O26 Weekly Awards: Wichita State, Davon Usher, Gary Waters & Yale…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 12th, 2014

With just over a month until Selection Sunday, many teams across the landscape of college basketball are beginning to show their true colors, for better or for worse. Some early conference pace-setters have returned back to the pack, while a number of apparent-disappointments have readjusted and begun to find their way. And others yet just keep on winning. Let’s pass out a few awards to those who took care of business last week.

O26 Team of the Week

Wichita State. The Shockers have been written about and discussed at length over the past several days, so there’s no need to overanalyze the implications of last week’s big road victories, followed up with a closer-than-expected home win on Tuesday night — most everyone understands the undefeated potential that now lies ahead. But that does not mean we shouldn’t still celebrate the accomplishment. The fact is, no other O26 program had near the expectations, attention or build-up that Wichita State did entering the week, and perhaps no other O26 team proved as focused, unwavering and simply excellent on the basketball court either. In two of its most difficult conference road tests of the season, Gregg Marshall’s club displayed the same mental and physical toughness it has all year long, locking down defensively — especially in key moments, when it needed it most — and draining timely shots to remain perfect and march one step closer to history.

Wichita State got the job done on the road last week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Wichita State got the job done on the road last week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

First, on Wednesday in Terre Haute, the Shockers found victory by responding with immediate answers for each crowd-igniting, lead-dwindling run that Indiana State threw at them. After the Sycamores used a late first half surge to pull within one at the break, Wichita State responded by outscoring the home squad 14-4 in the opening eight minutes of the second. When Greg Lansing’s team went on an 8-0 spurt to then cut the lead to two, the Shockers punched back with four straight points and five straight stops. And when the gap was again sliced to a single possession with under two minutes remaining, Marshall’s guys earned key trips to the free throw line and shut things down on the defensive end. The ultimate result: a 65-58 victory and a season sweep of the Missouri Valley’s second-best unit. Three nights later in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the story was much the same. Wichita State was again too deep, too physical, too consistent over a full 40 minutes, pounding Northern Iowa on the glass — they secured 46 percent of available offensive rebounds — and squashing potential threats to the lead before they could gain traction. The effect was both defeating and demoralizing for the Panthers: “They play every possession perfectly,” UNI sophomore Matt Bohannon said after the game. Again, ‘perfect’ was the prevailing word used to describe the Shockers. Those perfect possessions led to another perfect week, a three-game stretch that might be crucial in their quest for an even greater form of perfection this season.

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Three Thoughts as Wichita State Stays Perfect

Posted by Walker Carey on February 6th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday’s game between Wichita State and Indiana State in Terre Haute.

Wichita State has been one of the best stories of college basketball this season, as the Shockers entered Wednesday evening with a perfect 23-0 record. Gregg Marshall’s squad has been so successful this season in large part because of its veteran and winning experience. Many of the key contributors from last season’s Final Four team are back and that has laid the groundwork for this team’s tremendous start. Since Missouri Valley play began last month, members of the esteemed college basketball media picked out Wichita State’s road trips this week at Indiana State and Saturday night at Northern Iowa as the likeliest stretch for the Shockers to pick up their first setback. Now through one game of the pair, the Shockers remain unbeaten. Despite a raucous environment in Terre Haute clamoring for a victory, Wichita State fought off a pesky Indiana State team and emerged with a 65-58 victory. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday night’s action.

Wichita Survived Its Trip to Terre Haute Last Night

Wichita Survived Its Trip to Terre Haute Last Night

  1. Indiana State Gave The Shockers Quite The Battle. When Indiana State coach Greg Lansing called a timeout with 1:22 left to play, it was his team’s ball and the Sycamores’ deficit was just two. With the home crowd decidedly and loudly in their favor, it appeared as if this Valley battle was headed to a thrilling finish. Wichita State, however, had other plans, as it forced a key defensive stop, utilized a critical three-point play from forward Cleanthony Early, and made its free throws to key a 7-2 finishing run. Nothing came easy for the Shockers on this night, as they had to combat an explosive offensive Indiana State effort in the first half and a smothering defensive effort in the second. Wichita State was ultimately victorious to move its overall record to 24-0 and 11-0 in the MVC, but it must be noted that win number 24 came with a battle. Read the rest of this entry »
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O26 Game of the Week: Indiana State Looks to Ruin Perfection

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 5th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on. 

Wichita State (23-0) at Indiana State (14-5) – 8:05 PM ET, Wednesday. This is probably the greatest remaining hurdle on Wichita State’s quest for an undefeated regular season. Now 23-0, the Shockers have just eight games left on their schedule, only three of which come against squads with a .500 or better record, and just one versus a team ranked within the KenPom top-100. That team is Indiana State, and that game is tonight at the Hulman Center.

Jake Odum and the Sycamores should give Wichita State a fight this time around. (Fernando Salazar/ The Wichita Eagle)

Jake Odum and the Sycamores should give Wichita State a fight this time around. (Fernando Salazar/ The Wichita Eagle)

Greg Lansing’s group should be dialed in after regaining some much-need momentum over the weekend at Northern Iowa, using a big second half rally to end the Panthers’ 11-game home winning streak and return to the win column. The Sycamores suffered a dreadful 19-point drubbing at Southern Illinois just three days earlier to all but end their at-large hopes, a sobering reality that perhaps bled into Saturday’s contest early. It took an angry locker room message from the head coach before the team finally woke up, ripping off 12 straight points in the first four minutes of the second half, tying the game before the first media timeout and maintaining firm control until the final whistle. It was an impressive comeback, the kind of focused, resilient effort they will need for a full 40 minutes in order to beat Wichita State.

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Rushed Reactions: Creighton 64, Indiana State 43

Posted by dnspewak on March 9th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC correspondent. He’ll cover the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis through Sunday. 

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Revenge Win For Creighton: A month ago, the Bluejays got spanked in Terre Haute. Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said after Friday’s quarterfinal win that the 76-57 margin was probably an anomaly, but it was by far Creighton’s worst loss of the season. On Saturday, Doug McDermott single-handedly decided to avenge that defeat in the first half of the MVC Tournament quarterfinals. McDermott finished with 25 points, scoring 15 in the first 11 minutes of the game to open up an enormous lead and essentially end the game before it even began. He drilled his first five three-pointers en route to a 5-of-6 mark from beyond the arc — incidentally, the only trey he missed was a wide open look from the corner, probably the best shot he got all day. Didn’t matter. McDermott paced the Bluejays during that dominant first half, and a superb defensive effort by the Bluejays forced the Sycamores to shoot 26.5 percent from the floor.
  2. Defense, Defense, Defense: Indiana State settled for contested jumpers early and often. They weren’t falling. The Sycamores shot 1-of-13 from three-point range, and star point guard Jake Odum was ineffective after a modest quarterfinal performance against Evansville and all-world defender Troy Taylor. His match-up wasn’t as difficult today, but he attempted only three shots (1-of-3 for five points) and dished out only three assists against four turnovers. Simply put, he didn’t control the game like he usually did, and the Sycamores couldn’t drain a shot to save their lives. Credit Creighton for committing to the defensive end, the one area they’re endlessly criticized for by every national media outlet.
  3. Sealing the Bid: There was little to no doubt Creighton would make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large before Saturday’s semifinal. You can eliminate even the word “little” now. If they weren’t a lock already, the Bluejays avoided a somewhat questionable loss and will now be playing for pride in the MVC title game on Sunday. Not that pride’s a bad thing or won’t mean anything, of course. Expect Creighton to come out rolling again in its attempt to capture a second straight Arch Madness championship.
Doug McDermott Isn't the Only Bluejay on His Team (ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD)

Doug McDermott Will Go for an MVC Title Sunday (ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD)

Star of the Game: Doug McDermott cooled off a bit after a scorching start in the first half, but it didn’t matter. By the time he’d scored 15 points, the game was already over. He did his damage from beyond the arc today and killed Indiana State with his vintage pick-and-pop. The Sycamores kept losing him on the screens, and coach Greg Lansing even decided in the huddle to switch all screens. Oddly enough, it seemed to work on the very next possession, denying McDermott another open look. But it wasn’t nearly enough to slow the All-American for the rest of the game, as he cruised to 25 points and nine rebounds. He missed only two shots all day, for pete’s sake.

Sights and Sounds: During Doug McDermott’s postgame interview with Fox Sports Net, the loud and proud Creighton faithful broke out in a simple, three-word chant: “One More Year! One More Year!” That’s not the first time the chant has occurred, nor will it be the last. They’ll chant that until the day Creighton’s eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, when McDermott must make a decision about his immediate future. Neither he nor his father will say anything about that decision-making process, but if he calls it a career after three years at Creighton, it was certainly a pleasure to watch him in the blue and white. By the way, on Friday, he became the Bluejays’ all-time leading scorer. Who knows how long he’ll add to his record?

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Set Your TiVo: 11.25.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 25th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Preseason tournaments continue to roll on with the NIT Season Tip-Off championship as well as semifinal action at the Old Spice and 76 Classic along with the Battle 4 Atlantis. Although we don’t know the championship matchups in those tournaments, be sure to check out the finals at Atlantis on Saturday and the Old Spice and 76 Classic on Sunday for those TBD games.

Minnesota vs. Indiana State (at Orlando, Florida) – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN (**)

Trevor Mbakwe Is a Beast Inside

  •  The Golden Gophers escaped an upset-minded DePaul team on Thursday afternoon behind another double-double from Trevor Mbakwe, his fourth in five games. Against an Indiana State team that is better than DePaul, Minnesota must assert itself inside, protect the ball and defend better. Tubby Smith’s team has a huge height advantage over the Sycamores, especially with swingman Rodney Williams standing at 6’7”. The potential is there for Williams to have a huge game given his size and athleticism. Indiana State can rotate taller players in off its bench but Minnesota has more than enough talent in the paint to play well. However, the Gophers can’t afford 17 turnovers and a 1-9 night from three point range again as they did against DePaul.
  • The major concern for Greg Lansing has to be rebounding the basketball against a team with lots of strength and size up front. Indiana State was out-rebounded and out-shot by Texas Tech but forced 18 Red Raider turnovers and got to the foul line 31 times. The Sycamores shoot 78% from the stripe and must use that to their advantage against a Minnesota team with an awful defensive free throw rate (#249). With sophomore point guard Jake Odum breaking down the defense and finding open players, that shouldn’t be a big problem given Minnesota’s propensity to foul. Indiana State shoots 37.1% from three point land as a unit with Jordan Printy taking the majority of those shots and converting 38.5% of the time. ISU must make threes because it is not going to have an easy time scoring inside against Minnesota’s size.
  • For the Sycamores to pull the upset, we feel they have to play a zone. Going to a zone is risky when your team has trouble rebounding to begin with but it may be their best bet. If Indiana State can pack its defense in the paint and limit the Gophers inside, that’ll force the Minnesota guards to jack up deep shots, something they’re not particularly good at. Playing a zone also minimizes foul trouble, a huge issue with only three major contributors over 6’8” on the Indiana State roster. It sounds simple but this game should come down to whichever team can execute its game plan better: inside scoring for Minnesota and three pointers plus solid interior defense for Indiana State.

#19 Florida State vs. Harvard (at Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas) – 4:30 PM EST on Versus (***)

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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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Morning Five: 03.08.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

  1. He’ll coach in the Big 12 Tournament, but after that, you can run down the curtain on the Pat Knight era at Texas Tech. The school released Knight on Monday after a three-year run that resulted in no NCAA Tournament trips and an overall 50-60 record. Now, we know in terms of basketball tradition, Texas Tech is not Indiana, but following Bobby Knight at any coaching job is certainly an unenviable position, and we’re intrigued to see how Pat does as the top dog someplace where his father’s influence never reached, a place where he can stake his own claim and not be known simply as the default-hire son of the legend who preceded him. The linked article also explains how Knight the Younger knew this was coming.
  2. Knight is unfortunately not the only coach to endure the fall of the axe (or at least the prod in the back) on Monday. Pat Kennedy resigned at Towson after seven seasons; Kirk Earlywine was dismissed from Eastern Washington; and Kennesaw State released Tom Ingle, citing academic shortcomings of Ingle’s players rather than the 8-20 record posted by the Owls this season (Ingle was 248-215 overall). That’s the only negative about March: coaches lose jobs, and the coaching carousel begins.
  3. On a much lighter note, for any coach who finds him/herself without employment over the next few weeks, for renewal of purpose, we submit this story from Jeff Goodman about Greg Lansing. He’s headed to the Tournament as the honcho at Indiana State, tournament champions from the Missouri Valley Conference. Just a few years ago, he was fired from his  assistant position by Steve Alford when the two were at Iowa. There’s also an interesting tidbit in there about the positive omen Lansing received on Saturday, the day before his squad beat Missouri State for the MVC tournament title.
  4. Texas is taking some punches from hoops fans everywhere, these days. Not surprising, when you consider that they dropped three of their last five games this season, and upon remembering that Hindenberg of a stretch run last year. A burnt child shuns fire, after all. But if you think the late-season missteps this year indicate a return of last season’s problems, senior Gary Johnson says it’s a mistake, but invites you keep on thinking that if you wish. Others within the Texas basketball family evidently join him in that sentiment, and contend that UT is still a national title contender.
  5. Big game in the Ivy League tonight, as Princeton travels to Penn for the last game of the Ancient Eight’s regular season. If Penn wins, Harvard clinches the Ivy title and goes to their first NCAA Tournament in 65 years. If Princeton wins, the Tigers would sit tied atop the league table with Harvard and force a one game playoff (which would be played at Yale) on Saturday. If that’s not cool enough for you, tonight’s Princeton-Penn game is at The Palestra — the home of the Quakers, and one of the most regal, venerable buildings in our sport (P.S.: we can’t wait to get there!).
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011

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

RTC is interested in learning how to improve our Checking In On… series in each conference.  Let us know in the below poll where we can improve this weekly piece (feel free to add specific comments).  Thanks.

A Look Back

  • Indiana State On The RiseAfter 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 RoadMissouri 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 SeasonThe 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • First week of Conference Play—The Missouri Valley Conference started conference play this week as each team had two games on the schedule.  In the first televised game of the season on the Fox Sports Net package, Missouri State and Northern Iowa took things down to the wire.  With Kyle Weems being pretty much ineffective for the Bears, he hit a three pointer with 2.5 seconds left to give Missouri State a one point victory against the defending champion Panthers.
  • Northern Iowa starts 0-2—The Panther s have started conference season 0-2 with a couple of thrilling games against Missouri State and Southern Illinois which were decided in the final seconds.   With the two losses, history may still be on their side since they seem to be exceptions to the rule.   Since 1993-94, only one team (Northern Iowa, a 2008-09 co-champion) has won at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title without winning its regular-season opener — and UNI lost Wednesday night.  Further, 15 of the last 16 regular-season champs (or co-champs) have opened 2-0 or better in MVC play, with UNI in 2008-09 once again serving as the exception.   So either they will become the next exception to the rule or they’re already essentially eliminated from contention on January 1st , one week into conference season
  • Three team race? –At this point of the season, it would appear the best scenario for the Valley to have multiple bids is for Wichita State, Missouri State and Creighton to continue winning and separating themselves from the rest of the league.  The rest of the league has questionable records and even if teams like Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa can rise up out of the Valley regular season; their records still may not be palatable to the selection committee to consider more than the conference tournament champion.

Player of the Week— Jermaine Mallett, Missouri State –Mallett matched his career high of 22 points in the win against Illinois State this week and averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds.  He was key in the comeback against Northern Iowa and helped lead the Missouri State Bears to an early 2-0 conference mark.

Newcomer of the Week— Doug McDermott, Creighton—Once again, McDermott garners newcomer of the week honors as he averaged 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this week including a 28 points and 10 rebounds against Drake on Saturday night.  McDermott‘s 28 points were the most for a Creighton freshman since Ryan Sears scored 29 against Wyoming in 1997.

Power Rankings (Overall and conference records in parentheses, and last week’s ranking)

  1. Wichita State (11-2) (2-0) (1)— The Shockers have held serve with their convincing victories over Evansville and Bradley, but those teams are far from the best in the conference.  In the win against Evansville, Wichita State still scored 91 points even though they went through over a nine minute stretch where they scored only 10 points.  They will likely have a couple more appetizers with Drake and Illinois State this coming week before the showdown with Missouri State next Sunday. 
  2. Missouri State (10-3) (2-0) (2)— Missouri State looked a little out of sorts against Northern Iowa on Wednesday before the thrilling come back and big road victory in Cedar Falls. The past two seasons the Bears were 1-17 in road games before the win against the Panthers.   Then after getting a win against Illinois State in their home opener, they are well on track.  People will point to Kyle Weems, Adam Leonard or Jermaine Mallett as keys to Missouri State’s success, but it may actually be Will Creekmore that will make or break them.  They will have two big tests this week with the top of the league as they travel to Creighton on Tuesday and host Wichita State on Sunday.  They have a great opportunity to put some distance between the rest of the league.
  3. Creighton (10-4) (2-0) (4)— Creighton took a huge monkey off their back in the victory against Illinois State on Wednesday.  The Bluejays seven had lost  of their past eight meetings with the Redbirds coming into that game.  With the win, the four year seniors of Kenny Lawson, Jr., Casey Harriman and Kaleb Korver have beaten every team in the league at home and on the road during their career.  Drake played physical with the Bluejays on Saturday night, but they were able to fend off the Bulldogs to start 2-0.   One key player that may be missing for a while is sharpshooter Ethan Wragge.  He has been fighting plantar fasciitis all season.  After a few games of action, his foot is back in a boot and it is unknown when he is going to return now.   Missouri State comes to town before a two game road trip a rival Southern Illinois and Evansville.
  4. Southern Illinois (7-6) (1-1) (6)— Southern Illinois makes the big jump of the week after bouncing back from the loss against Drake to steal one against Northern Iowa.  Having a short memory was important for the Salukis this week as Carlton Fay hit a shot with two seconds remaining to help SIU knock off the Panthers.  This could be a big week for Southern Illinois as they travel to Bradley and then host Creighton and Illinois State.  They could be in the thick of things if they can go undefeated in this week’s stretch.
  5. Northern Iowa (8-5) (0-2) (3)— As noted above, the Panthers suffered some crushing losses early, losing their first two games by a total of three points.   The word of the week might be panic, but like we talked about earlier, there is still plenty of time to turn things around.  Northern Iowa can feast on Evansville, Indiana State and Bradley this week to try and get back in the race.   is second in the league in scoring through the first week averaging 21.5 points a game.
  6. Evansville (7-5) (1-1) (7)— The Purple Aces were blown out by Wichita State to open play but rebounded to take a close one against Indiana State. Evansville would like to get out of the shadow of other Indiana schools, but it is a long road.  Evansville could be in some trouble again as they travel to Northern Iowa and Missouri State before hosting Creighton on Sunday.
  7. Illinois State (8-5) (0-2) (5)—The Redbirds started where I projected by losing their first two games.  A week after saying they aren’t hitting the panic button yet, they may be ready to.    Hitting the road for two of three games this week can’t be too exciting.  Neither is the home matchup against Wichita State. 
  8. Indiana State (6-7) (1-1) (9)— The Sycamores won against the injury riddled Bradley team but could not hold off their in-state rival Evansville.   A couple of home games might be what is needed to give first year coach Greg Lansing an opportunity to make some noise early.  However, they will have to do it without Jake Kelly.  The senior who transferred from Iowa a couple of seasons ago has not had good luck in Terre Haute.  Kelly suffered a knee injury ending his season early last season and now he has a stress fracture in his foot this season that could keep him out of action for an unspecified time.
  9. Drake (6-7) (1-1) (10)—The Bulldogs up and down season continues.  They got an opening night win against Southern Illinois but then ran out of gas against Creighton in Omaha.  The theme most of the season for Drake were turnovers, but against Creighton it was rebounding.  They were outrebounded 45-24.   Their road trip continues to Wichita State before hosting a couple of home games against Indiana State and Bradley.   Rankings 8-10 could change significantly after this week.
  10. Bradley (6-7) (0-2) (8)— Bradley has lost seven of their last nine games and failed to secure a conference win this week.  The Braves are playing three of their first five conference games on the road and could lose another home game on Tuesday against Southern Illinois.   Bradley has always seemed to get socked with a weird conference schedule.  One positive for Bradley is Andrew Warren who is currently riding on 38 consecutive free throw makes, the second longest streak in Bradley history.   

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.

  • 1/4—Missouri State @ Creighton (Fox Sports Net)—Both teams come into this game at 2-0 in conference play and will be a good challenge to see who can take the early lead in the conference.
  • 1/4—Southern Illinois @ Bradley (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—Bradley has started off 0-2 while Southern Illinois is looking to build on their last second win against Northern Iowa.  The Braves could be out of the race early with a loss here.
  • 1/7—Creighton @ Southern Illinois (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—This is always a heated rivalry although it has cooled a bit the past few seasons because both programs have been trying to get back to their top level status.  Nonetheless, it should be a good one to catch on a Friday night.
  • 1/9—Missouri State @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—The Bears and Shockers were picked in the preseason to battle it out for the conference championship this season.   This is the first of their two matchups with this one at the always tough Koch Arena.
  • 1/9—Bradley @ Northern Iowa (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—It is weird to think that Northern Iowa might be on the outside looking in for the first time in the past couple of seasons after starting 0-2.  With the third game in a week, it will be interesting to see if the Panthers can walk away with a winning record or end up at the bottom of the Valley standings.
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