Jonathan Lintner of the Evansville Courier Press is reporting that the Missouri Valley Conference will add Loyola-Chicago to replace Creighton University. The addition fulfills the reported desire for the league to add a private institution rather than a public school, while also allowing the Valley to enter the Chicago area.
From Jonathan Lintner:
Loyola University Chicago, one of UE’s former Midwestern City Conference rivals, has accepted an invitation to join the MVC and will be announced as the its newest member at a news conference Friday.
The private Jesuit university replaces another with the same values, as Creighton’s departure for the new Big East Conference next season created the opening.
link to full report: ECP reporting Loyola-Chicago to join Missouri Valley Conference
Exciting news this week as the Missouri Valley Conference had two teams in the final Coaches poll of the mens basketball season. From MVC-Sports.com:
For the first time since 1979, the Missouri Valley Conference has a team in the Top 5 of a final national basketball poll. Wichita State (4) and Creighton (21) represent the MVC in the final USA Today Coaches poll, released April 9. The Bluejays were also ranked No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll, announced prior to post-season action.
It marks the second-straight year that Wichita State and Creighton represented the MVC in a season-ending Top 25 poll. Last year, Wichita State (18) and Creighton (19) were ranked in the season-ending AP poll. Creighton was No. 21 in the USA Today poll at season’s end in 2011-12.
The perfect game. It’s what Wichita State delivered for the first 27 minutes of their Final Four matchup against Louisville on Saturday night in Atlanta. The Shockers punched the Cardinals in the mouth from the opening tip and gained an early 8-0 lead. WSU’s shots were falling and the Cardinals were reeling (including 0-4 from the free throw line). It seemed as if the script was written by Gregg Marshall himself. However, as with any good story, there must be a challenger fighting for his own existence and that is exactly what we saw play out.
After a somewhat sloppy start, as one might expect, Pitino’s group rallied. Despite several first half lead changes, the Shockers led at halftime 26-25.
The second half was classic NCAA tournament basketball. Behind Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, Wichita State opened a 47-35 lead with just over 13 minutes to play. Against Louisville’s vaunted defense, the Shockers went a stretch of over 20 minutes without committing a turnover.
However, back to back three pointers by Tim Henderson cut the WSU lead to six, 47-41. Minimizing turnovers, which Wichita State had done marvelously the entire game, became an issue as the Shockers had three in quick succession. The game was balance throughout the final 10 minutes as the Cardinals’ Luke Hancock scored 12 points during that time as Louisville surged from the earlier 12 point deficit to a 65-60 lead with under 2 minutes to play.
Three consecutive baskets by Early and a Carl Hall layup sandwiched a Hancock basket and 4-6 free throw shooting by Louisville and the Shockers were within 2 with 12 seconds to play. Hancock was fouled and made the first of two free throws, but missed the second. Wichita State’s Ron Baker got the rebound but was tied up by Hancock for a jump ball on a whistle that should have never been blown and the Cardinals’ regained possession and sealed the victory at the free throw line.
Early led the Shockers with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Carl Hall added 13 points.
Wichita State vs Louisville
5:09 CDT (CBS)
Let’s start with a quick review:
Louisville has played and defeated two Missouri Valley Conference teams this basketball season. The Cardinals needed a late three point play by Russ Smith to defeat UNI 51-46 and the benefit of some home cooking from the officials to hold off Illinois State 69-66. Wichita State was 4-1 against those same two MVC foes. Can we learn anything by comparing the results of those games? Maybe not a lot – both Louisville and Wichita State played without key players due to injuries in some of those contests. On the other hand, the scores should tell you that Louisville isn’t head and shoulders better than everyone else in the country as the media have made them out to be.
As if they haven’t already done so by making the Final Four, can the Shockers stun the basketball world by upsetting the overall #1 seed? My answer is – absolutely. While a fine team, the Cardinals (like the Shockers) lost three consecutive games earlier this season. The trouble for WSU is that Louisville has now won 14 games in a row. Add in the emotional boost they appeared to receive from Kevin Ware in the second half of their regional final win over Duke, and the Cardinals will be the most formidable opponent yet for head coach Gregg Marshall and Co.
What will it take for Wichita State to win and play for a national title on Monday night? Two things – minimizing turnovers and making shots. Sounds simple, right? The Shockers did both of those things for 30 minutes against Ohio State and built a 20 point lead. In the last 10 minutes they did neither and almost gave it all back.
Louisville will play a relentless defense – one that Wichita State doesn’t see in the Valley. Breaking pressure will allow WSU to get good looks at the basket, however, the Shockers will not have the rebounding advantage over the Cardinals that they’ve had over their earlier NCAA opponents. I think Wichita State will need to shoot at least 50% from the field to win and probably needs to make at least 7-8 three pointers. WSU had their best night shooting night of the season the last time they played (and upset) a #1 seed, so don’t discount the possibility that it can happen again.
I’ve picked the Shockers to win all four of their NCAA games so far (go ahead and scroll down to see for yourself). Why stop now? I think Cleanthony Early goes off and Wichita State gets a late Malcolm Armstead basket to send the Valley into a state of euphoria as the Shockers will play for a title on Monday night against Syracuse.
Prediction: Wichita St 60 Louisville 59
Shockers with the biggest win for the Missouri Valley Conference in a generation!!
Congratulations to the Wichita State Shockers for their 70-66 win over Ohio State in the West Regional final.
Wichita State led Ohio State throughout the game, leading 51-31 with 12 minutes to play, but the Buckeyes battled back and cut the lead to 62-59 with under 3 minutes remaining. Tekele Cotton responded with the biggest shot of his career as he nailed a three pointer on the ensuing possession to give the Shockers a 65-59 lead. A basket by freshman Fred VanVleet followed and the Shockers were preparing to cut down the nets.
Senior guard Malcolm Armstead was named the Regional Most Outstanding Player. He led the Shockers with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
You can discuss this and more on the MVCfans message board
Wichita State vs Ohio State
Los Angeles, CA
6:05 CDT (CBS)
It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Wichita State faces off against Ohio State for a trip to the Final Four on Saturday night in Los Angeles, someplace the Shockers haven’t been since 1965. And a place no Missouri Valley Conference team has ventured since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the national title game in 1979.
It’s hard to explain how we got to this point. Just over a month ago, on February 27, Wichita State was playing on senior night at home against Evansville. The Shockers had a one game lead in the MVC race with two games to play — a win over the Aces would insure at least a share of the conference title. Instead, Evansville left Koch Arena with a surprising 59-56 win. Four days later, the Shockers were blitzed by Creighton 91-79 on national TV.
Flash forward and you’ll see a much different Wichita State team. The return and emergence of Ron Baker have given the Shockers an outside weapon that was missing for much of conference play. Almost universally, it was felt that the way to beat Wichita State was to force them into being a jump shot team. With Baker back in the lineup, the scouting report becomes more complicated. If a team plays Baker tightly on the perimeter, it allows Carl Hall to dominate the paint. Pick your poison.
The challenge presented by Ohio State will be different than those faced by Wichita State in their earlier NCAA games. The Buckeyes are led by one of the best competitors in college basketball – Aaron Craft. The point guard made both a defensive and offensive play at the end of regulation to boost Ohio State past Iowa State. He distribution skills led to an open three pointer for a teammate which gave the Buckeyes another near buzzer beater in their win over Arizona on Thursday.
Ohio State has won 11 consecutive games and has not lost to an unranked team this season. The Shockers are peaking at the right time. Who previals?
The strength of Wichita State is their ability to rebound and get additional possessions on the offensive end. They dominated LaSalle on the glass and I think they can do the same to Ohio State. The Buckeyes rank 135th nationally in rebounding. If the Shockers can get their shots to fall early, pack your bags for Atlanta and the Final 4.
Prediction: Wichita State 65 Ohio State 61
Wichita State asserted their inside dominance early and often on Thursday night in the West Regional semifinal and the result was an easy victory for the Shockers, 72-58 over LaSalle.
Carl Hall scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds for Wichita State. The Explorers lacked a true post presence and the Shockers won the rebounding battle 44-23.
Malcolm Armstead led all scorers with 18 points while freshman Ron Baker continued his hot shooting – 16 points on 4-6 from the field (2-3 on three pointers).
With the victory, the Shockers advance to face #2 seed Ohio State. The Buckeyes have needed buzzer beater three pointers to win each of the past two NCAA tournament games against Arizona and Iowa State.
Wichita State vs LaSalle
Los Angeles, CA
9:17 CDT (TBS)
A nine seed vs a thirteen seed? Hardly the Sweet Sixteen matchup that many predicted just over a week ago when LaSalle was playing in Dayton in an NCAA play-in game. Nevertheless, Wichita State and LaSalle has proven themselves to be among college basketball’s elite entering the West Regional semifinal on Thursday night. While the rest of the basketball world may see two mid-major squads, neither having won their regular season or tournament championship, one will emerge and be playing for a trip to the Final Four. That’s why they call it March Madness, right?
The Shockers, coming off a season best shooting performance in their 76-70 win over Gonzaga, have prevailed with an assist from freshman Ron Baker. Baker, who missed 21 games during the regular season due to injury, made several critical plays and baskets – scoring 16 points and tying a career high with 4 three-pointers – in the Shockers upset of the top seeded Zags. Can he replicate that performance on an even grander stage? Can Wichita State shoot as well as they did (14-28 three pointers) against Gonzaga? It says here that they won’t need to.
The Explorers of the Atlantic-10 conference lost early season games to teams like Central Connecticut State and Bucknell. Their best win was at VCU – sound familiar to WSU fans? After being one of the last four teams invited to the NCAA tournament, LaSalle has won three consecutive NCAA games in tight fashion, beating Boise St by 9 points and Kansas State and Ole Miss each by 2 points.
I believe they key to this game will be rebounding. LaSalle enters this matchup ranked 292nd nationally in rebounds; Wichita State is 27th. If the Explorers cannot keep the Shockers off the glass, there is no doubt that the Missouri Valley Conference will have it’s first Elite Eight team since 1981. That year, it was Wichita State who advanced to the Elite Eight with a 66-65 victory over Kansas. I don’t think this one is that close.
Prediction: Wichita St 66 LaSalle 55
Creighton was defeated by Duke 66-50 on Sunday night in Philadelphia, ending the Bluejays season at 28-8. The Bluejays shot just 30% from the field and a season low 10% from the three point line in the defeat.
Creighton started well with Grant Gibbs scoring the first four points of the game for the Jays, but Duke answered with an 11-0 run. The first half remained close until a buzzer beater three banked in for the Blue Devils that extended their lead to 29-23 at the break.
The second half was controlled by Duke and the lead was double digits for most of the final 10 minutes of the game. In a game dominated by whistles and foul trouble for both teams, Doug McDermott was never able to get untracked. The junior All-American scored 21 points and had 9 rebounds, but was just 4-16 from the field. McDermott did not make a field goal in the second half, although he was 12-12 from the free throw line.
Duke advances to play Michigan State in the round of 16.
With the loss, Creighton ends both their season and their tenure in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bluejays will join the Big East on July 1.
Creighton vs Duke
8:40 CDT (TBS)
Creighton looks to advance to the program’s first Sweet 16 since the NCAA tournament field expanded to 64 teams when they play Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils will pose much different problems for the Bluejays than Cincinnati did in the opening round. Duke ranks 6th nationally with 78 ppg, something Cincinnati could only dream of. The Bearcats were a team of defenders and rebounders, but they lacked a potent offensive threat.
The style of basketball that Creighton and Duke play are similar. Both are highly efficient offenses with a stretch 4 forward capable of taking over a game. Creighton’s Doug McDermott is a two time All-American, but Duke’s Ryan Kelly has similar attributes. Both are adept at scoring down low, but have excellent three point shooting skills. The Blue Devils are 20-1 with Kelly in the lineup.
This game likely hinges on the matchup of guards. The big men, Creighton’s Gregory Echenique and Duke’s Mason Plumlee, are a push in my opinion. Creighton’s Jahenns Manigat will have his hands full trying to slow down Duke’s best scorer, Seth Curry. I believe that the key for Creighton will be the play of senior Grant Gibbs. Gibbs struggled against the length and athleticism of Cincinnati, committing 5 turnovers while managing just four assists in the win. For the Bluejays to be victorious, Gibbs will need to control the ball better and increase his productivity. He will likely be matched up with Duke freshman Rasheel Sulaimon. Can the veteran get the best of the youngster? Athletically, no. But Gibbs plays with a high basketball IQ and has a savvy that has been refined over the years. He knows that he doesn’t need to score many points for the Bluejays to upset Duke. What I will be watching is Gibbs’s assist numbers – particularly those passes that set up Doug McDermott for easy buckets. It says here, that if Gibbs gets 10 assists, Creighton moves on.
I’ve been a homer all week and it hasn’t failed me yet. Wichita State is headed to the Sweet 16. Why not make it two MVC teams?
Prediction: Creighton 76 Duke 74