Week 3 Summary, Updated Power Rankings, Mid Major Tidbits
Week three of this college basketball season is over, and COVID 19 continues to take its toll. One MVC school has followed Coach K’s lead and shut it down until conference season. Another has yet to play its first game. Here is where my power rankings stand through week three. At this point the rankings are partially based on preseason expectations and partially based on results on the court, but things will swing more and more towards the latter as the season continues.
Week 3: MVC Power Rankings
1.) Loyola, 3-0 (No Change): The Ramblers, finally back from their pandemic induced pause, got their first two DI wins of the season last week. They handled Chicago State, 88-51, on a weird Tuesday afternoon contest that felt like it sprung up out of nowhere. They also beat UIC on the road, 77-66. Cameron Krutwig did what he does, scoring 22 points in both games to claim MVC Player of the Week honors. He has emerged as the early favorite for the Larry Bird Trophy. Keith Clemons, a starter last season, only got six minutes against UIC. He seems to have been unseated in his role by transfer Braden Norris and the now healthy Cooper Kaifes. Loyola was also busy on the scheduling front, putting road contests with Wisconsin (who became available after a game between the Badgers and UNI was cancelled by the Panthers) and Richmond on the ledger for this week. Both teams are ranked, so we’ll get our first taste of how good Loyola really is. A 2-0 week could put the Ramblers in the at-large conversation.
2.) Drake, 6-0 (Up One): It is getting difficult to ignore what is happening in Des Moines. The Bulldogs still haven’t beaten anyone particularly noteworthy (K-State is real bad), and unless they make some schedule changes it doesn’t look like they will get the chance to in the nonconference. Last week Drake beat D2 McKendree 90-66 and then handled Air Force 81-53. The Bulldogs started the season 6-0 for the first time in 40 years and have won every game by double digits. Their average margin of victory is 24.2, and if you omit the two non-DI wins the margin is still 18.8. They have nine guys averaging at least 13 minutes a game, and possibly a new star in Green Bay transfer Shanquan Hemphill who was named MVC Newcomer of the Week. I am excited to see how the Bulldogs will respond when they face MVC competition. But as it is, things look very good right now. Drake will face South Dakota and Chicago State this week.
3.) Bradley, 4-2 (Down One): There wasn’t much to report out of Peoria this week. The Braves handled D2 Lewis University by a score of 95-62 on Monday. Ville Tahvanainen had another good game and has emerged as a key cog for Bradley this season. A role player last year, he seems to be ready for the jump into a bigger role. If he and the transfers Sean East and Terry Nolan Jr can continue to gel into a cohesive unit with guys like Elijah Childs and Ja’Shon Henry, Bradley will be the team battling Loyola for the league title. The Braves will host Jackson State and Miami this week.
4.) Southern Illinois, 3-0 (Up Four): Big jump alert! The Salukis jump four spots this week for a plethora of reasons, chief among them their big win over Murray State. The Racers aren’t expected to be quite the team they usually are, but SIU has shown itself to be a good, tough-minded team in their two DI wins. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering their head coach. SIU spread the ball around in this one, with three guys in double figures including Marcus Domask and Ben Harvey who have both been stellar to start the year. Lance Jones also played a solid game, which is a great sign moving forward for SIU. The Salukis play a pair of games at home against North Dakota this week, cleverly simulating the back-to-back scheduling style both squads will play for their conference seasons.
5.) Indiana State, 1-1 (No Change): Indiana State started play this week, but I don’t feel like I have any better of a handle on where they are. The Trees trailed at halftime against D2 Truman State. They did not really take control until a 17-0 run midway through the second half. Randy Miller, a transfer from North Carolina Central, led them from off the bench and Tyreke Key only had four points. Then Key, Cooper Neese and Jake LaRavia all scored in double figures in a loss to Purdue on Saturday. Indiana State hung around in this game, but Purdue also controlled it for most of the way. It was still a respectable showing. I suspect we’ll have a better feel for Indiana State after they face a tough St. Louis team and then host Ball State this week.
6.) Northern Iowa, 1-4 (Down Two): UNI were the preseason favorites, at-large contenders and media darlings coming into the season. Now imagine the worst-case scenario for a team in those circumstances. UNI’s season has probably gone worse than what you’re imagining. Sunday, it was announced that reining MVC Player of the Year AJ Green will get season ending hip surgery and will be out for this season. That is a terrible blow to a Panthers team that will now have to regroup without their leader. In addition, UNI’s backup point guard Antwan Kimmons has taken a leave of absence to attend to his family, senior Trae Berhow has only played in two games dealing with COVID issues and first-teamer Austin Phyfe has underperformed and is now also dealing with an injury. UNI also has injuries to two other players and has had a transfer waiver denied. Citing injuries and COVID issues in the program, UNI has punted on its remaining nonconference schedule and will regroup and try and find their new identity as they prepare for conference season. They’ll enter league play with no DI wins.
7.) Missouri State, 0-0 (Down One): Missouri State is, apparently, going to play this week. They put out a release saying they are hosting William Jewell and Northwestern State, and it is totally going to actually happen in real life. Hallelujah. It also appears these games will have fans. That is noteworthy since MSU is located in the same state as Arch Madness.
8.) Valparaiso, 2-4 (No Change): Valpo has continued to be difficult to get a handle on. They beat SIUE this week by a score of 80-58. Sheldon Edwards, a freshman the Crusaders are very excited about, scored 20 points and grabbed eight boards in that game. Then, they lost to Central Michigan 84-79. The Chippewas have a 19-point loss to a D2 team on their ledger and their only other DI win is against Western Illinois. Donovan Clay was the man in this one, matching Edwards’ 20-point performance. To their credit the Crusaders attempted a big rally from down fourteen at halftime, but they came up short. I can’t figure out Valpo’s deal. They played Vanderbilt and Purdue tough, but lost to CMU and UIC. I dunno guys. They’ll host Purdue Northwest and play at Toledo this week.
9.) Illinois State, 2-3 (No Movement): The Redbirds faced a good mid-major program in Ball State this week and it did not go well. They fell behind by fourteen at halftime and could not get any closer in the second half. They got good performances out of Josiah Strong and Dusan Mahorcic, who are starting to emerge as team leaders in Normal over the heir apparent DJ Horne. This isn’t Dan Muller’s best ISU team, but you’re starting to see the pieces of a group that might gel and be a bigger threat at the end of the season. They will host Chicago State this week, and nothing is a cure for what ails ya more than playing Chicago State. Seriously go look at their schedule.
10.) Evansville, 1-3 (No Movement): ACES WIN! ACES WIN! ACES WIN! Evansville managed to avoid going 0-for-2020 by beating the Eastern Illinois Panthers 68-65 this week. They built a fifteen-point lead and hung on by the absolute skin of their teeth for the win. The Aces’ five starters each scored in double-figures, and they got exactly one point and two rebounds from their bench. Jawaun Newton had 19 points to lead all scorers in his 20-21 debut. After they got their win their next game was cancelled due to Covid issues in their program. I think they just have what my good friend used to call “New Year’s Fever” to her naive parents after celebrating the W. They claim to be resuming play today against SEMO.
MID MAJOR TIDBITS
A rundown of notable mid-major results from week 3 is below
-Big 12: We had a rare D2-over-Power-Six upset when Fort Hays State handled Kansas State 81-68 in a game that wasn’t even as close as this score makes it look.
-Sun Belt: Texas State was also a victim to an NAIA school, Our Lady of the Lake, 61-58. Intrepid readers will remember that I made fun of Our Lady of the Lake a couple weeks ago because of their silly name. Who is laughing now? No one, because it wasn’t that funny.
-West Coast Conference: A sneaky good Pepperdine beat a sneaky bad Cal, 74-62. Cal needed a buzzer beating three to beat San Francisco, 72-70, later in the week. Elsewhere, the Portland Pilots won at Oregon State 87-86. The West Coast Conference is having a very good year.
-Mountain West: In Tempe, 24th ranked San Diego State beat 23rd ranked Arizona State, 80-68, for a big win for the Mountain West Conference.
-Atlantic-Sun: Florida Gulf Coast beat Miami 66-62. Are they still called “Dunk City”? Probably only amongst themselves.
-A-10: Dayton beat Mississippi State in OT, although that can hardly be considered an upset.
-Also: Despite their humble beginnings, Creighton was able to somehow hang tough with Kansas on the road in a loss.