Checking In On… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2012
The Week That Was:
- A Two-Team Race: With Missouri Valley Conference play starting with a frenzy of surprises, there continue to be some additional shockers, just not at the top of the league. Creighton and Wichita State continue to win and are both tied for the league lead at 6-1. What has probably been more of a surprise is the inconsistent play of the teams below the Bluejays and the Shockers. Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Indiana State and Evansville have all been inconsistent while Drake has gone 3-0 in this most recent stretch of games.
- McDermott Hits 1,000: Creighton’s Doug McDermott went over 1,000 points on Sunday night in only his 57th game of his career. That is amazing for only being halfway through his sophomore season. Creighton’s all-time leading scorer, Rodney Buford, took 59 games to get to the 1,000 point mark. McDermott’s teammate, Antoine Young, was honored earlier this season after scoring his 1,000th point. The difference in this case is that it took Young more than three full seasons to hit that milestone. McDermott isn’t looking to be slowing down anytime soon.
- Ahead of the Pac-12: The MVC as a conference sits at #8 in the RPI positioning them ahead of the Pac-12 and just behind the A-10 and the Mountain West. Five teams are in the top 100 of the RPI with Creighton leading the way at #21. Northern Iowa and Wichita State are not far behind at numbers #30 and #31, respectively. The last time the MVC had more than two teams in the top 40 of the RPI was in 2005-06 and five of the league’s teams were in the final RPI rankings. Everyone except for Southern Illinois is under #200.
Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)
With some separation happening, there is a battle currently going on in the middle of the conference.
- Creighton (16-2, 6-1) (1)—After the setback to Missouri State to start conference play, Creighton has been steady and winning ever since. They are now 7-1 on the road this season including six of those being “true” road games. Their road win total is double what they had last season. They also have four wins against teams in the top 50 of the RPI (Northwestern, San Diego State, Wichita State , and Northern Iowa). The media still loves talking about how Doug McDermott ended up at Creighton and stepped out of the shadows of Harrison Barnes.
- Wichita State (15-3, 6-1) (2)—The Shockers are right behind the Bluejays. Had they won the game on New Year’s Eve against the Bluejays, they would likely be the ones getting all the attention. Since that loss, Wichita State made some slight changes to the lineup, including starting Demetric Williams, to get some better defense on the court.
- Drake (11-7, 4-3) (7)—Drake is the surprise of the league right now. After starting out at 1-3, the Bulldogs have now won three straight games, albeit against the lower half of the league, behind the play of Ben Simons. The win at Evansville was their first true road win of the season. Their next two games are on the road against Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa, so we’ll know a little more after that.
- Northern Iowa (12-5, 3-4) (4)—Northern Iowa has a great RPI, but if they keep losing to teams like Bradley, they will not be up there in the conversation for a possible tournament bid. After getting a last second win against Missouri State earlier in the week thanks to Chip Rank, the Panthers slipped up in Peoria against the Braves. Ben Jacobson likes to make mass substitutions and has a whole second team that is contributing pretty well.
- Missouri State (11-8, 4-3) (3)—The Bears have been really inconsistent and are in a lot of trouble. The Bears are 2-2 at home in conference play and they need to get more out of their main man Kyle Weems. The active career scoring leader in the MVC needs to have more games like the one against Creighton in order to carry Missouri State to a conference run. Jamar Gulley could also be a guy that steps up to help out.
- Illinois State (11-7, 3-4) (5)—What a difference a week makes. After singing the praises of the Redbirds last week, they had a horrible week this week losing games against Drake, Creighton and Wichita State. The key to the Redbirds is their three-point shooting. They live and die by the three. Indiana State and Evansville are must wins this week in order to get into the top half of the league.
- Indiana State (11-7, 3-4) (6)—Indiana State has been struggling just as bad. They even had a white-out to help get some momentum, but it has not helped. They have lost four of their last five games and could be in trouble this next week against Illinois State and Creighton. Dwayne Lathan went 1-10 from the field against Southern Illinois. They need bigger production out of him.
- Evansville (8-9, 3-4) (8)—Evansville broke a four game losing streak with the win at Missouri State. Many may not realize that Colt Ryan is 14th in the nation in scoring. Six of Evansville’s eight losses have come by a combined 13 points. They are on the cusp of doing well, but cannot win the close games. It is when Ryan has a good supporting cast that the Aces can get their wins.
- Southern Illinois (6-12, 3-4) (9)— The Salukis continue to make small strides as they continue to try different lineups. Mamadou Seck continues to be a bright spot as well as defense by Jeff Early. Southern Illinois has lost eight straight against Creighton since ESPN College Gameday came to Carbondale—the last time the Salukis beat the Bluejays. They can spoil things this week against Drake and Wichita State.
- Bradley (6-13, 1-6) (10)–Bradley got their first conference win of the season against Northern Iowa and have been playing a lot better the past few games. They have played close and have made teams respect their play, except Wichita State. After getting blasted 90-51 to open conference play, the return game in Wichita this past week was not much better, losing 78-41. Allowing 83 points and 50% shooting by opponents is what is hurting the Braves the most.
Things slow down a little this week, but some key matchups that could further decide the Valley race.
- 1/18—Wichita State @ Northern Iowa (Local TV/ ESPN3 & ESPN FC)—The Shockers are trying to keep pace with Creighton and hope the Bluejay scan stumble along the way. Northern Iowa needs this win more to keep their NCAA hopes alive and to hold home court.
- 1/18—Creighton @ Missouri State (No TV)—Missouri State opened conference season by knocking off Creighton in Omaha opening some eyes that Missouri State might still be a contender in this league. Since then they have been up and down. A season sweep against Creighton would be a big resume booster.
- 1/18—Indiana State @ Illinois State (FSN / FCS / ESPN3 & ESPN FC)—This game has all of a sudden become really important for both teams. Both are trying to break losing streaks as well as stay in the conference hunt. The Sycamores have not quite met expectations while the Redbirds have been a bit of a surprise.
- 1/21—Illinois State @ Evansville (Local TV/ ESPN3 & ESPN FC)—The Aces are another team on the ropes. If Illinois State can win this game, four of the next five are at home and the Redbirds would be poised to make a late season run.
- 1/21—Indiana State @ Creighton (ESPN2)—Creighton, due to being ranked, will get everyone’s best shot. For Indiana State, they hope to steal a game in order to stay in the dogfight in the middle of the conference looking to emerge from the pack.
- 1/22—Drake @ Northern Iowa (ESPNU) –The casual viewer would probably expect that Northern Iowa would be the team on a roll, but actually it is Drake that is making some noise. Drake could be riding a four game winning streak into this one and could continue to surprise some people despite all of their injuries this season.
POY Stock Watch
Here are our top five in our player Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year watch. Last week’s ranking in parentheses.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (1)—McDermott continues to be the nation’s second-leading scorer at 24.2 points a game, and it showed with his 20-point performance against Illinois State and 25 points against Southern Illinois. With opponents throwing every type of defense at him, he has been able to continue to make an impact. McDermott has missed six of his last seven three-point attempts but is still shooting 53% from beyond the arc this season.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State (2)— Weems has been consistent averaging 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in his team’s two games this week. While the consistency has been great, Weems has tended to disappear at times during games leading to the inconsistency of the Bears to get wins.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (3)— Ryan was held to single digits for the first time in conference play against Drake last week, but rebounded for a 22-point, six-assist performance against Missouri State in the Aces first win in five games.
- Anthony James, Northern Iowa (5)—James came up big this week in the 61-60 victory over Missouri State. He scored 23 points and tallied a team-high eight rebounds. Like we mentioned last week, when he is on, the Panthers are on. In the loss to Bradley, James was held to 11 points and battled foul trouble all night.
- Ben Simons, Drake (NR)—Simons has been the key to Drake’s three game winning streak averaging just under 20 points a game. Rayvonte Rice gets the attention for this team, but it is Simons that creates the biggest impact, especially from the three-point line where he has made almost 42% of the team’s three pointers.