Week 7 Summary, Updated Power Rankings, Mid Major Tidbits
The story of this week is probably the continued cancellation of the biggest games of the season due to the pandemic. Just as the Valley was able to reshuffle the deck and get some of the previously lost games back on the schedule, they were hit with another wave this week. Drake and SIU were both out of commission which forced the postponement of the big Loyola-Drake showdown. Kudos to league and the individual programs for being nimble, as SIU and Drake’s originally scheduled opponents Loyola and Indiana State played this week instead. These continued cancellations really make you wonder if the league is going to be able to get close to finishing the schedule. Four nationally televised games with league title implications have now been postponed. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but still a missed opportunity for the MVC.
Week 7: MVC Power Rankings
1.) Drake, 13-0, 4-0, NET 12, BPI 44 (Up One): Drake was forced to put its program on pause on the eve of the showdown with Loyola due to positive COVID tests among their tier I personnel. The Bulldogs’ situation required a two-week pause, so their matchups scheduled against Missouri State this weekend have also been postponed. If you are wondering why the presumed biggest games of the season were all scheduled early on, this would be why. No word yet on when the games will be rescheduled, but you can bet every effort will be made to play these games which are all amongst what are looking like three of the best teams in the Valley. Let’s hope this pause doesn’t stall Drake’s momentum on the court. Despite all the hubbub, Drake still moved up a notch into the top spot of my rankings this week. The Bulldogs can no longer be denied after Loyola lost to a team that Drake handled twice with relative ease. They’re the only team in the league with no league losses and they deserve the top spot. They’ll look to return to action on January 21st against UNI but will not play this weekend.
2.) Loyola, 8-3, 3-1, NET 71, BPI 42 (Down One): A 76-71 loss to the previously winless-in-league Indiana State Sycamores costs Loyola the top spot, although they recovered to win the second game of the series. To be fair to Loyola, they likely had little time to prepare as their game against Drake was shifted midweek to Terre Haute due to COVID. Loyola seemingly controlled the game until they didn’t, leading for a majority of the first 34 minutes. After scoring to take a 56-48 lead the Ramblers went scoreless for nearly seven minutes, and Indiana State went on an 18-0 run that lasted until under 90 seconds were left in the game. Perhaps the fact that backup center Tom Welch was Loyola’s best performer, scoring 18 points on 7-8 shooting, was a sign of a problem for the league favorites. They also only made 9-27 threes and put Indiana State at the line 31 times. It didn’t help that Tyreke Key woke from his slumber either, scoring 31 points for ISU Blue. In the second game, Indiana State led for most of the first half but gave way to Loyola in the second half. The Ramblers led the entire second frame and cruised to a 58-48 win. Key was kept to a quiet 7 points, the Sycamores only shot 17 free throws, Loyola cut down on turnovers and five Ramblers scored more points than Tom Welch. Cameron Krutwig led the effort by scoring 16 points on 7-11 shooting and nabbing 6 rebounds. Neither performance was dominating in the way the Ramblers did against Illinois State, but Indiana State is presumably better than Illinois State. Loyola will continue their championship quest at home against UNI this weekend.
3.) Missouri State, 8-1, 5-1, NET 77, BPI 142 (Up One): The team with the most wins in MVC play is Missouri State, who claimed victories four and five at Valpo this weekend to move to 5-1 in league play. Isiaih Mosley might be the front runner for MVC POY right now. He scored 29 points in both games which brings is PPG average in league play to 26. Gaige Prim is also a Larry Bird candidate as he notched two double-doubles. In game one, he went for 17 and 16 while in game two he went for 16 and 10. Those are video game like numbers for the Bears pair, and their performance has put them into the MVC title conversation. Now, MSU still has a lot to prove. Their wins have come against Valpo, Indiana State and UNI who are all currently in the bottom half of the league in my power rankings. They still need to beat a Loyola, Drake, or Bradley to be true contenders. But they have certainly shown they are better than we thought if nothing else. That, and Isiaih Mosley and Gaige Prim are two of the better players in the league. Due to COVID in the Drake program, the Bears’ next series is postponed so they wont play this weekend. They’ll return to the court on Thursday the 21st against Southern Illinois at home.
4.) Bradley 7-4, 1-1, NET 122, BPI 80 (Down One): Blame it on rust, or perhaps the three missing players, but Bradley lost their first game back after their three-week hiatus to UNI 78-72. BU was a respectable 10-26 from deep, but without injured center Ari Boya they weren’t able to establish themselves in the paint. That allowed Austin Phyfe to go 7-11 and score 18 points while nabbing 9 rebounds for the Panthers. Bradley was also without Danya Kingsby and Kevin Mcadoo who just mysteriously didn’t play with no explanation given. After a shaky start in the second game, things came alive for Bradley late in the second half as they pulled away for the win. Elijah Childs put the team on his back, scoring 16 points on 8-13 shooting and Jashon Henry stepped up by scoring 16 himself. The Braves forced 15 turnovers while only committing 9 and made 21 of 35 shots inside the arc. Bradley was alive on the bench the entire game, as they clearly they had been given the message to create atmosphere for their teammates. After UNI’s game tying basket at the buzzer was waved off they celebrated like they won the league. It is a solid idea in empty gyms where a lively bench could be the whole atmosphere. Bradley will hope to notch two wins at home against Evansville this weekend.
5.) Southern Illinois, 7-3, 1-3, NET 171, BPI 251 (No Change): The Salukis were off this week due to COVID issues in the program. This is not the first time SIU has dealt with COVID problems this year. Unlike Drake, the Salukis still intend to play their regularly scheduled games THIS weekend at home against Valpo. They also still have plenty of time to reschedule their contest against Indiana State. We still need to see more of the Salukis to get a good gauge of what kind of team they are, and we didn’t get to do that this week, so there isn’t much more to say right now. SIU intends to return to the floor this weekend at home against Valpo.
6.) Indiana State, 4-6, 1-5, NET 147, BPI 208 (Up One): I think it is fair to say that the Trees are better than their record indicates and there is a good chance they will accumulate some wins soon. Their 1-5 record comes entirely at the hands of the top three teams in this ranking, and they’ve acquitted themselves well in many of their contests despite losses. They got their first league W against Loyola with Tyreke Key, who has had an up and down year, leading the way. He scored 31 points on 8-12 shooting including 3-5 from deep while making 12-14 free throws. ISU made 24-31 free thrown on the day and significant contributions were had off the bench from Cobie Barnes and Tobias Howard. Surprising that the Trees could keep Cameron Krutwig contained with starting center Tre Williams in foul trouble all night, but they did. Things didn’t go as well in game two. Key only scored 7 points, and Indiana State was held to 48 points total (down 25 from the night before) despite making 7-14 three-point shots. They only made 9-17 free throws, 9-31 shots inside the arc and lost 58-48. Indiana State starts the softer, fleshier part of their schedule this weekend at Illinois State.
7.) Evansville, 6-6, 4-2, NET 231, BPI 283 (Down One): The Aces fall one spot this week after rallying from a first half deficit to beat Illinois State 57-48 in game one, and losing a back-and-forth game to the Redbirds 73-68 in game two at home. Despite the loss in the second game, the Aces are still off to a surprising 4-2 start which is already four games better than their final win total last season. While their wins haven’t come against the league’s current top four teams (they were against Illinois State, UNIx2 and SIU), the Aces are proving to be a very competitive team and have a strong chance to avoid Thursday which would be a masterful job by Todd Lickliter and his squad. Evansville forced 15 turnovers in the first game while giving up just seven and once again got heavy minutes from their six-man rotation (their lack of depth something to keep an eye on moving forward). Jawaun Newton paced Evansville with 19 and 5, while Shamar Givance added 15 and 7. UE had a chance to win the second game until a cold spell in the final five minutes ultimately cost them. They also forced fewer turnovers and only shot one free throw. The Aces still have a ways to go to compete for league titles, but it is pretty evident that they are worlds better than they were last season. They’ll head to Peoria to face Bradley this weekend.
8.) Northern Iowa, 3-8, 2-4, NET 179, BPI 115 (No Change): UNI beat Bradley on Sunday and they did it the way UNI is going to have to get Ws this year. They hit some threes (10-22), fed Austin Phyfe (18 points, 9 boards, 7-11 shooting), and got some big shots from their shooters (Berhow 15 points on 5-11 shooting, 3-6 from deep, Bowen Born also 2-2 from deep). When UNI is going full boar they can be a dangerous team even with their depleted roster. In game two, they looked on the verge of doing it again for a while. However, they came back down to Earth late, UNI-ing it up with several late defensive meltdowns. They did have a late rally, but lost after a controversial ending in which the game tying basket was waved off after the clock did not start following an intentionally missed free throw. In game two, they didn’t follow the formula. Most notably Phyfe was ineffective, making just one shot from the field on three attempts. They were just 12-32 from deep. UNI turned the ball over several times as well. Still, a split with Bradley is a positive sign for this team after getting swept by Evansville. They certainly looked better than they did last week. Ben Jacobsen will try to work his magic with this group and have them firing on all cylinders by the end of February. Their next three games are at Loyola x2 and vs. Drake before they hit the more forgiving part of their schedule.
9.) Illinois State, 4-6, 1-3, NET 264, BPI 256 (Up One): The Redbirds move up a spot in the rankings after getting their first MVC win of the year in four tries. After getting trounced by Loyola in the first weekend and having to stew in it for an open weekend, it had to feel good for the ISU to get back out there and get a W. In game one, ISU lost 57-48 while turning the ball over 15 times and making just 6 of 15 free throws. The Redbirds made just 18 baskets from the field as UE slowed the game down, and no Redbird scored more than 11 points. Things went better in game two when ISU only turned it over 7 times and put up 73 points in a 73-68 win. The Redbirds once again only made 6-15 free throws but made 30 out of 48 shots from the field and 7-11 from deep. Antonio Reeves went 9-11 on his own for 21 points. It isn’t much, but it is a starting point for ISU as they try to work their way back into the Valley’s top half. They’ll host Indiana State for two this weekend.
10.) Valparaiso, 3-7, 0-2, NET 256, BPI 247 (Down One): Valpo was back in action this weekend, although they may have wished they weren’t. They were handled with relative ease on their home floor, twice, by Missouri State. The Bears more-or-less controlled the entire first game and Valpo couldn’t get anything going shooting 7-26 from deep and 23-65 overall, as MSU won 78-68. There weren’t any real standout performances, but Ben Krikke was the closest scoring 12 points on 6-13 shooting. Game two was pretty similar, Valpo got close early in the second half but was well behind for most of the game in an 81-68 loss. Krikke and Donovan Clay both scored 21 in the losing effort as Valpo was just 11-19 from the line. It is a small sample size, and the Crusaders were likely a bit rusty but to start the season with two uncompetitive home losses does not bode well. They’ll head to Carbondale to face SIU this weekend.
MID MAJOR TIDBITS
A rundown of last week’s notable results from some of the nation’s top mid-majors is below.
-A-10: The Saint Louis Billikens are now in the top 25 and are one of the best mids in the land (NET 15, BPI 28) with a solid chance at an at-large….buuuut…….they haven’t played a game since before Christmas as their first five A-10 games have been postponed. They are still over a week from returning when they are scheduled to play UMass next Wednesday the 20th. Would be awfully easier to make up those games if they were all in the Midwest. Amirite? VCU fell from 28 in the NET to 46th (BPI 79) after an 18-point loss to Rhode Island two days ago. Richmond has a good BPI (37) and an OK NET (58) and beat both Rhode Island and George Mason this week. St. Bonaventure (NET 56, BPI 67) is also on the fringe of the bubble and beat a woeful Saint Joes. Davidson is much more liked by the BPI (49) than NET (92), and Rhode Island has a nice BPI (69), but a mediocre NET (76). Duquesne (72) and Dayton (91) are also in the top 100 of BPI but aint sniffin’ the postseason.
-West Coast: Gonzaga is still the best. BYU (BPI 40, NET 41) is still an at-large candidate but lost a chance to make a splash after a 17-point loss at Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s (BPI 90, NET 60) lost to Santa Clara and is looking like an at-large doubtful even if they do somehow pull off an upset of the Zags. San Francisco (BPI 94, NET 93) beat Virginia and no one can take that away from them but it is looking like that may be the high point of their season after they lost to Loyola Marymount. Santa Clara (91 NET) and Loyola Marymount (99 BPI) are also in the top 100 of at least one of the rankings.
-Mountain West: Not much new here as San Diego State (BPI 29, NET 34), and Boise State (BPI 52, NET 23) are both looking like possible at-large teams and are also destined for a showdown on the final week of the season that will get cancelled if COVID has anything to say about it. SDSU won a pair of close ones against an OK Nevada team at home while Boise had no trouble with a bad Air Force team at home. Utah State (BPI 60, NET 62) and Colorado State (BPI 100, NET 48) are the next most interesting teams here and are good enough to give the better teams fits (Colorado State already game from 26 down to beat SDSU earlier this year and Utah State is 6-0 after handling three of the league’s worst teams), but neither will likely challenge for the league title.
-Conference USA: Unless one team steps out and dominates, the C-USA will only be getting one bid. I leave them on here because they still have several top 100 type teams and look like the MVC in a down year. These squads include Marshall (BPI 62, NET 70), UAB (BPI 78, NET 69 nice), Western Kentucky (BPI 82, NET 99), and Louisiana Tech (BPI 106, NET 120). Whoever ends up coming out of this league will probably be a decent seed and have a shot to do some damage.
-Other Interesting Squads: Winthrop of the Big South (BPI 95, NET 51) is still ranked #2 in the mid-major top 25 behind Gonzaga and has a good chance to finish the season undefeated while playing mostly mediocre regional teams, so that will be a fun one to seed. Furman (BPI 82, NET 50) is waving the SoCon flag with a #4 ranking in that poll (sandwiching #3 Drake) with only close losses at Cincinnati (by 5) and Alabama (by 3) and a 16-point loss to Winthrop on their resume. Colgate is #19 in NET with a 3-1 record out of the Patriot League. I am forced to assume that is a weird math error that will correct itself as the entirety of their schedule so far is against Army and Boston U. The computer seems to like Toledo most in the MAC (BPI 86, NET 63), but Bowling Green (BPI 108, NET 71) isn’t far behind. Belmont is 12-1 in the OVC. There isn’t a lot to get excited about in the world of the mid-majors to be completely honest.
-Our Lady of the Lake Update: Still no games from the Saints since December 20th but their NAIA season is set to begin this week against Texas A&M Texarkana, the Texasiest of all schools.