Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • MVC/MWC Challenge: The Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference hooked up again this season for a “challenge” series between the two conferences.  Last season, the Valley won the series 5-4.  This year has been a completely different story, with the MWC shellacking the Mo Valley 8-1 in last week’s games.  Missouri State did not participate in this year’s challenge because the Mountain West Conference only has nine teams. With the Bears performing well this season, maybe the conference is second-guessing their methodology.
  • Maniscalco Out for the Season: First, it was Taylor Brown who was declared out for the season for Bradley due to some cardiac condition that requires him to rest.  Now it is point guard Sam Maniscalco who has been shut down for the season because of slow recovery from ankle surgery during the offseason.  With two key players no longer in the mix for the Braves this season, the faithful in Peoria may have a frustrating year.   With Duke in the wings this coming week, you can bet the line is changing for that game.
  • Valley Troubles Against the Power 6: The Missouri Valley Conference is still showing signs that it has not risen up to a multiple bid conference once again.  Over the past two weeks, the losses against the Power Six conferences have continued to mount— Purdue,  St. Johns,  Notre Dame and Connecticut, to name a few.  The Valley is 3-11 against the power conference teams.  There are a few opportunities yet for some nice wins, but there aren’t many left.
  • Drake Doesn’t Love Alaska: Drake spent their Thanksgiving up in Alaska as a part of the Great Alaska Shootout.  They were destroyed by St. John’s in the second night of competition.  In their final game against Weber State, the Bulldogs had a one point lead with less than six seconds left.  They were then called for a technical foul after slamming the ball on the ground after a foul was called.  Drake walked away from the tournament 1-2.
  • Questionable Losses: Not only are member schools losing against the power conferences, they are also losing against beatable teams like Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee.  The other problem is games on the road.  The Valley is a disastrous 2-17 in true road games so far this season.  On the flip side, the MVC is 25-6 at home.
  • Player of the Week: Will Creekmore, Missouri State. Creekmore has been the most solid player for the Bears and maybe even in the Valley so far this season.  He is one of two players in the conference that has scored in double figures in every game played this season so far.  In his last four games against Pepperdine, Pacific, Arkansas-Little Rock and Central Arkansas, he has averaged 12.5 points and nearly six rebounds per game.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Doug McDermott, Creighton – McDermott is the other player in the league to score in double figures in every game played this season.  He has been the only player honored for newcomer of the week honors by the conference for the first three weeks and the true freshman has been a needed force for the Bluejays, who have struggled to have veteran players step up and make an impact.

Power Rankings (Record) (Last week’s rank)

  1. Missouri State (6-2) (4): The Bears have been the most consistent team so far this season.  They closed out the NIT Tip-Off with wins over Pepperdine and Pacific along with Arkansas-Little Rock last week to get their twelfth straight win at home.  This is the same Arkansas-Little Rock team that beat up on fellow conference member Illinois State.  The freshmen are being integrated nicely into this team.   A big game against Oklahoma State is on their slate this week.
  2. Wichita State (5-2) (3): The trip to the Maui Invitational was not what the Shockers hoped for.  They were minutes away from knocking off eventual tournament champ Connecticut but gave away the game late.  They finished with two wins against Chaminade and Virginia, but they were not Michigan State and Kentucky. Wichita State has very few chances to build a nice non-conference resume, especially since they lost a big one to San Diego State, a game which some Shocker fans weren’t even able to watch.
  3. Illinois State (6-2) (5): The Redbirds have one more win than Wichita State and Missouri State, but all their opponents, save UNLV, have an RPI under 200 except for UNLV. Against the Runnin’ Rebels, they suffered their worst loss ever at Redbird Arena, an 82-51 throttling. An NCAA Tournament surprise from last season, Ohio, is on the schedule for Illinois State this week.
  4. Northern Iowa (4-2) (7): The Panthers are starting to gel together after a tough loss against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  They gave Iowa State their first loss this past week and extended their home winning streak to 18.  They also garnered a win in the MVC/MWC Challenge against TCU.  They have to leave the friendly confines of the McLeod Center and head to Iowa this week.
  5. Evansville (3-3) (6): Evansville has moved up in the list with their victory at Butler last week.  Head coach Marty Simmons lost so much weight during the offseason that he is now using his old suits as a part of a Share a Suit program launched in Evansville.  They have a nice opportunity to make some noise at home against North Carolina this week before a matchup with lowly Maryland-Eastern Shore.   Roberts Stadium will be sold out when the Tar Heels come to town.
  6. Bradley (4-4) (1): After starting 4-0, the Braves have dropped four straight to halt the positive momentum.  This is a bad time for Bradley to try and build some team chemistry; the injury bug might just save Jim Les and give him another year or so.  They have been jinxed with injuries almost every year under his tenure.  They head to Cameron Indoor this week to take on the Duke Blue Devils before taking on end of the semester finals.
  7. Creighton (4-4) (2): Creighton had three winnable games slip away from them this past week against Northwestern, BYU and Nebraska.   Kenny Lawson has not played well as of late, averaging less than eight points per game on 9-25 shooting his last three games. The Preseason Player of the Year has not had a smooth start into his senior season.  The uneven play of the Bluejays concerns head coach Greg McDermott.   A home game against St. Joseph’s  will close out a tough stretch for Creighton before Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique becomes eligible.
  8. Southern Illinois (4-4) (8): The Salukis have started off strong in most of their games, but do not have enough to sustain it for 40 minutes and their offense is really struggling which is prompting changes in the lineup.  The Salukis finished the last 7:34 of the game against New Mexico without a field goal and trailed by as much as 18 in the second half.  Their high-profile games against Illinois, Purdue, and New Mexico did not turn out as hoped and now they have to use the rest of the non-conference season to see if they can put together a team that will not finish last in the conference.
  9. Indiana State (3-5) (10)—The Sycamores finally played their first home game last week, going on the road to battle Notre Dame and coming up short.  After the slow start, they are starting to do better in their execution.   DePaul comes to town this week, but it will only be ISU’s second home game this season.
  10. Drake (2-4) (9)—Drake has lost three straight games and have to go on the road again this week to Eastern Michigan.  Though it is a winnable game, the Valley schools have not been very good on the road and don’t bode well for a team that really needs a win.  Their sports information director abruptly resigned, too.  I hope it wasn’t because of the basketball team.

A Look Ahead

There are some big games this week with a mini MVC/ACC Challenge along with some other nice games.

  • 12/7—Northern Iowa @ Iowa (Big 10 Network)—The Panthers took out one in-state rival in Iowa State last week.  They will now go on the road to take on the Hawkeyes, who almost squeaked one out against ACC foe Wake Forest last week.
  • 12/8—DePaul @ Indiana State (Local TV)—Neither school has a very good record, and both probably will not contend for their conference championships this season.   However, for the Sycamores, it is still a game against a power conference school.  It could help the conference as a whole.
  • 12/8—Bradley @ Duke (ESPN2)—Before the season started, this game looked like a great opportunity for the Braves to see what they were made of and if they would be a contender in the Valley this season.  But with two All-Valley players out for the season, Bradley is a shell of itself and this one could get ugly on national television.
  • 12/8—North Carolina @ Evansville (ESPNU)—Roy Williams brings the Tar Heels to Evansville in the second of a three game series for a chance for Tyler Zeller to play in front of hometown fans.  There is a reason they are playing against the Sycamores instead of Indiana, Butler or Louisville.
  • 12/11—Missouri State @ Oklahoma State (Local TV)—The Bears open this three game series down in Stillwater.  This is a great opportunity for Missouri State to up their profile and could be a key victory for them on their resume come March.
  • 12/11—St. Joseph’s @ Creighton (Local TV)—Creighton University’s president is retiring from Creighton in July.  Guess who is coming in to replace him?  The current President of St. Joseph’s, Timothy Lannon.  He plans to be there for the game as well as Bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
  • 12/11—Southern Illinois @ Western Kentucky (Fox College Sports)—Their new four game series starts up in Bowling Green.   Both of these teams were known as mid-major powerhouses over the past decade.  The Salukis are nowhere near where they used to be, but the Hilltoppers are still pretty good.  These teams always have great games against each other.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • Southern Illinois already in trouble: The Salukis had the opportunity against Illinois and former coach Bruce Weber to open the season.  Both teams were hot to start, but Southern Illinois cooled off and Illinois’ pressure defense smothered the Salukis and they left Champaign with a 85-63 loss.  Three days later as a part of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops marathon, many references were made to Michigan’s Chris Webber and his infamous timeout in the NCAA finals back in 1993 when Southern Illinois did the same thing against Northeastern while tied in overtime.  On a rebound with only a couple seconds remaining, the Salukis called timeout, but they did not have one.  A technical foul was called and Northeastern hit one of the free throws.  Controversy ensues, but Southern Illinois starts at 0-2.
  • Bradley loses Taylor Brown: Right as the season was about to start, Bradley announced that Taylor Brown would not play for the Braves this season.  It appears Brown is suffering from a cardiac condition that requires three months of rest to properly evaluate his condition.  This is a big loss for Bradley.
  • Missed opportunities: The Missouri Valley Conference has already suffered from some missed opportunities in the first week of the season.  Northern Iowa took a trip to Syracuse on the opening weekend.  The darling of the NCAA Tournament last season went home with their tail between their legs as the Orange dominated the Panthers for a 68-46 victory.  Drake got blasted by Iowa State 91-43.  Missouri State came up short against Tennessee.  Add in the Southern Illinois losses and the chances to win a couple games from the Power Six conferences slipped away.

Player of the Week

Antoine Young, Creighton – Young led the Bluejays in all three wins to start the season.  He averaged 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game this week in the wins over Alabama State, Northern Arizona and Louisiana.

Newcomer of the Week

Kenneth Harris, Evansville – The juco transfer has made an impact early for the Purple Aces as he scored 21 points on 7-8 shooting in his debut against Oakland City and hit key free throws down the stretch and grabbed eight rebounds for Evansville in their 77-73 victory over Texas-San Antonio. 

Power Rankings

  1. Bradley (3-0)–Bradley is off to a hot start, but the games are close and they are still adjusting to playing without Taylor Brown.  The injury bug has hurt the Braves over the past few seasons.  Dodie Dunson was out all last season and Andrew Warren was out during the 2008-09 campaign.  These types of injuries have kept Bradley from reaching their full potential.  But they are surviving right now and they are doing it with the help of their bench.
  2. Creighton (4-0): Creighton is not winning with style points, but have brushed off a couple scares with hot-shooting Northern Arizona and Louisiana squads.  The biggest difference so far through the first three games—free throw shooting.  The Bluejays have gotten to the free throw line 85 times already, shooting over 81% while the opponents have only gone to the charity stripe 26 times.  Games against Iowa State and Kennesaw State are on the schedule this week.
  3. Wichita State (1-0): The Shockers haven’t done too much so far and have almost gone unnoticed during the first week of play.  They graded themselves after their win against Texas Southern.   Wichita State hopes to make a splash this week at the Maui Invitational in Hawaii, starting with UConn.
  4. Missouri State (2-2): Missouri State gave Tennessee all they could handle in their NIT loss on Wednesday.  Then they had to turn around and play Tulsa on Friday night and looked tired.  Playing four games in seven days has taken its toll already on the Bears with the starters playing a lot of minutes and some suffering the flu bug. They need to rebound quickly as they have two more games in the next two days. They are hosting the consolation rounds against Pepperdine and a rematch of the CollegeInsider.com championship game against Pacific.
  5. Illinois State (2-0): The Redbirds have started the season undefeated with a whole slew of new players and are trying to go into the season without pressure.  Both of their games were extremes.  They blew out SIU-Edwardsville, but they blew a 22 point lead against Tennessee State that they eventually held on to win.  Jackie Carmichael is trying to be the team leader for Illinois State so far, but he needs to stay out of foul trouble.
  6. Evansville (2-0): The story with Evansville is the fact that they lost one of their exhibition games.  However for the games that count, they have come away with some confidence-building wins.  In the 77-73 win against Texas-San Antonio, the game was tied 17 times and the lead changed 26 times.  Having a game down to the wire will benefit the Purple Aces early in the season. They now take on the Indiana Hoosiers for the first time in 15 years.
  7. Northern Iowa (1-2): The Panthers are still trying to adjust without Ali Faroknamesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder.  Northern Iowa unveiled their Sweet 16 banner this week before their game against Division III Coe College.    The returning players and new players are still looking for their roles. They hope that a game against North Dakota will help make that better
  8. Southern Illinois (0-2): I’m sure Southern Illinois didn’t plan on starting off 0-2, but they did and it may take longer than I realized to get them back to their MVC glory days.  23 turnovers, missed three pointers and missed free throws against Northeastern will not win basketball games.  They now focus their energies to the Chicago Invitational Challenge.  They first host Ausin Peay and Charleston Southern which should produce their first wins of the season.
  9. Drake (1-1): Drake started off with a win over Texas Southern, but are licking their wounds after the loss to Iowa State.  After being tied four minutes into the game, the Bulldogs missed 14 straight shots and Iowa State went on a 23-1 run during the next 10 minutes and they could never recover.  After a week off between games, they need to be ready for the Great Alaska Shootout this week.
  10. Indiana State (2-3): The Sycamores have already played four games, but they haven’t turned out as they had hoped to start new head coach Greg Lansing’s career, leaving the coach searching for answers.  After winning their first game of the season against Texas-Pan American, they suffered losses against Loyola-Chicago, Eastern Kentucky and Ball State.  In their latest loss against Ball State, the Sycamores had 26 turnovers and have now lost 24 straight on the Cardinal home court.   After going to Oral Roberts this past Saturday,   Indiana State will finally open their home season this Saturday against Buffalo.

A Look Ahead

Here are the games of significance this week as the MVC gets more opportunities against power conference teams.

  • 11/21: Creighton vs. Iowa State in Des Moines, Iowa (No TV)—Coach Greg McDermott leads the Bluejays to take on his former team.  This game was already planned before McDermott left the Cyclones to coach Creighton during the offseason.  There may be some emotional fans during this one.
  • 11/21: Evansville @ Indiana (Big 10 Network)—The Purple Aces go into this contest undefeated and they will see how Tom Crean’s rebuilding is going.  You never know what could happen in this one.  Indiana will travel to Evansville next season to open the new Evansville downtown arena.
  • 11/22-24: Wichita State @ Maui Invitational (ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU) — The Shockers have some great opportunities for themselves and the MVC this week in the always-stacked Maui Invitational.  If they get past Connecticut in the first round, they would likely play Michigan State.  A final game could include Washington, Kentucky, Virginia or Oklahoma.  Anything less than two wins for Wichita State would be a disappointment.
  • 11/24-27—Drake @ Great Alaska Shootout (Fox College Sports Pacific)—Drake heads north to hopefully get themselves on track after the blasting at Iowa State.  They open against Southern Utah and then either Ball State or St. Johns. Houston Baptist, Arizona State, Weber State and host Alaska Anchorage round out that field.
  • 11/26—Southern Illinois vs. Purdue in Chicago, IL (Big 10 Network)—Friday night starts the four-team tourney part of the Chicago Invitational as the Salukis get to face another former coach in Matt Painter and the Purdue Boilermakers.  Wright State and Richmond will be the options on Saturday to close it out.

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

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

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Lower Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL)

  • Shelvin Mack – Jr, G – Butler. There were times during Butler’s superb run to the national championship game last season where you’d be excused if you thought Shelvin Mack, a 6’3 guard with icewater in his veins, was the best player on the floor.  In BU’s first round NCAA game against  UTEP, his explosive 18-point second half where he drained five threes in the first eleven minutes fueled a 22-4 blitz that awakened his sleepwalking team and drove the Bulldogs into the second round (and beyond).  He also added four boards, four assists and a couple of steals in that one just for kicks, but it was seemingly like that all season long.  While Horizon League POYs Gordon Hayward (2010) and Matt Howard (2009) garnered most of the publicity, Mack quietly went about his business of doing whatever was needed to win games — 25 points against UW-Milwaukee; 7 rebounds against K-State; 8 assists against Northwestern and Green Bay; sticky defense every night out.  And win Butler did, to the tune of 25 victories in a row and an unprecedented march to play Duke for the title.  Neither the Bulldogs nor Mack will sneak up on anyone this year, especially after a summer with USA Basketball where the stocky junior opened the eyes of NBA scouts and his peers by earning a spot on the USA Select team ahead of such notable guards as Jimmer Fredette, Jacob Pullen, LaceDarius Dunn, Scoop Jardine, William Buford and Scotty Hopson.  Go ahead — check any preseason all-american list and you’re likely to see quite a few of those names on it.  If anyone actually believes that Butler was a one-year flash in the pan, they haven’t been paying attention.  It’s very difficult for any school to make the Final Four in a given year, but the Bulldogs with Mack leading the way along with Howard and a cast of other returning players, will once again be in that conversation.  Sometimes you just know  when a player is a winner — he has that little extra something that doesn’t always show up in the box score yet you know he’ll find a way to get it done?  That’s Mack, a true example of the “Butler Way” if ever there was one.  All-American forward Gordon Hayward will be missed, but  we have absolutely no doubt that Butler will again be a top ten caliber program in 2010-11 in large part due to the heretofore overlooked glue player whose time has come to take the spotlight.

Butler's Heart & Soul Returns to Indy (AP/P. Sakuma)

  • E’Twaun Moore – Sr, G – Purdue. Less than a week ago Purdue was one of the three favorites along with Duke and Michigan State to win the national title this coming April, but a Robbie Hummel ACL injury later and everyone has been talking about another lost season for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers. However there is still some hope in West Lafayette that comes in the form of E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (Moore, Hummel, and Johnson were part of a loaded Boilermaker recruiting class in 2007). As talented as Johnson is it will be Moore and his all-around brilliance that will have to be driving force behind the Boilermakers if they are to make a push for the Final Four, of which they are still capable even with the loss of Hummel (to injury) and Chris Kramer (to graduation). Coming off a season where he was first team All-Big Ten and honorable mention AP All-American and an off-season where both he and Johnson briefly flirted with entering the NBA Draft before deciding to come back for their senior year, Moore will be expected to increase his scoring load and pick up some of the defensive slack created by the departure of Kramer. On the offensive end, Moore averaged 16.6 points per game providing the Boilermakers with their most explosive offensive threat since the days of Glenn Robinson while adding 2.7 assists per game, a figure that may not need to increase as the Boilermakers should be bolstered by the full-time return of Lewis Jackson. However it is the other side of the ball where Moore will really have to step up. Although he averaged a respectable 1.5 steals per game Moore was not expected to exert himself significantly on the defensive end as he had Kramer taking on the tougher defensive assignments and being an all-around Steve Wojciechowski-like pest to help create opportunities and cover up for the mistakes of others on the defensive end. To get the Boileramakers back to the Sweet 16, which they got to last year without Hummel, and beyond Moore will have to step around his all-around game while still maintaining his scoring even as teams continue to put an increased focus on him during their game-planning.

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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 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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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 7th, 2009

checkinginon

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

MY STANDINGS (current record/last week’s)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

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

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

checkinginon

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

MY STANDINGS (current records)

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

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Injuries, Illness and Suspensions—The Valley has started out with several injuries, illnesses and suspensions this season, causing some teams to play without some veteran leaders including:

  • Bradley lost Dodie Dunson for the season with a broken arm suffered in their game against Idaho State while Taylor Brown is serving a suspension for  an offseason battery charge.  Brown was the team’s leading scorer during the Labor Day trip to Brazil. 
  • Creighton lost Justin Carter to an MCL tear for 2-4 weeks, Casey Harriman was hospitalized with swine flu that turned to tonsillitis that turned to strep throat that turned into mononucleosis, while Chad Millard has been out with a foot injury since September.
  • Drake was without Josh Young due to a hip pointer injury.
  • Wichita St. was without Clevin Hannah for the first three games (including the upcoming CBE Classic game against Pittsburgh) due to a “paperwork” error on his amateur status

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