I’ve been busy with FCS football and general life, so I haven’t given MVC hoops my full attention. I had a little time on black Friday so I decided to hop back into the hoops side of things for a quick hitter power ratings article. You guys, I knew things were bad but…….holy moly. Remember when we were talking about #ThreeBidValley? Welp……maybe not. I would have a hard time imagining a worse start for the league than the one we’ve gotten. And that doesn’t even factor in Loyola’s announcement (and subsequent speculation that we are considering adding flipping Kansas City). I’ll leave my thoughts on the Ramblers and expansion for another day. For now, here is what I have for power rating the MVC as it stands. If you want the TL;DR version it is this: woof.
10.) Bradley (1-5): There were a lot of candidates for the bottom spot, unfortunately. The league is a staggering 24-33 overall, and just 19-33 against DI competition. Bradley stood out for their quantity of losses without a DI win. Their schedule hasn’t been particularly easy, but the Braves own a double-digit loss to Howard to go with losses to South Dakota State, Colorado State, Brown and Duquesne. The latter three losses were by single digits which shows BU isn’t as far off as their record shows. There is a chance the UNI-BU game in early December will be between two squads without a DI win.
9.) Evansville (2-6): The most impressive thing about Evansville’s resume so far is that they have been able to play so many games already. The Purple Aces do have a DI win over IUPUI but are 1-6 against DI competition overall with an 11-point win over D3 Depauw that was tied in the second half. They have been beaten by 16 or more three times. The fact that this is only the second worst resume underscores how bad the Valley has been.
8.) Northern Iowa (1-3): The Panthers are one of two Valley schools that is still without a DI win. They’ve only played three DI games, and one was at 16th ranked Arkansas. But still, UNI should’ve been able to win one of their first two games at home against Nicholls and Vermont. Their performance at Arkansas gives Panther fans reason for hope, as they led with just over three minutes to go before completely falling off the wagon in a 13-point loss. AJ Green is shooting just 27.5% and averaging 11 points per game. UNI will face another ranked team, St. Bonaventure, tomorrow.
7.) Illinois State (2-4): At least when you talk about Illinois State’s struggles, you can say that this is more-or-less what we expected of them. The Redbirds do have multiple DI wins, which is more than the teams behind them on this list can say. They handled Wilmington and Bucknell. They also played Saint Louis tough and lost a close shootout against Eastern Michigan. Statistically, their worst loss is a 106-90 defeat to Buffalo, so it certainly could be worse. ISU has had no trouble scoring, as they have four guys averaging double figures and another just off. But they have been a bit of a mess defensively.
6.) Valparaiso (2-4): Valpo hasn’t gotten results, for the most part, but have been competitive. The Beacons have wins over Jacksonville State and Tulane, and losses to Toledo, UIC, Stanford and Coastal Carolina. Other than their 14-point loss to Stanford, the Beacons have played all single digit games. Fun fact: Valpo has five guys averaging double figures, and then next person down is averaging 3.2 PPG. Also fun fact: Their next game is against the Trinity Trolls.
5.) Indiana State (3-3): The Sycamores got off to a decent 3-1 start that included a road win at Green Bay and a dominant 77-36 win over Old Dominion. All three losses are blowouts to decent teams including a 25-point loss to Purdue, a 24-point loss to Oklahoma, and a 14-point loss to New Mexico State. They might be the only Valley team that can say they’ve won the games they should win, though. That puts them solidly middle-of-the-pack in the dumpster fire that is the current MVC. Cooper Neese, Cameron Henry and Micah Thomas have been a solid three-headed monster offensively in the absence of Tyreke Key, averaging 16, 15.8 and 14.6 PPG respectively.
4.) Southern Illinois (2-3): The Salukis have a hard-fought P5 win over Colorado which salvages their overall performance somewhat. However, there is no doubt they must be disappointed by their missed opportunities. They started off with a mediocre road loss to Little Rock, suffered an ugly loss to Northeastern, and lost on a last-second shot to Creighton. Their good performances show they’ll be very good in the MVC, but they’ll need to be more consistent to compete for a league title.
3.) Missouri State (4-2): The Bears have a winning record but have still disappointed as one of the Valley favorites who have not played a challenging schedule. MSU has lost to the likes of Southeast Missouri at home, and against East Tennessee State on a basket in the final seconds. The Bears have looked good in their wins, taking all of them by at least double-digits. But those losses are disappointing and probably take the Bears out of the at-large conversation. Mosley and Prim have been as good as advertised, though.
*X.) Belmont (4-2): Belmont is not in the Missouri Valley, but they will be next season and are already on my header graphic for this site, so I think keeping an eye on them makes sense here. I’d probably slide the Bruins into this spot on the list, although you could make an argument that they should be as high as #1 with their win over Drake. Belmont opened the season with a disappointing loss to Ohio and they also lost by 30 at LSU. Still, they blew out Evansville and toppled a very good Drake team. Now they get a shot at Iona, and if they win will likely get the golden opportunity to play Kansas on a neutral floor.
2.) Loyola (4-2): The Ramblers’ Valley swan song is not going as planned. It started off well with a 4-0 start over the likes of Coppin State, Florida Gulf Coast, Chicago State and UIC. However, LUC has fumbled their shot at getting themselves in the at-large discussion with a close loss to Michigan State (63-61) and a loss to Auburn (62-53) in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Now, even if they beat Arizona State today, the Ramblers have likely missed their shot to get a big resume boosting win and will likely have to dominate the Valley to get into the at-large conversation. The complete lack of a margin for error sucks, and it is probably why Loyola is moving on to the A-10 next year. The good news is Princeton transfer Ryan Schweiger has stepped up to the be the Ramblers leading scorer in Cam Krutwig’s absence.
1.) Drake (3-1): Unlike pretty much everyone else in the league, the Bulldogs’ season hasn’t been a disaster. But they have also missed some big chances. Drake blew out a decent South Dakota team 99-50 to start the year and got a good, hard fought win over Richmond to move to 3-0. Unfortunately, they missed a golden opportunity in losing to Belmont in the first round of the ESPN Events Invitational. They were thrown a bit of a lifeline with Alabama losing to Iona, giving Drake a second chance at a resume boosting win out of the loser’s bracket (they could also see Miami in the 5th place game). But had they won they would be playing Iona with a shot to likely play Kansas in the title game. Tremell Murphy is my early favorite for the Larry Bird Trophy.
And that is it for this week. If we want any shot at multiple bids this year, I think Drake really needs to get an upset over Alabama, and Loyola beating Arizona State would help as well. So root for your Valley members today, even the ones who are bailing next year.