Checking In On… the Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2012
The Week That Was:
BracketBusters—On Monday night, ESPN announced the matchups for the tenth installment of the BracketBusters series. Creighton and Wichita State fans were hoping that a few matchups would go their way with St. Mary’s headed to Creighton and the Shockers getting an opportunity to knock of undefeated Murray State. This was not meant to be as St. Mary’s and Murray State were paired together. That sent Long Beach State to Creighton and Wichita State to Davidson. The Shockers’ triple-overtime loss at Drake hurt them more than probably anyone realized with this matchup. A total of five teams from the Missouri Valley Conference were selected for games on the ESPN family of networks. Here is the full schedule of games for the MVC:
- Northern Iowa @ Virginia Commonwealth, 6 PM CT (ESPN2)
- Wichita State @ Davidson, 11 AM CT (ESPN or ESPN2)
- Southern Illinois @ Ball State, 1 PM CT
- Indiana State at Butler, 1 PM CT
- Drake @ New Mexico State, 2 PM CT (ESPNU)
- Old Dominion @ Missouri State, 4 PM CT (ESPNU)
- Oakland @ Illinois State, 4 PM CT
- Loyola-Chicago @ Bradley, 7 PM CT
- Long Beach State @ Creighton, 9 PM CT (ESPN2)
- Western Illinois @ Evansville, TBD
More Free Basketball—This week, several conference games were contested throughout and sent to overtime. Missouri State lost to Illinois State in overtime last Wednesday to kick the week off. Then, in Des Moines on Saturday, Wichita State and Drake went to triple overtime before the Bulldogs came away as victors. Finally on Sunday, Indiana State and Evansville battled to double overtime before the Sycamores left Evansville with a victory. The league is setup this season in a way that pretty much anyone can beat anyone on any given night.
Chaos in the Standings—With Wichita State’s loss, the Shockers fell out of the tie with Creighton in the league race. With the Bluejays holding a one game lead over Wichita, the game in Omaha on February 11th becomes even more important. But after that, the rest of the league is still in flux. A total of two games separate teams three through nine in the standings and no one seems to want to break out of that pack. One week, a team like Evansville will go 3-0 and then the next go 0-2. Others, like Missouri State keep splitting their weekly games. Right now, there’s little hope for more than two teams making the NCAA Tournament, barring a run in the MVC Tournament. Even something like that could knock Wichita State off if they are sitting on the bubble.
Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)
Drake invited themselves to the Creighton and Wichita State party while the rest of the league tries to position itself for the MVC Tournament that is about a month away.
- Creighton (20-2, 10-1) (1): Creighton continues to roll along with a ten-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s action. There has been some debate based on statistics that Wichita State is a better team than Creighton. They may seem similar with schedules, but the Bluejays do own a win over the Shockers in Wichita. The one concern for Creighton however, is the turnovers and sloppy play as of late. The Bluejays had 19 turnovers against Bradley and were able to win, but at some point, those miscues could catch up with them. It is their teamwork that keeps winning games.
- Wichita State (18-4, 9-2) (2): The Shockers hit a stumbling block in their triple-OT loss against Drake and then were assigned to play at Davidson in the BracketBusters later this month. These two things were probably not something they wanted, although coach Gregg Marshall gets to go a little closer to home. One asset to Wichita State is its depth, but in the loss to Drake, Marshall only played about seven players throughout the game. Also, despite Garrett Stutz’s back problems, he logged a staggering 50 minutes in that game.
- Drake (13-9, 6-5) (4): Drake continues to surprise getting some wins you wouldn’t expect. Ben Simons played 53 minutes in the win against Wichita State that took almost three hours to complete. In facing the top two teams in the league, Drake only committed 19 turnovers against Creighton and Wichita State.
- Missouri State (13-10, 6-5) (3): The Bears are trying to get back into the race, but they cannot have any more letdowns. They will get a chance to move back up with games against Wichita State and Drake this week. Caleb Patterson has had a bad ankle and not having him in the lineup makes it harder for Missouri State to win games.
- Illinois State (14-8, 6-5) (7): Illinois State has gone in spurts so far this season, and they are currently on a two-game winning streak heading into their game with Creighton on Wednesday night. Jackie Carmichael came up big with 26 points and 16 rebounds in the overtime win over Missouri State and notched his seventh double-double of the season in the win over Southern Illinois.
- Northern Iowa (15-9, 5-7) (6): Northern Iowa is really struggling right now, losing four of its last six games. It is one of those times in the season when there is that motivational players’ meeting to try and get them back on the right track. It seemed to help Tuesday night against Southern Illinois. In the loss to Missouri State, they did not have a player score in double-figures. Scoring has been a problem for Northern Iowa all season, mainly because players like Anthony James continue to struggle from the field.
- Indiana State (13-9, 4-7) (9): Indiana State is starting to get things together, but will it be in time? The goal for them has to be to get into the top six and stay out of playing on Thursday night in the MVC Tournament. Dwayne Lathan tied his career high of 27 points against Evansville. Although it is not a TV game, Indiana State is pretty excited to play Butler in the Bracketbusters.
- Evansville (10-11, 5-6) (5): Evansville has had a lot of peaks and valleys in their season. They started conference play winning two, losing their next four, won the next three and now have lost two in a row. If anything, they are consistently inconsistent. Kenneth Harris and Colt Ryan seem to be a good combination that in that if they both have good nights, the Aces will win games.
- Southern Illinois (7-16, 4-8) (8): The Chris Lowery watch is on in Carbondale. After getting their best win of the year defeating Bradley, the Salukis then shot 15-50 from the field in the 60-40 loss to Illinois State. It was so bad, the crowd gave a sarcastic cheer for Diamond Taylor’s basket with 9:57 to go in the game. It was only the second field goal of the half for the Salukis. Against Northern Iowa on Tuesday night, they were lucky to score 49 points.
- Bradley (6-17, 1-10) (10): The Braves are glad January is going away, as they went 1-8 for the month. The last month of the season might be favorable for Bradley, as five of their final regular season games are at home. The minutes on starters are taking their toll, however, as their bench has been outscored by their opponent’s bench by an average of 17.6 points over the last seven games. Is there such a thing as a moral victory in sports?
We are almost two-thirds of the way through conference season and a couple of teams face off for the first time in conference play. Things could really shake up this week.
- 2/1—Illinois State @ Creighton (Local TV / ESPN3 & FC): The game in Normal was pretty close throughout before a couple of late technical fouls helped Creighton pull away. The Redbirds hope for the upset in Omaha knowing they can put the Bluejays on the ropes.
- 2/1—Wichita State @ Missouri State (Local TV–Kansas): In a weird scheduling quirk, this is the first meeting of these two teams in conference play. They will meet each other again within the next two weeks. The Bears swept the series against the Shockers last season. Wichita hopes they can bounce back from the crushing loss at Drake. Wichita State had not lost a road game all season until that game. They hope it isn’t two in a row.
- 2/1—Drake @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net / ESPN3 & FC): Both teams are on a roll right now, but you might have expected them to be in opposite positions at this point in the season. The Bulldogs have won five of their last seven games while the Sycamores have won their last two.
- 2/4—Creighton @ Northern Iowa (Fox Sports Net / ESPN3 & FC): It is Northern Iowa vs. the McDermotts, Part II, this time in Cedar Falls. Ben Jacobson and Greg McDermott are probably tired of talking about Doug McDermott and the situation that brought him to Creighton, but the media and the fans do not. This one should be a wild one as this game has been sold out for a few weeks.
- 2/4—Missouri State @ Drake (Local TV / ESPN3 & FC): Missouri State played Drake in the first week of the conference season and walked away with a win. But that was over a month ago and a lot has changed. The winner of this game could likely be in sole possession of third place in the MVC race.
- 2/4—Indiana State @ Wichita State—(ESPN2/ESPN3): Each game is important, and one could argue this one could make or break both teams. The Sycamores are trying to rally back from their first half of the MVC season while the Shockers are trying to hold serve at home. Wichita State can’t look too far ahead or Indiana State will surprise them.
- 2/7—Creighton @ Evansville (No TV): In a similar scheduling quirk of Missouri State/Wichita State, this will be the first meeting for these two teams in conference play. It is too bad this one won’t be on TV as it will be an interesting matchup between Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Evansville’s Colt Ryan. Both of them are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring. Maybe it is the first one to 30 wins? We will have to see on that.
POY Stock Watch
Here are our top five in our player Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year watch. Last week rankings in parentheses.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (1): McDermott averaged 27 points this past week in wins over Drake and Bradley. He is solidly on top and may make it to the cover of Sports Illustrated in a couple weeks when they run a story on him. Meanwhile, Grantland has their own Player of the Year profile on McDermott
- Ben Simons, Drake (4): Simons was instrumental in the win over Wichita State Saturday night. He scored 29 points and continues his breakout season.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (2): Ryan scored 23 points in the double overtime game against Indiana State, but fouled out before it was over. He was 10-of-10 from the free throw line in that one. He continues to lead the league in scoring during conference play.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State (3): Weems is staying solid for Missouri State leading with 15 points in the overtime loss to Illinois State and had 20 points and 10 rebounds against Northern Iowa in that win. It is performances like these that will keep Missouri State around until the end.
- Gregory Echenique, Creighton (5): Echenique continues his solid contributions in conference play averaging 12 points and 8.5 rebounds in Creighton’s wins this week. As teams continue to pile around McDermott, Echenique has been able to take complete advantage.