CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012

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.

Looking Back

  • McDermott Looking Like Last Season – If you have been watching any Creighton games this season, it might have seemed that Doug McDermott was starting out a little slowly compared to last season. That may have been expected as more teams have started to regularly double- or even triple-team the All-American. However, it may also have been related to the time he took off in the summer to take a break from hoops more than anything. Over the past three games, McDermott has scored 80 points since the Bluejays’ home loss to Boise State. In the past four games, he has shot 17-of-24 from three-point range, and he is now fifth in the nation in scoring  (22.7 PPG) and shooting 52.3% from the three-point line. Right now his minutes per game are running below last season’s as well. Teams will have to decide to pick their poison against McDermott with his skill set both inside or outside. If he continues this torrid pace, it will be hard to deny him strong consideration for eventual National Player of the Year honors.

There’s no denying that Doug McDermott is in one of his patented grooves.

  • Still Undefeated — Wichita State is still one of only 14 teams in Division I that is still undefeated. Sitting at 9-0, the Shockers are off to their best start in school history. They have never started the season at 10-0, but will have the chance on Thursday night against Tennessee. With all of the holes that Gregg Marshall has had to replace going into this season, it is quite an accomplishment for his team to be off to this great of a start. Whether it is still figuring out the lineup or the depth they are developing, nine players are averaging 14 minutes or more of playing time a game. At the same time, they are dominating opponents with only two games within single digits (VCU & Air Force). Against the rest of their opponents, they have won by an average of 18 points per contest.
  • Who is Next? – Creighton and Wichita State look to be at the top of their games right now. But really, who is next in the MVC pecking order? The rest of the league has been pretty inconsistent so far as we head into the final two weeks of non-conference play. Fortunately for Illinois State, it is sitting at a solid third due to the schedule it has played, putting it at #45 in the RPI. Amazingly enough, Southern Illinois is sitting at fourth with an RPI of #113. Northern Iowa, despite playing in the stacked Battle 4 Atlantis is sitting 7th in the league with an RPI of #182. By going 0-3 in that tournament, it has been a deep hole that the Panthers have had to get out of. As a league, the MVC is the ninth best conference in the nation, just ahead of the West Coast Conference. These next couple of weeks will hopefully separate some teams in the conference and that can lead into momentum entering conference play to help keep the RPI up.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (9-1) – Since losing to Boise State on November 28, the Bluejays went on a rampage against their past three opponents — St. Joseph’s, Nebraska and Akron — to a win margin of at least 16 points or more. It has started with the play on the defensive side of things limiting opponents from getting open looks from three as well as hedging off ball screens a lot better. We all know about McDermott, but Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman have been distributing and holding onto the ball efficiently. Gibbs has had 27 assists and one turnover and Chatman with 13 assists and 4 turnovers during this three game stretch. Gibbs for the season has a ridiculous 7.3/1 assist turnover ratio for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2012

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @wildjays.

Top Storylines

  • 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.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Creighton (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Northern Iowa (24-7, 14-4)
  3. Illinois State (24-7, 13-5)
  4. Wichita State (23-8, 12-6)
  5. Drake (15-15, 9-9)
  6. Missouri State (15-16, 7-11)
  7. Indiana State (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Evansville (15-16, 6-12)
  9. Bradley (13-18, 5-13)
  10. Southern Illinois (11-20, 3-15)

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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2012

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.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Battling in the Middle—Last week, we talked about Creighton and Wichita State being in a two-team race to the finish. This week, take a look at the five teams after them. Nobody really wants to rise above the rest except for possibly Evansville. The Aces were the only ones in that group to go undefeated this past week while the other four went 1-1. Drake has a big opportunity to separate itself this week while hosting the Bluejays and the Shockers.
  • Colt Ryan Flying Under the Radar—Speaking of Evansville, Colt Ryan is someone that casual fans need to keep an eye on. With Creighton’s Doug McDermott getting most of the attention this season, Ryan has continued to improve, especially during conference play, to become a bigger scoring machine. He now sits at fifth in the nation in scoring (21.2 PPG). It helps when you can score 39 against Bradley and 20 against Illinois State in the two games he played in this week.

There's No Question Who Drives The Bus For The Aces - It's Evansville's Colt Ryan. (Erin McCracken/Courier & Press)

  • Bracketbusters—The Bracketbusters match-ups will be announced early next week and the MVC looks like they could be featured in two of the top three games. The question now remains who the opponents will be. Creighton will likely get a game against either St. Mary’s or Long Beach State while Wichita State looks to travel to Murray State or Iona. The match-ups will determine whether Creighton and Wichita State will be playing for possibly a better NCAA Tournament seed or if they are matched up with teams that are hoping for a signature win for their resume. For the remaining MVC teams, the Bracketbusters could actually be a benefit this year more than it has been in the past.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

We are halfway through the Missouri Valley Conference season, but it appears that the table is set for the battle between Creighton and Wichita State for the regular season crown.

  1. Creighton (18-2, 8-1) (1): The Bluejays escaped Missouri State with a win after having several opportunities to lose the game in the final minute. They turned around and ushered Indiana State out of the CenturyLink Center. Could the Bluejays be a sleeper Final Four team? That is yet to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise either. There have been some comparisons to this season’s Creighton team to the 2002-03 season—the senior year of future Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
  2. Wichita State (17-3, 8-1) (2): Toure’ Murry is embracing his last season as a Shocker by taking over games, especially last week against Northern Iowa. For the season his minutes are up (27.5), points per game is up (12.2) and field goal percentage is up (42.3%) compared to last season. In the last five games, WSU is 87-of-112 (77.6%) from the free throw line. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of 7-footer Garrett Stutz. Some back problems may limit his effectiveness as the season plays out. The Shockers are really close to cracking the Top 25. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Missouri Valley’s March Back to Prominence

Posted by dnspewak on January 19th, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. You can find him on Twitter @dspewak. He filed this report following Creighton’s 66-65 victory at Missouri State in Springfield on Wednesday. 

No need to remind Paul Lusk about the strength of the Missouri Valley Conference this season. During the past five days, his Missouri State team has lost three games by a total of four possessions. “It’s just one tough game after another,” Lusk said. “You have to go play good basketball in this league.” That’s a theme across the Valley in 2011-12, as the conference looks poised to earn multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.  Even in a 66-65 loss, the Bears’ game against Creighton at JQH Arena Wednesday night serves as a prime example of the MVC’s rise. Missouri State forced the Bluejays into 11 first-half turnovers, held the nation’s second-leading scorer to just 15 points and kept an animated home crowd involved by playing the #19 team to the final possession. Had Anthony Downing’s jumper at the buzzer fallen, a middle-of-the-pack team would have completed a sweep of the league’s top contender and Wooden Award candidate Doug McDermott. 

And nobody would have blinked an eye. “I think parity is a sign of strength in a league,” commissioner Doug Elgin said. “Absolutely, I think the league is much better this year than it was a year ago. And I think if you look at the talent that’s coming into the league, we’re going to be stronger next year still.”

Creighton's Nailbiter on Wednesday is an Example of MVC Parity (photo by the Associated Press)

The results from non-conference play support Elgin’s opinion. Thanks to a strong performance against other leagues in November and December, the MVC ranks eighth in conference RPI right now, above the Pac-12, Conference USA and the West Coast Conference. Wichita State, the other main contender for a league title and an at-large bid, embarrassed UNLV by 19 points at home. Illinois State beat Rutgers on a neutral floor, while Drake and Northern Iowa both beat Iowa State. But the best example of the MVC’s parity may be Indiana State, which lost again on Wednesday to fall to 2-6. Yet the defending tourney champs still won at Vanderbilt earlier this season and represented itself well on national television with two victories in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving week.

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RTC Conference Primers: #12 – Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2011

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can find him on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • Back to Multiple Bids?: The Missouri Valley Conference is getting a little more attention entering this season than in the past, and rightfully so.  Six of the top ten scorers in the league are back along with four of the top five rebounders.  The league is looking to have the impact it had back in the 2005-06 season, when it sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament.  Since then, only the automatic qualifier from the MVC Tournament has advanced to The Dance. With so many talented upperclassmen, there could be an opportunity for The Valley to get closer to that status of six years ago.
  • Kyle Weems or Doug McDermott?: There are a lot of people that have probably forgotten that Kyle Weems of Missouri State was the MVC Player of the Year last season with all the buzz that Creighton’s Doug McDermott received over the summer.  Going into 2011-12, one hotly-debated topic is whether Weems can repeat or if McDermott will build upon his MVC Freshman of the Year performance.  McDermott was only the second freshman in the 100-year-plus history of the MVC to get first team all-conference honors.  Weems tried to lead Missouri State to the NCAA Tournament, but came up just short.  Due to the personnel losses by the Bears, including their coach, and all of the returning players for the Bluejays, can Weems surprise the “experts” and have even better success to repeat?

Kyle Weems May Be The Best Player In A Resurgent MVC This Season. (MVC-Sports.com)

  • New Ford Center: Evansville will start the season in a new downtown arena, the Ford Center.  They open it in style with in-state powers Butler and Indiana visiting to start the season.  This building represents the continual facility improvements for the Missouri Valley Conference member schools.  Creighton started the trend with the Qwest Center (recently renamed CenturyLink Center).  Northern Iowa followed suit with its own basketball building in the McLeod Center.  Missouri State opened JQH Arena a couple years later and in Wichita, a new arena was built to complement Koch Arena as a place where the Shockers can play a game or two a year.  Southern Illinois spent almost $30 million to renovate SIU Arena.  So if you are looking for a conference that keeps upgrading the basketball environment like a major conference, this is where you should go.
  • Scheduling Philosophies: In the past, the MVC member schools would hold back a game on their schedules to try to get a home-and-home series against a high-major school.  Although this has worked out in the past, it sort of backfired this season.  As a result, many of the final games scheduled for each team will come against a non-Division I school, and in other cases, a game was not even scheduled, leaving a gap between the end of the regular season slate and the conference tournament.  Creighton and Illinois State chose to schedule one game fewer than the number of games they could have scheduled while the rest of the schools scheduled the likes of Loras College, Emporia State, Upper Iowa, Maryville and others as a regular season game on the schedule.  With almost 350 teams in Division-I, that isn’t a good sign for a non-major, major conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Updates: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 27th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our MVC correspondent, Patrick Marshall.

The summer has been a busy one for the Missouri Valley Conference. They are hoping the 2011-12 season will be one that sees the conference become a multiple-bid league again.  They haven’t had multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament since the 2006-07 season.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Coaching Changes: The MVC only had two coaching changes in the offseason.  First, after leading Missouri State to its first MVC regular season title, Cuonzo Martin was lured away from the Bears to Tennessee.  He was replaced by Purdue assistant Paul Lusk, who weeks earlier might have been in line to succeed Matt Painter had Painter left Purdue to become the new head coach at Missouri.  He has Valley ties as a player at Southern Illinois in his college days, where he helped the Salukis to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.  On the flip-side, Bradley head coach Jim Les was fired after nine seasons with the Braves.  After taking Bradley to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2005-06 season, he had trouble getting the team back to that level.  Les was replaced by Kent State head coach Geno Ford.  These moves have caused a bit of a frenzy as Kent State filed a lawsuit against Bradley due to the way they hired Ford.  Les has since been named the new head coach at UC Davis (where his son currently plays), and he too has filed a lawsuit of his own against his former school disputing the settlement he was paid from his dismissal.  Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson were speculated for many jobs over the summer, but they both chose to stay with their respective schools.
  • Creighton’s International Duo: Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique have had a summer to remember.  McDermott spent the end of June through the middle of July playing for the Team USA U-19 squad helping the team to a fifth place finish in Latvia.  McDermott led the team in three-pointers made, was second in minutes, and third in scoring for the American team during the FIBA Championships.  McDermott’s frontcourt counterpart Echenique is currently in Venezuela as a member of his nation’s national team.  Echenique and his teammates will try to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in Argentina at the beginning of September before he returns to Creighton for the fall semester.
  • League Talent: There have been several different examples of decisions made by the league’s top talent this offseason.  First off is the 2011 MVC Player of the Year, Kyle Weems.  Weems earned his degree from Missouri State, and with a year of eligibility remaining, he could have easily decided to transfer to a different school to play right away, especially with a new coach coming into town.  Instead, he decided to stay in Springfield for his senior season.  In an opposite move, Bradley’s Sam Maniscalco was a senior last season for the Braves, but he spent much of it recovering from an ankle injury.  Early last season it was decided that he would shut things down and apply for a medical redshirt, which he received.  Then came the firing of Les.  During Maniscalco’s redshirt season, he was able to complete his degree.  With a year of eligibility still remaining and a new coach coming to town, the all-MVC player decided to transfer and finish his college career at Illinois.  Finally, you have Drake’s Ravonte Rice.  A runner-up for the MVC Freshman of the Year last season, Rice has not kept it secret that he isn’t necessarily happy at Drake, but that he isn’t going to transfer… at least not yet.  This is a pivotal year for the Bulldogs, as two years worth of the conference’s best recruiting classes are now sophomores and juniors that have had marginal success.  How Drake does this year could determine whether Rice stays or goes.

Despite a coaching transition going into his senior year, 2011 MVC Player of the Year Kyle Weems will stick it out for the Bears. (Missouri State University)

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent  for the Missouri Valley Conference

A Look Back

  • Finals Make a Slow Week—The Missouri Valley Conference was quiet for the most part this week as teams had less time on the practice court and fewer games to be played due to finals.  Each team only played once this past week except Wichita State and Northern Iowa.
  • Schedule AnomaliesSpeaking of scheduling, a few schools have had some extended time off.  Bradley has not played since their December  8 loss at Duke, but the Braves play two games this week before Christmas.  Southern Illinois has had 11 days in between games since the December 11 loss at Western Kentucky.   Indiana State lost to Purdue this past Saturday and does not play again until conference play begins on December 29.   In addition, the winning percentage of The Valley as a whole is at its lowest since 2003.  These are not good times for this league.
  • Echenique’s DebutCreighton fans have been waiting for almost a year for Gregory Echenique to step on the court for the Bluejays.  In his debut on Saturday night, Echenique scored 12 points, grabbed five rebounds and tallied three blocks in 18 minutes of action.  Two games against Western Illinois and Samford will let Echenique get more court time before conference season.
  • Player of the Week—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems has shown a lot of consistency in the non-conference season and his 26 points and eight rebounds led the way in the Bears’ win against Saint Louis this week.
  • Newcomer of the Week—Kenneth Harris, Evansville.—Harris was instrumental in Evansville gaining a victory against Middle Tennessee this week with his 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds.  The Aces had to hold on after blowing a 21-point lead in the final twelve minutes of the game.

Power Rankings (Record) (Last week’s rank)

  1. Wichita State (8-2) (2)—The Shockers played twice this week with a warm-up game against Alabama A&M before hitting the road with what amounted to basically a road game against LSU.  Garrett Stutz hit a three-pointer with eight seconds to go to give Wichita State a two-point lead and they held on for the win.  I know I had Toure’ Murry as the MVC Player of the Year this season, but he is really struggling as of late, including a 3-12 performance against LSU and five turnovers.  Tulsa comes to town before the holidays to close out the non-conference slate.
  2. Missouri State (7-3) (1)—Missouri State earned a nice win against Saint Louis on Saturday, and only fall in the rankings due to the competition they played this week compared to Wichita State.  However, I still think that overall, Missouri State is still slightly ahead of the Shockers.  The Bears play Arkansas State in a rematch of the opening round of the NIT-Tipoff.  Defensive intensity is still something they are working on.
  3. Northern Iowa (7-3) (4)— Northern Iowa heads to Las Vegas this week for a great opportunity to get a couple of wins against the top conferences in the nation.  However, even though Indiana and Colorado have potential this season, they still aren’t the top teams in their respective conferences.  At the same time these could be significant wins come March.  Kerwin Dunham has been absent lately because of plantar fasciitis.  Injuries are not good for any team trying to make the postseason.
  4. Illinois State (7-3) (3)—The Redbirds might have an opportunity here come conference play.  They didn’t win against the toughest teams in their non-conference slate, but Tim Jankovich has had a nice opportunity to play a lot of players and lineups to prepare for conference season, including Blake Mishler.  They close out on the road at UNC-Wilmington on Monday.
  5. Creighton (6-4) (5)— Creighton gets a chance to solidify their rotation with a couple of buy games this week before Christmas.  Even though Gregory Echenique looked good on Saturday night, they barely beat a bad Idaho State team, which shows they still have a ways to go.
  6. Evansville (5-4) (7)—The Purple Aces created a lot of unnecessary drama on Saturday with their win over Middle Tennessee, who they met for the second time this season.  Evansville appears to have a lot more potential than the likes of Southern Illinois and Indiana State at this point.  They definitely won’t end up in the cellar.
  7. Southern Illinois (5-5) (6)—The Salukis have not played since December 11 and may have to shake the rust off against Northern Illinois before preparing for conference play.  One thing I know they probably have been working on is rebounding.  But they are still looking for that leader they have not had since Bryan Mullins was there.
  8. Indiana State (5-6) (8)—The Sycamores battled Purdue this past weekend, but just came up short in their final game of the non-conference season.  They now have until December 29 to prepare for Bradley in their conference opener which now looks like a winnable game.  They also have two very capable players in Jake Kelly and Dwayne Lathan, but they have put a little too much pressure on themselves.
  9. Bradley (4-5) (9)— The Braves are still recovering from their blowout at Duke and will play two games this week against Jackson State and Detroit. Jim Les has the opportunity to finalize his rotation and hopefully find the players that will ultimately replace Taylor Brown and Sam Maniscalco who are both out for the season with injury.   Now add backup point guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards to the injury list with a sprained knee.   Dodie Dunson is now the only option at point guard for Bradley.
  10. Drake (4-5) (10)— Drake came up short against their in-state rival Iowa, but have a couple games this week against Dartmouth and Chicago State.  A loss to either of these teams could mean disaster for this young team.  They also have to understand how to break the press.

A Look Ahead

There are only a couple games before the holidays and the start of conference season that are of significance.

  • 12/21—Tulsa @ Wichita State at Intrust Bank Arena (Local TV)—After the thrilling victory against LSU on a neutral court this past weekend, the Shockers leave their normal comfy confines of Koch Arena to instead play downtown at the brand new Intrust Bank Arena against the always tough Tulsa.  This could end up being their best win of the non-conference season.
  • 12/22—Detroit @ Bradley (No TV)—With the injuries Bradley has had to deal with this season, this game will be an interesting one to see if they can pull out what might have looked like a guarantee win at the beginning of the season.
  • 12/22-23—Northern Iowa at Las Vegas Classic (CBS College Sports)—The Panthers head to Las Vegas right before Christmas to play a couple of games.  They open first on Wednesday against Indiana and then play either Colorado or New Mexico on Thursday.  These could be two great wins for Northern Iowa after the slow start they have had this season and set them up with some great confidence before the start of conference play.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2009

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

  1. Missouri State  (10-0) (1)
  2. Wichita State (10-1) (2)
  3. Northern Iowa  (8-1) (3)
  4. Southern Illinois (7-2) (5)
  5. Illinois State (8-2)  (4)
  6. Indiana State  (7-3) (7)
  7. Evansville (6-3) (8)
  8. Bradley  (5-5) (6)
  9. Drake  (5-6)  (9)
  10. Creighton  (4-6)  (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

  • MVC-MWC Challenge winding down—The Valley continues to lead the challenge against the Mountain West Conference 4-3 heading into the final weekend of games.  Illinois State went on the road to defeat Utah and Creighton had a chance to close out the conference’s victory but lost a huge lead on New Mexico and left Albuquerque with a loss.  Now it is up to Drake and Northern Iowa this coming weekend to close out the first year of a several year agreement for each conference to play one another.  In the coming years all of the Challenge games will be played in a one-week time period instead of throughout the non-conference season.
  • Wichita State takes down ranked team—Wichita invited a ranked Texas Tech team into Koch Arena, the first non-conference ranked team to visit since Kansas in the 1991-92 season, and sent them home with a loss.  That must be why teams like that don’t come back or want to play Wichita at home. 
  • Missouri St.  heading to undefeated non-conference record—Missouri St. defeated St. Louis Saturday night and Rick Majerus is ready to anoint the Bears as the winners of the Valley for this season.  Well, they are still undefeated and could stay that way if they can steal a win in Arkansas Tuesday night.   Could this be Drake version 2.0?

TEAMS DOING WELL

  • Missouri St (1-0 this week)—As mentioned above, Missouri St. is one of a few undefeated teams in the nation right now.  It is due to their defense.  The Bears finish out the non-conference slate in Fayetteville with a “lucky they still have a team”  Arkansas squad.   About the only thing wrong with Missouri State is Will Creekmore’s jersey.
  •  Wichita St (1-0 this week)—Wichita continues to be on a roll.  Andy Katz asked whether Wichita would be undefeated if they had Clevin Hannah and he was able to play against Pitt at the CBE Classic.  Either way, the Shockers are the real deal this season.    They host North Dakota State this week to complete their non-conference slate.
  •  Northern Iowa  (1-0 this week)—Head Coach Ben Jacobson went back home to North Dakota this past week, but brought his UNI team in to take a victory.  Northern Iowa is at about the same point as Wichita right now.  Coach Jacobson is pretty happy with his team now, but he wasn’t at the beginning of the season.  They host Wyoming this week as a part of the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • Southern Illinois (2-0 this week) –You can tell the reputation of the Salukis has taken a hit when they went out to Vegas this week in an invitational but their games were overshadowed by the women’s matchups in the same tournament.   However in both games this weekend against San Diego and San Francisco, SIU pulled out one point wins to complete a solid non-conference slate until a late January game against Western Kentucky.  Southern Illinois is off for the holidays until conference play starts in a week and a half. 
  • Evansville (2-0 this week)—Evansville is continuing to build themselves back up with two wins this week.  They took a blow with Kavon Lacey, one of their emerging team leaders, going out for the season with knee surgery.  However, they are really spreading the scoring around and starting to come together.  A big road test at Austin Peay this week will see how far they have actually come. 
  • Indiana St. (1-0 this week)—The Sycamores escaped with a win in Toledo this week on a Jake Kelly basket with  six seconds left and they are now again without point guard Harry Marshall who has had a lot of discipline problems at Indiana State.  The Sycamores look like a solid team, but they don’t need these distractions.  A trip to IUPUI this week will test them.

TEAMS WITH WORK TO DO

  • Drake (0-1 this week)—Drake lost to Iowa this week and they sort of have to feel bad that a key player for the Hawkeye team that beat them was then arrested later that evening for public intoxication.  However, Coach Phelps feels pretty good about the recent recruiting classes, but can they produce on the court?    San Diego State comes to town as the possible deciding game of the MVC/MWC Challenge.
  • Bradley (0-2 this week)—This team is on the verge of collapse.  Not only is Dodie Dunson out for the year with a broken arm, but they also lost Dyricus Simms-Edwards to a foot injury for 3-6 weeks.  Bradley lost this week to Loyola on a crazy off-balance half court shot and then got absolutely blown out by Iowa State Sunday.    The Braves now sit in limbo with a three-game losing streak for nine days until conference season starts at Drake.
  • Creighton (1-1 this week)—Many do not have a good read on this Creighton team this season.  They have been so close in so many games against tough competition, but lack the killer instinct to finish the games.  The latest collapse was in New Mexico this weekend.  Creighton was up 15 points at one point in the first half, shooting almost 75%, but then New Mexico finished the first half cutting into the lead and by the middle of the second half the Lobos made the adjustments needed and pulled out a come-from-behind win.   They get a snoozer in Houston Baptist this week with their only wins this season coming so far on their home court. 
  • Illinois State (1-1 this week)—Illinois State has had enough chinks in their armor exposed to lose on the road to Ohio, but then came back to get a big win at Utah as part of the MVC/MWC Challenge.   The Redbirds need another player to step up to help Osiris Eldridge and that player might be Austin Hill.  The Redbirds get a snoozer of their own with Grambling State this week.

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

A light week due to the holidays and very few key games except for the conclusion of the MVC/MWC Challenge, but also the last week of non-conference action for the MVC.  Conference play will start after the Christmas holiday.

  • 12/22, San Diego St. @ Drake—Drake is starting to turn things around, but this will be a tough game against the Aztecs that could decide the MVC/MWC Challenge. 
  • 12/22, Missouri St. @ Arkansas—Although Arkansas has so many problems, this could be a nice road win for the Bears and a great close to their amazing non-conference season. 
  • 12/23, Northern Iowa @ Wyoming—A key matchup in the MVC/MWC Challenge’s final games.  UNI is on a roll lately.
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