Morning Five: 05.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2010

  1. The buzz yesterday was in regard to a report from 810 WHB in Kansas City that the Big Ten has made offers to four schools to join its conference, including Big 12 members Missouri and Nebraska as well as independent Notre Dame and the Big East’s Rutgers.  We’ll have more up on this later today, but so far, mum is the word at the four schools with denials from all interested parties.  Which means there’s probably something to this report.  We’ll know when we know.
  2. Four St. Bonaventure players were fined $250 each for their roles in a March on-campus fight that resulted in two men getting stabbed.  They each pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges, which are civil violations in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
  3. Creighton guard P’Allen Stinnett, who has not played since January, has been booted from the team by new head coach Greg McDermott.
  4. Reading the tea leaves on Brandon Knight’s ‘commitment’ to Kentucky paints an interesting what-if scenario that has John Calipari leaving UK later this summer to coach Lebron James wherever he ends up.
  5. You saw our revised Top 25 yesterday taking into account the early entries returning to school; here’s Luke Winn’s Power Sixteen.
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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 16th, 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  22-3  (13-2) (1)
  2. Wichita State 21-6 (10-5) (2)
  3. Illinois State  18-8 (9-6) (3)
  4. Creighton  13-13 (8-7)  (6)
  5. Bradley  13-12 (8-7) (7)
  6. Indiana State  15-11 (7-8) (4)
  7. Missouri State  17-9 (7-8) (5)
  8. Drake  11-16 (6-9)  (8)
  9. Southern Illinois   14-11 (6-9) (9)
  10. Evansville 7-18 (1-14) (10)  

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • Northern Iowa clinches conference—UNI clinched a share of the MVC title on Wednesday night with their win against Drake.  They will go into the MVC Tournament as the number one seed with everyone else in the conference gunning for them to give the Valley an opportunity to get more than one team into the NCAA Tournament.  However, some pundits including Jerry Palm don’t believe that Northern Iowa is in yet, even as an at-large.   The Mock NCAA exercise has the Panthers as a 13 seed.   It will be up to the Panthers to hold up down the stretch as they struggled a year ago in this same position.
  • Eglseder Suspended for Three Games– Northern Iowa may have run into a problem though as their center Jordan Eglseder was arrested Saturday night for drunk driving.  Eglseder was stopped in his vehicle by officers at about 3 a.m. Sunday. Officers observed Eglseder’s vehicle committing a traffic violation and followed the vehicle for a couple of blocks before stopping it.  Eglseder was administered a field sobriety test at the scene and failed it.  He is now suspended for three games at a minimum and could affect how UNI finishes the regular season and the big game against Old Dominion on Friday becomes even bigger. 
  • Evansville being the spoiler—The other team in the Valley to even have a little consideration as to tourney talk was Wichita State.  The Shockers have been trying to pad their resume a little more down the stretch.  Unfortunately, they ran into Evansville who were on a 14-game losing streak.  You expected that the Purple Aces would get a win at some point.  They ended up getting it against Wichita State.  This victory has opened up a chance for second place in the conference and the Shockers are back on their heels.
  • Bracketbuster week—This weekend is Bracketbuster weekend.  Northern Iowa and Wichita State need wins in this event to give the Valley a little more credibility.  The Panthers host Old Dominion on Friday night and the Shockers go out to Utah State in the final game of the day.  Missouri State is also on the ESPN family of networks against Nevada which may not be of any real significance for either school.  Some people have their own opinion about Bracketbusters. 

THE AVERAGE VALLEY

Once again teams are beating up on each other this week without any consistency down the stretch.  Let’s take a look at the Valley teams.

  • Illinois State  (2-0 this week)— The Redbirds have been the most successful team this week, getting victories on the road at their rival Bradley and at Creighton on Saturday.  Some of the Illinois State fans were not to excited about the shirts some of the Bradley fans wore to the game.   The Redbirds have now won three games in a row by a total of seven points to take over sole possession of third place in the Valley.   They host Missouri State in a conference seeding game and then  Morehead State next weekend in Bracketbusters.
  • Northern Iowa (1-1 this week)—The Panthers got past their in-state rival Drake this week, but then after celebrating winning a share of the Valley regular season title, they were surprised by Bradley.   They are being celebrated as Iowa’s team of the decade.  That is quite an accomplishment since there are teams from the Big 10 and the Big 12 also in the state.  The Panthers will get some love at home this week as they host Creighton and then kick off Bracketbusters Friday night against Old Dominion. 
  • Bradley (1-1 this week)—Bradley was pretty fired up to take on Illinois State this week in the return game of their rivalry after getting smoked in Normal the week before.  Unfortunately it was not enough as Bradley lost a two-point decision to the Redbirds.  The black uniforms may not be the answer.  In a turn of events, Northern Iowa came in and Bradley took it to them from the beginning and put themselves back into contention to avoid Thursday night in St. Louis.  The win against Northern Iowa was the first victory for Bradley against a ranked team at the 27-year old Carver Arena.  A conference game at Indiana State this week is on the slate before hosting Drexel in their Bracketbusters game Saturday night. 
  • Wichita State (1-1 this week)—The Shockers are starting to get a little complacent as they head down the stretch.  Losing two of their last three games going into the game against Missouri State, the Shockers are playing themselves out of consideration for an at-large much less a good seed in the conference tournament.  They are looking like last season’s Creighton team that just missed getting into the NCAAs.   They may be thinking their program is returning to prominence, but they need to slow down a bit.  After surviving at home against Missouri State, where they are now 15-0, they need wins this week against Evansville and at Utah State in the Bracketbusters to keep them from a total collapse.
  • Missouri State (1-1 this week)—The Bears are full of confidence right now and are getting their momentum back at the right time.  After starting the season 12-1, Missouri State has been up and down throughout the rest of the conference season.   Missouri State had Wichita State on the ropes Sunday night, but could not pull out the victory.   It will be a big game for the Bears at Illinois State on Wednesday before hosting Nevada in the Bracketbusters this weekend.
  • Creighton  (1-1 this week) –Justin Carter swished a half-court shot in practice to end it early and to give the team a smile leading into the Bluejays’  golden opportunity to solidify their third place position by getting a win against Illinois State.  However, they couldn’t get the win and the Redbirds are now 7-1 against the Bluejays over the past four seasons.  It is very possible they will meet again in St. Louis.  P’Allen Stinnett’s suspension is now permanent until the end of the season.  It will be interesting to see if he returns to the Bluejays next year.   The Bluejays hit the road against conference champs Northern Iowa before hosting Loyola (IL) in Bracketbusters this weekend.   
  • Indiana State (1-1 this week)—The Sycamores are trying to stay afloat with their top three scorers already out for the season.  They hung around but did not have enough against Creighton.  However, it is always nice to play at home and they were able to get some confidence in a win against Drake while only committing three turnovers.   Bradley comes to town this week before hitting the road against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Bracketbusters.
  • Southern Illinois (1-1 this week)—The Salukis are not finishing the season strong and are again headed towards a disappointing season.  They just hope they do not finish with a losing record again.  Not finishing games has been their main problem this season.  Nick Evans, who had not played since the Creighton game on January 13, has left the team due to personal reasons.  SIU heads to Drake before hosting Western Michigan in this weekend’s Bracketbusters.
  • Evansville (1-1 this week)—At long last, Evansville got a conference win and it was against one of the better teams in the conference in Wichita State.  In the process of beating the Shockers, Colt Ryan broke the  school’s freshman scoring record.  The Aces play the Shockers again this week, but on the road.  Illinois-Chicago pulls the short straw and gets to go to Evansville for their Bracketbuster game.
  • Drake (0-2 this week, 4-game losing streak, lost 5 of 6)—Drake has now gone on a big slide after earlier threatening to become a contender in the conference.  Seth VanDeest will be quite the player to contend with over the next few seasons for Drake.   A battle of the bottom with Southern Illinois on the slate before taking a trip out to California to take on Cal-State Northridge for their Bracketbuster game.  How that matchup is good for both schools is beyond me and is one of the examples of the bad things that can happen because of the Bracketbuster format.   

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

The few Valley teams on TV for Bracketbuster weekend hope to make some noise.  At the same time, almost one Valley team on the tube all week long. 

  • 2/16, Creighton @ Northern Iowa (Fox Sports Net)—This game has a lot less significance than it did at the beginning of the season, but still should be a good one to watch. 
  • 2/17, Evansville @ Wichita State (No TV)—The Shockers hope to give a little payback after Evansville notched their first conference win of the season against them last week. 
  • 2/17, Missouri State @ Illinois state (Fox Sports Net)—A positioning game for the MVC Tournament
  • 2/19, Old Dominion @ Northern Iowa (ESPN2)—A featured game of Bracketbusters with two of the top teams in the field.  It is the Valley vs. the Colonial conferences. 
  • 2/20, Nevada @ Missouri State (ESPN2)—A middle of the road Bracketbuster game that may not mean anything at the end of the season as both teams probably need to win their conference tournaments to get into the Big Dance. 
  • 2/20, Wichita State @ Utah State (ESPN2)—The final game of Bracketbusters should be a key one for either team and many may stay awake for this one.
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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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Morning Five: 01.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2010

  1. Some suspension news: Creighton’s P’Allen Stinnett was suspended indefinitely by Dana Altman for conduct unbecoming to the team, and Michigan’s Manny Harris has been reinstated to play tonight against Michigan State.  Harris’ 85-game streak of games played for the Wolverines ended on Saturday when he was held out of their game against Purdue.
  2. Purdue’s Matt Painter and Lewis Jackson have a tough decision to make in the coming weeks over whether the talented point guard will play this season.  Jackson could help provide depth in the Boilermaker backcourt, but there’s a considerable dilemma over whether it’s worthwhile to play him for less than a third of the season.  Not that anyone cares, but we’d sit him out and let him get his legs and rhythm back in the offseason.
  3. Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts this week discusses Josh Pastner at Memphis, Texas’ poor foul shooting, Duke’s depth, and some SDSU students that remind us of our Halloween costume from a few years back.
  4. Did the UConn Huskies get their swagger back (and cred) by beating Texas on Saturday?  Jeff Goodman thinks so.
  5. Did you hear that John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats moved to #1 in both the AP and Coach’s Polls yesterday?  Coach Cal was so jazzed by it that he and ESPN’s John Buccigross (both Pittsburgh natives) had a little good-natured fun calling each other “jagoffs.”

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 5th, 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 12-1 (3-0) (3)
  2. Wichita State 13-2 (2-1) (1)
  3. Missouri State 12-2 (2-1) (2)
  4. Illinois State 11-3 (2-1) (5)
  5. Southern Illinois 9-3 (2-1) (4)
  6. Indiana State 10-4 (2-1) (6)
  7. Bradley 6-7 (1-2) (8)
  8. Creighton 6-8 (1-2) (9)
  9. Evansville 6-7 (0-3) (7)
  10. Drake 5-10 (0-3) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Northern Iowa mowing down the Valley — Those that don’t consider Northern Iowa the class of the Valley need to have their head examined (including myself, before now).  The Panthers are on an 11-game winning streak after following a tough road win against Creighton in Omaha with victories against Evansville and Missouri State to race out to a 3-0 conference record in the first week.

Should be an interesting Conference Season — After the first week, six teams have gotten out to 3-0 or 2-1 records.  The games have all been mostly competitive so far and it will be interesting to see if a few teams will break out of the pack or if they will be spending the season beating up on each other, which may hurt their postseason plans.  If this conference is going to have multiple bids this season, there will need to be a few teams that need to separate themselves, or it could end up being a one-bid league again.  I am sure Bradley and Creighton still think they have something to say about things as well.

TEAMS TO BEAT

Northern Iowa (3-0 this week) — As mentioned above, the Panthers have won three games to start the conference season.  Their shooting percentage against Creighton was not that great, but they left Omaha with a win.  It took a second half rally to get past Missouri State.  The next big test for them will come this week with a road trip to Southern Illinois and Illinois State.

SOLID WEEK

Southern Illinois (2-1 this week) — The Salukis are trying to re-establish themselves as the cream of the Valley once again.  They are definitely starting off better than they did last season.  Things looked pretty good when they took out Indiana State and Bradley earlier this week, but then they played mediocre basketball against the Illinois State Redbirds and couldn’t get over the hump to steal a victory there.  Luckily for the Salukis they get some home cooking this week as they host conference leader Northern Iowa and Drake.

Missouri State (2-1 this week) — Missouri State will be interesting to watch during conference season.  They have been a surprise so far with their non-conference record as well as two victories over Evansville and Illinois State to start conference season.  A loss against Northern Iowa was a bit expected.  The jury is still out on this team and it will be interesting to see how they react by hosting Wichita State and Bradley this week.  Adam Leonard has the nickname “Iceman” now with his cool demeanor and free throw shooting ability with the game on the line.

Wichita State (2-1 this week) — Wichita had been riding high after getting some votes for the Top 25 and several feature articles on them.   They started off the conference season, however, at Illinois State, and had their nine-game winning streak snapped.  They then summoned the moxie to turn around and get wins at home against Bradley and Drake.  This week will be an important week for them as they go to conference surprise Missouri State and host Creighton.   If Wichita is going to continue to be successful, it falls on the shoulders of David Kyles and Garrett Stutz.   In other news, the city of Wichita is excited to open a brand new arena in town, but the Shockers are probably only going to play once or twice a year there.

Indiana State (2-1 this week) — Kevin McKenna is really starting to show why he was hired to take over the reins of the Indiana State team a couple seasons ago.  This team is really playing at a high level right now.  After starting off on the wrong foot against Southern Illinois and losing Iowa transfer Jake Kelly for the season with a torn ACL, they were been able to turn things around and knock off Creighton (where McKenna used to be an assistant for Dana Altman) and then Drake on the road.  If the Sycamores get wins against Evansville and Bradley this week, look out MVC.  Another family tie for McKenna and Altman is that Altman’s son, Jordan, is the Graduate Assistant at Indiana State this season.

Illinois State (2-1 this week) — The Redbirds were another team flying high after knocking off Wichita State to open conference play with their defense, but then stumbled at Missouri State.  They were able to respond with a nice home victory against Southern Illinois.  A trip to Evansville and then hosting conference leader Northern Iowa is on the slate this week.

ROCKY START

Bradley (1-2 this week) — Bradley broke a three-game losing streak by defeating Drake on the road with Andrew Warren giving the Bulldogs nightmares to start off the conference season, but then suffered two losses against Southern Illinois and Wichita State.  Bradley was also without one of their better players in Taylor Brown against Wichita State on Sunday due to a decision by coach Jim Les.   It doesn’t get any easier for Bradley this week as they have Indiana State and Missouri State waiting in the wings for them.

Creighton (1-2 this week) — Creighton was hoping to start the slate clean after a disappointing non-conference season by getting the first crack at the Northern Iowa Panthers.  But the problems that were plaguing Creighton throughout the season against quality competition hit them again.   Bad free throw shooting and not being able to hold on to leads led to their downfall.  A road trip to Indiana State did not bring any relief either as they lost that one, as well.  This led to a two-hour players-only team meeting.  A salvaged win against Evansville on Sunday might be a start of something.  Some people are a bit too concerned about P’Allen Stinnett’s Facebook status, rather than basketball.  Drake and Wichita State are on the slate this week for the Bluejays.

ALREADY IN TROUBLE

Evansville (0-3 this week) — Evansville has started 0-3, but have been right there the whole way in each of their games, losing by small margins.   One big bright spot for the Purple Aces has been the play of freshman Colt Ryan.  In the game against Creighton on Sunday, he single-handedly kept Evansville in the game with his 26 points on 8-16 from the field and 6-11 from three-point range to go along with five assists.   They could be the spoiler in the conference this season, especially if they get their low post problems solved.  Indiana State and Illinois State probably aren’t looking forward to seeing the Aces this week.

Drake (0-3 this week) — Drake is destined to be the doormat of the league this season, evidenced by losing to Bradley, a second half breakdown against Indiana State at home and then just getting completely dismantled at Wichita State.  They now hit the road to visit Creighton and Southern Illinois, two venues that don’t like to let road teams walk away with victories.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

Conference season is well underway and there are a few great matchups this week.

  • 1/6, Wichita St. @ Missouri State (Local TV)—Missouri State is undefeated at home this season. Can Wichita go in to Springfield to get what would look to be a solid win at this point?
  • 1/6, Northern Iowa @ Southern Illinois (ESPNU)—Both teams are at the top of the Valley right now and this winner gets a leg up in the early MVC race.
  • 1/9, Northern Iowa @ Illinois State (ESPN2) —If Northern Iowa gets past SIU earlier in the week, it will be interesting if they can continue the road run. The Panthers already have three big road wins already against the historically tough Valley home venues.
  • 1/9, Bradley @ Missouri State (Local TV)—Bradley had high expectations heading into the season, but have some very disappointing performances. The winner here will have a turnaround of sorts, whereas the loser could spiral down quickly.
  • 1/9, Creighton @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—Many say that Creighton vs. SIU is the rivalry of the Valley, but I really think that Creighton vs. Wichita State is a bigger rivalry between the fan bases and it has spilled over to the court as well. The first meeting of two within a week of each other.
  • 1/10, Evansville @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net)—If Indiana State wants to consider themselves a contender, they should win this nationally televised game. For Evansville, it is a chance to showcase their phenom, freshman guard Colt Ryan.
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After the Buzzer: Man Oh Manny!

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2009

atb

Another intriguing “opening” day of college hoops, as mostly everybody who didn’t play yesterday played today.

Story of the Day. Manny Harris Records Michigan’s Second Ever Triple Double. These triple-double things are spreading among Big Ten players, as Michigan guard Manny Harris today dropped 18/13/10 assts in 29 minutes in a 97-50 shellacking of D2 Northern Michigan. Does it matter that Harris had his historic night (Gary Grant in 1987 was UM’s only other) against a non-D1 school? Not to us — Harris is a tremendous player and a dime is a dime. Passing the ball should always be rewarded, and Harris did his best today to make his teammates happy. DeShawn Sims could only muster a dub-dub (22/10), but his biggest crime was one of omission, as in, zero assists — share the wealth a little bit, DeShawn!  Harris’ achievement joins fellow Big Ten-er Evan Turner as the second player with a trip-dub in the last week, as the Ohio State star recorded his first on Monday. These Big Ten guys can play a little bit, which is once again why we expect the league to do some great things this year. Other than Turner and Harris, who’s next? Talor Battle? Robbie Hummel? Kalin Lucas?

photo credit: AP/Mike Ding

photo credit: AP/Mike Ding

Upset of the DayCornell 71, Alabama 67. Another day, another SEC team embarrasses itself at home.  Did anyone in Alabama care?  Probably not.  Don’t get us wrong here – Cornell is a fantastic Ivy League team with all five starters returning and gobs of game experience under their collective belt.  And Alabama is dealing with a new coach, a new system and a fanbase that is on its best day mildly interested in basketball, to put it nicely.  But an SEC team with two top 25-type players in its lineup should never lose this game at home (sorry, Goodman, but we disagree with you here).  This is not to take anything at all away from Cornell, who completely deserved the win today and will assuredly push everyone on its schedule this year, BCS team or not.  The Big Red shot 10-18 from three, and when Bama made a run to cut a 15-pt second half lead to two, Ryan Wittman (23/3), Louis Dale (13/4/5 assts) and Jeff Foote (17/7/3 blks) held steady down the stretch.  When Anthony Grant gets this thing going later this year, and we honestly believe he will, this win alone will probably be worth an additional seed line for Cornell.  Its first win over an SEC school since 1973 (!!) is quite simply a huge boon for this program, and the forty-plus excited comments on Cornell Sports Blog seems to confirm it.  Congrats, fellas.

RTC Live. We were privileged to provide online coverage for four of the top mid-major programs in America today.  Here are a couple of recaps.

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RTC Live: Creighton @ Dayton

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2009

RTCLive

Our first game on Saturday afternoon will feature two of the very best mid-major programs on an annual basis in college basketball.  Dayton and Creighton combined for ten NCAA appearances in the 2000s, and both schools are poised to be in contention for their respective conference crowns again in 2009-10.  And how about some kudos to both of these teams for scheduling a game either could easily lose as the first game of the year — it takes stones to put your RPI on the line so early in the season, so both Brian Gregory and Dana Altman should be commended for this matchup. 

Dayton appears to have the early advantage by virtue of playing at home and their high-flying junior forward, Chris Wright, but we shouldn’t forget that the Flyers got utterly shellacked last year at Creighton to the tune of 77-59.  It was UD’s worst loss of the season, but given just how well the Flyers play at home (20 in a row by our count), it’s safe to say that Dayton players will come into Saturday’s game with more confidence.  It will fall on the capable shoulders of Creighton’s P’Allen Stinnett to calm his team down and make the plays needed for the Bluejays. 

Gary Parrish believes that this is the best game of the weekend, and we have to agree.  Join us Saturday afternoon for what should be a great battle.

 

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Set Your Tivo: 11.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2009

tivo

I originally wanted this to be a post for the entire weekend, but after looking at the schedule for the weekend I realized that the only games worth watching were on Saturday so I had to make a slight revision and consequently this will be a Saturday only post. The way I look at it is to view Sunday as a day off to rest up (maybe get a little bit ahead on either school work or “real world” work so you can do absolutely nothing next week) for the first set of big games, which will be start on Monday. Unfortunately as you will soon see even Saturday might be a bust unless you live in about a 200-mile radius near the Indiana or Ohio border. Fortunately, your fearless editors have come through with RTC Live coverage at 2 out of 3 sites with the third site being less enlightened about new media.

Creighton at #22 Dayton at 1 PM on WHIO-TV: Yeah. That’s right. Only on local television, but like I said we will be there with RTC Live coverage. This will be the first game for both teams so both teams will be hyped up for this game even though the Flyers come in with significantly higher expectation not that the Bluejays are slouches.  After being snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee two years ago, the Flyers now have a target on their back after knocking off West Virginia in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. Brian Gregory‘s team is led by Chris Wright, everyone’s preseason A-10 POY (everyone also conveniently forgets that Wright wasn’t even 1st team A-10 last year), but if the Flyers are to live up to their preseason ranking they will need other players to step-up. If we were to pick out two players to fit that description would be London Warren, who picked apart West Virginia with 9 assists and only 1 turnover, and Marcus Johnson, a sophmore swingman who put up solid if unspectacular numbers (6.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG) last year, but has been pegged by Gregory as a breakout star this year. On the other sideline, Dana Altman will be hoping that P’Allen Stinnett can fill the void left by Booker Woodfox, last year’s Missouri Valley Conference POY and need center Kenny Lawson (8.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and conference-leading 1.6 BPG last year) to dominate the Flyers on the inside. If the Bluejays can get big performances out of those two and some big shots by Kaleb Korver (yes, he is Kyle’s brother and he can shoot–45% from beyond the arc last year).  However, the Bluejays’ biggest advantage might be that the Flyers could be looking ahead to their next opponent–#20 Georgia Tech and its hyped freshman Derrick Favors in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Davidson at #10 Butler at 2 PM on WHMB-40: Yeah. Local television again, but once again we have come through for you with yet another RTC Live from historic Hinkle Fieldhouse (the site of Milan’s famous 1954 win over Muncie and where they filmed Hoosiers–anybo are dy got the odds that Bill Simmons has ever travelled there since he references the movie so often?). Of course, we have a funny feeling that if Stephen Curry were still in a Wildcat uniform ESPN might have found a way to get them on one of their networks. Instead this game will give us a look at Butler, everyone’s top mid-major team and one of the highest ranked mid-majors that I can remember in recent years. Butler coach Brad Stevens managed to lead the Bulldogs to 26-6 record last year despite starting three freshmen in every game, a remarkable feat for the 2nd year coach who has more wins (56) in his first two years than any coach in D1 history other than Bill Guthridge (58). This year, Stevens will have significantly higher expectations for his Bulldogs who are led by sophomore Gordon Hayward (13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG) and junior Matt Howard (14.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG). On the other side of the ball, Davidson coach Bob McKillop will have his hands full trying to manage an inexperienced and Curry-less group in a hostile environment. In addition to losing Curry and his nation-leading 28.6 PPG, the Wildcats also lost Andrew Lovedale (a solid inside presence who provided both points and rebounds) and Max Paulhus-Gosselin (an excellent defender who to the best of my knowledge is not related to Jon, Kate, or any of the 8). This year, McKillop will be relying on Will Archambault (8.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG), Bryant Barr (7.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG), and Stephen Rossiter (6.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG). Unfortunately, the Wildcats strength is on the inside where Hayward and Howard will be dominating. The Bulldogs relative weakness is on the outside where Curry could have done some major damage, but he’s hanging out with Nellie now so expect the Bulldogs to be out to send a message to the rest of the nation that they deserving of this extremely high ranking.

Mount St. Mary’s at #16 Oklahoma at 2 PM on ???: This is ridiculous. I can’t find this game on any TV listing and we won’t be there thanks to Big 12 policy against new media  so we will just assume that Jeff Capel will hire one of those courthouse artists to let the rest of us know what the action was like.  There are only really two reasons to watch this game if you happen to be in Norman, Oklahoma (since you can’t see it anywhere else–seriously Oklahoma’s site doesn’t even list a local TV station carrying the game): to see how the Sooners adapt to life without Blake Griffin and to see how Willie Warren plays as the main option for the Sooners playing against the Mountaineers’ backcourt of Jeremy Goode (15.9 PPG and 3.1 RPG), Kelly Beidler (12.1 PPG and 6.5 RPG), and Jean Cajou (13.6 PPG and 3.4 RPG). We expect the Sooners to be ok, but don’t be surprised to see them struggle a bit in the early going. They shouldn’t have a problem with the Mountaineers, but if Milan Brown‘s backcourt gets hot from beyond the arc we could have an interesting game that nobody outside of the arena will see.

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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 Top 65 Games: November/December

Posted by zhayes9 on October 18th, 2009

seasonpreview

To get our readers excited for the endless possibilities of 2009-10, I’ve compiled an extensive list of the top 65 college basketball games of the upcoming season. Any true college hoops fan knows why we selected the number 65. Splitting up this season preview feature into three posts the next three Mondays (November/December, January and February/March), hopefully this list will provide you with the most vital of dates to circle on your calendar. Coaches are realizing more and more the importance of compiling a respectable non-conference slate to boost RPI/SOS numbers and provide their team adequate experience and preparation for the grind of conference play. Let’s lead off with the first batch of potentially memorable meetings during the first two months of the season:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

November 17- Gonzaga at Michigan State (#59 overall)- The featured game in ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon pits a backcourt-laden Gonzaga squad in the first of many difficult road tests against a top-five Michigan State team. The State backcourt of Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious will be given a true test from the Bulldogs trio of scoring senior Matt Bouldin, deep marksman junior Stephen Gray and emerging sophomore Demetri Goodson.

4393705_Michigan_State_at_Ohio_State[1]

November 17- Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis (#64 overall)- A young and largely inexperienced Memphis team will receive a stiff test right away with the likely #1 team in the nation- Kansas. Guards Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie must shoot well from deep for the Tigers to stay competitive. Former JUCO standout Will Coleman and burly senior Pierre Henderson-Niles will have their hands full down low with likely All-American Cole Aldrich.

November 19- North Carolina vs. Ohio State in NYC (#39 overall)- November and December means one thing: plenty of electrifying non-conference action at Madison Square Garden. This semifinal matchup could prove the best. Ohio State has their entire team returning besides the underwhelming B.J. Mullens and return defensive stalwart David Lighty from injury. They could definitely surprise the inexperienced Heels, who should have a distinct frontcourt advantage with Dallas Lauderdale sidelined.

December 1- Michigan State at North Carolina (#10 overall)- The Spartans and Heels meet in a rematch of the national title game that once again headlines this year’s ACC/Big Ten challenge. State may be able to avenge those two harsh defeats a year ago by taking advantage of the point guard mismatch. With Ty Lawson no longer around, Kalin Lucas could dominate against Larry Drew or Dexter Strickland. On the flip side, Draymond Green should have his hands full with a loaded UNC frontline.

December 5- North Carolina at Kentucky (#8 overall)- Notice a trend with this list so far? Roy Williams has challenged his team with an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, and this early season matchup in Lexington should be one of the best on the early season. There will be loads of projected lottery picks on the floor in this one, from North Carolina’s Ed Davis to Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

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