Drake, Northern Iowa will no longer host games against Iowa, Iowa State

As was first discussed publicly in December, plans to eliminate home games for Drake and Northern Iowa against in-state foes Iowa and Iowa State are becoming known.  A Des Moines Register article quotes UNI Athletic Director Trot Dannen:

Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen said last week that he understands where (Iowa AD) Barta is coming from. The Panthers’ NCAA resume and regular-season success in recent years has made it harder and harder to find teams willing to come to Cedar Falls for nonconference games.

“We’ve tried everyone in the Big Ten and the Big 12, and home-and-homes aren’t going to happen,” Dannen said. “No one is interested in two-for-ones, either. That’s why, as Iowa State and Iowa are questioning their series with us, we know it’s not unreasonable for them to question it because their peers aren’t doing it.”

The Big 4 Event will be played at Wells Fargo in Des Moines.  Drake and Northern Iowa would each play a single game against Iowa or Iowa State:

That Big Four event — with Iowa playing Drake or Northern Iowa and Iowa State playing the other — would replace the existing home-and-home deals Iowa and Iowa State have with Drake and Northern Iowa. Iowa and Iowa State would continue to play each other in a home-and-home agreement.

Thus, the net sum is that the MVC schools each lose one game against a BCS foe and would not have the opportunity to host either the Cyclones or Hawkeyes again.  This is really an unfortunate development for the Valley and for basketball fans in the state of Iowa.

Link to Des Moines Register article:
New Big Four series might be unveiled after season

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Welcome to the final week of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season

It’s amazing how quickly a basketball season can pass and surprising that we have already reached the final week of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season.   With only 2 league games remaining for each team, seedings at the top and bottom of the standings have been solidified, but the middle of the league has significant fluidity.  Missouri State looks to lock up the #3 seed at Arch Madness this week, but they have tough games remaining against Indiana State and Evansville.  Northern Iowa hopes to collect a win or two against Bradley and/or Southern Illinois to stay out of a Thursday night play-in game.

Games remaining:

Wichita State: at Illinois St, Drake
Creighton: Evansville, at Indiana State
Missouri State: Indiana State, at Evansville
Drake: Southern Illinois, at Wichita State
Illinois State: Wichita State, Bradley
Evansville: at Creighton, Missouri State
Northern Iowa: Bradley, at Southern Illinois
Indiana State: at Missouri State, Creighton
Southern Illinois: at Drake, Northern Iowa
Bradley: at Northern Iowa, Illinois State

 

What we know:
#1 seed – Wichita State
#2 seed – Creighton

#9 seed – Southern Illinois
#10 seed – Bradley

Wichita State, Creighton wins headline BracketBusters weekend for the MVC

On an otherwise subpar day for the Missouri Valley Conference, the league’s top 2 teams won critical games to help solidify their resumes for the NCAA tournament. In the first game of importance during Saturday play of ESPN’s BracketBusters event, Wichita State outscored Davidson 52-36 in the second half in cruising to a 91-74 victory. Joe Ragland scored 30 to lead the Shockers and Toure Murry added 16.

In the late game, Creighton trailed for 35 minutes, but a last second jumper by Antoine Young gave the Bluejays an 81-79 lead. After clearing the fans from the court and bringing Long Beach State out of the locker room, the game concluded after an errant inbounds pass. Doug McDermott scored 36 points on 14-20 shooting. He also added 11 rebounds. Young scored 16 points for the Bluejays.

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Missouri Valley Conference – previews and predictions for every ESPN Sears Bracket Busters game on Saturday, February 18

Wichita St. at Davidson
When these matchups were released, many WSU supporters were disappointed at drawing this game. Davidson doesn’t have the profile to really enhance WSU’s resume, but a loss wouldn’t look good either. That said, this is a solid Davidson squad currently leading the Southern Conference South Division behind De’Mon Brooks. A win here for Davidson might be enough to get them an at-large bid the Big Dance if they fail to win their conference tournament. They are a dangerous team, as the Kansas Jayhawks know, after falling to the Wildcats in Kansas City in December. My prediction is that the momentum gained from blowing out Creighton in Omaha leads the Shockers to victory in a hard-fought, fast-paced game. This will probably be one of the most entertaining Bracketbuster games on offer, and one I certainly won’t be missing. Catch it on ESPN2 at 11AM CST.

Indiana St. at Butler
Butler experienced the predicted fall back to earth after the heights of back-to-back appearances in the NCAA final, and has fallen back to the middle of the Horizon League pack. The Bulldogs went 6-6 in a more strenuous non-conference schedule than most Horizon teams, losing at Louisville and Indiana, but pulling out a win against Purdue. Indiana St. has been disappointing this season after their run through Arch Madness last March led many to predict they would finish in the top 3 of the Valley. A win or a loss here doesn’t really mean much to the Sycamores, but Butler’s chance at a postseason berth would be in jeopardy with a loss here.

Old Dominion at Missouri St.
ODU is currently in 4th in the hotly contested CAA. UNI beat them handily on their own court in their season opener, but ODU’s record is devoid of both good wins and bad losses, and they did play both Kentucky and Mizzou closely in December. The Kyle Weems show is currently in third place in the Valley despite boasting only a 9-7 conference record, and have struggled lately in wins at Drake, SIU, and Bradley and a loss to WSU. The Bears need to build some momentum going into Arch Madness, and a win in this game would set them up nicely going into their final Valley games of the year, at home versus Indiana St. and at Evansville.

SIU at Ball State
A matchup of two teams near the bottom of their respective leagues. Ball St. started its conference slate well, going 3-1, but are currently mired in a 7 game losing streak. SIU is on an unimpressive streak of its own in its 3 straight losses, allowing its last two opponents to shoot a combined 24 of 26 from 3, including a perfect 12-12 performance from Indiana St. My guess is that Ball State’s home court advantage provides the edge in this uninspiring matchup.

Drake at New Mexico St.
This is a nightmare matchup for the Bulldogs. NMSU likes to full court press, plays swarming defense, and crashes the boards (14th in the nation with 39.6/game). Factor in the fact that this game doesn’t mean a whole lot to Drake other than bragging rights, and the Bulldogs’ struggles on the road, this game might get ugly. Senior F Wendell McKines (18 ppg, 10 rpg) might have a field day against this Drake team that nearly blew an 18 point lead to a Taylor Brown-less Bradley on Wednesday night. A win here would certainly boost either squad’s shot at a postseason berth, potentially the NIT for NMSU, and most likely the CBI for Drake.

Oakland at Illinois St.
ISU might struggle to contain Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton, who is averaging just under 25 ppg this year. The outcome of this game will come down to whether the Redbirds can stop Oakland’s 13th ranked offense, currently averaging almost 80 ppg. Jackie Carmichael’s presence inside could cause Oakland trouble if he can have another game like he did against Drake, pulling down 20 rebounds. The winner of this game will be the one that controls the tempo and the boards.

Loyola at Bradley
The less said about this game, the better. Two teams that are at the bottom of their respective leagues. Keys for Bradley are whether Walt Lemon, Jr. can score like he did on Wednesday if Taylor Brown is not 100%, and if the Braves can shoot better than their 0-20 performance from 3 on Wednesday. This is one of the few games Bradley should be favored in this year, and I don’t see them dropping the ball.

Western Illinois at Evansville
Denver Holmes’ banked-in buzzer beater at UNI should provide some much needed momentum in the Aces’ favor after getting stomped on in Des Moines by Drake. Both teams shoot the ball fairly well, but both teams are also horrid on the boards. WIU has no notable scalps this year, and is a team that Evansville can handle at the Ford Center. Colt Ryan should be able to get his points against this Leatherneck team in leading the Aces to victory.

Long Beach St. at Creighton
While Creighton had initially hoped for St. Mary’s to come visiting the Qwest Center, this West Coast team is no slouch. Boasting a 45 RPI ranking and having been blooded through a brutal nonconference schedule that includes a win at Pitt and against Xavier and close losses to UNC, Louisville, San Diego St., and KU, this is a team that will not come into Omaha intimidated. Both teams shoot the ball well, especially Creighton, currently boasting the NCAA’s top FG percentage. After re-finding their offensive fluency against SIU on Tuesday, Creighton will come out with high confidence on Saturday night against the 49ers, but that might not be enough against a team hungry to boost its at-large chances with a notable win after falling in its conference tournament final to UCSB the past two years. This tasty matchup should provide plenty of entertainment and highlights, and I predict LBSU to pull out a victory here to lock up an at-large bid to the Dance.

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VCU defeats Northern Iowa 77-68 in BracketBusters opener

In the opening game of the ESPN Sears Bracket Busters weekend, Virginia Commonwealth used a strong second half to escape Northern Iowa, 77-68.  In a game played at a frenetic pace that appeared to favor VCU, Panthers freshman point guard Deon Mitchell was the star for UNI.  He was 7-11 from the field for 18 points while adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists.

The difference in the game was likely the 18 UNI turnovers that VCU forced. That, and a questionable no-call on a UNI shot followed by a layup and foul called in VCU’s favor that turned the game heavily toward VCU in the final minutes. Despite that, UNI used a Deon Mitchell layup with 57 seconds to play to cut the Ram lead to 73-68. Surpisingly, however, UNI did not foul. Instead, VCU ran down the shot clock and scored on a relatively uncontested layup with 30 seconds remaining which all but ended UNI’s chances.

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MVC games – ESPN’s BracketBusters weekend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again – ESPN’s 10th annual Sears BracketBusters weekend. Whether you love it or hate it, the Valley will have all ten league teams participating over the next couple of days. Here is the schedule of games with applicable television coverage. We will try to get game previews posted soon.

February 17:

Northern Iowa @ Virginia Commonwealth, 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

February 18:

Wichita State @ Davidson, 11 AM CT (ESPN or ESPN2)
Southern Illinois @ Ball State, 1 PM CT
Indiana State at Butler, 1 PM CT
Drake @ New Mexico State, 2 PM CT (ESPNU)
Old Dominion @ Missouri State, 4 PM CT (ESPNU)
Oakland @ Illinois State, 4 PM CT
Loyola-Chicago @ Bradley, 7 PM CT
Long Beach State @ Creighton, 9 PM CT (ESPN2)
Western Illinois @ Evansville, TBD

Updated MVC standings and seeding probabilities – Feb 15

Congrats to Wichita State for clinching at least a share of the regular season Missouri Valley Conference championship.  Following the games tonight, here are the updated standings and current seedings for Arch Madness.

With 10 conference games remaining, there are 1,024 different outcomes for the remainder of the conference season. The below charts break down the possible finishes. The top chart is the specific number of occurrences, and the bottom chart is the percentage that calculates to. These charts take into account the head-to-head tiebreaker (and mini round-robin for a 3+ way tie), and assume that if the mini round-robin does not break the tie, it goes straight to the out of conference strength of schedule tiebreaker. Currently that order is what I have from ESPN (WSU 29, UNI 30, BU 56, MSU 78, EU 181, CU 188, DU 235, ISU-Red 298, ISU-Blue 300, SIU 316).

For those of you who would like to see a more realistic liklihood of where teams may be seeded – this is for you. Below you will see the remaining 10 conference games with weighted odds attached to them (from realtimerpi.com). These odds are then used to calculate the below seeding probabilities.

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Preview of MVC games – Wednesday Feb 15

There are a couple of Valley games tonight with high intrigue. The matchup between the Shockers and Bears offers WSU a chance to celebrate a league title on their home floor. The Aces-Panthers game is a chance for one team to inch further away from a Thursday night date in St. Louis.

Missouri State (+11.5) at Wichita State
After the hiccup in Des Moines, Wichita State has not only looked like the best Valley team, but one of the better teams in America. It’s a big number tonight as the Bears enter the Roundhouse, but I suspect Kyle Weems will be prepared to play and Missouri State keeps it close. I’ll take WSU to get a close win, but MSU to beat the spread.

Northern Iowa (+1) at Evansville
This is a critical game to help stave off a Thursday night appearance for both teams, but it probably means more to Evansville since they close the season against Missouri St and Creighton. For comparison, UNI has Bradley & SIU remaining. After a putrid second half against Drake, I’ll take Colt and Co. to get a much needed win tonight at home.

 

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Preview – Drake (-2) at Bradley

On paper, this looks like quite a mismatch, even though only a few places in the standings separate the two teams. Drake still has a lot to play for between Arch Madness seeding and a possible postseason berth in a tournament like the CBI, while Bradley is mired in last place. Still, the Braves should be no pushover for the Bulldogs.

Two factors make this a potentially interesting game: Drake’s road struggles and subpar record the second time through the Valley schedule under Phelps. Under Phelps, Drake is 12-32 on the road, which means that even against the dregs of the league, this game will probably be competitive, especially since the same fixture in at the Knapp Center wasn’t a blowout either. Couple this with the fact that Phelps is 9-25 in Valley return games, and there could be an upset brewing in Peoria that would seriously derail the Bulldogs’ hopes of avoiding Thursday night in St. Louis.

The outcome of the game is likely to hinge on which Bulldogs team that Phelps sends out Wednesday night. If he sends out a team with a gameplan intent on playing in the halfcourt and trying to grind it out, he’s playing right into Geno Ford’s hands. If he connects the dots from the decisive 24-4 run against Evansville, he’ll continue to let the players open things up and push the tempo, resulting in some easy layups and open shots from 3 that the Bulldogs were able to convert with ease against the Aces.

My prediction:
Drake wins in a cagey game with a big game from Kurt Alexander canceling out Taylor Brown having a big night. Drake 58, Bradley 51.

Updated Arch Madness Seed Probabilities – Feb 14

With 13 conference games remaining, there are 8,192 different outcomes for the remainder of the conference season. The below charts break down the possible finishes. The top chart is the specific number of occurrences, and the bottom chart is the percentage that calculates to. These charts take into account the head-to-head tiebreaker (and mini round-robin for a 3+ way tie), and assume that if the mini round-robin does not break the tie, it goes straight to the out of conference strength of schedule tiebreaker. Currently that order is what I have from ESPN (WSU 27, UNI 35, BU 62, MSU 78, CU 190, EU 191, DU 227, ISU-Red 296, ISU-Blue 298, SIU 321).

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