Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference
A Look Back
- First week of Conference Play—The Missouri Valley Conference started conference play this week as each team had two games on the schedule. In the first televised game of the season on the Fox Sports Net package, Missouri State and Northern Iowa took things down to the wire. With Kyle Weems being pretty much ineffective for the Bears, he hit a three pointer with 2.5 seconds left to give Missouri State a one point victory against the defending champion Panthers.
- Northern Iowa starts 0-2—The Panther s have started conference season 0-2 with a couple of thrilling games against Missouri State and Southern Illinois which were decided in the final seconds. With the two losses, history may still be on their side since they seem to be exceptions to the rule. Since 1993-94, only one team (Northern Iowa, a 2008-09 co-champion) has won at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title without winning its regular-season opener — and UNI lost Wednesday night. Further, 15 of the last 16 regular-season champs (or co-champs) have opened 2-0 or better in MVC play, with UNI in 2008-09 once again serving as the exception. So either they will become the next exception to the rule or they’re already essentially eliminated from contention on January 1st , one week into conference season
- Three team race? –At this point of the season, it would appear the best scenario for the Valley to have multiple bids is for Wichita State, Missouri State and Creighton to continue winning and separating themselves from the rest of the league. The rest of the league has questionable records and even if teams like Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa can rise up out of the Valley regular season; their records still may not be palatable to the selection committee to consider more than the conference tournament champion.
Player of the Week— Jermaine Mallett, Missouri State –Mallett matched his career high of 22 points in the win against Illinois State this week and averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds. He was key in the comeback against Northern Iowa and helped lead the Missouri State Bears to an early 2-0 conference mark.
Newcomer of the Week— Doug McDermott, Creighton—Once again, McDermott garners newcomer of the week honors as he averaged 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this week including a 28 points and 10 rebounds against Drake on Saturday night. McDermott‘s 28 points were the most for a Creighton freshman since Ryan Sears scored 29 against Wyoming in 1997.
Power Rankings (Overall and conference records in parentheses, and last week’s ranking)
- Wichita State (11-2) (2-0) (1)— The Shockers have held serve with their convincing victories over Evansville and Bradley, but those teams are far from the best in the conference. In the win against Evansville, Wichita State still scored 91 points even though they went through over a nine minute stretch where they scored only 10 points. They will likely have a couple more appetizers with Drake and Illinois State this coming week before the showdown with Missouri State next Sunday.
- Missouri State (10-3) (2-0) (2)— Missouri State looked a little out of sorts against Northern Iowa on Wednesday before the thrilling come back and big road victory in Cedar Falls. The past two seasons the Bears were 1-17 in road games before the win against the Panthers. Then after getting a win against Illinois State in their home opener, they are well on track. People will point to Kyle Weems, Adam Leonard or Jermaine Mallett as keys to Missouri State’s success, but it may actually be Will Creekmore that will make or break them. They will have two big tests this week with the top of the league as they travel to Creighton on Tuesday and host Wichita State on Sunday. They have a great opportunity to put some distance between the rest of the league.
- Creighton (10-4) (2-0) (4)— Creighton took a huge monkey off their back in the victory against Illinois State on Wednesday. The Bluejays seven had lost of their past eight meetings with the Redbirds coming into that game. With the win, the four year seniors of Kenny Lawson, Jr., Casey Harriman and Kaleb Korver have beaten every team in the league at home and on the road during their career. Drake played physical with the Bluejays on Saturday night, but they were able to fend off the Bulldogs to start 2-0. One key player that may be missing for a while is sharpshooter Ethan Wragge. He has been fighting plantar fasciitis all season. After a few games of action, his foot is back in a boot and it is unknown when he is going to return now. Missouri State comes to town before a two game road trip a rival Southern Illinois and Evansville.
- Southern Illinois (7-6) (1-1) (6)— Southern Illinois makes the big jump of the week after bouncing back from the loss against Drake to steal one against Northern Iowa. Having a short memory was important for the Salukis this week as Carlton Fay hit a shot with two seconds remaining to help SIU knock off the Panthers. This could be a big week for Southern Illinois as they travel to Bradley and then host Creighton and Illinois State. They could be in the thick of things if they can go undefeated in this week’s stretch.
- Northern Iowa (8-5) (0-2) (3)— As noted above, the Panthers suffered some crushing losses early, losing their first two games by a total of three points. The word of the week might be panic, but like we talked about earlier, there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Northern Iowa can feast on Evansville, Indiana State and Bradley this week to try and get back in the race. is second in the league in scoring through the first week averaging 21.5 points a game.
- Evansville (7-5) (1-1) (7)— The Purple Aces were blown out by Wichita State to open play but rebounded to take a close one against Indiana State. Evansville would like to get out of the shadow of other Indiana schools, but it is a long road. Evansville could be in some trouble again as they travel to Northern Iowa and Missouri State before hosting Creighton on Sunday.
- Illinois State (8-5) (0-2) (5)—The Redbirds started where I projected by losing their first two games. A week after saying they aren’t hitting the panic button yet, they may be ready to. Hitting the road for two of three games this week can’t be too exciting. Neither is the home matchup against Wichita State.
- Indiana State (6-7) (1-1) (9)— The Sycamores won against the injury riddled Bradley team but could not hold off their in-state rival Evansville. A couple of home games might be what is needed to give first year coach Greg Lansing an opportunity to make some noise early. However, they will have to do it without Jake Kelly. The senior who transferred from Iowa a couple of seasons ago has not had good luck in Terre Haute. Kelly suffered a knee injury ending his season early last season and now he has a stress fracture in his foot this season that could keep him out of action for an unspecified time.
- Drake (6-7) (1-1) (10)—The Bulldogs up and down season continues. They got an opening night win against Southern Illinois but then ran out of gas against Creighton in Omaha. The theme most of the season for Drake were turnovers, but against Creighton it was rebounding. They were outrebounded 45-24. Their road trip continues to Wichita State before hosting a couple of home games against Indiana State and Bradley. Rankings 8-10 could change significantly after this week.
- Bradley (6-7) (0-2) (8)— Bradley has lost seven of their last nine games and failed to secure a conference win this week. The Braves are playing three of their first five conference games on the road and could lose another home game on Tuesday against Southern Illinois. Bradley has always seemed to get socked with a weird conference schedule. One positive for Bradley is Andrew Warren who is currently riding on 38 consecutive free throw makes, the second longest streak in Bradley history.
A Look Ahead
Some great games at the right time this week as conference play enters the second week. It will be more intense with three games for each school between Tuesday and Sunday.
- 1/4—Missouri State @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—Both teams come into this game at 2-0 in conference play and will be a good challenge to see who can take the early lead in the conference.
- 1/4—Southern Illinois @ Bradley (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—Bradley has started off 0-2 while Southern Illinois is looking to build on their last second win against Northern Iowa. The Braves could be out of the race early with a loss here.
- 1/7—Creighton @ Southern Illinois (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—This is always a heated rivalry although it has cooled a bit the past few seasons because both programs have been trying to get back to their top level status. Nonetheless, it should be a good one to catch on a Friday night.
- 1/9—Missouri State @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—The Bears and Shockers were picked in the preseason to battle it out for the conference championship this season. This is the first of their two matchups with this one at the always tough Koch Arena.
- 1/9—Bradley @ Northern Iowa (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—It is weird to think that Northern Iowa might be on the outside looking in for the first time in the past couple of seasons after starting 0-2. With the third game in a week, it will be interesting to see if the Panthers can walk away with a winning record or end up at the bottom of the Valley standings.