Larry Brown‘s decision to resign last week as head coach at Southern Methodist University should not come as surprise to those who know his history. According to reports Brown was seeking a five-year extension, but the school was only willing to offer a three-year, $10 million expansion leading Brown to resign just at the start of the start of the very important July reporting period. Fortunately for SMU they already have a coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich, who left a job as head coach at Illinois State in 2012 to be a coach-in-waiting at SMU and he is expected to receive a contract that is at least five years in length. Normally when someone Brown’s age (75) resigns we would expect that it would be the last we see of him, but Brown has always been different. If this is the last we see of Brown, his legacy will be a very interesting one as he is undoubtedly one of the best basketball coaches ever, but he was also one who could never stay in one place very long and also managed to be the coach at three schools who were hit with significant NCAA sanction.
July might seem like a weird time for Luke Winn to come out with new Power Rankings, but as he notes we are at the point where we can reasonably expect that every significant recruit/player has committed to play somewhere or decided to transfer out of their current program. While this version of the Power Rankings is lighter on GIFs/clips and numbers than in-season versions (totally understandable since there isn’t as much new data to look at as there is in-season), it does serve as a good concise recap of where the top teams stand coming into next season. If you’re looking for those really interesting stats, we would point you to the three-point shooting of Kentucky‘s incoming guards and Purdue‘s efficiency numbers with Caleb Swanigan on- and off-court.
If you happened to miss the coverage of Peach Jam, the big winners from the weekend appear to be Michael Porter Jr and Trae Young and not just because their team took home the title. According to most analysts the pair were two of the most dominant players in the entire tournament and probably did as much to boost their stock as anyone at Peach Jam. While DeAndre Ayton doesn’t seem to be in danger of losing his spot as the top recruit in the class, Porter made a strong case to be in the discussion. Of course, that probably doesn’t matter since everybody already has him penciled in going to Washington since his father was hired as an assistant coach there (ok, that’s probably more Sharpie than pencil). Young’s situation is more interesting as he is considering multiple schools with Kentucky reportedly making him one of their top targets.
Jeremiah Tilmon didn’t participate in Peach Jam as he is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder, but he still managed to make news with his decision to commit to Illinois. Tilmon, a 6’10” center who is top-30 recruit in the class of 2017, is originally from Illinois even though he plays for a school in Indiana now so we guess this counts as an in-state recruit. In any event, he is the highest-rated recruit to commit to Illinois since John Groce took over in 2012. The big question now for Illinois is whether he will stay committed to the school if they struggle this year and particularly if Groce appears to be in danger of losing his job, which he could be if they have another subpar season.
Outside of the obvious differences in coaching philosophies in terms of offensive and defensive sets, substitution patterns are probably the most important part of in-game coaching. Ken Pomeroy’s analysis of which coaches are most/least likely to let a player continue playing during the first half when that player already has two fouls offers an interesting look at that. While we don’t necessarily see a particular patterns (so-called “good” and “bad” coaches fall all over the spectrum) there are some pretty stark differences. The one thing that we would like to see applied to this analysis is the season-to-season variation in a coach’s tendencies, which could reflect a lack of an adequate substitute, and how this is related to percentage of minutes played by starters.
In the eight years before Larry Brown arrived at SMU in 2012, the Mustangs had signed one top 100 recruit, and barely. Rivals ranked Cannen Cunningham, a 6’10” junior averaging 11 minutes and six points through two games this year, a lofty #98 in the Class of 2011. Things have, shall we say, turned around since the Hall of Fame coach sauntered into town. Brown signed the school’s first McDonald’s All American, 6’5” shooting guard Keith Frazier, which Rivals ranked #18 in the Class of 2013. On Thursday, he officially signed the highest-rated recruit in school history for the second time in two classes when 6’5” point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Rivals’#2 player in the Class of 2014, officially agreed to #PonyUp.
Larry Brown has SMU hitting on all cylinders, but can the Mustangs keep rolling or is a breakdown on the horizon?(AP Photo/N. Raymond)
Admittedly, Brown had a couple of advantages in the pursuit of Mudiay: The prep star plays high school basketball less than 20 minutes from campus, and his older brother, Jean-Michael Mudiay, is a junior backcourt reserve for the Mustangs. Still, when a team that hasn’t won, or for that matter played in, an NCAA Tournament game in more than two decades outrecruits heavyweights like Kentucky and Kansas, attention must be paid. Furthermore, Brown is already showing results on the court, too. The Mustangs, who have posted one .500 or better record in the past decade, are off to a 2-0 start with wins over teams from the Big 12 and Atlantic 10. And Tuesday’s 89-58 win over Rhode Island was the team’s first 30-point win over a Division I foe in nearly three years. Given the step up to the AAC, this is almost certainly as good as it has been for SMU hoops in the past half-century, but the question must be asked: How long can it realistically last?
Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @wildjays.
MVC Untouched — The Missouri Valley Conference has so far survived the first few rounds of changes among the top 15 conferences in Division I basketball (the Ivy being the other one). While every major conference, and some others even further down have been expanding or shifting, the MVC has walked away unscathed and still completely intact. That doesn’t mean there have not been rumors about teams leaving the conference at some point. The latest such mention was late this summer whenthere was a report that Evansville was on the verge of heading to the Horizon League. While some of that was theory based on some relatively weak facts, there are still cards likely to be played on that matter at some point. The question is when it will happen and who will be the first to start the falling dominoes within the league. It may turn out to be a school like Evansville that is looking to get out of the shadow of the other bigger players in the Valley.
Can Doug McDermott have an even better season? — Creighton fans are salivating to see what McDermott can do to follow up last season, when he earned first-team All-America honors, averaged almost 23 points a game, and shot an amazing percentage behind the arc while frustrating opponents down low. The encore may not be so much about increasing his scoring like he did from his freshman to sophomore year, but about how far he can lead the Bluejays come March. McDermott spent the summer at the Amare Stoudamire and LeBron James skills camps, but he also took some time off after almost playing two years without a break including a stint with the Team USA U-19 squad. With so many expectations on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see if he continues to take everything in stride or listen to the whispers of the NBA and focuses on those areas of his game most likely to take him to the next level. For the MVC as a whole, the fans probably hope for both.
Doug McDermott Gives The MVC Something It Hasn’t Had In Many Years: A Bona Fide National POY Candidate.
Big Men Instead of Guards—For many years, the Valley has been known as a guard’s league with not as many big-bodied frontcourt players leading the way. Things have changed at least for the teams at the top. Along with McDermott, the Bluejays boast big man Gregory Echenique, who while topping over 300 pounds when he came to Creighton over three seasons ago, is now down to 260 and very agile. Jackie Carmichael from Illinois State impressed many at the camps he attended this summer after coming up big at the end of the season for the Redbirds. Colt Ryan, though he could be considered a guard, is more of a forward, but he can score in bunches for Evansville. Drake returns center Seth Van Deest from a shoulder injury that kept him out all season. Carl Hall will likely try to hold things down with Wichita State bringing in a bunch of new players. Then you have Seth Tuttle from Northern Iowa who was the MVC Freshman of the Year last season. When you look at the make-up of the MVC going into this season, it is easily dominated by talented frontcourt players.
Deja vu Times Two—Three years ago, Greg McDermott returned to the conference that originally made him a hot commodity and has experienced success by taking Creighton back to the NCAA Tournament. This time Southern Illinois hopes Barry Hinson has the same success coming back to the conference that he had marginal success with while at Missouri State. It is rare that a coach returns to the same conference to coach another school, but the MVC must be a special place where two former coaches do so to coach different teams in a short period of time. Unlike McDermott who came to Creighton with a cupboard somewhat full, Hinson has a little more work to do after the struggles SIU has had for the past four seasons.
A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before Memphis, Houston, UCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see Marshall, UTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.
Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.
Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…
1. Doug McDermott Continues All-American Status. Doug McDermott was named a first team All-American last season. While the rest of the first team decided to leave school early for NBA riches, McDermott decide to stay in school. He did this to not only improve his game, but also has hopes to take the Creighton Bluejays further into the NCAA Tournament after leading them to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007 and advancing to the Round of 32. His summer has been spent going to all of the skills camps including the Deron Williams/Amare’ Stoudemire Skills camp as well as the Lebron James Skills Academy, continuing to impress onlookers. With McDermott back, expectations are high in Omaha and many fans fear that if he does have the same kind of year or better that it might be hard for him to hold off on the NBA a second time.
What does All-American Doug McDermott have in mind for an encore in 2012-13?
2. Coaching Changes Welcome Back Familiar Faces. Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery was let go after a tumultuous time in Carbondale during his final four seasons as head coach that saw the program hit rock bottom. To resurrect the Saluki program, MVC coaching veteran Barry Hinson returned to the league to take over the head coaching job. Hinson spent the past four seasons at Kansas in a supporting role as the Director of Basketball Operations. He becomes the second coach in the past three seasons to leave the MVC and come back to coach another team in the league (Greg McDermott is the other). Hinson was let go from Missouri State in 2008 despite being pretty successful, but he couldn’t get his team to the NCAA Tournament. The question will be whether he can take Southern Illinois back to the postseason.
3. Teams Lose With Transfers.The resurgence of the MVC in 2012 caused a few of the better players in the league to look for greener pastures. Drake’s Rayvonte Rice decided to leave the Bulldogs and ended up at Illinois, a school where he had hoped for an offer coming out of high school. There was speculation even before last season that Rice was looking to transfer, but he had tried to dismiss it. The departure of Rice, an MVC-All Freshman selection two years ago and a second team All-MVC selection last season, puts a dent into Drake’s drive to rise in the league for next season. On the other end of things, Illinois State’s Nic Moore decided to leave the Redbirds after his All-MVC Freshman season. After an impressive showing at the MVC Tournament and the departure of head coach Tim Jankovich, Moore decided a change was in order. However, there were not as many teams looking for Moore to join them as he probably expected and eventually followed Jankovich to SMU. Illinois State was looking to be a contender this season, but again could take a hit due to the transfer of Moore and a coaching change.
Yesterday we mentioned that Luke Winn had written a piece handing out eight different coaching awards based on efficiency metrics from the entire season. His follow-up article published on Thursday broke down six more awards based on the data from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Several of the usual suspects populate this list, but you might be surprised at which head coach had the best after-timeout numbers in the Dance this year — he’s widely considered a very good coach, but probably not to the extent he deserves.
Assistant coaches around the country must have thrown up in their mouths Thursday after it was reported that Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovichwould leave his position to become a “coach-in-waiting” at SMU under new top man Larry Brown. The reported salary that Jankovich will earn while he waits for the itinerant 71-year old to get bored and retire again is over $700,000 per year, nearly double his pay at ISU. Jankovich went 104-64 (.619) in five seasons as a Redbird but despite four 20-wins seasons, he never broke through to the NCAA Tournament there (settling for four NIT appearances instead). The sound that you now hear murmuring in the background is the collective scrum by the nation’s top assistants clamoring to renegotiate their compensation packages. Wow.
It’s the offseason and although we’re still only about three weeks removed from the national championship game, some of the key questions heading into the 2012-13 season are already apparent. In this piece by Mike DeCourcy, you get a double-dip of the Cincinnati Kid (replete with goatee) through both his writing and a video clip discussion of some of those issues. Will UCLA improve its defense with their additions? Can Louisville find a reliable shot-maker? Can Thad Matta find someone to replace Jared Sullinger in the post? These and a couple other answers await if you click on over to TSN.
Roy Williams did a Q&A with UNC fans in Charlotte on Wednesday night, leading to some interesting comments from the venerable coach who is heading into his 10th full season as the head coach of the Tar Heels. Of note: his team considered cutting down the nets in Cameron Indoor Stadium after winning the ACC regular season title, but thought that such a display “might cause a scene” (ya think?); recruiting the Wear Twins over Mason Plumlee was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done” (um…); and he has not completely bought into the 1-and-done methodology for winning a championship, making “some decisions over the last four or five years to not recruit certain kids, because it’s just going to be a one and done” (hey, John Wall).
Finally, we’d be remiss as we close out this week if we didn’t at least mention the strong possibility that the BCS will move away from its incomprehensible system of choosing a football national champion and finally, inexorably, move toward a four-team playoff system beginning in 2014. There aren’t many policy decisions in public life that are complete no-brainers, but this is one of them. A decade from now people will mostly wonder why such an elementary solution to a complex problem took so long to implement. They’ll find the answer in the pocketbooks and vacation homes of bowl executives, but once January Madness takes hold and they realize that the real dollars lie in capturing casual fans (see: Bowl, Super), they too will realize the error of their ways. Congrats to our college football brethren for finally joining the 20th century.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
It’s been almost a full week since Southern Methodistofficially hiredLarry Brown to become the Mustangs’ new head coach, creating major headlines from a school that hasn’t had much to show from its program’s entire basketball history. The question surrounding the hire remains — Does SMU really expect Brown to turn around the program, or is the hire simply intended to draw publicity to a team in desperate need of some attention? We tend to think that the primary motive was the latter, but that it also just might be a smart move for the SMU program at this point in time.
Why Him? Hall of Famer Larry Brown (and his Assistants) are a Smart Hire for SMU (AP Photo/N. Raymond)
Larry Brown is in the Basketball Hall of Fame with a decorated legacy that includes being the only coach to win both an NCAA (Kansas) and NBA (Detroit) championship, but he hasn’t coached in the college ranks in nearly 25 years. At 71 years old, and with a track record of bolting from head coaching positions early in his tenure, why is there any reason to expect that Brown will be capable of turning around a struggling college program? The truth of the matter is there probably isn’t. College basketball is not what it was back in 1988 when he won a title for Kansas. There are now over 340 Division I teams, many of which have come to expect postseason success given the widespread parity that the sport has developed. The fact that SMU hasn’t qualified for an NCAA Tournament since 1993 doesn’t give Brown any slack either — the school is headed for the Big East in two seasons and desperately needs to turn things around in a hurry.
We mentioned Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich as a possible replacement for Frank Martin yesterday, and a media outlet in Bloomington now claims he may be on the Wildcats’ short list. Despite his lack of an NCAA Tournament berth, Jankovich makes a lot of sense. Forget for a moment even that he’s a former point guard for Kansas State. Beyond that tie, he also learned the ropes from Bill Self as an assistant, and his tenure at Illinois State hasn’t exactly been rocky. In fact, it’s been relatively successful. Here’s a decent comparison: when Oklahoma State hired Travis Ford, he had only reached an NCAA Tournament at Eastern Kentucky. Ford’s previous stop at Massachusetts had also only resulted in NIT appearances. Ford hasn’t yet been proven as a home-run hire, but he’s done good things in Stillwater. Jankovich could do the same in Manhattan.
Adding to the mystery of the Martin situation, both he and athletic director John Currie have denied reports of a strained relationship between the two. That’s nice to hear the two men parted ways on solid terms (publicly, at least), but that leaves us even more confused. If there was no issue with the AD, why leave for a school with less tradition and an athletic program with less emphasis in basketball? It’s not a stretch to say South Carolina is the worst job in the SEC, and it’s probably one of the worst BCS-conference jobs in America. It just is. So when Martin says he just wanted a new challenge, we hope he really believes that.
Watch out, Big 12, the SEC Tournament may be invading your territory. Kansas City and St. Louis could eventually be in play for the conference tournament, but there are no open slots until at least 2016. If either city lands the SEC Tournament, though, you can expect some backlash from the Big 12. We have a feeling these two conferences will not be playing nice for the next several years.
Kansas is the only team in the Big 12 still playing, so we may as well throw some Final Four previews at you. This one comes courtesy of Jeff Borzello at CBS Sports. As he points out, the Jayhawks’ title chances may hinge on their ability to execute offensively. They will shut down anybody they face in New Orleans on the defensive end, but offensively, they have to show up like they did in the first half against North Carolina on Sunday. Self’s teams normally execute as well as anybody in America, so there should be no doubt that his team will be focused against Ohio State this weekend.
With TCU joining the Big 12 in July, it must overhaul its men’s basketball program to keep up with the competition. Luckily, the Horned Frogs are pumping in millions of dollars to upgrade their basketball facilities, and that’s the first step toward this project. On the basketball side, they are actually not all that far behind. Coming from the Mountain West, it’s not as though TCU is foreign to the idea of good basketball, and it made strides this year with a post-season appearance.
We’re all mystified right now as to why Frank Martin just left a passionate hoops school behind in favor of one of the worst power conference jobs in college basketball, butit’s a done deal and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Martin may have had a strained relationship with his athletic director at Kansas State, but why choose South Carolina? It’s a question we really can’t answer until Martin himself speaks publicly about the matter. Until then, let’s turn our focus back to Manhattan. Coaching searches are never easy to predict, but we’ll go ahead and give you an early look at some logical candidates for Kansas State. Be warned, please: we have no insider information and have no clue what direction KSU will go with this search. We’re simply putting together a list of coaches that might make sense for the position. And one last note: Gregg Marshall, the most logical geographical candidate as the head coach at Wichita State, is not included in the list because it appears he has no interest in leaving the Shockers. The list of potential candidates, in no particular order:
Everyone Waits To Hear Frank Martin's Explanation For the Move
Tim Jankovich, Illinois State: Normally, a coach with Jankovich’s resume would not get any consideration at a Big 12 school. In five years at Illinois State, he has never reached the NCAA Tournament. He’s an intriguing name at Kansas State for a few reasons, though. For starters, he spent three years as a productive starting point guard at Kansas State from 1979 to 1982, and he later served as an assistant during the mid-80s. After that, he worked at Illinois and Kansas for Bill Self, one of the better tutors in college basketball right now. And despite the lack of an NCAA bid at Illinois State, he has made the NIT four times and has consistently finished near the top of the Missouri Valley Conference. His Redbirds have reached the MVC title game three times, twice losing in overtime. Simply put, he’s been very, very close to that elusive NCAA bid, and his program’s relative success speaks for itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.
The Week That Was:
Multiple Bid Talk—As the Valley non-conference season comes to a close, there is a lot more talk that the MVC will get more than its one automatic bid this season. Creighton and Wichita State appear to be the strongest in the league right now, but Indiana State and Northern Iowa are close behind. These four teams were talked about before the season started and have delivered in non-conference play. There are some good wins and some bad losses.
Creighton Dominating—The Bluejays have received a lot of attention behind the performances of Doug McDermott. They capped off their non-conference season by defeating Northwestern to go 3-0 against the Big Ten. Granted, the three teams they beat (Northwestern, Nebraska, and Iowa) may finish at the bottom of the league, but that is still impressive. McDermott is second in the nation in scoring, while Creighton as a team leads the nation in assists.
Jankovich Ejected—It is not uncommon for coaches to get a little emotional in a game to the point that they get a technical foul. However, it is more rare for the coach to get a second technical foul in a game to get themselves ejected from the game, much less before halftime. This is exactly what happened to Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich last week when the Redbirds hosted Arkansas-Little Rock. Jankovich was ejected by referee Gerry Pollard with 2:31 to go in the first half after a disputed foul called on a Redbird.
It May Not Be Long Before We Start Running Out Of Superlatives For Doug McDermott. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Let’s take a look at each team and how they did in the non-conference side of things.
Creighton (10-1)— The Bluejays have probably had the best possible outcome during their non-conference season. They already have more road wins this season than they did all of last season. Doug McDermott has been the star for this team scoring over 20 points in the last 10 games. However, the other bright point of Creighton’s performances have been from Gonzaga transfer Grant Gibbs. Gibbs had 22 assists over the last two games. The connection between McDermott and Gibbs has been a key combination for Creighton this season. As a team they lead the nation in assists. Things are going so well this season, there are even stories about the dancing grandma in the stands.
Wichita State (9-2)— The Shockers started off a little slow, but have been pretty dominant as they closed out their non-conference season. They suffered a couple of losses in the Puerto Rico Tip-off tournament, but have rebounded to get wins over UNLV, Utah State and Tulsa. One thing that will help Wichita State in conference play is depth. They have nine players averaging ten minutes or more of action a game. Read the rest of this entry »
Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.
The Week That Was
The MVC/MWC Challenge Runs To A Draw: Over the weekend, the Missouri Valley and Mountain West Conferences played the third annual MVC/MWC Challenge games. With only eight teams left in the current Mountain West, there were only eight games played. Although Boise State played two MVC teams in the past few weeks, only one of those games was a part of the Challenge. The two biggest games involved Creighton and Wichita State. The Bluejays came back from 17 points down in the first half to escape San Diego State with a victory. On the other side of the coin, Wichita State destroyed UNLV behind Joe Ragland’s 31 points. The Challenge will finish out in the 2012-13 season.
Valley RPI Rising: The MVC has been having some pretty good non-conference success this year. So good, in fact, that the Valley heads into this week with the seventh highest conference RPI. This is quite a difference from sitting at #11 last season at the same time. With Northern Iowa, Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State and Missouri State all in the top 41 in the RPI, things are looking great for multiple NCAA bids this year.
Creighton In The Top Twenty: With several teams ahead of the Bluejays losing, Creighton moved up to #17 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll and they make their debut in the AP poll sitting at #19. In the AP poll, this represents Creighton’s first appearance since November 2006 and their highest ranking since March 2003.
Ragland Has His Day: Wichita State’s Joe Ragland created a little history in the big win over UNLV. He was the first Shocker since 2006 that scored more than 30 points in a game. He was dead-on from behind the arc, going 8-9 against UNLV. In the two games this week, he was 14-18 from the field and 11-13 from behind the three point line.
Joe Ragland Sliced And Shot His Way To A 30-Point Game In The Shockers' Win Over The Runnin' Rebels Sunday. (MVC-Sports.com)
Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference
A Look Back
Missed Opportunities—This week, several teams missed opportunities to really shake things up in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri State had a great opportunity to get a commanding lead in the standings and stay undefeated, but lost to Indiana State on a last-second shot by Jake Kelly to tie the game with a foul. He calmly sank the free throw and the Sycamores found themselves tied with Missouri State for a short time in the standings. Creighton had an opportunity to move up a couple of games, but lost to Missouri State on Saturday with Kyle Weems coming through with late-game heroics for the Bears.
3OT Thriller —In what could have shaken the standings a little more, Indiana State went into Wichita and gave the Shockers all they could handle taking the game to three overtimes. Wichita State eventually pulled out the win.
Standings Stay Put—As a result of the ups and downs of everyone this week, the standings and power rankings stay the same. Slowly, as mentioned last week, Northern Iowa has worked its way up back into the mix and scored a key victory over Wichita State. With Creighton and Missouri State on for this week, it should be another crazy week in the Valley.
Player of the Week—Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa—Ahelegbe has been the key cog in bringing Northern Iowa back into the MVC race. He averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 assists and shot 61.1 percent from the field this week in the two Panther victories.
Newcomer of the Week—Jake Odum, Indiana State–The freshman has continued to impress as the leader on the court for the Sycamores. He had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the three-overtime game against Wichita State. His presence on the court will decide whether Indiana State continues to win games or not.
Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week’s rank)
Missouri State (16-4) (8-1) (1)— Missouri State had a wide range of emotions this week. First was the last second loss in Terre Haute against Indiana State, which carried over into the game with Creighton. Missouri State was down the whole game by as many as 15 points until the final 11 minutes of the second half, where they fought back to steal the win against the Bluejays. They get to face the state of Iowa this week by going to Drake and hosting Northern Iowa.
Wichita State (16-4) (7-2) (2)— The Shockers have went through almost the same set of emotions, a bit of an emotional gut check. The Shockers have had some problems defending home court in conference play after losing two straight against Missouri State and Northern Iowa. They almost lost their third straight at home before winning in triple overtime against Indiana State. This week they take a trip to Southern Illinois before hosting Bradley.
Indiana State (12-8) (7-2) (3)— The Sycamores are the surprise team of the season which there always seems to be lately in the MVC. Their six-day stretch of basketball was one to remember. Indiana State had their biggest test of the season in games against Missouri State and Wichita State. While being able to steal one against the Bears, They could not steal another one on the road at Wichita State. Evansville comes to town this week and has been the only other team in the conference to beat Indiana State. I’m sure Indiana State will be hungry for that one. Then, a road trip to Creighton who may be looking for revenge against the Sycamores.
Northern Iowa (14-6) (6-3) (4)— The Panthers have been able to fly under the radar for the most part and have snuck back into the race. They have won six of their last seven games including wins at Wichita State and Drake last week. They host Creighton and then go to Missouri State. If the Valley season has been any indication, don’t be surprised to see Northern Iowa sitting at the top of the conference standings by the end of the week. Some are hoping that their Bracketbusters opponent will put up a better fight.
Creighton (13-8) (5-4) (5)— The Bluejays have had several opportunities slip through their fingers. They came out on fire against Bradley but really struggled in the second half. Creighton has had second half problems all season and that caught up to them again in Springfield when they could not hold a lead against Missouri State in the final minutes. Creighton has now lost games against Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri State, and Indiana State on final possessions and have had second half breakdowns against BYU, Northwestern, Missouri State, and Wichita State. Creighton needs someone other than Antoine Young to be able to create plays in the backcourt. The Bluejays is tougher than last year, but not tough enough.
Evansville (10-9) (4-5) (6)— The Aces have been average this season as their record indicates. They lost against Southern Illinois but came back to beat Bradley. Pieter van Tongerenhas improved for Evansville. They head to Indiana State, who they have beaten already and have a quick turnaround for the return game against Southern Illinois
Southern Illinois (10-10) (4-5) (7)—The Salukis are sitting in the position that the media picked them in to start the season, but they are getting better, just inconsistent. They gave Illinois State their first conference win of the season which takes them back a couple of steps. The injury to Gene Teague really hurt them this season, but he has now returned to the lineup. They host the Shockers this week before hitting the road back to Evansville.
Drake (8-12) (3-6) (8)— Drake is trying to see what they can do in preparation for next year since things have not turned out as they had hoped. They did get a win against Illinois State to give them some confidence, but then laid an egg against Northern Iowa. They get to play spoiler against Missouri State this week before heading to Illinois State.
Illinois State (9-11) (1-8) (9)— The Redbirds got their first win in the conference against Southern Illinois which gives them a boost before their rival game against Bradley. They hoped that year four underTim Jankovich would not have turned out the way it has.
Bradley (6-14) (0-9) (10)— What else can you say about Bradley? They played probably one of their best halves of basketball against Creighton in the second half on Wednesday night and tried to come back against Evansville, but were too far down to get a victory. Andrew Warren continues to be a scoring machine for Bradley and unfortunately isn’t in the same breath of Jimmer Fredette due to the team’s struggles.
A Look Ahead
The grueling conference season continues with several big games on the schedule this week.
1/26—Creighton @ Northern Iowa (ESPNU)—Creighton has struggled with Northern Iowa in recent years, but a win here is needed by both teams to have a chance for the top of the league. Greg McDermott returns to where his coaching career took off and brings his son who originally signed with Northern Iowa. It will definitely be an interesting return.
1/26—Wichita State @ Southern Illinois (Fox Sports Net)—The Shockers are trying to keep par with everyone else and winning on the road is always important, especially at SIU Arena.
1/26—Illinois State @ Bradley (Local TV)—Both teams are the bottom dwellers in the league, but their rivalry is always fierce. Jim Les’ job may be on the line for Bradley in this one.
1/29—Indiana State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)—Indiana State doesn’t want to feel left out in the conference race and getting more wins against the teams like Creighton will help solidify the run they have had during conference season.
1/30—Northern Iowa @ Missouri State (ESPNU)—If the cards fall right earlier in the week and Northern Iowa gets revenge for the conference opener in Cedar Falls that the Bears won, then the Panthers could be sitting at the top of the league after Sunday night. The always adventurous Missouri Valley Conference.