Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference
A Look Back
Conference RPI vs. Other Mid-Majors Schools—The Missouri Valley Conference is really suffering in the RPI as a conference this season. RPI Forecast has the conference ranked #12, just behind the Horizon but ahead of the WCC. Things are even worse in the Pomeroy rankings, where the MVC stands 14th behind the WAC. The chance of being a multiple-bid conference gets slimmer by the week.
MVC/MWC Challenge Opponents Announced—The Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference have announced the matchups for next year’s MVC/MWC Challenge. The winter of 2011 will be the third of the four contracted years for this challenge, and some very interesting matchups are created:
- Nov. 30 – Creighton at San Diego State–Creighton leads all-time series, 3-1; last meeting 1/3/1974
- Dec. 3 – Air Force at Drake—Drake leads all-time series, 5-0; last meeting 12/12/1981
- Dec. 3 – Indiana State at Boise State– First meeting
- Dec. 3 – Colorado State at Northern Iowa– First meeting
- Dec. 3 – Missouri State at New Mexico—New Mexico leads all-time series, 1-0; only meeting 12/22, 1962
- Dec. 3 – TCU at Evansville–First meeting
- Dec. 3 – Bradley at Wyoming–Bradley leads all-time series, 1-0; only meeting 3/30/1951
- Dec. 4 – UNLV at Wichita State–Series tied, 1-1; last meeting 1/10/1979
Panthers Still Rising—Northern Iowa is still working its way back to the top of the MVC, where they have been the past two seasons. A win over Creighton and a thrilling victory against conference leader Missouri State have put them back into the thick of things. They have won eight of their last nine games and are currently on a seven-game roll. Don’t be surprised to see Northern Iowa working their way to a third straight NCAA Tournament berth.
Bracketbuster Matchups—The Missouri Valley Conference schools will find out their opponents for Bracketbusters on Monday. All ten schools are involved in this event, with Wichita State and Missouri State lined up for likely TV games. Northern Iowa also remains a possibility for one of the 11 television spots on the ESPN family of networks for this event. Schools like St. Mary’s, Old Dominion, Utah State and George Mason will likely get matched up with teams in the Valley.
Player of the Week—Kyle Weems, Missouri State—Weems is continuing to make his case for conference Player of the Year honors with solid performances this week, averaging 18 points and six rebounds a game. After having a somewhat slow start to conference season, Weems has been more consistent.
Newcomer of the Week—Doug McDermott, Creighton—McDermott is continuing his great freshman season, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds in games against Northern Iowa and Indiana State this week. It is very likely that McDermott is considered for All-Conference first team honors at the end of the season.
Power Rankings (Record) (Conference Record) (Last week rank)
- Wichita State (18-4) (9-2) (2)—The Shockers finally take over the top spot since they are winning right now. They had a somewhat easy week with Southern Illinois and Bradley, but wins are wins and that is what the goal is at this point in the season. Wichita State should enjoy back to back 20-win seasons again, but February has always been a tough month for the Shockers. Things could get interesting when they go to Indiana State this week before hosting a streaking Illinois State.
- Northern Iowa (16-6) (8-3) (4)— Right now, the Panthers are playing the best ball, knocking off Creighton and Missouri State this past week. Their seven-game winning streak is a familiar feat as they reeled off 11 straight in conference play two seasons ago and started off winning 13 of 14 games to start conference play last season. Ben Jacobson does his best to keep from providing bulletin board material and wants no distractions. They should continue their streak against Drake and Illinois State this week.
- Missouri State (17-5) (9-2) (1)— Missouri State easily had the game of the week in against Northern Iowa on Sunday night, but lost it in the final seconds breaking a 19-game winning streak they had at JQH Arena. The win against Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls at the beginning of conference season broke a large home winning streak for the Panthers. They had to hold off Drake earlier in the week and the Bears are pretty vulnerable at this point. It is possible they may have problems with a hot Evansville team before the rematch with Indiana State who gave them their other loss in conference play.
- Creighton (14-9) (6-5) (5)— Creighton’s up-and-down season continues, but they may be turning a corner. They came up just short against Northern Iowa despite shooting 70% from the field in the second half, and earned a hard-fought victory against Indiana State where 51 fouls were called between the two teams. The play of Doug McDermott is easing the stress on his dad, Greg. A lot of Creighton fans wonder what this team would be like without the young McDermott on the team this season. The schedule is somewhat favorable for the Bluejays over the next five games as they play teams in the bottom half of the league. They head to Bradley and then host Evansville this week.
- Indiana State (12-10) (7-4) (3)— The Sycamores are coming back to earth after the fast conference start. They have now lost three in a row and things do not get easier with the return game against Wichita State and Missouri State on the schedule this week. Against Creighton, turnovers were a problem. At the same time, it is a great opportunity to turn things around and get back in the conference race if they take things “one game at a time.”
- Evansville (12-9) (6-5) (6)— Don’t look now, but Evansville is on a bit of a roll. They have won five of their last six and are playing with a lot of confidence. The Aces are exceeding expectations for the second year in a row. They could really make the Valley standings interesting with games against Missouri State and Creighton this week.
- Southern Illinois (10-12) (4-7) (7)— Southern Illinois is going the opposite way of the Purple Aces. They have lost five of their last six and time may be running out for Chris Lowery. However, he may still be back next season because it would cost the school too much to replace him and their financial state to keep the university running could not afford to take that kind of hit. It is getting to a point where their best player, Mamadou Seck is having to bring the ball up the court and he isn’t the point guard. They could pick up a couple of wins this week against Drake and Bradley.
- Illinois State (11-11) (3-8) (9)—After starting conference season 0-8, the Redbirds have won three in a row and have risen out of the bottom of the rankings. Their confidence is soaring after getting a last second shot reversed in the Drake game to send it to overtime. Like Evansville, they could play the role of spoilers against Northern Iowa and Wichita State this week.
- Drake (8-14) (3-8) (8)—Drake has lost six of seven, and you really don’t know what team will show up from game to game. They are 0-5 on the road in conference play, so they are definitely not a road team. At home, they rank last in attendance with less than 4000 attending home games. They travel to Southern Illinois before hosting Northern Iowa this week
- Bradley (6-16) (0-11) (10)— Losing stinks and I’m sure Bradley fans are tired of it. I fully expect Bradley to get a win before the season is over, but who will it be against? Taylor Brown is definitely not coming back this season as there was talk he might end up playing during the stretch run after his required three months off. But there are way too many factors that could make things worse. Between Evansville, Illinois State and Bradley, they will create some havoc before conference season is over, but it may hurt the MVC more than help it. The Braves get Creighton and Southern Illinois this week.
A Look Ahead
The top teams will try to avoid upsets this week.
2/1—Wichita State @ Indiana State (Local TV)—The Shockers had to fight in three overtimes for the win in the first meeting. The second meeting could be another great battle.
2/1—Creighton @ Bradley (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)—At some point Bradley will win a Valley game, it is just that the Bluejays don’t want to be that team.
2/2—Missouri State @ Evansville (Local TV)—The Bears could be that much closer to locking up the MVC regular season, but the Purple Aces have been hot as of late.
2/5—Indiana State @ Missouri State (No TV)—The Sycamores were impressive early in the conference season, but if they want to stay in the race, then they need a win here badly.
2/5—Northern Iowa @ Drake (ESPNU)—The Panthers won the game in Cedar Falls. Will the Bulldogs return the favor in Des Moines?
Other games on National TV this week: