Week 4 Summary, Updated Power Rankings, Mid Major Tidbits
The big story of week four (besides continued game cancellations due to COVID) was the NCAA waiver granting immediate eligibility for all transfers. This will have an impact on the MVC race, especially at the top where Loyola stands to pick up a potential difference maker in Indiana transfer Damezi Anderson. Beyond that, the only two programs that seem to have been impacted as far as I can tell are Northern Iowa with George Washington transfer Goanar Mar, and Missouri State with 7-foot Hawaii transfer Dawson Carper. For this week’s rankings I waited a couple extra days to finish them off, as nonconference play for the MVC officially ended on Tuesday. These will be the power rankings heading into the MVC season.
Week 3: MVC Power Rankings
1.) Loyola, 4-2 (No Change): Any realistic hope the MVC had for grabbing multiple NCAA bids went away this week as Loyola was beaten badly by #12 Wisconsin, 77-63, and fell to Richmond in Indianapolis 75-73. The Richmond game didn’t feel as close as the score indicated, as the Ramblers had to rally furiously in the final minutes to get the score close. Cameron Krutwig continued to show why he is the Larry Bird favorite, scoring 19 points in game one and notching a double-double in game two. Today, Loyola beat NAIA St. Francis 92-55 without Krutwig, Kennedy, Clemons and Kaifes who were resting up for league play. The future for Loyola was on display as youngsters Wojcik, Hutson, Hebb and Welch all got significant minutes. I haven’t been able to see much of Loyola, but the word on the street is that rotations still need to be ironed out and roles determined as Porter Moser tries to dole out minutes to his talented and deep squad. Those things will get ironed out, and the depth will become a strength as we move into the back-to-back game league play format. I still think the Ramblers are the odds-on favorite to win the league. Loyola opens MVC play with Illinois State at home on Sunday and Monday.
2.) Drake, 9-0 (No Change): The Bulldogs posted three more blowout wins this week and now enter conference play without being held to within single digits by any nonconference opponent. Drake beat South Dakota for the second time, this time on the road in Vermillion, 75-57, then dominated Chicago State in Des Moines 111-67. They ended the week with a dominant 88-55 win over North Dakota. Drake is showcasing a lot of depth that is certain to serve them well in the doubleheader format that the MVC will use this year. Nine guys average double-digit minutes and no one tops 24 per game. They spread around scoring and rebounding duties as well. After today’s win over North Dakota Drake is off to its best start in program history. They’ll head to Indiana State Sunday and Monday.
3.) Southern Illinois, 6-0 (Up One): The Salukis cleverly scheduled back-to-back games with North Dakota this week in Carbondale, simulating how league play will look for both teams. In fact, SIU is hoping league play looks EXACTLY like it did this week as they won both games going away, 85-64 and 62-50. Even better for SIU was the fact that Lance Jones and Ben Harvey stepped up big in the first game, while it was Domask and D’Avanzo (and Harvey) in game two. The Salukis are not a one-trick pony. SIU then passed their toughest test so far with a road win over the Big East’s Butler Bulldogs. Domask scored 26 points and Trent Brown added another 21, as SIU opened up a huge lead in the second half and held on in the final minutes for the 76-73 win. This is the win that really legitimizes SIU’s 6-0 start. The Salukis are for real. They’ll open MVC play on Sunday and Monday at home against Evansville.
4.) Bradley, 6-3 (Down One): The Braves handled a bad Jackson State team (83-60) midweek before escaping with a one-point win over Miami of Ohio on the weekend. They then came obscenely close to pulling off what would have been the Valley’s marquee nonconference win, but lost at #14 Missouri 54-53. Against Jackson State Ville Tahvanainen and Terry Nolan continued to do heavy lifting offensively, and Ja’Shon Henry continued to look like a sixth man of the year candidate. Against a mediocre Miami of Ohio team, BU had to finish on a 9-0 run to escape with a 69-68 win. It was a gutty performance by this BU team. Terry Nolan has had a tendency for showing up in the clutch parts of games, and he did so again here with a steal and two made baskets in the final, difference making two minutes. Unfortunately, they were on the other end of a similar run against Missouri. They led by eight with 3:44 to go and by five with 1:53 to go. Missouri finished on a 12-3 and 6-0 run to win the game, finishing with an and-one after BU missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Braves have taken three tough losses, but they are still one of the favorites in the MVC race. They’ll be on the road at Valpo Monday and Tuesday to start league play. UPDATE: The Braves' games with Valpo this week have been postponed due to COVID in the Crusaders' program. Bad news there, but plenty of time for a makeup series.
5.) Missouri State, 3-0 (Up Two): The Bears season finally got underway this week, and let’s hope we can blame the opening 9-point win over D2 William Jewell on rust. To be fair to the Bears, they led by 19 early in the second half, sort of put it on cruise control, and led by 18 with 3 minutes to go before Jewell closed on a 9-0 run to make it look closer than it was. The biggest contributors were all guys we know. Gaige Prim (20 and 6), Ja’Monta Black (16 and 8), Isiaih Mosley and Jared Ridder were double figures scorers. The same could be said about their 94-67 win over Northwestern State. Those four plus JUCO transfer Keaton Hervey led the team in minutes. The Bears’ played their most challenging opponent of the week, Little Rock, on Monday and came away with an 85-77 win they controlled most of the way. Mosley and Black scored 26 points apiece in that one with Prim and Ridder scoring 10 and 9. On one hand it is good that the guys you expect to step up did, on the other it is not good that there aren’t a lot of new faces contributing for a team that wasn’t very good last year. The Bears head to Cedar Falls to open league play at UNI on Sunday and Monday.
6.) Indiana State, 3-2 (Down 1): Indiana State was beaten badly by a very good Saint Louis team on the road last Tuesday, 78-59. They regrouped and came home to beat an average Ball State team 67-57, and then beat a mediocre SEMO team 72-66. The Trees shot a disappointing 36% (19-53) against Saint Louis, and just 27% (6-22) from deep. Tyreke Key struggled going 3-10 from the floor, and Jake LaRavia was in foul trouble. Against Ball State the Trees struggled from deep again (4-18) and turned the ball over 19 times. But Jake LaRavia scored 27 points and the Trees made 21 free throws in the win. The SEMO game was more of the same, with just 4 made three-pointers in 17 tries (23.5%), but 28 free throws. Key and LaRavia led the team with 18 and 15 points respectively. The late start to the season might still be impacting ISU as it looks like they’re still trying to figure out their roles. They’ll host Drake on Sunday and Monday.
7.) Northern Iowa, 1-4 (Down 1): The Panthers continued their self-imposed hibernation this week and did not play any games. The preseason favorites are prepping for league play and will attempt to put their disastrous nonconference behind them. It will be interesting to see what life without AJ Green looks like for UNI. There is still talent on this team. Austin Phyfe was a first team all-league player last year, and Trae Berhow was stellar as well. Youngsters Bowen Born and Noah Carter have also impressed for UNI. It appears Antwan Kimmons, Green’s backup, is unlikely to rejoin the team again this year as well. UNI will need to figure out who will stir the drink and run the offense. If they can do that, there are still several very talented players on this team and UNI could still have a good season. The whole thing could also completely collapse on itself as UNI will be asking a number of inexperienced freshmen and sophomores to take on quite a bit of the load. We’ll see the first signs of which way it is going to go when UNI returns to play Sunday and Monday against Missouri State in Cedar Falls.
8.) Valparaiso, 3-5 (No Change): The Crusaders logged an unimpressive 1-1 week. It started with an 89-71 win over D2 Purdue-Northwest. Valpo controlled most of the game, according to the box score. Nick Robinson led four Crusaders in double figures with 21 points off the bench. On Saturday Valpo saw a one-point halftime deficit balloon into a fourteen-point loss to Toledo. Donovan Clay’s double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds) was the biggest bright spot for a Valpo team that struggled to stop Toledo in the second half. It seems Valpo has a different go-to guy every night (although Donovan Clay does lead the team in scoring, rebounds, and blocks). That is sometimes a good thing, and sometimes it is not. This is a team that needs to figure out their roles if they want to be successful. They have had some good performances, and some headscratchers. We should get a good barometer of where they’re at in the league as they open with Bradley on Monday and Tuesday. UPDATE: Valpo's Monday game was cancelled due to COVID concerns, and they did not say they came from the other team. That made me worried they were the fault of Valpo and they might miss the league opener. That was confirmed today as their opening weekend with BU was postponed due to COVID concerns. Plenty of time for a makeup, though.
9.) Illinois State, 3-3 (No Movement): I considered moving Illinois State up a notch, but I can’t do that for a team whose wins are against UMass Lowell, Greenville and, this week, Chicago State. The Redbirds handled the Cougars 91-62. The biggest takeaway from this game was that DJ Horne led all scoring with 22. That is a positive sign for Illinois State as they will need him to be a star if they want to avoid bottom four in the MVC. They’ll be challenged right out of the gate in league play as they face Loyola in Chicago on Sunday and Monday.
10.) Evansville, 2-4 (No Movement): Time to break up the Purple Aces. They won again, this time by a score of 66-63 over SEMO. Shamar Givance led the team with 20 points, and Jawaun Newton added 15. UE is undefeated in games that Newton plays this season so if they can keep him on the court, they might just run the table in the MVC. The Aces came back from down six in the final three minutes against SEMO to force overtime and won it on a layup by Shamar Givance with a second to go. UE also held their own against a very good Belmont team. It was Samari Curtis off the bench who scored 19. UE had the deficit down to 5 with under two minutes to go before losing 72-63. It is great to see Coach Lickliter and the Aces having success, and there really isn’t any reason to believe they can’t find a way to avoid the MVC cellar this year with the way they have performed lately. Or maybe I am overreacting to two wins. It is COVID times, anything is possible. The biggest concern will be depth, though, as the starters played a lot of minutes in all three games. That doesn’t bode well for regular back-to-back games. They will head to Carbondale to start MVC play on Sunday and Monday against SIU.
MID MAJOR TIDBITS
A rundown of notable mid-major results from week 3 is below
-Big Sky: Montana repped the Big Sky and handled a Washington team that is having a very rough go of it, 66-58.
-Atlantic Sun: A D2-Over-D1 upset occurred when Flagler beat North Florida. Astute observers will notice that Flagler also beat Central Michigan this year. Flagler now has two more DI wins than UNI.
-Conference USA: UTEP beat Arizona State handily, 76-63, while a very good Western Kentucky team beat Alabama 73-71. Watch out for them in March.
-A-10: Richmond beat Vanderbilt, 78-67. That is not an upset. Saint Louis beat NC State 80-69. Also, not an upset. Dayton beat Ole Miss 65-62. Not an upset. Davidson beat Vanderbilt. Total upset. Not really.
-Also: There were very few notable wins by mid majors over P6s this week. As we move into conference play, we will start to use this section to look at some of the notable results for the Mid Major Top 25.
-Our Lady of the Lake Update: I have mentioned “Our Lady of the Lake”, a small NAIA school in San Antonio, a couple times already. I first made fun of their name, then they upset DI Texas State, so I made mention of that. This week, thanks to my first ever instance of a reader writing into me using the “contact me” feature, I found out that the official name of that college in South Bend is “Notre Dame du Lac” which is French for “Our Lady of the Lake”! Who knew that this little school had so many interesting nuggets for me to consume? Well, this NAIA school continues to take on all comers as they faced DI New Mexico, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and UTSA this week. They lost all three games by quite a bit, but they now have played seven DI teams (with UTEP still on the schedule) and have gone 1-6. Although for them it only counts as 1-3 because their games against Rice, UTRGV and New Mexico were considered by them to be exhibitions for some reason. They are listed as “no team score” on their website…..as if they did not keep score in the game and just played for funsies. You know how I know that isn’t true? Because Rice, UTRGV and New Mexico all have them listed as wins on their sites. Classic OLOTL.