Week 9 Summary, Power Rankings and Mid Major Tidbits
It has been a weird scheduling week for the MVC as the weekend was originally scheduled as a makeup date for missed COVID games. Many of these games were pushed to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday due to COVID guidelines and so we are, in many ways, still in the middle of it. There hasn’t been much news nationally except that as of now the NCAA does plan to have an NIT. I personally don’t think it will happen, but if it does, cool. I have always liked the NIT even though it is full of also-rans. There are usually some good, underrated mid-major squads among its ranks and we get to see the types of matchups that the P5s are usually too afraid to schedule during the regular season. I’d love to see the NCAA either adopt the women’s model of the NIT with 64 teams and an autobid for each league (regardless of whether the regular season champion won the league tournament or not) or buy out the CIT and CBI and start a 32-team tournament below the NIT that only includes non-P6 teams. I want to see mid-majors with solid 20-10 type seasons get rewarded. But I digress…..here are this week’s rankings.
Week 9: MVC Power Rankings
1.) Drake, 14-0, 5-0, NET 10, BPI 46 (No Change): It appeared the Bulldogs’ streak was coming to an end as MSU raced off to a fifteen-point halftime lead in yesterday’s opener. But the Bulldogs calmly chipped away at the deficit in the second half and by the time the final minutes came around they were firmly in control in a 68-61 win. Actually, calm is not an accurate way to describe how the Bulldogs played. Their comeback was high energy and exciting and showed why they and Loyola have separated themselves as the teams to beat in the league. Darnell Brodie was an absolute monster for DU, scoring 16 points and grabbing 15 boards. Roman Penn added 20 points. They’ll finish the series with MSU tonight with a chance to put the Bears title hopes on life support. They’ll host Illinois State on Sunday and Monday. If DU is still undefeated at the end of the week, will they finally be ranked in the polls? Hard to say, but the Bulldogs are building an at-large caliber profile. Just keep winning.
2.) Loyola, 13-3, 8-1, NET 26, BPI 18 (No Change): As Drake and Mo State sat idle until Tuesday, Loyola heated up the MVC race with three straight victories. They didn’t even need to put in much effort until the final contest. The Ramblers gave Valpo their worst beatdown ever in MVC play (a game after giving UNI their worst ever MVC beatdown) as they handled the Crusaders on the road 75-39. This game was a blowout from the midway point of the first half on. Cameron Krutwig scored 15 and Tate Hall scored ten off the bench for Loyola. On the weekend, the Ramblers secured two huge wins over BU on the road. They continued their torrid pace by jumping out to a 22-2 and 45-19 lead in game one. The Braves climbed back to within 11, but Loyola shut the door for an easy 69-56 win. Krutwig again led the way with 19 points and the Ramblers won going away despite shooting 3-14 from deep. Loyola had to work a little harder in the second Bradley game, but still got the win. They trailed the Braves for most of the game. After falling behind by 7 with just over 7 minutes to go, they went on a 12-2 run spurred on by solid three point shooting and never relinquished the lead from there en route to a 65-58 win. Marquise Kennedy led the way for LUC, who shot 20-28 from deep. The MVC title race is heating up and Loyola and Drake are making a possible case for multiple Valley bids (or at least an NIT Valley bid). The Ramblers will play a crucial pair at Missouri State on Sunday and Monday.
3.) Missouri State, 9-2, 5-2, NET 75, BPI 135 (No Change): The Bears missed a big opportunity yesterday at home against Drake. Leading by 15 at the half, it looked like MSU was going to stake its claim as an MVC title contender. Instead, the Bulldogs outscored the Bears 42-20 in the second half, pulling away for a 68-61 victory to remain undefeated. Drake was able to end Isiaih Mosley’s 20-point-per-game streak, but the Bears guard still posted a double-double with 17 points and ten rebounds. Gaige Prim added 18 and 16, but MSU shot just 2-16 from deep and committed 16 turnovers to just four from Drake. The Bears have a chance to reverse the narrative and get back into the title race tonight in the second game of the series. If Drake wins it is probably unlikely the Bears will be able to scratch their way back into the race. They’ll be back home to face Loyola on Sunday and Monday. Really important week for MSU.
4.) Indiana State, 8-7, 5-5, NET 119, BPI 182 (Up One): Indiana State was handed a break this weekend when they faced the SIU Salukis without the services of Marcus Domask. The Sycamores took advantage to win their fourth and fifth straight games to gain some separation from the MVC pack and put themselves in good position to finish in the top half of the league. The first game was a back-and-forth type of game throughout, as ISU pulled away late for a 69-66 win. As often happens in Indiana State wins, Tyreke Key played well scoring 23 points. Indiana State outrebounded the Salukis 33-23 and shot 11 more free throws which was likely the difference. The Sycamores pulled away early in the second half of the second game for a 71-59 win. Jake LaRavia was the star for ISU Blue with 20 points. ISU is now 5-5 in the league, with a win over Loyola and a sweep of SIU in their back pocket. Their remaining schedule consists of pairs of games with Bradley, UNI, Valpo and Evansville. They are looking very good for play-in avoidance and have a great shot to finish in the top four or better. They’ll host Bradley Saturday and Sunday.
5.) Bradley 9-7, 3-4, NET 135, BPI 98 (Down One): A lot of MVC teams had mixed results this week. Bradley was not one of them as their week was decidedly bad. You can count the Braves out of the MVC title race after three consecutive losses to Illinois State and Loyola. On Wednesday, the BU was heavily favored against the rival Redbirds on the road in Normal. But after taking a one-point halftime lead, BU allowed a 21-5 ISU run to start the second half and were never back in it, getting soundly beaten 71-56. Elijah Childs’ double-double (14 points, 11 boards) wasn’t enough to save the Braves who missed 75% of their free throws and only shot 40% from the field (and 2-11 from deep). It was a very bad way to start a very important weekend, and it only got worse from there. Hosting Loyola on Sunday, Bradley fell behind 22-2 and were down 45-19 just after the start of the second half. BU did rally to get as close as 11 at one point but were never truly in the game. Childs’ 18 and 8 weren’t enough as Bradley shot 2-11 from deep and had only 8 assists to 16 turnovers. Monday’s game looked like it might carry some redemption for Bradley as they led for most of the way. They led 50-43 with 7:12 to go but Loyola went on a 12-2 run to take the lead and never gave it back, winning 65-58. Terry Nolan scored 17 but another poor shooting performance from deep (6-23) cost the Braves. With the league title probably out of the question, the Braves will lick their wounds and head to Valpo Wednesday and then Indiana State Sunday and Monday.
6.) Southern Illinois, 7-5, 1-5, NET 199, BPI 248 (No Change): After a 7-0 start, the Salukis have now lost five consecutive games. SIU came out of their COVID hiatus with a pair of games at Indiana State and came away with two more Ls. The Salukis’ star player, Marcus Domask, was absent for these games for SIU due to injury. In game one, SIU lost a close, competitive, back-and-forth game with ISU despite Lance Jones going off for 25 points. Neither team got much separation in the game and the lead changed hands frequently. Unfortunately for SIU, after taking a 63-62 lead with two and a half to play they did not score again until there were 13 seconds left in the half. ISU put the game on ice at the free throw line, although SIU did have a desperation heave to tie the game in the final seconds that missed. The Sycamores lost 69-66. Game two was going along similarly, but ISU Blue pulled away in the second half. After an SIU basket cut the Tree lead to 37-36, Indiana State outscored SIU 26-8 over the next 13 game minutes to put it away. Indiana State won 71-59. There weren’t any real standout performances for SIU in game two. While SIU is on a 5-game losing streak, considering their opponents and the fact they played without Domask this weekend I am not sounding any alarm bells yet about SIU being a play-in team. The Salukis still have six games against UNI, Valpo and ISU Red. Now, if SIU struggles at home against UNI this weekend and/or Domask’s injury lingers…..you can sound the alarm.
7.) Evansville, 6-8, 4-4, NET 273, BPI 297 (No Change): It is the Purple Aces’ turn to do battle with COVID. UE’s lone game of the week against Indiana State was cancelled due to an outbreak in the UE program. It was decent timing, perhaps, as UE had not had a league game cancelled to that point and the weekend was the planned makeup weekend so the Aces may only have to reschedule one game. Assuming they are able to play, they’ll pick it back up with some big Thursday night avoidance games on Sunday and Monday at home against Valpo. I wouldn’t count on it though.
8.) Valparaiso, 5-9, 2-3, NET 252, BPI 257 (Up Two): Valpo’s week really illustrated the difference between the teams at the top and the bottom of the league as the Crusaders suffered their worst-ever MVC defeat to Loyola on Wednesday at the ARC, before picking up a pair of road wins on Saturday and Sunday against Illinois State. The Ramblers broke the Wednesday game open about midway through the second half and didn’t look back, finishing on a 22-4 run to grab a 37-16 halftime lead. Despite double figures from Ben Krikke (12) and Eron Gordon (14), Valpo was nearly doubled up by the Ramblers 75-39. The Crusaders recovered, though, to pick up their first two MVC wins. On Saturday, Valpo jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held that margin, more-or-less, the rest of the way leading from whistle to buzzer in a nice 69-60 win over Illinois State in Normal. Donovan Clay was unstoppable in this one, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for a double-double. They completed the road sweep the following day. The Crusaders led by as much as 14 early in the second half before Illinois State rallied by slowly chipping away at the Valpo lead. VU briefly fell behind, 64-63, at the 2:27 mark but finished the game on a 7-2 run to win 70-66. Krikke scored 25 and grabbed 15 rebounds, making him responsible for more than a third of his team’s production in both categories. We now can say, definitively, that Valpo is not the best team in the MVC, nor are they the worst. We’ll know more about where they fall in between this week when they host Bradley on Thursday and (COVID willing) head to Evansville Sunday and Monday.
9.) Northern Iowa, 4-10, 2-6, NET 213, BPI 159 (Down One): UNI’s game against Drake was postponed by COVID. To avoid a fourteen-day layoff the Panthers scheduled Coe, a D3 team, on Monday. UNI proved it could be competitive in D3 with their 70-60 win over the Kohawks. UNI only had seven scholarship players available for the game, but that was still seven more than Coe. The outcome was never really in doubt as Coe made a late run to get it to ten…….but still. UNI’s poor defense was exposed yet again, as Coe was seemingly able to get an open shot at will and shot a respectable 44.6%, just two percentage points worse than UNI. The Panthers struggled from deep and committed just one fewer turnover than the Kohawks who were able to secure more steals than the Panthers. Austin Phyfe only took three shots…..again. It was just a D3 game, but it did not inspire any newfound confidence for UNI as they head to Carbondale to play SIU Saturday and Sunday.
10.) Illinois State, 5-10, 2-7, NET 272, BPI 270 (Down One): Illinois State’s week can be summed up by a quote from the “Boom Goes the Dynamite” guy. “It started off good, but then they were shot down and ended up doing poorly. Oh no.” A great win over their archrivals Bradley kicked off the week. The Redbirds trailed by one at halftime but started the second half on a 21-5 run and never looked back. My theory that DJ Horne would be crucial to any success for Illinois State this year held true as the sophomore scored 23 points on 9-16 shooting (5-9 from deep) in the win. It was a big win over a school that appeared to be league title contenders and their archrival. That propelled them into a home series with the winless-in-the-league Valpo Crusaders that brought the Redbirds thumping back down to Earth. Illinois State trailed wire-to-wire in their 69-60 home loss on Saturday. Horne did perform OK, with 19 points, but he was only 2-8 on shots inside the arc and the Redbirds were outrebounded by 10. Horne’s 20 points (and Antonio Reeve’s 18) weren’t enough the next day either, as the Redbirds lost the Sunday game 70-66. Rebounding was the biggest statistical difference in both games as VU outrebounded the ‘Birds by eight in the second game after a poor rebounding performance in the first. The sweep leaves ISU possibly in a worse spot than they were before the Bradley win, and last place in these rankings. They’re scheduled for a road trip to Drake Sunday and Monday.
MID MAJOR TIDBITS
A rundown of last week’s notable results from some of the nation’s top mid-majors is below. If numbers are in parenthesis it is their NET Rankings/BPI Ranking.
-A-10: At long last, after a thirty-four-day layoff the Saint Louis Billikens (20/31), one of the great mid major hopes, finally played their first A-10 game. SLU is ranked, has good computer numbers and has a great at-large profile. Unfortunately, they haven’t played many games so they’re going to have to do very well down the stretch to keep that top-25 resume. And welp, they are not off to a good start as they lost to Dayton in their first game back. Saint Bonaventure (43/56) is probably the conference’s next best bet at a bid after beating VCU (45/49) this week. The Bonnies also beat Duquesne while the Rams recovered to get a 20-point win over a decent Dayton team. Richmond (60/49) is looking more like an NIT team after losing to La Salle (although they did beat St. Joes). Same can be said for Davidson (68/42) despite wins over lowly Fordham and UMass. Rhode Island (77/69), Dayton (106/92) and Duquesne (166/98) are also in the top 100 of BPI but aint sniffin’ the postseason.
-West Coast: Gonzaga (2/2) is still the best. BYU (28/33) got a solid jump in both rankings after home wins over Portland and Pepperdine. They’ll need to continue to beat the non-Gonzaga teams in their conference and that should be enough to get in. Saint Mary’s (66/89) secured tough road wins over Loyola Marymount and Pacific. They’re an NIT bubble team but are not likely to get into the dance at this point. Same can be said for San Francisco (81/85) who has that win over Virginia.
-Mountain West: League leaders Boise State (15/38) got a win against Fresno but had to cancel the second game due to COVID issues in the program, putting this week’s showdown with third place Colorado State in serious jeopardy. Utah State (51/56) and Colorado State (55/76) split a pair of games this week which is not the ideal result for the league (it would have been better for one of those teams to separate from the pack and be that third team from the MWC with a chance at a bid). CSU is scheduled to face Boise this week although COVID in the Boise program may make that difficult. Utah State has a tricky pair at UNLV. The computers continue to like San Diego State (31/23), despite the fact that the Aztecs are in 4th place and lost twice to USU and once to CSU. They can’t afford a flub up against Wyoming this week.
-Conference USA: Nothing new here. There are still a bunch of good-but-not-good-enough-for-the-NCAAs squads here. The top teams include UAB (67/82), Marshall (74/64), Western Kentucky (78/73) and North Texas (97/86). 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 (57/91) got two more wins to remain undefeated. Will be very interesting to see what the committee does with the Eagles seeding wise, or at-large bid wise if they go undefeated and lose the league title game. Furman (72/93) took two rough losses to ETSU and VMI but remains the most computer friendly out of a SoCon with several top 100ish squads including Wofford (86/101) and UNC Greensboro (108/90). Colgate remains an NET mystery sitting at 15th in the NET with a 5-1 record against Army, Boston U and Holy Cross. The computer still prefers Toledo in the MAC (63/78). Belmont (88/95) is now 16-1 in the OVC and another team that will be a weird one to possibly seed in the NCAA Tournament. Wright State (61/70) in the Horizon, and UC Santa Barbara (62/75) out of the Big West also deserve mention.
-Our Lady of the Lake Update: The Saints had two more games postponed and now only have two remaining on the schedule. OLOTL is still playing several other sports, and there is still no explanation as to why the basketball team appears to be shut down on their site. It is a great mystery.