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

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2009


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

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009


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)


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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RTC Aftermath: MVC Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Patrick Marshall was in St. Louis all weekend covering the MVC Tournament for RTC.

First off, I would like to apologize to Rush the Court and Rush the Court fans that due to a family issue, we were not able to do an RTC Live event for the Missouri Valley Conference Final as expected.

UNI: MVC Champs (photo credit: WCFCourier.com)

UNI: MVC Champs (photo credit: WCFCourier.com)

Northern Iowa is the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion and punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament today defeating Illinois St. in overtime 60-57.  Northern Iowa was on fire early and took  a 27-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.   Illinois St. was only shooting 23% at halftime and almost looked like they were going to suffer the same fate they handed to Creighton the night before.

However, Illinois St. came out in the second half with a run to quickly tie the game behind Osiris Eldridge who scored all 21 of his points after halftime.  The game then went back and forth the rest of the way with Eldridge hitting some 3-pointers that were way behind the line including one that was almost literally at half court.  It looked like Illinois St.’s game to win, but the Panthers from UNI stormed back to force the game into overtime.

In the overtime, UNI’s Ali Farokhmenesh once again hit 2 key three pointers and free throws at the end to get UNI to the victory.  He finished with 13 points on 4-5 shooting and 3-4 from three.  Kwadzo Ahelegbe led UNI with 17 points as the other Panther in double figures.

The things that stuck out in the game were that Illinois St. was able to put up 63 shots while Northern Iowa only put up 46.  For the game, Illinois St. was held to 30% shooting which was totally opposite from the night before.  So as Northern Iowa is celebrating with their 23-10 record and the MVC tournament championship, let’s see how other teams from the Valley might fare in the postseason:

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.08.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2009

dynamiteWe are finally here. Today is the last day of the college basketball regular season. What’s that? St. Mary’s didn’t get the memo? Ok, after today 99.99999% of the programs will be done with the regular season. After we attempted to write the college basketball version of War and Peace for yesterday’s Boom Goes the Dynamite, we get a little break as there aren’t quite as many high quality games today, but the ones that we do have look like they will be pretty entertaining. Here are the games that we will be following today:

  • Noon: #20 Purdue at #8 Michigan State on CBS
  • 2 PM: Virginia Tech at #24 FSU on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com
  • 2:05 PM: Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa on CBS
  • 3 PM: Old Dominion vs. Virginia Commonwealth on Comcast, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com
  • 4 PM: #7 Duke at #2 UNC on CBS
  • 5 PM: Northwestern at Ohio State on The Big Ten Network
  • 6 PM: #19 Clemson at #10 Wake Forest on FSN
  • 6 PM: College of Charleston vs. Davidson on SportsSouth and ESPN360.com

There are a couple of big story lines here. Outside of the obvious ones happening in Chapel Hill (Tyler Hansbrough‘s last game in the Dean Dome, UNC’s quest for a #1 seed, Duke’s last gasp effort for a #1 seed, and all the injuries including the under-reported–not by RTC–injury to Ty Lawson), we’ll be looking in on East Lansing where the Spartans will be looking to solify a #2 seed (forget all the talk about them getting a #1–not happening), Saint Louis where the Missouri Valley will award a ticket to the NCAA tournament, and Chattanooga where Stephen Curry and his Davidson teammates will be battling for their NCAA tournament lives as they will not get in if they don’t win their conference tournament.

There are also some great games out in Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference tournament with Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara, which will be featured as our RTC Live event, that will be followed by Saint Mary’s vs. Portland (aka “The Return of Patty Mills“). Unfortunately, that’s past my bedtime on the East Coast (tips at 9:30 and 11:30 PM ET respectively) although if you’re really nice you might be able to talk rtmsf into staying up late for you since he’s on the West Coast.

11:30 AM: It looks like we only have 2 games (Purdue-Michigan State and AlabamaTennessee) worthy watching in the noon time slot. Unfortunately, they’re both on CBS so most of the nation will only be able to follow one on television. Luckily, I’m getting the better of the two games (Purdue-Michigan State), but I will be following the game in Knoxville on GameCast as well. If any of you are in Tennessee or Alabama, feel free to send in your thoughts in the comment section so the rest of us will know what’s going on in the game beyond the box score.

While we’re waiting, I wanted to pass along a photo I found on Deadspin this morning featuring Erin Andrews, who found something in Freedom Hall a little disturbing (probably Rick Pitino‘s yelling).

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RTC Aftermath: MVC Semifinals

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Patrick Marshall is in St. Louis all weekend covering the MVC Tournament for RTC.

RTC Live Aftermath—Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, March 7, 2009

Today’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament game between Creighton and Illinois State was covered by Rush the Court. Illinois State dominated Creighton from the start and won 73-49 to advance to the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Tournament officials decided to do something a little different than what was done in Thursday or Friday’s games for the starting lineups as they dimmed the lights and spotlighted the players.

MVC SpotlightIllinois State came out on fire and did not let up. They shot 55% from the field and 68% from the three point line (13/19) while Creighton shot only 27% from the field and 18% from the three point line. The Creighton huddle was befuddled by what Illinois State was doing.

In all reality though, the biggest issue was the shooting and making scoring plays. Illinois State had 16 assists on 28 baskets so they were getting great ball movement which gave them open shots. Creighton actually won battle of rebounds 39-35 (including 20 offensive rebounds) and made more free throws than Illinois State. Steals and turnovers were also basically even.

Creighton’s dance team tried to get the Jays going, but was unsuccessful.

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RTC Aftermath: MVC Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Patrick Marshall is in St. Louis all weekend covering the MVC Tournament for RTC.

Today you experienced our live blog of the Bradley-Southern Illinois game in the quarterfinal round of the MVC tournament.  This game was up and down for both teams.    Both teams were ready to go:


Bradley won this game by hitting timely shots and wearing out the Salukis.  The Salukis shot only 35% from the field and Kevin Dillard, one of SIU’s bigger scorers was held scoreless in playing all 40 minutes of the game.

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Missouri Valley Conference Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the MVC and Big 12 Conferences.  He will be reporting from the MVC Tournament this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri.


The Missouri Valley Conference finished regular season play this last week with Northern Iowa and Creighton sharing the MVC regular season crown.  Due to the complicated tie-breaker formula, Northern Iowa received the 1-seed for the MVC Tournament and Creighton the 2nd.   My preseason predictions weren’t exactly what happened, but like the whole bizarre Valley season usually is, the middle was all muddled up.   No one expected Northern Iowa to be as good as they were in conference play and at the same time, it wasn’t expected to see Southern Illinois take such a nosedive so fast in the past two seasons.

The MVC released their postseason awards on Tuesday with Booker Woodfox from Creighton getting the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year honors.  Woodfox leads the nation in 3-point shooting at 50.9% and averaged almost 16 points a game.  Champ Oguchi from Illinois St. received the Newcomer of the Year award.  I’m a little surprised that Bryan Mullins won the Defensive Player of the Year honors when he missed almost the whole last half of the conference season.  Maybe it is a lifetime award or something.

This Thursday night starts what is affectionately known as Arch Madness.  I will be down in St. Louis covering things for Rush The Court with a planned RTC Live for at least one game each day starting Friday and other daily updates.  I will also have all-access to the postgame news conferences and other media information.  If you have things you want me to check out or have questions for the coaches or players – but I won’t be the guy that got kicked out of the Creighton game last weekend—then be sure to ask.

Let’s take a look at the matchups starting on Thursday:
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Set Your Tivos: 02.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2009

Set Your TivosI’m back with another edition of Set Your Tivos, which should be daily now until the NCAA tournament where you won’t need your Tivo because you’ll be glued to your couch for 3 weeks. Obviously the big game of the night at RTC East will be our RTC Live coverage of #1 Pittsburgh at Providence, but there are a lot of games for you to watch when you are not following our coverage and sending in your questions/comments to us courtside.

#1 Pittsburgh at Providence at 7 PM on The Big East Network, Fox Sports, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: As I mentioned before, this will be the site of the 4th installment of RTC Live so we’ll be covering this game from the lay-up lines until they turn out the lights. The Friars come in needing a signature win (beating a depleted Syracuse team in Providence doesn’t qualify) to bolster their chances of getting an at-large bid as I can’t remember seeing any “bracketologist” with the Friars in the NCAA tournament right now despite the fact that they have an 8-7 record in the Big East going into their game tonight. Pitt comes in as the #1 team in the country following their win at previous #1 UConn in a game where DeJuan Blair destroyed Bill Russell Hasheem Thabeet. After all the talk by Jim Calhoun and ESPN about how Thabeet was the Big East POY, Blair has thrown his hat into the ring as a potential Big East POY candidate. Blair, who is averaging 15.8 PPG and 13.0 RPG, has 22 points and 23 rebounds against the Huskies and followed it up with 20 points and 18 rebounds against DePaul. Providence coach Keno Davis will counter with. . .ok, he has nobody who can guard Blair if the Pitt big man avoids dumb fouls. Providence doesn’t really have an athlete of the caliber of Sam Young that Jamie Dixon has, but few teams in the country do. Davis does have a fairly deep rotation with seven players averaging more than 8.0 PPG. Davis will have to hope that Weyinmi Efejuku has a big game and that Sharaud Curry can give Levance Fields (still over 4 to 1 for his assist to turnover ratio) some trouble. The Friars will probably keep the game close for 30 minutes to keep this RTC co-editor entertained, but in the end the Panthers should have enough

Penn State at Ohio State at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a pretty big game for both teams. They both are probably in the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, but both could use a little work on their resume to guarantee a bid and move up a seed line or two. Penn State has bounced back to a 3-game losing streak to pick up two solid wins (Minnesota and at Illinois) while Ohio State has struggled recently losing their last 3 games by a combined 10 points. We’ll be watching two potential first team Big Ten members (Evan Turner and Talor Battle) as the winner of that match-up will probably determine the outcome of this game since this game will likely come down to the last few minutes. In any event, we’re just hoping that this game will be slightly more aesthetically pleasing than the last time Penn State took the court.

Northern Iowa at Illinois State at 8:05 PM on GameTracker: After dominating the Missouri Valley Conference for most of the season, the Panthers have fallen apart losing 3 straight and 4 of their last 5 games falling into a tie for the conference lead with Creighton. The losing streak has taken them out of consideration for an at-large bid so they need to right the ship before the MVC tournament (covered by Rush the Court). The Redbirds are coming off a BrackerBusters loss at Niagara and will be looking to rebound against a Northern Iowa team that it lost to by 4 points on the road at the end of January. Neither team really has a superstar player you should focus on, but they both have  a lot of depth. UNI has 5 players averaging between 9.0 and 11.6 PPG (Adam Koch, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Jordan Eglseder, Ali Farokhmanesh, and Johnny Moran) while Illinois State has 5 players averaging between 9.1 and 14.9 PPG (Champ Oguchi, Osiris Eldridge, Lloyd Phillips, Emmanuel Holloway, and Dinma Odiakosa).

I couldn’t find this one listed on any TV stations so I threw up a link for GameTracker. If any of you know what channel(s) this game will be televised on, post the info in the comment section and I will update this.

Florida at #18 LSU at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: LSU is running away with the SEC regular season title and a win here would essentially clinch it for them unless they lose their last 3 (at Kentucky, home against Vanderbilt, and at Auburn), which I don’t think will happen. Billy Donovan‘s Gators are most likely in, but could use a marquee win to solidify their resume for the Selection Committee. [Side Note: What happens to Donovan’s reputation if his team fails to make the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years immediately after winning back-to-back titles?] Nick Calathes (18.6 PPG) will have to have a big game as LSU has 2 guys who can fill it up in Marcus Thornton (20.5 PPG) and Tasmin Mitchell (16.8 PPG). I’m expecting this one to be close, but for LSU to pull away in the last 2-3 minutes.

#25 FSU at Boston College at 9 PM on ESPNU: FSU is already in the tournament and BC is most likely in as well (wins over UNC and Duke should guarantee you a spot even if you do blow a game against Harvard) so both teams are playing for seeding right now. One interesting thing about this game that a lot of people might not be aware of is that FSU still has a shot of catching UNC for the ACC regular season title. Even though FSU has been the more consistent team (see the aforementioned BC loss to Harvard), I think that Tyrese Rice and Jeff Trapani will be enough to overcome Toney Douglas, who is amazingly the only double-digit scorer (20.5 PPG) on a top 25 team.

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Checking in on the… Missouri Valley

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2009

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

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

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

The yearly battle in the Valley once again has shown some surprises.  Is the Valley down this year?  Hard to tell.  Check out the teams this week and how they are doing.


Bradley 60, Wichita St. 58—Bradley got the win on a follow up basket by Sam Singh with almost no time remaining to give Bradley the road win to push them to 2-0 at the time and Wichita St. to 0-2 at the time.  Bradley had held around a 10 point lead the whole game but Wichita St. hung around like they have all season with teams and tied the game with 26 seconds left.   Sam Maniscalco just missed the layup and Singh was there with the rebound and put back to win the game.  As Singh said, “It took a good bounce and I got lucky.”


Osiris Eldridge, Illinois St—Osiris was just dominant this week in Illinois St’s blowout wins against Evansville and Creighton averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds per game.  Illinois St. is still one of 6 undefeated teams in the nation and it has been his stellar play that has helped them dominate games and look almost unbeatable in league play so far.  Maybe they will get that “Undefeated Season” they are talking about…well highly unlikely, but it is nice that they are willing to talk the talk.

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ATB: New Years Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2009


Since the ATB writers have been in a self-induced coma as a result of last week’s NYE festivities (hey, it’s hard living in your mom’s basement), rather than rehashing a bunch of stale games from Wed-Sun, we thought it’d make more sense to just hit some highlights and trends of things we’re watching as the haze continues to wear off from our vision and the strange burning sensations subside.

Some News & Notes.

  • Is Tubby Smith on the short list of coaches looking at Arizona?  Maybe the Tubbster realized that, yes, those icicles on your c#&k really do stay there for six months of the year, and as such, Tucson is looking pretty tasty.
  • Former Hoosier and UAB carpetbagger Armon Bassett ended up transferring to Ohio U.  He will be eligible after next fall’s quarter.
  • Kyle Whelliston is awesome.  Seriously.  The Mid-Majority founder and resident subversive in the college hoops world discovered a clear trend showing that the BCS teams are playing each other more often during the out-of-conference slate, and the mid-majors less.  He thinks this is good for the mids, but we’re not so sure.  The mids really need those opportunities to shine that beating S. Florida and Oregon St. UCLA and Duke provide.
  • The Dagger had a great year-in-review wrapup article over at Yahoo Sports, as well as a look at what college hoops might look like if the BCS was running things over here.

The Big East is insane this year. In just the last three weeks, we’ve seen UConn look like the most likely hurdle for North Carolina through its clutch win in Seattle vs. Gonzaga.  Then we jumped on the Georgetown bandwagon after the Hoyas proceeded to go up to Storrs and thump those Huskies behind a balanced offensive attack and its standard sticky defense.  Only for our mis/pre-conceptions to be challenged again when Pittsburgh chose to use this weekend’s matchup in DC at Georgetown to manhandle (manhandle?  try superman-handle…  the Panthers had more o-rebs – 18 – than the Hoyas had total – 17) the same team that looked so fantastic against UConn five days prior.  We really don’t know what to make of this league with these performances.  Given the way things have gone so far, Pitt should now be in position to get its bell rung by UConn in Western Pa.  We just don’t know.  One thing we think we can say without too much hedging is that UConn, Georgetown, Pitt, and possibly Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville (if those three ever get it completely going), are the best top six to a conference we’ve ever seen.  It’s likely that all six of those teams would win the SEC and compete with UCLA for the Pac-10 crown.  In 1995, the ACC had a really strong top four, but nothing like this group.  As for Georgetown,  we noted after the UConn game that their lack of strong bench production could end up biting them in the arse down the stretch, and it was absolutely exhibited here (2 pts).  This will ultimately be the Hoyas’ downfall, as their 29-game homecourt winning streak was snapped when Pitt went on a 17-4 run to blow open a 40-40 tie game.  As much as we love Greg Monroe, he was schooled by the savvier Dejuan Blair, who dropped 20/17 on the bigger player.

Monday update:  Notre Dame 73, Georgetown 67. Notre Dame defeated Georgetown at home tonight, keeping their 44-game homecourt (and 19-game conference) winning streak alive.  This occurred a mere two days after the Irish laid a leprechaun egg against St. John’s in NYC.  Just like that, Georgetown is now 1-2 in the conference, when one week ago tonight they looked like the team to beat.  Wow.

Is the SEC surging? It’s probably too little, too late, for the SEC to save its sinking sunk RPI in time to matter much come Selection Sunday, but the last few days of games showed that the league may have some fight left in it, following up on Arkansas’ upset of Oklahoma and pulling off a few key wins in games that its teams would have lost in November or early December.  Consider the following scores:

  • South Carolina 85, Baylor 84. SC is one of the definite surprise teams of this season, proving once again that Dave Odom has been the luckiest man alive to have bilked multiple schools of millions of dollars by passing himself off as a legitimate head coach.  Getting a win over a ranked team in a true road game is something the SEC hadn’t done all year.  Until Friday night.  Shooting 54% and putting all five starters in double-figures helps.
  • Florida 68, NC State 66. We probably shouldn’t be giving too much love to a team that allowed its marginal ACC opponent to shoot 59% on its home floor, but hey, an intersectional win is a win!  Nick Calathes saved the day with 24 of his 34, including the go-ahead jumper with 11 seconds left, coming in the second half.
  • Alabama 88, Georgia Tech 77. Bama will be as good as Ronald Steele is and he was excellent on this night (23/10), echoing memories of his healthy first two years in Tuscaloosa.  Ga Tech appears to once again be going nowhere fast.
  • Mississippi St. 82, Houston 65. MSU simply took control of this game, holding an 8-2 Houston team to 28% shooting in the process.
  • Vanderbilt 78, Massachusetts 48. Wow, a complete obliteration of UMass in Amherst by a team that had really shown next-to-nothing so far this year.  Derek Kellogg has lost that team.
  • Louisville 74, Kentucky 71. Yeah, it’s an L for the SEC, but Kentucky has been playing better ball lately and took Louisville to the brink before Pitino whipping boy Edgar Sosa dropped a 25-foot three to win the game with 2.6 seconds remaining.  There may not be a better inside/outside duo than UK’s Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson (50/18 in this game).

Most Impressive Win of the Weekend. Wake Forest 94, BYU 87. It was televised to all of six people in America on The Mountain network, but Wake going into the viper’s pit known as the Marriott Center in Provo where the Cougars had won their last 53 games against all comers was very impressive.  This was especially so given that Wake was teetering in the mid-second half before their assassin Jeff Teague (30/4/4) and muscle man James Johnson (22/15) took over the game, as the tired BYU players starting coming up short on their shots.  What’s the difference between this Wake team and some others (most notably, the Chris Paul teams) in the recent past?  This Deacon squad plays defense.  Whether it’s by design or simply the absurd athleticism that three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup (Teague/Johnson/Aminu) provide, their length and size bothers teams, and as a result, the Deacs are currently the fifth most efficient defensive team in America.   The UNC-Wake game next Sunday in Winston-Salem looms large to see just how good this Deacon team can be.

What Has Happened to the Zags? Utah 66, Gonzaga 65. It’s almost as if that loss to UConn two weeks ago took all the wind out of the sails of the Zags.  Since that game, they’ve lost at home to Portland St. and now away at Utah in a game they had multiple chances to win.  Next they’re at Tennessee on Wednesday before WCC play starts.  Meanwhile, conference foe St. Mary’s is cruising along at 14-1, although against admittedly lesser competition.  As for the Zags, there is top ten talent on this team, and they need to stop feeling sorry for themselves because they lost a heartbreaking game.  Jeremy Pargo in particular needs to get his team’s attention and back on the right track, and Austin Daye needs to improve his shot selection (a 6’11 guy shouldn’t be shooting 44% from the field); otherwise, America’s favorite “underdog” from the Pacific Northwest will once again disappoint in March.

USC is the Most Confounding Team in America. USC 83, Oregon 62 & Oregon St. 62, USC 58 (OT).  USC once again has several future NBA Draft picks on its roster, but as has been a trend in recent years for the Trojans, they are just as likely to shock you with an efficient evisceration of an opponent as they are to simply not show up for the engagement at all.  Case in point was the Oregon two-fer last weekend.  On Friday night, the Trojans went into Oregon’s Macarthur Court (one of the tougher venues in the Pac-10, even in a year when Oregon is clearly down) and completely humiliated the Ducks with a +21-pt second half (probably its best half of the year).  Then, riding that wave of success, USC visited Oregon St. on Sunday – remember, the Beavers went 0-18 in the Pac-10 last season – and managed to hand OSU its first conference victory in 683 days.   If anyone can explain this team, let us know.

Some Other Scores That Caught Our Eye.

  • UNLV 56, Louisville 55. Of course, this was prior to the victory over their nemesis on Sunday, but the Louisville bugaboo of poor shooting (29.6%), weak guard play and a seeming lack of focus allowed UNLV (w/o Wink Adams) to come east and steal a victory.  After this game, Edgar Sosa reportedly was asked to transfer by Coach Pitino – he responded with his best game in two years against Kentucky (18 pts).
  • Marquette 79, Villanova 72. Someone send us an email when you can figure out just how good either of these teams actually are.  Both are two-loss guard-oriented teams that have similar RPI profiles (#29 and #30), capable of a major upset at any time, but not quite strong enough to reach the top tier of the Big East.
  • Arizona St. 90, Stanford 60. Has a BCS team ever defeated another BCS team by 45 points at home, only to lose by 30 points in the next week to another BCS team at home?  That’s a 75-pt difference for you mathemagicians out there.  Stanford followed up this blasting with another home win against Arizona on Sunday, so maybe the Cardinal just had a bad game against Herb Sendek’s team.
  • Xavier 84, Virginia 70. XU really needed to win this road game against an ACC team (even a likely bottom-dweller) to convince folks that their rough two game stretch against Duke and Butler last month is behind them.
  • Illinois St. 86, Creighton 64. ISU stamped itself as the team to beat in the MVC with this big home win on Saturday.  Now 14-0, the Redbirds used a huge second half to blow the game open led by Osiris Eldridge’s 20/9.
  • Michigan 74, Illinois 64. This was a big win for John Beilein’s UM squad, because the Illini have been playing extremely well of late.  Amazingly, after only two games, only Wisconsin and Michigan St. are unbeaten (2-0) in the Big Ten race.
  • Duke 69, Virginia Tech 44. A 13-point second half will not get it done in Cameron.  Although Duke is #2 now, we still don’t believe in them in the long term.  Only five points came off of their bench in this game.
  • California 81, Arizona St. 71. If this keeps up, Mike Montgomery will have to be in the conversation for NCOY.  Two days after demolishing Stanford, Arizona St. got outhustled and outplayed in the second half (Cal shot 68% behind Jerome Randle’s 26/10 assts).  This was two nights after putting away Arizona, 69-55.  Monty has this program competing way ahead of schedule.

On Tap Tuesday. check our now-daily Set Your Tivos feature for the games to watch tomorrow.

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