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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.