Missouri Valley Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-UpPosted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2012
Arch Madness Preview
League Play Summary
The Missouri Valley Conference broke out of its shell this season, bringing it back to a multiple-bid-conference even before the MVC Tournament this weekend in St. Louis. For the past four seasons, The Valley has only had the automatic bid advance to the NCAA Tournament and was viewed as a falling league after getting four teams into the tournament in 2006. This year, everything changed. With the breakout play of Creighton’s Doug McDermott and the dominance of Wichita State, the MVC has two teams ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1983 and the first time ever heading into Arch Madness.
Creighton started off strong this season and looked like the team to beat behind McDermott with early non-conference wins against San Diego State, Northwestern and a blowout of Iowa. A stumble against St. Joseph’s derailed the Jays for a bit, but they rebounded and remained a mainstay in the Top 25 until a three-game losing streak, which included a big loss at home against Wichita State. After heart-stopping victories in three of their last four games of the regular season, they are now back into the Top 25 heading into Arch Madness.
Wichita State played even stronger as the season wore on. After struggling a bit in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Shockers have rolled to win 24 of their final 26 games and have only lost once in 2012 — to Drake in triple-overtime. For the Shockers, it has been a total team effort on the offensive and defensive side of things. Since they did not have a “star” player to add to the hype, it took a while for WSU to break into the rankings.
Teams like Evansville, Missouri State, and Northern Iowa had opportunities this season to make an impact, but came up a little short.
Regular Season Awards
- MVC Player of the Year: Doug McDermott, Creighton (23.1 PPG, 47.9% 3FG, 8.1 RPG) —McDermott had some early accolades coming into the season as a third-team preseason All-America by The Sporting News, but blossomed into a National Player of the Year candidate. Although his scoring numbers dropped between non-conference and MVC play, he has still been one of the more dynamic players this season and made Creighton a totally different team. McDermott is still third in the nation in scoring, and once the Bluejays get into the postseason, teams playing against him for the first time could be in for a big surprise.
- MVC Coach of the Year: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State — When Marshall came to Wichita in 2007, the Shockers went 11-20. Since then, Wichita State has steadily improved, winning 80 games over the past three seasons. Marshall’s coaching and recruiting has been a direct result of this success, culminating with an MVC regular season championship. There have been rumors in the past couple of offseasons about Marshall being a candidate for several other head coaching jobs. Could the success of this season result into him getting exactly what he wants or is he in Wichita for the long run? The MVC has lost several coaches in the past decade based on their success. As an example: Bruce Weber, Keno Davis, and Cuonzo Martin all left the MVC after leading their teams to conference championships.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton (23.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG) — McDermott’s scoring average went down during conference play, but he was still able to average 20 points while being double or even triple-teamed in games.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville (20.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.0 SPG) — Ryan has a knack for being able to use ball screens to the fullest and can score from anywhere on the floor if he is left open for a split-second.
- Garrett Stutz, Wichita State (14.1 PPG, 8 RPG) — Stutz has been the difference maker for Wichita State this season using his size to dominate conference opponents. He was a bigger scorer in conference play (16.6 /game)
- Joe Ragland, Wichita State (13.2 PPG, 47.7% 3FG) — When Wichita State needed a big shot, Ragland has been there to take it. He was deadly from downtown and scored over 30 points twice this season.
- Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State (13.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG) — Quietly, Carmichael had a solid season for the Redbirds leading the team in scoring and rebounding. He also led the MVC in rebounding.
Newcomer Of The Year: Anthony Downing, Missouri State (11.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG) — The Valley was full of veteran players this season, so finding a newcomer of the year was a little tough. Downing was key in the major wins for the Bears and had a career high 26 points against Creighton. He will be a key cog on next year’s Missouri State team that is losing three major contributors. A close second was Grant Gibbs of Creighton, followed by Seth Tuttle from Northern Iowa.
Game of the Year
Drake 93, Wichita State 86, 3OT
Power Rankings (postseason projections included)
As we head to Arch Madness and the postseason, here is a look at each school and where they will end up and what others will need to do next year:
- Wichita State (26-4, 16-2) — NCAA #5-seed — The Shockers have pretty much done everything that has been asked of them this season. In the non-conference, they beat UNLV pretty badly and beat historically tough teams like Tulsa, Colorado and Utah State. Then, they only lost to Creighton once and to Drake in triple OT during the conference season. Going 16-2 in conference play is a rare feat. They have reeled off eight straight since their last loss and by an average margin of almost 16 points a game. Wichita State appears to have peaked at the right time and many are projecting them to go deep into the NCAA Tournament.
- Creighton (25-5, 14-4) — NCAA #7-seed — Last season, Creighton was lucky to get a win on the road, especially in the non-conference. This season, they earned themselves ten true road wins throughout the season. They are also 4-2 against the top 50 heading into Arch Madness. The offense has carried them since the beginning of the season and teams have done their best to stop the major cog, Doug McDermott. To counter that, the Bluejays have won a lot of close games. They are 6-1 in games decided by three points or less.
- Northern Iowa (19-12, 9-9) — NIT — Northern Iowa was up and down all season. With a lot of newcomers added to the mix, it has been hard for them to adjust. Now, the Panthers head into the conference tournament with the momentum of winning their past two games. They could easily make the postseason, even the NIT based on their RPI still at 66 and their strength of schedule at 60. The biggest thing Northern Iowa needs to worry about in the coming years is the status of their university as a whole.
- Evansville (15-14, 9-9) — CIT or CBI — Colt Ryan led the MVC in scoring through the MVC schedule, including a career high 43 against Creighton. There were many big opportunities for the Aces to make some noise this season, but weren’t able to pull out the big games. Losses against North Carolina, Indiana and TCU in the non-conference slate and an 0-4 against Creighton and Wichita State were the difference-makers this season. Ryan returns next season as the core of a stable group of returnees. A strong finish here could give them great momentum into next season.
- Illinois State (18-12, 9-9) — NIT — There hasn’t been anything that has made Illinois State stick out this season. They have more wins than Southern Illinois and Bradley combined, but are not really compelling heading into the postseason. Again, the non-conference schedule hurt the Redbirds. They went 1-8 against the top 100 while going 10-3 against teams 150 or lower in the RPI. The good news for the Redbirds is that there is not a senior on the team this season, which will make them that much tougher next season. If they can up the schedule a little bit, then they could be contenders next season. If they win a couple of games in St. Louis, they could get invited to the NIT.
- Missouri State (16-15, 9-9) — CIT or CBI — Missouri State had a lot of things going against them this season— inexperience, a new coach, and injuries. A majority of the team graduated along with Cuonzo Martin leaving for Tennessee, leaving Kyle Weems to carry the load. Senior Caleb Patterson was ineffective as the season went on due to his injuries. While the Bears had many opportunities to get some notable wins—Oklahoma State, West Virginia, New Mexico, Oral Roberts, St. Mary’s and then sliding at the end losing their last four regular season games, the pressure was just too much. The Bears will rely on Anthony Downing and Jamar Gulleyheading into next season.
- Drake (16-14, 9-9) — Ben Simons broke out as a leader for Drake this season. A late-season case of mononucleosis kept Simons out for important games down the stretch, and a speedier recovery could have kept the Bulldogs out of Thursday night opening games in St. Louis. Simons’ was just the latest of several health and injury mishaps for the Bulldogs this season. The return of Seth VanDeest will be big as well as the fact that Drake only loses one major contributor in Kurt Alexander heading into next season. 2012-13 will be a big year for Drake.
- Indiana State (17-13, 8-10) — Indiana State did little to build upon their success from last season and their NCAA Tournament berth thanks to the MVC Tournament. After starting 2-7 in conference play, that was a big hole for the Sycamores to dig out of. Had they gotten the win last Saturday against Creighton, Indiana State would have been the third seed in this weekend’s Arch Madness, but instead the loss sent them to the #8 seed and now needing to win four games to return to the NCAA Tournament. Plantar fasciitis and a shin injury limited Jake Odum this season. Hopefully an offseason of rest can help him lead Indiana State next season.
- Southern Illinois (8-22, 5-13) — It would be very hard to see Chris Lowery back on the bench for Southern Illinois next season as the Salukis have suffered their fourth straight season with a .500 or worse record. Although there were so many new players this season to try and turn things around, there appears to be little progress as SIU lost eight of their final nine regular season games. Many of those were not close.
- Bradley (7-24, 2-16) — With a new coach, it was somewhat expected that Bradley would struggle this season. But I think it is even hard for the outsiders to think that the Braves would struggle this much. Jim Les might have left this program in worse shape than anyone imagined and Geno Ford now has to focus on rebuilding this program. Taylor Brown had spots that he looked pretty good, but others where he was non-existent. He also missed the final games of the season with an injury. This is a young team that may show some improvement next season.