College Basketball Nation: Missouri State Bears


Wichita State used Creighton’s exodus to the Big East as its cue to take over the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers did like none other, winning all 18 games by an average of 15.5 points and having only three games decided by fewer than 10. They were the first team to go unbeaten in the Valley since Bradley was 16-0 during the 1985-86 season.

As teams converge on St. Louis for the conference tournament beginning on Thursday, the question looms: Are nine other teams just competing for second place?

“It’s going to have to be a game where somebody goes out there and beats them,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. “Wichita State does not make mistakes, and that’s at both ends of the floor. They defend and rebound as well as anybody in the country.”

The good news for the field? The Missouri Valley tournament almost never plays out the way it should on paper. Southern Illinois earned a No. 1 seed five times in six seasons from 2002-07 but had five agonizing tournaments that it did not win. Since 2000, the regular-season champion has claimed a matching conference tournament crown on only four occasions.

[+] EnlargeFred VanVleet
Peter Aiken/Getty ImagesFred VanVleet's heady play made him the second sophomore in Missouri Valley history to be named Most Valuable Player.
What’s at stake?

Since 2006, when a record four Valley teams received NCAA tournament bids, the league hasn’t sent more than two teams there. This season the league will end up represented by only one unless some team can dethrone the Shockers. The most likely challengers to Wichita State are the three teams that posted only single-digit losses to the Shockers.

Indiana State, which finished second in the standings, was one of just three conference teams to outrebound the Shockers in a game this season. In the closing minutes at home, the Sycamores played a one-possession game with Wichita State but lost 65-58. The Sycamores enter the tournament without any momentum, however, having lost their past three games.

“After we secured that second spot, I really think we were guilty of coasting a little bit,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “We had a stretch where those teams were more determined than us.”

No. 3 seed Northern Iowa played the Shockers close in both meetings before second-half runs broke the games open. During the Panthers' 82-73 loss on Feb. 8, they used nine 3-pointers to stay within striking distance.

“We’ve got two guards in Deon Mitchell and Wes Washpun that have the ability to get in the lane that can put pressure on a defense that way, and that will open up shots on that 3-point line,” Jacobson said. “If somebody is going to beat them, your guard play has to be very good.”

No. 4 seed Missouri State led the Shockers by as many as 19 in January only to squander the lead late in regulation and lose the game 72-69 in overtime. In the rematch last week, Wichita closed out its perfect regular season with a 68-45 win on senior night.

“They can play and beat anyone in the country,” Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. “As with anything in college basketball, you can get beat by a lot of people. That doesn’t matter what league you’re in.”

Team with the most to gain

Wichita State may very well be playing for seeding. There are still those who are skeptical that its undefeated run through the regular season merits a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Shockers' win at St. Louis was arguably their best in nonconference play, but the Billikens' current three-game losing streak is sabotaging the value. The only way to lock up a top NCAA seed would be to win the conference tournament.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said he believed the Shockers deserve a No. 1 seed based on the regular season. But do the Shockers really want to take that chance?

“I don’t have to worry about that, I just have to worry about playing the games, and hopefully we can win and advance,” Marshall said. “If we don’t, we’ll be playing in the NCAA tournament regardless. Last year we went to the Final Four as a 9-seed, so I really don’t think it matters, just who is playing the best during those pivotal games in late March and April.”

The Valley has had one No. 1 seed in its history: Larry Bird’s 1979 Indiana State team that lost in the national championship game to Magic Johnson and Michigan State.

Video: Creighton 74, Missouri St. 52

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
11:10
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Doug McDermott scored a season-high 39 points to guide Creighton past Missouri State.

ESPN.com's Missouri Valley preview

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
9:20
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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.
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.

Behind the box scores: Sunday's games

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
6:25
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A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Sunday:

Iona 83, Marist 74
Iona’s Scott Machado recorded his first career triple-double (10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) and the 10th in Division I this season. Nakiea Miller (March 5, 2000) is the only other player in Iona history to accomplish the feat.

LIU-Brooklyn 81, Saint Francis (NY) 78
LIU’s Jamal Olasewere made all 11 of his field goal attempts in the win, tying Vermont’s Luke Apfeld (Dec. 23 vs. Towson) for the most made field goals without a miss in a game this season.

Wright State 70, Milwaukee 46
Wright State collected just one offensive rebound, becoming the sixth team this season to win a game with one or fewer offensive boards. The Raiders are the only team to win such a game as well as lose to a team with a one or fewer offensive rebounds (Feb. 4 at Valparaiso).

Missouri State 64, Bradley 53
Bradley’s Taylor Brown missed all 11 of his field goal attempts in the loss, tying him for the third-most misses without a make in a game this season.

TMA: Fisher/McDermott 2012!

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
10:15
AM ET
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Can you hear that? It's the sound of Indiana fans losing their ish harder than Fran McCaffery.

No. 15 San Diego State 75, New Mexico 70: I tend to take issue with the way the Coach of the Year award is voted on and decided. It's an entirely expectations-based award. At the beginning of the season, we all get together -- media, mostly, but fans and coaches, too -- sit down and decide which team is good and which team isn't. The formulas by which these expectations are reached are hardly advanced. They include some combination of returning starters and veteran presence, and the rating of the incoming recruiting class. Then, when a team overperforms or underperforms, we say "well, that team is disappointing, what happened to them?" or "hey, this team's really surprising, what a great job by that coach!" Meanwhile, coaches that coach teams that are supposed to be good -- like, say, Kentucky -- aren't see as COY-worthy, because how hard must it be to coach a team everyone knew was going to be good anyway?

See how silly this is?

Admit it: It is silly. And yet, when it comes to San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, and the job he's done with the 2012 Aztecs, I'm willing to forgo this entire semantics subsection and get behind the typical spirit of the award: San Diego State is the most surprising team in the country in 2012, and if the award was conferred today, Fisher would have to be the 2012 Coach of the Year.

After 2011's dream campaign, the Aztecs were supposed to return to Earth. Fisher lost Kawhi Leonard to the No. 15 overall pick. He lost seniors Billy White, Malcolm Thomas, D.J. Gay and Brian Carlwell. This team was supposed to be ... well, if not downright bad, then at least thoroughly mediocre. That's what happens. Or that's what's supposed to happen. We had an unforgettable year, now we rebuild, we'll be back, let's get to work. That sort of thing.

Instead, SDSU is once again a legitimate Mountain West contender. In the past week -- in their first two conference games, no less -- SDSU has edged UNLV by two points at Viejas Arena before Wednesday night's win, this 75-70 victory at a frenzied Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. That one's even more impressive, if you ask me. Sure, UNLV is a great team; the Runnin' Rebels will have much more to say about the MWC title before the season is out. But New Mexico hadn't lost a game since Nov. 24, playing some of the most well-rounded basketball on the West Coast.

The travails faced on the way to this win were impressive, too: San Diego State went down 10-0 early, fought back in the first half, lost its lead and trailed by six early in the second half, came roaring back to open a 59-48 lead with 7:30 left in the game, then ferociously protected that lead as New Mexico kept coming and coming and coming. Xavier Thames played big, as did Chase Tapley (no surprise there) and Jamal Franklin.

It's a cliché, but oh well: That's a gutty victory. It wasn't pretty. It didn't go according to plan. And the San Diego State Aztecs -- the apparently rebuilding San Diego State Aztecs, the well-that-was-cute-see-you-in-three-years San Diego State Aztecs, the one-last-Steve-Fisher-redemption-song San Diego State Aztecs -- are miles away from what we thought they were. This team isn't the 2011 edition. Of course not. But as we're learning this week, perhaps it doesn't have to be.

No. 18 Creighton 66, Missouri State 65: Yesterday afternoon, on my putative day off (extra credit! give me a cookie!) I did a quick radio hit with the fine folks at ESPN's 1700 The Champ in my home state's capitol of Des Moines, Iowa. At one point, the conversation drifted to Doug McDermott, Creighton's star and national player of the year candidate, and after I said some typically complimentary things about McDermott -- he scores so many ways, he's one of the few guys in the country worth seeking out on a nightly basis, Creighton is for real, and so on -- the host, Marty Tirrell, made a fantastic point: Greg McDermott is pretty good, too.

Why? As Marty said, because it's really, really hard to coach your own kid. Anyone who's ever played youth sports at a basic, recreational level can attest to that. You can't play favorites, but you don't want to be too hard on your own offspring just to prove a point, either. It's an incredibly delicate balance. With each rising level -- club sports, select teams, high school competition -- the stakes are a little higher, the balance more difficult to strike, the potential for resentment from the player and his teammates ever more likely. (Don't coach your kid in youth soccer. I'm telling you: The other parents are usually not worth it.)

But Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott are doing it at the collegiate level. It's not something we think about all that often, but the elder McDermott's has maintained his team's collective momentum as his own son has become a national star, balancing Doug's sudden leap with a sneaky-talented lineup that features a former Big East freshman of the year, Gregory Echenique, and a host of other talented players.

Those players have been overlooked this season, and that will continue to happen; such is the nature of mid-major stardom. But the Bluejays' 66-65 win at Missouri State -- a team that beat Creighton at home earlier this season and had won six straight in the series -- was an excellent example of why this team is so much more than Doug McDermott. He was good but not stellar, going 6-for-12 from the field (and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc) for 15 points, six rebounds and four turnovers. But Echenique was great (16 points on 5-0f-6 from the field, seven rebounds, two blocks) and the Bluejays got their biggest late buckets from role players like Josh Jones and Grant Gibbs. Those hoops helped ward off Kyle Weems and Co.'s very real upset bid.

The McDermotts have a good thing going. The father's failed tenure at Iowa State turning into a brilliant one at Creighton; the son who lived his high school career in the shadow of Harrison Barnes emerging as the more likely college hoops POY candidate in the most unlikely of ways. It's a great story, and one we'll talk about all season long. But the real Creighton Bluejays are more than a tidy familial redemption story. As great as Doug McDermott is, this team can be so much more.

Coverage links of note: Our Andy Katz was on hand for Cincinnati's huge road win against UConn in Storrs, and his recap of the proceedings is here. Meanwhile, Myron Medcalf broke down the Hoosiers' struggles after Indiana's brutal road loss -- in which Tom Crean's team blew an 11-point lead with six minutes remaining -- and was, if I may say so myself, absolutely spot on.

Everywhere else: Murray State remained undefeated in a very win-is-a-win 66-60 win at Morehead State, extending its undefeated record another night and even earning some top-of-broadcast love on the late edition of SportsCenter. During SC, my roommate Paul asked: "Is this team actually any good? That was not an impressive highlight." And he's right. It wasn't. But the Racers deserve credit for sticking out an ugly one on the road all the same. This undefeated thing might not last much longer, but it can't be discounted quite so easily. ... Less impressive: Mississippi State's ugly road loss to the same Ole Miss team that just lost in double-OT at Auburn. Winning on the road is hard and all, but still. ... Villanova handed Seton Hall its second straight road loss, and the Pirates will need to bounce back soon if they want to maintain their insurgent Big East status ... West Virginia was excellent again Wednesday night, topping a good Marshall team 78-62 in the Herd's home building; that's a really good win. ... Xavier won its fourth-straight A-10 game, 68-55 over Saint Joe's, and it appears the Musketeers are finally headed back in the right direction. ... UCF dropped Memphis by one in Florida. Once again, the C-USA will be no cakewalk for the Tigers ... and Kansas State got a solid 84-80 win against a Texas team which has sneakily turned into an efficient squad on both sides of the ball.

If you missed it: Wednesday's quirky stats

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
2:36
AM ET
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of fun oddities and standout performances. Here are a few we found from Wednesday:

Creighton 66, Missouri State 65
For the second time in three games, Creighton’s opponent committed three turnovers and still lost. On Friday night, it was Illinois State. Wednesday it was Missouri State.

Eastern Michigan 62, Western Michigan 59 (OT)
Western Michigan’s Mike Douglas played 40 minutes and attempted two shots. The only other player to play 40 or more minutes and attempt two shots or fewer this season is Steve Tchiengang of Vanderbilt.

Villanova 84, Seton Hall 76
JayVaughn Pinkston and Maalik Wayns of Villanova attempted 17 and 16 free throws, respectively. It’s the second time this season two players on the same team have attempted 16 or more free throws (the other being Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre and Marquise Carter, who each attempted 18 against Eastern Washington).

Duquesne 80, Massachusetts 69
UMass became the second team this season to commit at least 29 turnovers and 28 personal fouls in one game. Norfolk State is the other.

Trillion of the night: Davante Drinkard, Southern Illinois -- Played 11 minutes and did not record a single stat in a 75-68 overtime loss to Drake.

Video: Big nights equal Missouri State upset

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
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Kyle Weems scored 25 of his career-high 31 points in the second half and teammate Anthony Downing poured in a career-high 26 as Missouri State knocked off Missouri Valley favorite Creighton on the road, 77-65. For Jason King's primer on the MVC, click here.

Tourney preview: Las Vegas Classic

December, 22, 2011
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Most of the nonconference tournaments that have taken place during the past six weeks have been underwhelming. Just look at the list of winners from various events: Dayton (Old Spice Classic), Saint Louis (76 Classic), Harvard (Battle 4 Atlantis) and Northwestern (Charleston Classic).

Yikes.

Even though it will be played in a round-robin format, the Las Vegas Classic has the potential to buck the trend and be one of the more entertaining non-league events of the season. Seventh-ranked Baylor is the most talented team in the field by far, but Scott Drew knows good and well that his squad will be challenged.

Baylor and St. Mary's -- whom the Bears defeated in the Sweet 16 in 2010 -- will face off tonight, as will West Virginia and Missouri State. Friday's games feature Baylor versus West Virginia and St. Mary's versus Missouri State.

Here's a closer look at each of the four teams:

Baylor

Where they stand: The Bears are one of the country's seven remaining unbeaten teams. They have a pair of future NBA lottery picks in forwards Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller. Although they traditionally play poorly away from home, Baylor has two huge road victories this season, against Northwestern and BYU. Not many teams in the country are as athletic, long and deep as the Bears.

Key player: Jones shocked the college basketball world by returning to school for his sophomore year instead of turning pro. The 6-foot-11 phenom had 28 points in Saturday's victory at BYU.

Key stat: For all of their size and length, the Bears have been terrible on the boards. They were outrebounded 41-26 by BYU, a sign that they need to get tougher in the paint.

Best-case scenario: Baylor does what it should and dominates St. Mary's and West Virginia, which would give the Bears loads of momentum heading into Wednesday's game against a strong Mississippi State squad in Dallas.

Worst-case scenario: A tough, physical West Virginia squad bullies the Bears on the boards en route to a Friday upset in Sin City.

St. Mary's

Where they stand: The Gaels are 10-1 and have won eight consecutive games since a Nov. 23 loss to Denver. St. Mary's, whose best victory is against Northern Iowa, should contend for the West Coast Conference title once again.

Key player: Point guard Matthew Dellavedova is one of the best players in the country at his position. The seasoned junior from Australia averages 14.1 points and 6.2 assists per game.

Key stat: Not many squads in the country play "team basketball" quite like the Gaels. St. Mary's averages 18 assists per game -- a mark that ranks ninth nationally. Three players (Dellavedova, Rob Jones and Stephen Holt) average 2.8 assists or more.

Best-case scenario: St. Mary's catches an overconfident Baylor off-guard and avenges its blowout 2010 NCAA tournament loss to the Bears. One night later, the Gaels defeat Missouri State to finish 2-0 in the Las Vegas Classic.

Worst-case scenario: Randy Bennett's squad gets embarrassed by the Bears on Thursday, and the loss carries over into Friday's game against Missouri State. A pair of defeats could damage the Gaels' confidence just before the start of WCC play.

Missouri State

Where they stand: The Bears, 7-3, are expected to contend for the Missouri Valley Conference title along with Wichita State, Creighton and Indiana State. Their losses are to Oral Roberts, New Mexico and Oklahoma State.

Key player: Kyle Weems is a 6-6 senior forward who averages team highs in both points (14.6) and rebounds (7.5). But he's shooting just 40 percent from the field and only 29 percent from 3-point range.

Key stat: Senior guard Michael Bizoukas, who played his first three seasons at DePaul, is averaging 6.2 assists for a team that takes pride in sharing the ball.

Best-case scenario: Missouri State adds a victory over a BCS conference school to its résumé by upsetting West Virginia tonight. Such a win could pay huge dividends on Selection Sunday.

Worst-case scenario: The Bears lose to St. Mary's by double digits Friday. They need to show that they can hang with the country's top mid-majors.

West Virginia

Overview: Bob Huggins' squad is 8-2, with the setbacks coming against Kent State (on Nov. 15) and Mississippi State (Dec. 3). The Mountaineers lost two of their top four scorers (Casey Mitchell and John Flowers) from last year's squad, but they're still a team that could finish in the top half of the Big East.

Key player: Kevin Jones is having the best season of an already successful career. The senior forward is averaging 20.8 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.

Key stat: West Virginia has been atrocious from long range. The Mountaineers are connecting on just 31 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Best-case scenario: The Mountaineers jump back into the national spotlight by handing Baylor its first loss of the season Friday. The victory would give West Virginia loads of momentum entering its Big East opener against Villanova on Dec. 28.

Worst-case scenario: Jones gets into foul trouble and the Mountaineers lose to Missouri State on Thursday. Such a defeat could keep West Virginia out of the NCAA tournament.
1. The proposed shifts of Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12 has already caused some switching of years within tournaments. And more could occur if the alignment is sped up for 2012. Duke and Pitt were supposed to be in the 2015 2K Sports Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project. But the Gazelle Group, the organizer of the event, moved Pitt to the 2016 event. Syracuse and North Carolina were in the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2014 but Syracuse has moved to the 2015 event so as not to play its new ACC competitor. The Orange then moved to the 2K Sports Classic in 2014. If Pitt is in the ACC in 2012 than it could be playing league member Virginia in the NIT Season Tip-Off since both are in the event. If West Virginia gets in the Big 12 for 2012 then it could have a problem being in the Old Spice Classic with league member Oklahoma. The easy solution is to simply put the league teams on opposite sides of the bracket.

2. The expanded conferences will put even more of a premium on getting into the more exclusive fields. If Duke and North Carolina choose to pursue playing in the Maui Invitational on a four-year rotation then the remaining 12 schools would all be jockeying for only two spots in a four-year cycle. If the ACC were to go to 16 at some point then the odds get even slimmer. Lower level Big East schools have had this problem of wedging out the powers for the elite tournaments. The NCAA doesn’t allow teams from the same league to be in these tournaments unless they are grandfathered in from a previous conference. But the schools don’t want to be in the same event in the oft-chance they would play each other possibly three times in a season if they play twice in conference.

3. Missouri deserved to get plenty of credit for playing at Missouri Southern Sunday night in Joplin, Mo., in a game that benefited the tornado victims. Missouri State should be applauded as well. The Bears are playing a men’s and women’s doubleheader Saturday against Missouri Southern in Joplin. New Missouri State coach Paul Lusk spent three seasons at Missouri Southern (1999-2002), coaching under current head coach Robert Corn. All proceeds from the game will go directly to the Missouri Southern Foundation’s Tornado Emergency Relief Fund. Last Sunday’s Missouri-Missouri Southern game was televised on ESPNU. Missouri and Missouri State were both given waivers by the NCAA to play an exhibition game on the road against a Division II team.

ESPN.com's Missouri Valley preview

October, 12, 2011
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Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Missouri Valley, here is Dana O'Neil's wind sprint through the league:



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

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

More Missouri Valley content:

-- Dana O'Neil with Five Things I Can't Wait To See in the MVC.
-- Jay Bilas examines five burning questions in the league.
-- New Faces, New Places: O'Neil on Bradley coach Geno Ford and Diamond Leung on Missouri State coach Paul Lusk.
-- Andy Katz thinks Creighton is primed for a return to its glory years.
-- Creighton and Wichita State are the favorites, but Katz says we shouldn't forget about Indiana State in the MVC race.
-- Reggie Rankin gives us the recruiting picture in the Missouri Valley.
-- Let's take a team-by-team look at the league's nonconference schedules.
-- For more coverage of the Valley in the Nation blog, click here.

MVC: Five Things I Can't Wait To See

October, 12, 2011
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Here are five questions I can't wait to see answered in the Missouri Valley this season:

1. Is this the year the Valley returns to the glory years?

Before Butler ushered in the new power era of the mid-major, there was the Missouri Valley. In 2006, four conference teams earned NCAA tournament bids and two -- Bradley and Wichita State -- went to the Sweet 16. A year later, Southern Illinois rode a No. 4 seed to regional semifinals as well.

Ever since, the Valley has slipped, falling to the ranks of the one-bid leagues. There have been highlights, of course -- the name Ali Farokhmanesh still sends shivers down the spines of Kansas Jayhawk fans -- but the standard has dipped.

Until perhaps this season. The cyclical nature of basketball is turning in the Valley’s favor thanks to rosters heavy with talented upperclassmen. Creighton and defending NIT champion Wichita State both could make a case for a top-25 preseason ranking. Then there is Indiana State, the Valley’s NCAA rep a year ago. The Sycamores have stockpiled their nonconference schedule with enough meaty games to turn a few heads.

It all should make for an interesting conference battle and perhaps a richer March for the Missouri Valley.

[+] EnlargeChris Lowery
Jeff Curry/US PresswireChris Lowery's Salukis are just 58-67 since the 2007 Sweet 16.
2. Can Chris Lowery jump off the hot seat?

When Southern Illinois inked Lowery to a seven-year extension in 2007, it was smart business. On the heels of a Sweet 16 berth and three incredibly successful seasons, Lowery ranked among the hottest "it" coaches in the country. Now with that deal down to its final three years, Lowery is fighting to save his job. The once-powerful Salukis are just 58-67 since that Sweet 16 run.

Whether this is the year to turn things around remains to be seen. Mamadou Seck, the Valleys’ leading rebounder a season ago, is back and SIU has a strong recruiting class to bolster its roster. But the Salukis need to rediscover their identity in order to succeed. In those first three years when everything was going so well, Southern Illinois allowed just 57.5 points per game. Ever since, the Salukis have given up 64.6.

3. Can McDermott & Son steal March?

Getting Greg McDermott to return to his Missouri Valley roots -- he led Northern Iowa to three NCAA tournament berths -- was huge for Creighton. Getting Greg’s son, Doug, to follow dear old dad to Omaha was even bigger.

The younger McDermott was a stud freshman and is coming off an excellent summer with Team USA. And he's not the only standout for the Bluejays. Antoine Young and Gregory Echenique give Creighton three of the league’s best players and the reason for the early expectations.

But you know how March goes. It’s about great storylines and the father-son tandem taking Creighton back to the tournament would make for a heckuva tale.

4. How will following in Cuonzo Martin’s footsteps pay off for Paul Lusk?

Following in Martin’s wake already has paid off quite well for Lusk. Three years ago, Martin left Purdue to become head coach at Missouri State, making room for Lusk’s job bump to associate head coach. This past offseason when Martin left for Tennessee, Lusk grabbed the opportunity by taking over the Bears.

[+] Enlarge Kyle Weems
AP Photo/Wade PayneKyle Weems is the reigning Missouri Valley Player of the Year.
He inherits a team with both question marks and bonus points -- the bonus coming in the form of returning Valley player of the year Kyle Weems. The conference’s most versatile player, Weems averaged 16 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. His supporting cast is gone, though. The loss of four starters means there is work to be done for Lusk, but in Weems the new coach at least has a good foundation.

5. Who will be the Valley player of the year?

Certainly not as interesting q question as who will win the league, but this race could be equally tight. Weems earned the honors last season and he’s back in the fold, which should give him an early edge on the competition. But Weems will be playing for a retooling Missouri State team, which could either help or hurt his numbers.

Creighton's McDermott, Young and Echenique are three of the league's nine leading returning scorers. Together they could lead the Bluejays to special things this season, but they also could split the POY vote. Jake Odum, point guard extraordinaire, will have to play especially well for Indiana State to return to the NCAA tournament, but confidence is one thing Odum doesn’t lack.

And don’t discount a few sleepers: Mamadou Seck will have to put up big numbers if Southern Illinois is going to regroup, and at Evansville, Colt Ryan already has 125 3-pointers in just two seasons. The Purple Aces, who return the majority of their team and debut a new downtown arena, are on the uptick.
Five observations from the week that was:

1. It’s time, once and for all, to shelve the no-great-teams line. You’ve heard this before. You’ve heard it a lot, in fact. The line has been ubiquitous: “There are no great teams in college basketball this season.” If hearing the line is tedious, constantly arguing against it isn’t much better. I don’t want to be the guy who keeps bringing this up, trust me. But now that the regular season is over, the entire concept deserves one last thorough dismissal, because the Ohio State Buckeyes are definitively a great team.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Jon Diebler
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesJon Diebler scored 27 points and was 7-of-8 from 3-point range as Ohio State hit 14 of 15 3-pointers in a rout of No. 10 Wisconsin.
If we needed further evidence to this effect, see Sunday’s insane offensive effort against Wisconsin in which Jon Diebler and the Buckeyes only put on the single greatest long-range shooting display in Division I hoops history. (Ohio State shot -- get this -- 14-of-15 from beyond the arc. They scored 1.63 points per possession. Their effective field goal percentage was 83.0, which is as historically insane as anything we’ve seen in the past five years, and probably longer.)

Thing is, we didn’t need further evidence. We certainly didn’t need one of the greatest offensive performances in college hoops history to convince us. Why? Because even if the Buckeyes had merely beaten Wisconsin by, say, 10 points -- even if Thad Matta’s team had simply added another win to their docket -- that was enough. Ohio State would still have finished the regular season 29-2 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Those two losses would still have come at two of the toughest places to play in the country versus two top-10 teams. In other words, they were the kind of losses that even a “great” team can suffer without losing much of the sheen of its greatness. Short of an undefeated regular season, the Bucks did just about everything right.

Of course, a national championship is often our best -- sometimes only -- retroactive barometer of greatness. Ohio State may have to win it all in early April to get the sort of historical credit it deserves. But if the Buckeyes fall short of a national title -- if they, like so many other teams, fall victim to the oh-so-crazy nature of the NCAA tournament -- don’t listen to the eventual no-great-teams naysayers. After 31 games, what better adjective do we have to describe this team than, well, great?

2. Virginia Tech really, really likes to be on the bubble. It was a tough week for the Hokies. Last Saturday, Tech fans were storming the floor in Blacksburg after a résumé-making win over then-No. 1 Duke. Nine days later, those fans are back in a familiar early-March position: rooting for a team sitting squarely on the bubble. Consecutive losses to Boston College (by 15) and Clemson (by 9) assured as much. Now Seth Greenberg’s team will almost certainly have to get at least one win in the ACC tournament to stay on the right side of the cut line. And depending on the constantly shifting bubble, will just one be enough?

3. But hey, it could be worse. Sure, Virginia Tech fans might be feeling a little bummed right now. You never want to sink back to the bubble just when it looked like you were headed to the tournament for only the second time in 15 seasons. But if Tech fans ever need a little perspective, they should go ahead and phone their friends in Winston-Salem, N.C. Yes, that’s the home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and yes, anytime you think your team couldn’t be any more frustrating, feel free to take a gander at what Jeff Bzdelik’s team went through this season. Sunday’s 84-68 loss at BC dropped the Deacons to 1-15 in the ACC, the worst record in the conference since Maryland’s went 1-13 in the league in 1989.

Even worse, this Wake team hasn’t been losing tough, close games. It hasn’t been getting unlucky. No, this team has been getting thoroughly trounced just about every time it takes the court. The Demon Deacons scored .88 points per possession in conference play this season, which ranks them No. 334 in the country in ppp vs. conference foes. They’ve allowed 1.15 points per possession, which ranks No. 336 in the nation. Yes, only eight teams -- eight teams! -- in college hoops have played this poorly relative to their conference opponents this season. Bzdelik might yet get the Deacons on the right path in the years to come.

[+] EnlargeIndiana State's Jake Odum
Tim Vizer/Icon SMIJake Odum and Indiana State earned the Missouri Valley Conference's automatic bid on Sunday.
But first on the agenda is forgetting this season ever happened.

4. Indiana State is no bid-stealer. Ah, yes, the notorious bid-stealers. They come out of nowhere in otherwise inconspicuous one-at-large leagues, besting the prohibitive favorites and snatching a bid from the hands of the desperate teams hovering around the bubble cut line. It happens every year. But it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, Indiana State’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament title was a surprise to most. Still, because Wichita State fell flat late in the year, and regular-season conference champion Missouri State lacks any notable nonconference results on its résumé, the MVC was always likely to be a one-bid league. Whoever that bid belongs to -- and we now know it belongs to the Sycamores -- it won’t exactly shrink the bubble picture.

5. Virginia Commonwealth, however, could be. The Rams seemingly fell off the bubble for good a few weeks ago, so Shaka Smart’s team likely needs to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament to get back to the Big Dance again this season. After Sunday’s CAA semifinal win over George Mason, they’re in excellent position to do so. If VCU beats Old Dominion in the title game Monday night, they won’t just earn an automatic berth -- they’ll be the first legitimate bid-stealer of Champ Week. Old Dominion and George Mason would sure seem to have résumés good enough to get them in the tournament. But one team along the bubble will be hoping for a big Monarchs win Monday night, because a VCU victory will only make the bubble that much tighter as we race toward the completed bracket on Selection Sunday. In other words: big game. And not just for the Rams.

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