Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
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A Look Back
- Indiana State On The Rise—After a rough start in non-conference play, the Sycamores have been improving, jumping out to an early 4-1 record in conference play. A lot of it has been without Jake Kelly and Dwayne Latham. First year head coach Greg Lansing is seizing the opportunity to move Indiana State up in the pecking order in the league.
- Early Season Wins On The Road—Missouri State is building up big road wins early this conference season against the top teams in the league. The Bears already has wins in their back pocket at Northern Iowa, at Creighton, and at Wichita State. It may be the way Cuonzo Martin handles his bench. With the way thing are going with Missouri State winning on the road, they are setting themselves up for having the biggest advantage once February comes around.
- Not A Guard League This Season—The Missouri Valley Conference has been known historically as a guard-oriented league, but several teams are relying on their frontcourt players to lead them along: Missouri State’s front line of Kyle Weems and Will Creekmore, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Kenny Lawson, and Gregory Echenique, and Southern Illinois’ Gene Teague, Mamadou Seck and Carlton Fay are examples of players that are carrying their teams that are not necessarily guards.
- Player of the Week—Carlton Fay, Southern Illinois—This week, Fay was instrumental in the wins against Bradley and Illinois State in averaging almost 20 points a game for the Salukis. He had 33 points against Illinois State, including two free throws at the end to seal the win. They will need him to perform big to keep
- Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—It may seem like this is a little biased, but facts are facts—McDermott has been consistent week to week. This week he averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game in the three games played this week. A close second is Mamadou Seck from Southern Illinois, but he only had two good game performances this week. McDermotts three solid games put him over the top.
Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week’s rank)
- Missouri State (13-3) (5-0) (2)— It is looking more and more like the team to beat this season is Missouri State. The Bears have gone out on the road and improved from their 1-17 record over the past two seasons to 3-0 so far this season. Against Creighton this week, it was about making adjustments at halftime, which resulted in easy layups. Against Wichita State, it was getting out to an early lead and just taking it to the Shockers before holding on to the victory. They now host Southern Illinois and put their 17-game home winning streak on the line. They are in this for the long haul.
- Wichita State (13-3) (4-1) (1)— The Shockers in some respects has sort of flown under the radar as they probably haven’t been talked about as much as other teams, especially with the success of Missouri State. They had an easy start with games against Drake, Bradley, Evansville and Illinois State, which are a combined 3-17 in conference play. The loss against Missouri State on Sunday may be a wake-up call to them. Their next big test will be at Creighton on Wednesday night. They may have found the point guard they have been looking for in Demetric Williams.
- Creighton (12-5) (4-1) (3) — The Bluejays suffered from inconsistent play at the beginning of the week. They played a solid first half against Missouri State, but blew an 11-point lead in the second half at home and were outscored 47-26, and did not defend their home court. The first half against Southern Illinois wasn’t much better, but Creighton rebounded with a come-from-behind overtime victory at Southern Illinois and held on for a win at Evansville. Kaleb Korver has finally come around in his scoring with career highs at Southern Illinois and Evansville. Wichita State comes to town and a road trip to surprising Indiana State will be important to them to try and stay in the top half of the league.
- Indiana State (9-7) (4 -1) (8)— Right now, the Sycamores are the surprise of the league. Although the wins have come against the bottom of the league and mostly at home, they are still sitting in a good situation. They destroyed defending champion Northern Iowa 70-45. Indiana hopes their defense will be the thing that helps them win on the road. They will already have the return game with Bradley on Wednesday, but then will host Creighton on Sunday. They could be in the top three next week.
- Southern Illinois (9-7) (3-2) (4)— The Salukis’ up-and-down season continues. They did get wins against Bradley and Illinois State, but couldn’t put rival Creighton away down the stretch with Carlton Fay missing key free throws toward the end of regulation. Fay rebounded with 33 points including a three pointer with 12 seconds remaining to help secure the win against Illinois State. Right now they are just a middle of the pack team and road trips to Missouri State and Northern Iowa will not be easy.
- Northern Iowa (10-6) (2-3) (5)— The Panthers got their first conference win against Evansville, but were destroyed by Indiana State on Friday night. Lucas O’Rear then broke team rules and was suspended for the Bradley game on Sunday. Northern Iowa has some problems to solve if it wants to be in any type of contention down the stretch. The biggest problem is three-point shooting. They are shooting the same number of shots, but fewer of them are going in. If the Panthers hit better than 34% from three, then they are 6-1.
- Drake (7-9) (2-3) (9)—Drake has lost three of their last four games and are having problems hanging on to the ball and rebounding—many fundamental things that are needed to win games. One positive is the performance of Aaron Hawley and Ben Simon off the bench. They will head to Evansville before battling Wichita State at the Knapp Center.
- Evansville (7-8) (1-4) (6)— The Purple Aces are reeling, losing all three of their games this week. It probably has not helped that three of the first five conference games have been on the road. Colt Ryan and Denver Holmes were quite the duo last season, but Holmes has been pretty quiet this season and hopes he is turning things around. Drake and Illinois State are on the slate this week. It is very possible the bottom four teams in the league right now will battle it out for those positions.
- Illinois State (8-8) (0-5) (7)— Tim Jankovich knew that he had some rebuilding to do, but probably didn’t expect to start 0-5 in conference play. They went 0-3 this week and just missed defeating Southern Illinois on Sunday. The Redbirds have now lost against all of the top teams in the league. They get Northern Iowa and Evansville this week at home—they are hoping the schedule can help them get some wins.
- Bradley (6-10) (0-5) (10)— You wonder if Jim Les would like to start the season over, as nothing seems to be going right for them. The Braves are still looking for their first conference win, and at this point, it isn’t looking good. Fans and beat writers are trying to stay positive about the Braves. I guess one other positive thing to look at is at least Carver Arena got a good review. They host Indiana State and Missouri State this week.
A Look Ahead
Some great games at the right time this week, as conference play enters the second week. It will be more intense with three games for each school between Tuesday and Sunday.
- 1/12—Wichita State @ Creighton (Local TV—KMTV and Cox-Kansas)— This is actually a pretty good non-rivalry where both schools really do not like each other. These two teams always play their best against each other.
- 1/12—Southern Illinois @ Missouri State (No TV)—Both programs are on opposite sides of where they used to be a decade ago, but Southern Illinois wants to stay in contention. They have to beat Missouri State to stay in the race.
- 1/16—Creighton @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net)—The Sycamores have been the surprise in the league so far. They would like to continue that run against the Bluejays.
- 1/16—Missouri State @ Bradley (ESPNU)—At the beginning of the season, this looked like a key matchup, but now Bradley is just trying to not finish last in the MVC. At the same time, this would be a loss that the Bears do not need for their conference run.
- 1/16—Southern Illinois @ Northern Iowa (Local TV—WSIU and PSN)—The Panthers and Salukis are trying to claw their way back in and both teams are searching for answers to get some wins.