College Basketball Nation: Drake Bulldogs

video

Everybody loves a good halfcourt shot. You know what's even better than making a halfcourt shot? Making one at the buzzer, in front of a crowd of your peers, to win a new truck ... after you brick your first two layups.

That's what Drake's Even Alex Tillinghast did at the school's Bulldog Madness event Tuesday night. And yes, the video is glorious.

There are few things worse than going to a game (or a Madness event) and watching as someone with zero discernible basketball skill is chosen to shoot the contest shots. Their form is all wrong. You could do so much better. What makes Tillinghast's halfcourt make so amazing -- besides the timing of the buzzer, which is the stuff of driveway dreams -- is that he starts off like one of those poor overmatched souls. You can't afford to miss one layup, let alone two. You need as many cracks at the halfcourt shot as possible, man, you can't just -- actually, nevermind!

Tillinghast has done us a great service. On the eve of a new season, he's reminded us that putting an orange ball through a metal cylinder is often as much a function of dumb luck as well-honed skill. The fates make fools of us all.

So, Wednesday night was wild

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
8:15
AM ET
Here at the ESPN.com college hoops headquarters, we -- and by "we," I mostly mean our tireless editor, Brett Edgerton -- spend a lot of time trying to plan for a sport that is inherently unpredictable. It's just part of the gig, same as anything else: You want to allocate your resources in the best and most efficient manner possible. You highlight some games and pay only passing attention to others. You dive deep on big nights, those weeknights and Saturdays with loads of top-25 matchups, and you recognize that others probably aren't going to be as exciting.

Throughout my three-plus years here, if there's one thing I've learned about covering this sport on a daily basis -- if there's one motto Edge and the rest of us have had repeatedly drilled into our heads -- it's that the best hoops nights are the ones you never expect.

Wednesday was one of those nights.

Don't get me wrong: There were good games on the docket. We were prepared for a solid night of basketball. But the sheer randomness that ensued last night went far beyond anything we could have imagined as recently as, say, Wednesday afternoon. To wit:
[+] EnlargeJared Swopshire, Austin Hollins
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhNorthwestern's Jared Swopshire drives past Minnesota's Austin Hollins on his way to 16 points.

  • No. 1 Duke not only lost at Miami -- a foreseeable outcome -- but was absolutely thrashed, totally embarrassed, completely run off the court. Miami won 90-63. Its fans stormed the floor. Coach K rubbed his temples. Jim Larranaga winked.
  • Butler, fresh off its miracle buzzer-beating Saturday win over Gonzaga, turned around and lost a one-point game at La Salle, 54-53. Of course, this is not a totally crazy upset; La Salle has been playing some good basketball this season, and in fact the Las Vegas books had the Explorers as a one-point favorite before the game. Plus, Butler was going on the road after Saturday's euphoric finish; this was the very definition of a trap game. And even with all of that said … Butler? Lose a one-possession game? Does. Not. Compute.
  • Iowa State, the same team that pushed Kansas to overtime at Allen Fieldhouse, who entered Wednesday ranked 14th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom, scored a lowly 51 points in a loss at Texas Tech, which entered Wednesday ranked No. 277 nationally in adjusted efficiency defense.
  • The 11-8 Northwestern Wildcats, one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, held No. 12 Minnesota, the nation's best offensive rebounders, to just 48 points in their 55-48 win in Evanston, Ill. It was Minnesota's third loss in a row.
  • The 8-10 Drake Bulldogs upset No. 17 Creighton 74-69 in Des Moines, Iowa. This despite the facts that a) Creighton's offense is among the five best in the country and b) Drake's defense is one of the worst in the Missouri Valley. This loss was even more mysterious before we learned forward Doug McDermott was playing through the flu, and had vomited at halftime (he scored just four points in the second half). But still.
  • Oregon needed nearly all 40 minutes of its home game against a downright bad Washington State team; it held on for a victory, but things were in doubt throughout.
  • Without star C.J. McCollum, Lehigh went to Patriot League favorite Bucknell's house and left the Bisons and Mike Muscala with a 65-62 loss.
  • Southern Miss beat Marshall 102-46. That would be all you needed to know about that, except for this: Early in the game, Marshall led 3-0. Then, Southern Miss went on 47-4 run. 47. To four. There are no words.
  • Oh, and this happened.

So, yeah. We assumed Wednesday night would give us a couple of obviously good games (Duke-Miami, Colorado State-New Mexico) and a bunch of your standard regular-season college hoops games. So much for that.

Video: Drake 74, Creighton 69

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
11:44
PM ET

Richard Carter scored 20 points during Drake's 74-69 upset of No. 17 Creighton. Player of the year candidate Doug McDermott did score 19 points for the Bluejays.

Video: Creighton 91, Drake 61

January, 8, 2013
1/08/13
10:33
PM ET


No. 13 Creighton improved to 15-1 with a 91-61 home victory over Drake, getting a career-high 22 points from Ethan Wragge.

DIRECTV Classic primer

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
11:00
AM ET
Don't be fooled by the name; this is not a new tournament. It is merely a repackaged Anaheim Classic that is no longer leaving naming-rights sponsorship money on the table. This would normally be the part where we criticize soulless corporate sports sponsorship ... but, I mean, it's the Anaheim Classic. Surely we can find a better target for our outrage.

Anyway, let's talk about this basketball tournament, huh?

The basics: Nov. 22-25, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif.

The set matchups (Nov. 22): Pacific vs. Xavier, 2 p.m. ET; Drexel vs. Saint Mary's, 4:30 ET; Rice vs. Georgia Tech, 9 ET; Drake vs. Cal, 11:30 ET.

THE FAVORITE

Xavier: Major caveat alert: I could make a reasonable argument for Saint Mary's, Cal or even a banged-up Drexel, because I'm not really sure there is one clear favorite in this group of teams. But if I have to pick, I suppose I'll take the squad that shut down Butler just one week before Butler beat Marquette and drilled North Carolina in Maui. The transitive property is a fickle siren, but this early in the season it has to mean something.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: The Australian Olympian and four-year senior is the undispusted leader of this Gaels team in ways both measurable and otherwise, and his offensive output will be (as ever) a huge key to his team's chances of getting out of Anaheim with three consecutive wins.

[+] EnlargeDee Davis
Frank Victores/US PresswireSophomore guard Dee Davis has thus far ably filled holes left by departures at Xavier.
Allen Crabbe, California: One half of Cal's two-headed returning scoring tandem (the other being fellow guard Justin Cobbs), Crabbe is essential to California's hopes of replacing Jorge Guiterrez and Harper Kamp and still making a run at the top of the revamped Pac-12.

Dee Davis, Xavier: It's early yet, but sophomore guard Davis appears to be just the latest in the Musketeers' long line of starter-minutes-ready young players to emerge after former stars depart. Through three games (including the aforementioned Butler romp) Davis is averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 assists, with a 132.2 offensive rating.

Frantz Massenat, Drexel: The Dragons suffered a big-time loss this week when guard Chris Fouch lost the rest of his season to ankle surgery, but the good news is that Massenat -- a versatile point guard who drives, dishes and shoots with near-equal skill -- remains.

Kammeon Holsey, Georgia Tech: When Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory dismissed Glen Rice Jr. in mid-March, he not only made a statement about the importance of attitude and chemistry in his program. He also left Holsey as his only notable returning scorer. Thus far, Holsey has delivered, though this tournament will be the Yellow Jackets' first real test, and we'll see if they'll be more than an ACC punching bag this season.

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS

Is Xavier for real? The Musketeers were written off at the start of this season, and understandably so -- Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease graduated, Dez Wells was (possibly wrongly) kicked out of school, Mark Lyons transferred to Arizona, and what remained were guys most hoops fans had never heard of. So the Musketeers were picked to finish ninth -- ninth! -- despite the fact that this program has missed exactly one Sweet 16 (2011) since 2008. When Xavier tossed Butler around in the Musketeers' home opener, the write-offs looked premature. But now, outside of their own building, the young Musketeers have a real chance to prove they're not going anywhere.

Is Cal a Pac-12 contender? The Pac-12 was bad last season. We've established this ad nauseam (especially for Pac-12 fans, I'm sure) throughout the past 12 months. But for as bad as the league was, on a per-posssesion basis Cal was perfectly respectable (and pretty clearly the best team in its league), even if that respectability didn't always translate into wins. Despite the turnover, would you bet against Mike Montgomery making a run at the top of a still-volatile league this season? I wouldn't.

Does Saint Mary's miss Rob Jones? Jones was a drastically underrated player last season. Not only was he a versatile scorer, but his rebounding anchored the Gaels on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense, where he posted the nation's 16th-best defensive rebounding rate. Forward Brad Waldow is the chief successor to Jones, and will have to have a nice season for Saint Mary's to wrest another West Coast Conference title away from a very good Gonzaga team.

Is Drexel still Drexel? Bruiser Flint's team was brutally close to an NCAA tournament appearance last season, and had a fair quarrel when all was said and done. With all but one starter returning, and a Virginia Commonwealth-less Colonial Athletic Association, this season was set up as a redemption campaign. It has not gone as planned. The Dragons lost their first two games (to Kent State, which is a bad loss, and Illinois State, which is a good one) and then lost Fouch to a season-ending injury soon thereafter. A title run in Anaheim -- or at least a couple of resume wins, beginning with Saint Mary's -- would be a nice way to get this season back on track.

Who's the upset candidate? There are some solid teams in this field, but no truly great ones. Which means we could see a few wacky results. That Rice-Georgia Tech game is anyone's guess, and who knows what happens if either of those teams get hot? What if Drake springs an upset on Cal? In a week in which Texas lost to a Division II team and another dude scored 138 points, I'm not discounting any possibilities.

THE PICKS

First round: Xavier over Pacific; Saint Mary's over Drexel, Georgia Tech over Rice; Cal over Drake.

Semifinals: Saint Mary's over Xavier; Cal over Georgia Tech.

Championship: Saint Mary's over Cal.

ESPN.com's Missouri Valley preview

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
9:20
PM ET
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Missouri Valley, here is Eamonn Brennan's wind sprint through the league:



Blue Ribbon's in-depth previews of all 10 MVC teams: Insider

Bradley
Creighton
Drake Insider Free Evansville
Illinois State
Indiana State
Missouri State
Northern Iowa
Southern Illinois
Wichita State

More Valley content:

-- Brennan's Three Big Things on Creighton.
-- Jason King rates and analyzes the nonconference schedules of the Missouri Valley.
-- ESPN.com's Summer Shootaround preview of the MVC.
-- For more coverage of the Valley in the Nation blog, click here.

Nonconference schedule analysis: MVC

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
9:45
AM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focus on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Big 12, Missouri Valley and the best of the rest.

BRADLEY

Toughest: at South Florida (Nov. 20), Michigan (Dec. 1), Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23)
Next-toughest: George Washington (Dec. 4)
The rest: Eastern Illinois (Nov. 9), Texas-Pan American (Nov. 12), at IUPUI (Nov. 17), Tennessee-Martin (Nov. 24), at Central Michigan (Nov. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Considering it went 7-25 last season, Bradley certainly could’ve scheduled easier. South Florida will contend for a second-straight NCAA tournament berth and Michigan is a preseason top-10 team. The Braves will face Virginia Tech and either Colorado State or Portland in Vegas. George Washington won only 10 games a year ago but returns four starters.

CREIGHTON

Toughest: Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24), at Cal (Dec. 15), BracketBusters (TBA)
Next-toughest: North Texas (Nov. 9), Saint Joseph’s (Dec. 1), Akron (Dec. 9)
The rest: Presbyterian (Nov. 18), Longwood (Nov. 20), Boise State (Nov. 28), at Nebraska (Dec. 6), Tulsa (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Although it’s not as soft as last year’s, the Bluejays’ nonconference schedule is a bit underwhelming for a top-15-caliber team. They’ll be challenged by Wisconsin and either Arkansas or Arizona State in Las Vegas, and a trip to Cal won’t be easy. North Texas, Saint Joseph’s and Akron all will pose threats in Omaha and will help the RPI. But Creighton’s best nonconference game may be its BracketBusters showdown with a to-be-determined opponent in late February.

DRAKE

Toughest: DIRECTV Classic (Nov. 22-25), at Nevada (Nov. 30), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 5), vs. Iowa State (Dec. 15 in Des Moines)
Next-toughest: at Detroit (Nov. 17), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: William Jewell (Nov. 10), IPFW (Dec. 8), North Carolina Central (Dec. 19), Eastern Illinois (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Kudos to coach Mark Phelps for building one of the conference’s most challenging nonconference schedules. The Bulldogs travel to Horizon League favorite Detroit and will then face Cal and then either Georgia Tech or Rice in Anaheim. Nevada and Saint Mary’s are stiff tests from out West. The schedule could play huge dividends for Drake in MVC play.

EVANSVILLE

Toughest: at Notre Dame (Dec. 10), at Colorado State (Dec. 1), Murray State (Dec. 8), at Butler (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Nov. 15-17), at Tennessee Tech (Nov. 20)
The rest: Alabama A&M (Nov. 26), Miami-Ohio (Dec. 5), Alabama State (Dec. 15), Oakland City (Dec. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- After opening on the road at Notre Dame -- an upper-echelon Big East team -- the Purple Aces play three straight home games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. But that doesn’t mean the wins will come easy. Buffalo, Yale and Western Illinois all return three starters from winning teams. Colorado State, Butler and Murray State will all contend for NCAA tournament bids. This schedule gives an improving Evansville program a chance to take that “next step.”

ILLINOIS STATE

Toughest: at Drexel (Nov. 15), at Louisville (Dec. 1), at Dayton (Dec. 19)
Next-toughest: UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 12), South Padre Island Invitational (Nov. 23-24), Wyoming (Dec. 4)
The rest: Delaware State (Nov. 18), Fairleigh Dickinson (Nov. 20), Western Michigan (Dec. 8), Morgan State (Dec. 16), Austin Peay (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- For a fringe top-25 team hoping to earn its first NCAA berth since 1998, this is a relatively weak nonconference schedule. Louisville is an NCAA title contender, Drexel returns four starters from a 29-7 team and Dayton is a tough place to play. Otherwise, there are no marquee matchups on the slate. The South Padre Island Field is weak with UAB, TCU and Northwestern.

INDIANA STATE

Toughest: at UCLA (Nov. 9), New Mexico (Dec. 1), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu)
Next-toughest: at Ball State (Nov. 2), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: Winthrop (Nov. 13), Truman State (Nov. 17), High Point (Nov. 25), at Morehead State (Dec. 8), IUPUI (Dec. 15)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- This slate provides plenty of challenges for a program that lost four starters from an 18-15 team. Opening on the road against UCLA looks to be an insurmountable feat, but the experience will pay off in the long run. The Sycamores will also faced a much-improved Ole Miss squad in the Diamond Head Classic, which also features San Diego State, Arizona and Miami.

MISSOURI STATE

Toughest: San Diego State (Nov. 17), at Oklahoma State (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: Hoops for Hope Challenge (Nov. 24-25 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), Oral Roberts (Dec. 1), Valparaiso (Dec. 15), at New Mexico State (Dec. 22)
The rest: Philander Smith (Nov. 9), Jacksonville (Nov. 19), Alcorn State (Nov. 21), at Tulsa (Dec. 5), at Alabama A&M (Dec. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Bears will have plenty of chances to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee with this slate. The problem is that Missouri State will be loaded with new faces, making victories against postseason contenders such as San Diego State and Oklahoma State seem unlikely. A championship in the Hoops for Hope Challenge (where the Bears open against rebuilding South Carolina) would provide a nice confidence boost.

NORTHERN IOWA

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at UNLV (Dec. 19), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at George Mason (Dec. 8), vs. Iowa (Dec. 15 in Des Moines)
The rest: Wartburg (Nov. 10), Toledo (Nov. 14), North Dakota (Nov. 17), Milwaukee (Dec. 1), Northern Colorado (Dec. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- The Panthers open play against Final Four favorite Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis, one of the most loaded tournaments in recent memory. Duke, Memphis, Missouri and Stanford are also in the field. UNLV will almost certainly be ranked in the preseason top 25, and Saint Mary’s -- last year’s WCC champion -- features one of the nation’s top point guards in Matthew Dellavedova. Iowa and George Mason will both contend for NCAA bids. What a schedule.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Toughest: at Saint Louis (Nov. 24), at Western Kentucky (Dec. 5), World Vision Classic (Dec. 20-22 in Logan, Utah)
Next-toughest: Fresno State (Nov. 28), at Green Bay (Dec. 14), BracketBusters
The rest: at New Orleans (Nov. 12), Benedictine-Springfield (Nov. 17), at SIU (Nov. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Other than Saint Louis, Barry Hinson won’t play many top-25 caliber teams in his first season at Southern Illinois. But the Salukis won’t face many patsies, either. One of the most difficult tests probably will come three days before Christmas, when Hinson’s squad squares off against host Utah State in the World Vision Classic.

WICHITA STATE

Toughest: at VCU (Nov. 13), at Tennessee (Dec. 13)
Next-toughest: Cancun Challenge (Nov. 20-21), vs. Southern Miss (at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita), BracketBusters
The rest: NC Central (Nov. 10), Western Carolina (Nov. 15), Howard (Nov. 17), Tulsa (Nov. 28), at Air Force (Dec. 2), Northern Colorado (Dec. 8), Charleston Southern (Dec. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Victories at VCU or Tennessee could go a long way toward enhancing the Shockers’ NCAA tournament résumé, but there isn’t too much to get excited about on the rest of the slate. It’s a shame Wichita State couldn’t schedule at least one marquee opponent to play at home. To be fair, teams from major conferences probably aren’t too eager to face Gregg Marshall’s squad on the road. Koch Arena is an incredibly difficult place to play, especially when the Shockers are on a roll, which they have been in recent years.

Bracket reveal: Anaheim Classic

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
12:00
PM ET

Tournament bracket for the 2012 Anaheim Classic

When and where: Nov. 22-23, 25 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Initial thoughts: On the surface, this isn’t a very sexy tournament but there are some intriguing teams here to keep an eye on. Now that VCU and Old Dominion have bolted, most everyone agrees that the CAA is Drexel’s league to lose this season. Still, Bruiser Flint knows well the need to build up a nonconference resume and wins here would help.

[+] EnlargeAllen Crabbe
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireA Cal team led by Allen Crabbe is a favorite in this tournament.
I’m really curious to see what Xavier is all about after last year’s turbulent season. Mark Lyons is gone, which could be a good thing for the Musketeers. A terrific player, he was a handful to coach and while losing him, plus Tu Holloway, hurts in the scoring column, Xavier might be better off in the long run parting ways with Lyons.

California should be among the better teams in the potentially resurgent Pac-12, but has to adjust to losing Jorge Gutierrez.

Mfon Udofia has to be both leader and scorer for Georgia Tech now that Brian Gregory has dismissed Glen Rice Jr. from the team.

Drake coach Mark Phelps rolls out a roster with eight newcomers, not exactly what you want against the more experienced lineup that Cal will present.

Ben Braun got Rice to turn the corner last season, gobbling up the Owls’ most wins (19) in seven years. He welcomes back his two top scorers, as Rice could be a bit of a sleeper here.

Saint Mary’s is coming off an historic regular season, winning both the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament, but had a disappointing loss to Purdue in the NCAA tournament. Matthew Dellavedova is back, but Rob Jones is gone.

Matchup I can’t wait to see: Drexel vs. Saint Mary’s. One of the nation’s best defensive teams against one of the country’s best offensive squads? Frantz Massenat and Chris Fouch going up against Dellavedova? What’s not to like here? This game could be high-caliber enough to qualify as a BracketBuster.

Potential matchup I’d like to see: Cal vs. Saint Mary’s. It’s a California tournament. Why not let the two in-state teams from NorCal duke it out for the title?

Key players to watch

Robert Carter, Georgia Tech: The native son has been viewed as a sort of savior for the Yellow Jackets. The power forward, ranked 33rd in the country in the ESPN 100, is certainly a critical piece as Brian Gregory tries to resurrect Tech.

Allen Crabbe, Cal: One of the top returning scorers in the Pac-12, Crabbe, along with teammate Justin Cobbs, serve as a 1-2 punch of optimism for the Golden Bears this season.

Matthew Dellavedova, SMC: The WCC player of the year will spend his summer in London, playing for the Australian Olympic team. Expect that experience to make the playmaker only that much better.

Arsalan Kazemi, Rice: You might never have heard of Kazemi, but in three years few players have been as steady as he has been for Rice. Kazemi has averaged a double-double in each of his collegiate seasons.

Frantz Massenat, Drexel: Massenat figures to be one of the mid-major players plenty of people will keep an eye on this season. The Dragons’ leading scorer from a year ago averaged 13.7 points per game as a sophomore.

Ben Simons, Drake: The third-leading scorer in the Missouri Valley a year ago, Simons doubled his scoring output between his sophomore and junior years. With a roster full of newcomers, expect Simons to be asked to score even more this season.

Dez Wells, Xavier: Wells goes from understudy to front and center, now that Holloway and Lyons are gone. He’s been terrific in a supporting role, averaging 9.8 points as a freshman.

Title-game prediction

Cal over Saint Mary's: College basketball, like most sports, isn’t that complicated. Talent and experience make for a pretty good combo and the Bears have more of each than anyone else in this field.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Saint Mary's over Cal
Andy Katz: Drexel over Cal
Jason King: Cal over Saint Mary's
Myron Medcalf: Drexel over Cal
Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the Missouri Valley, click here.

Five freshmen to watch in the MVC...

Kori Babineaux, Drake: Mark Phelps touted Babineaux's maturity during last month's MVC media teleconference. The 6-4 shooting guard, who scored 48 points in a playoff game last season, attracted multiple scholarship offers to play football in college. With Rice transferring, Babineaux could play big minutes for the Bulldogs.

Aaron Simpson, Illinois State: ISU is stacked so he might not play right away. But Simpson is a capable scorer (22.5 ppg in North Chicago) who could help the Redbirds.

Gavin Thurman, Missouri State: Thurman had offers from Iowa, Colorado State and Wichita State following his high school career in Wichita, Kan. The 6-7 forward played next to Kansas signee Perry Ellis last season at Wichita Heights, which won a state title.

Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State: The 5-11 point guard was named first team all-state by the Associated Press in Illinois last year. The Shockers have lost their five top players, including Ragland, so Van Vleet will be asked to step in and make an immediate impact. He's the only ESPN 100 player in the Missouri Valley's 2012 class.

Isaiah Zierden, Creighton: He's a pure shooter, as evident by his second-place finish at the nationally televised high school Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships during the Final Four. The 6-1 Zierden, son of former Washington Wizards assistant and Minnesota Lynx coach Don Zierden, was one of the top shooters in Minnesota throughout his prep career. That touch could help him crack Creighton's rotation.
Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the Missouri Valley, click here.

The most important player for each team in the MVC ...

Bradley: Dyricus Simms-Edwards
Bradley finished 2-16 in Missouri Valley play and 7-25 overall. The Braves were ranked 306th (out of 345 teams) in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. They need help in many areas. But they'll finish at the bottom of the league again without an improved offense. That's why the program needs guard Simms-Edwards to play more efficient and consistent basketball. He took 333 shots last season, but made just 35 percent of those attempts. He scored 17 or more eight times, but also recorded single digits in 15 games.

Creighton: Grant Gibbs
Antoine Young was the facilitator for Creighton's potent offense. Now, Greg McDermott needs to find a replacement. Austin Chatman is just a sophomore, so it's Gibbs who will most likely man the point guard slot for the Bluejays. Doug McDermott is a great college player. One of the best in the country. But he's not a creator. He's the kind of talent who excels mostly within the flow of Creighton's offense. And Gibbs will be the catalyst of that group, one that shot better than any team in the country last season (51 percent).

Drake: Ben Simons
The Bulldogs finished 9-9 in the MVC, part of a five-way tie for third place. And they looked like a dark horse for this season before Rice's transfer changed expectations. Simons (16.0 ppg) was equally effective for Drake's offense, but that one-two punch of Rice and Simons would have been the league's best. Simons now anchors Drake's offense alone. He was ranked fifth in the league in offensive efficiency per Pomeroy among players who accounted for 20 percent of their team's possessions (113.6). Losing Rice hurts the entire program, but Simons' return is a boost.

Evansville: Colt Ryan
McDermott was the most recognizable player in the MVC last season, but Ryan nearly matched his offensive output. As a junior, he averaged 20.2 ppg, second behind McDermott. He scored 43 points in a one-point overtime loss to the Bluejays in February and scored 30 or more four times last season. He's an exciting player who's probably McDermott's greatest threat for MVC Player of the Year honors. Defense is key in any league. But with Creighton's high-potent offense controlling the conference right now, teams need offense to keep up with the Jays. Evansville, ranked 57th in Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency ratings last season, has it with Ryan returning.

Illinois State: Jackie Carmichael
The standout wowed during the LeBron James Skills Academy, a coming-out party to those who'd never heard of the Illinois State star. But MVC rivals know all about Carmichael, a 6-foot-9 forward who recorded 15 double-doubles last season. The Redbirds fell short of the conference tournament title, but the bulk of their significant players return. Carmichael has the skill set to help Illinois State challenge Creighton for the MVC title, especially if he cuts back on his turnovers (2.2 per game). This is a talented roster. New coach Dan Muller, however, needs Carmichael to lead the way.

Indiana State: Jake Odum
The junior guard is not just Indiana State's most important player because of his production (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg). Yes, he's one of the league's most versatile performers. But he has to play with more discipline next season to give the Sycamores an edge. He recorded five or more turnovers in six games and averaged 3.0 per game in 2011-12. The MVC should be a top-heavy conference again next season. But Indiana State could be in the mix, especially if Odum fulfills his potential. He's also healthy. He was hobbled by plantar fasciitis last season.

Missouri State: Anthony Downing
In a few weeks, Missouri State will take a trip to Costa Rica, marking the first international trip for the program. And it's good news for a team that hasn't received much of it in recent months. Top players Kyle Weems and Caleb Patterson have graduated. And Jarmar Gulley, a senior who averaged 10.4 ppg and shot 37 percent from the 3-point line last season, tore his ACL in a summer league game last week and is expected to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Downing is the top returning scorer on the roster. The departures and Gulley's injury make him an even more significant player for a program that hopes to stay relevant within the MVC.

Northern Iowa: Anthony James
James (12.9 ppg) went viral in February after he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to defeat nationally ranked Creighton. The Panthers will rely on James for more highlights next season, a promising one for the program, as they lost just one senior, Johnny Moran. Northern Iowa was the MVC's top scoring defense (61.9 ppg allowed), but it was seventh in scoring offense (65.2 ppg). The Panthers scored 41 points in a road loss to Saint Mary's last November and managed just 51 points in a road loss to Missouri State in January. So they'll definitely need James, the squad's leading scorer last season, to maintain his offensive prowess.

Southern Illinois: Dantiel Daniels
The sophomore led the MVC in blocks per game last season with 1.6. He also led the league in Pomeroy's block percentage ratings (7.90), a more accurate barometer of a rim protector's effect on a game. To climb out of the MVC's basement, the Salukis must enhance a defensive unit that allowed 69.2 ppg and finished No. 202 in Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. Daniels (8.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg) proved to be a talented defender in his first season of college basketball. If he continues to evolve, he might become a frontcourt star for the SIU.

Wichita State: Carl Hall
No player in the league faces a greater transition than Hall. He earned newcomer-of-the-year honors in the MVC last season. It was the perfect situation for the junior college transfer, who played with a group that was anchored by five seniors. But they've graduated, and now Hall is the new leader for a team that will add seven new players. This is definitely a rebuilding year for Marshall's program. Hall, who was second in the MVC in offensive rebounding percentage per Pomeroy, will be the key component in Wichita State's effort to avoid a major fall -- the Shockers won 27 games and earned a 5-seed in the Big Dance.
As part of our Summer Shootaround series, here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team in the Missouri Valley:

Bradley

Best-case: Geno Ford inherited a massive rebuilding project last season, and it showed on the court. The Braves finished 7-25 overall and 2-16 in the Missouri Valley. This season, Ford is adding just two players (unranked recruit Ka'Darryl Bell and little-touted juco transfer Tyshon Pickett) to a roster missing obvious breakout candidates or young talent. Still, Ford will have had an entire season and the summer to work with his players. This best-case scenario is less about wins and losses than about establishing a system and building positive steps for the future. It's a long way up from here.

Worst-case: Bradley's offense fails to improve. Per Ken Pomeroy, the Braves ranked No. 301 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, No. 321 in effective field goal percentage, No. 318 in offensive rebounding rate and Nos. 300 and 320 in 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage. All of those things have to improve, and significantly so, to fend off an ugly repeat of 2012.

Creighton

Best-case: A deep NCAA tournament run. That's the expectation, and it should be, because Creighton returns 2012's most lethal offensive player, forward Doug McDermott. McDermott was peerless as a sophomore, averaging 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds on 60.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from beyond the arc. The rest of the Bluejays' supporting cast (except point guard Antoine Young) is back, and there's no reason to expect 2012's fifth-most efficient offense to regress now. If anything, it's going to improve, and Creighton will be the MVC title favorite and an Elite Eight-type threat come March.

Worst-case: The defense doesn't improve. We know CU is going to score; we know McDermott is going to pour in the points. What we don't know is whether the Jays can stop anyone. They didn't last year, ranking No. 178 in adjusted defensive efficiency overall and eighth in Valley play. That weakness held this high-flying offense back last season, and the worst case scenario in 2012-13 is another year of brilliant scoring with little in the way of defense to back it up. "Defense wins championships" is a cliché because it's true.

Drake

Best-case: The Bulldogs have quietly hovered around the .500 mark in the four years since Mark Phelps took over for Keno Davis. Will 2012-13 be the year they get over the hump? The transfer of Rayvonte Rice (who averaged 16.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season) sure didn't help, but versatile forward Ben Simons (a 6-foot-8, 42.5 percent 3-point shooter) does return, supported by a cast of capable returners and seven newcomers, including two juco transfers.

Worst-case: It's easy to see this team taking a step back without Rice. If Simons and Jordan Clarke have similar seasons to 2012, that's all well and good, but it's not clear that that will be enough to lift Drake out of the 18-win region and into legitimate MVC contention. The worry is that Drake simply is what it is.

Evansville

Best-case: The name Colt Ryan might not mean much even to most die-hard fans, but Ryan had a very good junior season for the Purple Aces both as an efficient scorer and a turnover-averse assist man. The 2012-13 season will be Ryan's last, so he'll need help from junior guards Ned Cox and Troy Taylor as well as 6-8 forward Ryan Sawvell, who scored at a tidy pace and rebounded the ball effectively in limited minutes as a freshman. The most optimistic projection involves a big coming-out party for Sawvell as a sophomore, which helps lift Evansville out of last season's 16-win, 9-9 MVC territory.

Worst-case: Even slight improvement from the aforementioned regulars isn't enough to vault the Aces out of the middle of the MVC chase. It's hard to see this team regressing, but there is no guarantee it can live in the same neighborhood as Creighton and Wichita State.

Illinois State

Best-case scenario: The last time Illinois State went to the NCAA tournament (1998), its new coach, longtime Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller, was completing his still-standing record of 128 consecutive starts for the program. Now he's back to build on former coach Tim Jankovich's sporadic progress, and he has a chance to succeed right away. Leading scorer Jackie Carmichael (who finished fifth in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, by the way) is back, as is impressive sophomore Jon Ekey, along with the rest of a starting five that went 9-9 in the MVC and 21-14 overall. If Muller can get his new charges on the same page from day one, there's good reason to expect ISU to contend for an NCAA tournament bid.

Worst-case scenario: Adapting a group of veteran players to a new head coach is always a murky proposition. When the process goes well, you get the 2012 Missouri Tigers. When it doesn't, things can degenerate quickly. This will be the defining challenge of Muller's first season.

Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series is catching up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For the rest of the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Missouri Valley, click here.
Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the Missouri Valley, click here.

Five offseason storylines in the Valley...

[+] EnlargeDoug McDermott
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziDoug McDermott's work during the summer could help Creighton make a deep NCAA tournament run next season.
Doug McDermott's ceiling: When McDermott decided to come back for his junior season, Creighton regained the services of a star forward who will crack every legit preseason All-America team in the country. But his father and coach, Greg McDermott, expects even more from Doug next season, especially with talented point guard Antoine Young gone. McDermott's multiple stops this summer, including last week's LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, will help. Few players have experienced McDermott's growth. He was set to redshirt as a freshman. Two seasons later, he was an All-American after averaging 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game for a squad that ranked fifth in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency rankings. He's already a strong national POY contender who's capable of leading the Bluejays on an NCAA tournament run this season. With a few offseason tweaks to his game -- especially on the defensive end (0.1 blocks, 0.2 steals per game) and off the dribble on offense -- Creighton might have to set its sights even higher.

Wichita State reloading: Last season, the Shockers won the Missouri Valley regular-season title and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the program lost five seniors who averaged a combined 57.2 ppg. Joe Ragland was one of the league's most versatile players and Garrett Stutz was a 7-footer who wasn't afraid of the 3-ball. The rebuilding effort will start with 6-8 senior Carl Hall, the team's top returning scorer, and the seven prospects WSU signed, including 5-11 point guard Fred Van Vleet from the ESPN 100. Coach Gregg Marshall has assembled a talented recruiting class. And if every player in that group is available next season, the Shockers will have a strong, young core. But they've lost as much as any team in the country.

Barry Hinson to Southern Illinois: In 2007, SIU earned a trip to the Sweet 16. In four of their past five seasons since that run, however, the Salukis have failed to finish above .500 in conference play. Those challenges led to Chris Lowery's dismissal and Hinson's arrival. Hinson understands the pressures of sustaining success. He had a strong start during his first tenure in the MVC at Missouri State. But he was dismissed in 2008. In recent seasons, he served as Kansas' director of basketball operations. That connection to one of the country's top programs and his familiarity with the MVC created a favorable situation for Southern Illinois and Hinson. The Salukis finished with an 8-23 record in 2011-12. Hinson told reporters in June that he's establishing a "new way of doing things." The Salukis return four of their top five scorers from last season. Now he just needs them to buy in.

Rayvonte Rice goes to Illinois: Rice averaged 16.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg for Drake last season. In April, the talented guard chose to leave the school and transfer to Illinois. Rice played at Centennial High School in Champaign, Ill. "Illinois, I think it's a good fit," Rice told ESPN Chicago. "The coaches really made me feel comfortable. I get a chance to play in front of my friends and family. It's going to be great." Well, it won't be great for everyone. Rice's transfer creates a major void for the Bulldogs, who finished 9-9 in conference play last season and struggled offensively during the 2011-12 campaign.

New regime at Illinois State: After Tim Jankovich resigned to become the coach-in-waiting at SMU, Illinois State turned to a former player and Vanderbilt assistant. Dan Muller, who played for ISU in the mid-'90s, inherits a program that should compete for the MVC title next season. Other than Nic Moore, who decided to transfer, every significant Redbirds player will return. That includes the team's top scorer and rebounder, Jackie Carmichael (13.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg). Carmichael reportedly wowed observers during the recent LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. He leads a team that lost an overtime thriller to Creighton in the MVC tournament title game and reached the second round of the NIT. The loaded roster should ease Muller's transition back to the MVC.
Editor's Note: For Myron's recap of Saturday's afternoon action, click here.

More Saturday games. More drama. A weekend slate that wasn’t supposed to offer much ultimately produced an impressive collection of games. Saturday night only added to the excitement.

Washington 69, Arizona 67

This game might have been a preview of the vibe we’ll see in the Pac-12 tournament. Not one team in this league can feel secure about its NCAA tournament hopes, but the conference's collective downfall does make for plenty of must-win drama.

Consider this: Between the 14:16 and 2:28 marks of the second half, Arizona recorded exactly one field goal. And yet, with two minutes to play, this was just a six-point game. Solomon Hill’s 3-pointer with 9 seconds to play tied the game at 67. He was awesome, scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. But while he made nine of his 10 shots, the rest of team went 12-of-40 (30 percent) from the field.

And after Hill's big bucket, Josiah Turner committed a huge foul on C.J. Wilcox, who hit a pair of free throws before freshman Tony Wroten blocked Turner’s layup at the buzzer. The Pac-12 is certainly down. But it’s also a very scrappy league right now because of the uncertainty. Arizona was bad for a chunk of this game, but the Wildcats kept coming -- because, well, it's UA-UW and these matchups are always dramatic.

The Huskies, who lead the Pac-12 at 7-2, scored a crucial road win, while Zona’s at-large hopes took another major blow with its third home loss of the season. Fun game.

No. 21 Virginia 61, North Carolina State 60

The Cavaliers led 55-45 with 6:37 on the clock, but barely held on here. The Wolfpack was sloppy for the bulk of this game and finished just 2-of-15 from beyond the arc. Near the five-minute mark, Alex Johnson missed three shots on one possession. He botched a layup on a fast break, then missed a contested follow-up and a 3-pointer. It was that kind of evening for the Pack.

But they bounced back and chipped away at Virginia’s lead. They outscored UVa 15-5 in the final six minutes of the game and Scott Wood hit a late 3 to close the gap to 1. The Cavs missed a jumper in the final seconds so NC State had a chance to tie on the last possession, but Virginia’s defense clamped down on Lorenzo Brown, whose 3-point attempt at the buzzer was way off.

The Cavs continue to find ways to win and force teams to play their grind-it-out style of basketball. Mike Scott (18 points) certainly helped, but Virginia was outrebounded 42-25 -- it gave up more offensive boards (18) than it had defensive boards (17)! -- and still pulled out the win. The Cavaliers' 17th victory gives them one more than all of last season.

That’s certainly something to be proud of, but I’m not sold on the Cavs as a team that will do damage in the NCAA tournament. Not with struggles against Towson, a bad home loss against Virginia Tech and other so-so efforts this season. Their finish against NC State on Saturday showcased some of this team’s flaws.

No. 20 Saint Mary’s 80, BYU 66

Wait, wasn't this supposed to be the weekend that the Gaels fell in West Coast Conference play? As impressive as SMC's 8-0 start in the WCC was, there was a palpable buzz that suggested the Gaels' success was directly linked to the fact that they played five of their first eight conference games at home, including routs of BYU and Gonzaga.

A rematch with Brigham Young on the road -- the Marriott Center is one of the most challenging venues in the country -- spelled doom. Right? But Saint Mary’s truly separated itself from the rest of the league with a 14-point victory that really wasn't even that close, despite SMC's heavy turnover total (24). It was a scrappy game both on the floor and off it -- fans threw things onto the court at one point as the Cougars lost back-to-back home games for the first time ever under Dave Rose. Four Gaels recorded double-figure point totals, led by Brad Waldow (19 points, 8 rebounds). I already can't wait for that Saint Mary's-Gonzaga game in Spokane.

Some more observations from Saturday night ...
  • Oh Dayton, you confusing Atlantic 10 contender (pretender?). From Dec. 7 through Jan. 7, the Flyers won seven of eight games, including victories over Alabama, Ole Miss, Saint Louis and Temple. They’ve now lost three of five after Saturday’s 86-81 home loss to … wait for it … Rhode Island (4-18, 1-6 Atlantic 10). That’s not OK. What a wacky league. Xavier, Saint Louis and Dayton, three teams expected to emerge from the crowd, all have three conference losses as La Salle, St. Bonaventure and UMass (a very impressive winner over the Billikens on Saturday) share the conference lead. The A-10 seems as wide open and as unpredictable as any league in the country. Who can call it right now? Not me.
  • The last time Minnesota and Illinois faced off, the Gophers lost to the Illini in double overtime in Champaign. On Saturday, Minnesota got its revenge with a 77-72 OT win at the Barn. After losing their first four conference games, the Gophers have won four of their past five. They’re a young team with limited depth, but Tubby Smith has coached this team extremely well in this five-game stretch.
  • It was a huge night in Conference USA as the league's top four teams squared off. What we learned is that Memphis and Southern Miss, which play each other Wednesday in Hattiesburg, are the conference's co-favorites. Behind a career-high 29 from Will Barton, the Tigers rallied in the second half for a hard-fought home win against Marshall. The Golden Eagles also had a huge second half to win in Orlando, where UCF had won 16 straight (including a recent victory over Memphis). Neil Watson and Kentucky transfer Darnell Dodson combined for 45 points as Larry Eustachy's underrated squad improved to 19-3. Yes, 19-3.
  • Think the Mountain West is a pushover? No. 15 UNLV needed overtime to dismiss Boise State on the road and the Rebels needed an extra period again Saturday, when they beat Air Force 65-63. AFA is ranked 156th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo ratings and Vegas is 17th, but these two squads were even on the scoreboard until the closing seconds. But the Falcons committed two turnovers in the last 15 seconds of the contest and squandered their chances to win this one late. Still, it was more evidence that the Mountain West is deeper than it appears to be on the surface. Mike Moser continued his destructive streak with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Oklahoma scored a key road when it beat No. 24 Kansas State 63-60. The Sooners pressured the Wildcats, who committed 20 turnovers. Frank Martin has been preaching defense, but K-State didn’t have much against Steven Pledger, who scored 30 points. The Wildcats have lost three of their past six. Meanwhile, this had to be a satisfying win for Lon Kruger, who used to play and coach in Manhattan. What a great job he's done in his first year in Norman.
  • Seton Hall looked like an NCAA tournament team after it followed a blowout road loss at Syracuse with a four-game winning streak. But the Pirates have lost their past four and looked lackluster in a 60-51 home defeat to Louisville. Boy, that surprising season turned sour really quick, didn't it?
  • Speaking of New Jersey, how strange is this Rutgers season? After Saturday's victory over Cincinnati, the young Scarlet Knights now have wins over Florida, Connecticut and the Bearcats ... and losses to DePaul, Illinois State, Princeton and a down Richmond team.
  • Wichita State and Drake took a combined 149 shots in their triple-overtime thriller Saturday night. The Bulldogs outplayed the Shockers and deserved their 93-86 victory. Kraidon Woods’ layup for Drake sent the game into the first extra period and Rayvonte Rice hit a pair of late free throws to take the game into a second overtime. Drake’s Kurt Alexander and Wichita State’s Ben Smith traded late 3s in the second extra period to send the game into a third OT. In that third overtime, Drake scored the first five points and WSU couldn’t close the gap. The Shockers suffered their first loss since New Year’s Eve, but this is still a quality team. Wichita State is now one game behind Creighton in the MVC. Let's all count down to that Feb. 11 rematch in Omaha.
We've discussed before how impressive it is that Greg and Doug McDermott, Creighton's father-son coach-star combo, have so successfully managed their unique situation in college hoops for the past two seasons. That dynamic -- the whole how-do-I-treat-my-son-like-every-other-player thing -- is hard enough in youth soccer, let alone at the highest levels of college athletics. But the McDermotts have handled it with aplomb. As a result, the Bluejays are a fixture in the Top 25, Doug McDermott is on the short list for national player of the year, and all is well at one of the best mid-major programs in the country.

[+] EnlargeDoug McDermott and Greg McDermott
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallCreighton's Doug McDermott has heard the heckling for playing for his father, Greg. That hasn't stopped him from being one of the nation's elite players.
What haven't we discussed? How the McDermotts' unique situation leaves them open to the well-crafted chants of the Missouri Valley Conference's most creative student sections. Doug McDermott has heard most of them before -- "Daddy's Boy," stuff like that. He rarely seems fazed. No big deal.

But on Wednesday night, in the midst of Creighton's sixth straight road win (a 77-69 victory at Drake), Drake students actually got McDermott to pay attention. In fact, he even allowed himself a slight laugh. From the Omaha World-Herald's Steven Pivovar:
"You're adopted,'' clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.

"You're adopted,'' clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.

McDermott paused, then started laughing. He stepped back, composed himself and then made the free throws.

"The funny thing about it was that I saw my brother in the stands,'' Doug said Thursday. "He just shook his head, and I got a good laugh out of it, too. That was a good one."

There's a YouTube clip out there; I can't link to it for rights reasons, but you can find it easy enough. I recommend you do so. It's great: McDermott stops for a second, looks over at a teammate, gives a sort of "What are they saying?" look, smirks, and then calmly steps in and knocks down the second of two free throws. Even better? Theresa McDermott, Doug's mother and Greg's wife, got a good laugh out of it, too.
"I've always thought the Drake student section comes up with some pretty clever stuff,'' she said. "I couldn't help but laugh at that one. Sort of a slam at the coach and player all in one! No offense taken. We all have a good sense of humor and understand it's part of the game.''

Clever chant, hilarious response, and some reasoned postgame analysis from one of the few people able to confirm or deny the Drake student section's suspicions. Which, come to think of it, Mrs. McDermott never actually says her son wasn't adopted! And so the Doug McDermott "Birther" movement was born. Show us the birth certificate! (OK, maybe not.)

Behind the box scores: Sunday's games

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
2:08
AM ET
A scan of the box scores always reveals statistical oddities and under-the-radar performances. Here are some we found from Sunday's games:

South Florida 71, DePaul 56
DePaul guard Brandon Young missed all 13 of his field goal attempts in the loss. That's the most missed field goals without a make by any player this season.

Boston University 65, Hartford 46
The Terriers became just the fifth team this season to win a game without recording a steal.

Wisconsin 67, Illinois 63
The Illinois bench failed to score a point in the loss, the fourth time this season it went scoreless in a game. No other team in the country has had that many.

Northern Iowa 66, Drake 52
Drake's Kurt Alexander scored as many points off the bench (21) as the Bulldogs' entire starting lineup.

Eastern Kentucky 78, Longwood 71
Trillion of the night: Timmy Knipp of Eastern Kentucky played six minutes without recording a stat in the Colonels’ 78-71 win.

SPONSORED HEADLINES