete their non-conference slate.
  •  Northern Iowa  (1-0 this week)—Head Coach Ben Jacobson went back home to North Dakota this past week, but brought his UNI team in to take a victory.  Northern Iowa is at about the same point as Wichita right now.  Coach Jacobson is pretty happy with his team now, but he wasn’t at the beginning of the season.  They host Wyoming this week as a part of the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • Southern Illinois (2-0 this week) –You can tell the reputation of the Salukis has taken a hit when they went out to Vegas this week in an invitational but their games were overshadowed by the women’s matchups in the same tournament.   However in both games this weekend against San Diego and San Francisco, SIU pulled out one point wins to complete a solid non-conference slate until a late January game against Western Kentucky.  Southern Illinois is off for the holidays until conference play starts in a week and a half. 
  • Evansville (2-0 this week)—Evansville is continuing to build themselves back up with two wins this week.  They took a blow with Kavon Lacey, one of their emerging team leaders, going out for the season with knee surgery.  However, they are really spreading the scoring around and starting to come together.  A big road test at Austin Peay this week will see how far they have actually come. 
  • Indiana St. (1-0 this week)—The Sycamores escaped with a win in Toledo this week on a Jake Kelly basket with  six seconds left and they are now again without point guard Harry Marshall who has had a lot of discipline problems at Indiana State.  The Sycamores look like a solid team, but they don’t need these distractions.  A trip to IUPUI this week will test them.

TEAMS WITH WORK TO DO

  • Drake (0-1 this week)—Drake lost to Iowa this week and they sort of have to feel bad that a key player for the Hawkeye team that beat them was then arrested later that evening for public intoxication.  However, Coach Phelps feels pretty good about the recent recruiting classes, but can they produce on the court?    San Diego State comes to town as the possible deciding game of the MVC/MWC Challenge.
  • Bradley (0-2 this week)—This team is on the verge of collapse.  Not only is Dodie Dunson out for the year with a broken arm, but they also lost Dyricus Simms-Edwards to a foot injury for 3-6 weeks.  Bradley lost this week to Loyola on a crazy off-balance half court shot and then got absolutely blown out by Iowa State Sunday.    The Braves now sit in limbo with a three-game losing streak for nine days until conference season starts at Drake.
  • Creighton (1-1 this week)—Many do not have a good read on this Creighton team this season.  They have been so close in so many games against tough competition, but lack the killer instinct to finish the games.  The latest collapse was in New Mexico this weekend.  Creighton was up 15 points at one point in the first half, shooting almost 75%, but then New Mexico finished the first half cutting into the lead and by the middle of the second half the Lobos made the adjustments needed and pulled out a come-from-behind win.   They get a snoozer in Houston Baptist this week with their only wins this season coming so far on their home court. 
  • Illinois State (1-1 this week)—Illinois State has had enough chinks in their armor exposed to lose on the road to Ohio, but then came back to get a big win at Utah as part of the MVC/MWC Challenge.   The Redbirds need another player to step up to help Osiris Eldridge and that player might be Austin Hill.  The Redbirds get a snoozer of their own with Grambling State this week.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

A light week due to the holidays and very few key games except for the conclusion of the MVC/MWC Challenge, but also the last week of non-conference action for the MVC.  Conference play will start after the Christmas holiday.

  • 12/22, San Diego St. @ Drake—Drake is starting to turn things around, but this will be a tough game against the Aztecs that could decide the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • 12/22, Missouri St. @ Arkansas—Although Arkansas has so many problems, this could be a nice road win for the Bears and a great close to their amazing non-conference season. 
  • 12/23, Northern Iowa @ Wyoming—A key matchup in the MVC/MWC Challenge’s final games.  UNI is on a roll lately.
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Checking in on… the Missouri Valley

Posted by jstevrtc on December 14th, 2009

checkinginon

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

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

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

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

Posted by jstevrtc on December 7th, 2009

checkinginon

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

MY STANDINGS (current record/last week’s)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

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

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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

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

Current Records and My Standings:

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Creighton lays an egg.  Creighton had Michigan on the ropes in their opening game of the Old Spice Classic with a five point lead in the closing minutes but let Michigan back.  It took a full court drive by Creighton’s Antoine Young to send the game to overtime, but the Bluejays could not stop Manny Harris from taking over the OT period and sending Creighton to a loss. They then looked like they were stuck in quicksand against Xavier in the losers’ bracket and then finished things off with a loss against a young Iona squad. Many thought Creighton had a chance to really make some noise in this tournament and even an opportunity to win it all, but they had the worst possible scenario happen to them, going 0-3 in the tournament and creating only negative buzz for themselves on the national stage.

Missouri St. On Fire.  Missouri St. took out an undefeated Tulsa team to up their record to 5-0.  They already have two nice wins on the season with their first road contest coming up this week.

Performance in tourney play.   The Valley had varying degrees of success in the holiday tourneys held last week. Wichita St. lost to Pittsburgh, but then came back to defeat Iowa in the CBE Classic.  Bradley kept Oklahoma St. close before losing to them, but turned around to defeat Illinois.  Creighton, as mentioned earlier, went 0-3 in the Old Spice Classic.  The conference is now 36-17 in the non-conference season.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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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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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South and Mid-South) are located here.

It’s time for the sixth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of rust belt and farming states that we like to call the Lower Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower_midwest

Ed. Note: for the purposes of our analysis in this region, Butler was considered a high-major program.

  • Cole Aldrich – Jr, C – Kansas. Much like North Carolina one October ago, Kansas appears to be the unanimous selection to begin the season atop every poll and ranking. One of the main reasons for such accolades is the continued improvement of Cole Aldrich, the Kansas double-double machine in the post. Remember the national semifinals against UNC in 2008 when Aldrich burst onto the scene recording eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a then career-high 17 minutes? That was the night college hoops fans first saw what Aldrich can provide for Bill Self and his Jayhawks. In a full season of play, Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were the anchors behind Kansas’ surprising run to a #3 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cole Aldrich and a pretty good player named Blake Griffin were the only players in the Big 12 to average a double-double in 2008-09. Speaking of stats, Aldrich’s triple-double in the second round against Dayton – 13/20/10 blks- was the first recorded triple double in KU’s illustrious basketball history. Aldrich led the conference in blocks with at 2.7 BPG, finished second in rebounding at 12.4 RPG, second in FG% at 60% and tenth in FT% at an impressive 79% for a 6’11 center.  Aldrich possesses great length, a high motor and displays the fundamentals under the basket that Self loves. The insane talent around Aldrich this season will only put less of a load on his shoulders as the big man can rely on Collins for the clutch outside shot, Xavier Henry on the wings, Thomas Robinson on the block or Tyrel Reed to knock down the long-range three. But the pressure will be on Aldrich to provide a post presence that simply cannot be matched in the Big 12 (sorry Dexter Pittman).  If he achieves his potential, a national POY award isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Kansas’ prized junior center.
  • Craig Brackins – Jr, F – Iowa St. Craig Brackins won’t get half the airtime this season as any of the other high-major names on this list, but he could end up becoming the best player of the group when it’s all said and done.  It’s not as if Brackins came out of nowhere – he was a five-star recruit out of Brewster (NH) Academy in 2007, and he turned down offers from Indiana and Pitt, among others – but, when you play in the Big 12 and your team is generally an afterthought (4-12 in 2008-09), it’s tough to get noticed.  But noticed he got on Jan. 24th in a nationally-televised home game against the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Brackins sliced and diced the vaunted Jayhawk defense for 42/14 in a losing effort that had Bill Self afterwards stating that the lanky center could be the “best player in the country today.”  That single game may have put the Iowa State star on the casual fan’s radar screen, but it’s not like Brackins wasn’t tearing it up against everyone else too:  32/16 against N. Iowa; 28/17 against Jacksonville St.; 38/14 against Houston; 25/13 against Nebraska.  The all-Big 12 first teamer nearly averaged a double-double for the season (20.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG) despite seeing hard and fast double-teams every time he touched the ball.  It was widely presumed that Brackins would jump into the NBA Draft last summer after such a spectacular season; after all, projections for him of the lottery and mid-first round were prevalent.  However, Brackins said that he had some unfinished business to attend to at ISU (meaning, getting the Cyclones to an NCAA Tournament), and he returned to what should be an improved squad with 6’7 juco transfer Marquis Gilstrap’s arrival on the blocks and a solid returning backcourt of Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger.  The only true weakness he has exhibited so far in his career is his 28% from beyond the arc, but with more firepower on the team this year he may be less inclined to feel like he has to do it all (Brackins attempted 37% of ISU’s shots last year).  Regardless of how the team’s season plays out in 2009-10, there should be no doubt that Brackins is on the short list of best post men in America.  With another year of seasoning under his belt at the collegiate level, however, we could be looking at a top five pick next June.  Don’t flip the channel so quickly if you see that Iowa St. is playing on the tube this year – it may be one of your few chances to see one of the best big men in the country.
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