North Dakota St rallies past Illinois St to earn 4th straight FCS national title

In a game befitting it’s “championship game” title, Missouri Valley Football Conference co-champions North Dakota State and Illinois State staged a classic football game on Saturday afternoon in Frisco, Texas. Searching for their first ever football national title, the Redbirds took a late 27-23 lead on QB Tre Robertson’s 58-yard TD run with 1:58 remaining. The defending champion Bison repsonded, however, and won the game 29-27 when NDSU QB Carson Wentz scored from five yards out with just 37 seconds left in the game.

The Bison finished their season 15-1, earning their 4th consecutive FCS national championship. The Redbirds finished their season 13-2.

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Missouri Valley Conference Power Rankings – Updated December 28

As the Missouri Valley Conference nears the conclusion of the non-conference portion of the college basketball season, we offer our mid-year report on the league as a whole.  Updated power rankings are posted below and mid-season honorees will be named later this week. There is some significant shakeup since our last update and this is the first without Wichita St atop the poll.

MVC Power Rankings

1) Northern Iowa 10-1 – While it’s been good for the MVC to have a dominant team like Wichita State, it’s a better problem for them to have an equal.  UNI sits at #23 in the national polls with only a 2OT loss at VCU.  As WSU has struggled, we move the Panthers to top of the power rankings.. for now.
2) Wichita State 10-2 – The Shockers struggled mightily (but won) against Alabama and Hawaii, however, they couldn’t overcome GW on Christmas Day.  WSU has had offensive struggles and Coach Marshall will need the play of both Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker to improve to capture another MVC title.
3) Loyola 10-2 - Porter Moser’s club is the surprise of the Valley so far and we’ve given the Ramblers a battlefield promotion this week based on their 18 point victory over Texas Tech and solid win over Boise State.  It’s almost impossible to quantify what Milton Doyle’s unexpected return has done for Loyola.
4) Evansville 9-2 - The Aces have two losses this season (each by 2 points), but lack the signature wins of the teams ahead of them in these rankings.  A New Year’s Day MVC opener at home against Top 25 UNI should bring out a huge crowd and UE would send a resounding message to the rest of the league if they could pull off a victory.
5) Illinois State 7-4 -  ISU sits firmly in the middle of these rankings – Redbirds play well enough at times to beat the teams at the top of the MVC and poorly enough at times to lose to the bottom teams.
6) Missouri State 6-6 – Bears have scuffled in the early going and dropped three consecutive games prior to an important revenge victory over Oral Roberts on Monday.  Marcus Marshall has been tremendous averaging 22.0 ppg.

7-10) There is very little separating the bottom 4 teams so they are listed simply as Thursday night teams for this update:

Southern Illinois 7-6  A road loss to SEMO and home losses to New Orleans and Murray State aren’t all that bad considering the next three resumes.
Bradley 4-8 – Braves have lost 4 of 5 with only win over Eureka?
Indiana State 4-7 – Sycamores have lost 6 of 7 with only win over Truman State?
Drake 3-9 – Bulldogs own just three wins – over IUPUI, Jackson State, and Simpson College. 


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FCS National Championship will be an MVFC matchup – Illinois St vs North Dakota St


For the first time in FCS history, two teams from the same league will play one another in the title game. The FCS began conducting a tournament in 1978 (then called I-AA).

Illinois State (13-1) is making its first title game appearance. The Redbirds beat UNI, Eastern Washington and New Hampshire in the playoffs to get there.

North Dakota State (14-1) is making its fourth-straight title game trip. The Bison are the three-time defending national champions and beat South Dakota State, Coastal Carolina and Sam Houston State to reach Frisco this year.

The teams did not play each other this year and shared the MVFC title with identical 7-1 league records (both teams lost at UNI).


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Wichita St rallies to shock Alabama 53-52

Wichita State rallied from an 11 point deficit with under six minutes to play to ruin Alabama’s upset bid at Koch Arena on Tuesday night. Before a national television audience and Hall of Fame announcer Dick Vitale, preseason All-American Fred VanVleet passed to Darius Carter for the go ahead slam dunk in the final seconds. The basket capped a 13-1 run for the Shockers to end the game.

The Shockers have now won 23 straight home games.


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Missouri Valley Conference Power Rankings – Updated December 9

We are officially one month into the college basketball season and the play of both Wichita State and Northern Iowa has caught the eye of many in the college hoops world.  The Shockers remain highly ranked despite a close loss to Utah and the Panthers enter the polls after a spotless start.  Frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine either team moving out of the Top 2 this season, but there’s plenty of jockeying for position throughout the rest of these rankings.  Without further adieu, here are my updated MVC Power Rankings:

MVC Power Rankings

1) Wichita State 5-1 – Shockers lost their first regular season game in 2 seasons, but have been dominant in every other outing.  Ron Baker was my MVC Player of the Year pick before the season started and he hasn’t disappointed averaging 17.8 ppg.
2) Northern Iowa 8-0 - UNI entered the polls at 23/24 for the first time since 2010.  A nearly unforgiveable home loss to George Mason was salvaged in OT, but non-conference games against VCU and Iowa in the next 10 days are critical to NCAA hopes in March.
3) Evansville 6-1 - Marty Simmons has Evansville off to a great start with the only loss being a 2 point defeat at UW-Green Bay.  Yes, the same GB team that won at #15 Miami by 13 points.  It’s unfortunate the overall non-conference schedule hasn’t provided the Aces with a chance to earn some national recognition for their fine start.
4) Illinois State 4-3- Although it might seem counterintuitive, I’ve giving the Redbirds the nod here based on losing two close games: 84-80 to undefeated Seton Hall and 66-62 to previously ranked VCU. A win at a surprising DePaul team would help solidify the spot, but it’s tenuous for now.
5) Loyola 5-2 - Ramblers have just two losses (vs Michigan St and 7-1 Tulane), but road wins at Kent State and UIC earn Porter Moser and Co. a promotion……………. for now.
6) Missouri State 4-3  – Not much good happened for MSU since our last rankings (losses to Colorado State and Washington St) plus the Oral Roberts game was postponed due to a power outage.  However, if the Bears can win their two remaining games of importance vs Tulsa and at home vs Oral Roberts, Bears will move up these rankings
7) Southern Illinois 5-3 – SIU earns a promotion based on a 4 game winning streak against overmatched competition that we predicted would happen in our last power rankings. It’s possible that the Salukis could win the next 5 as well.
8 ) Bradley 3-5 – Bradley moves up after going 1-3 in their last four games. The good news: the win was an impressive one against 6-1 Central Michigan. The bad news: leading score Warren Jones, who scored 33 in that game, is now out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.
9) Indiana State 3-5- It’s tough to penalize the Sycamores for losing games vs Illinois, Memphis, and at Butler over the last couple of weeks, but they have to go somewhere. Let it be known that I give credit to Greg Lansing for scheduling tough (and I privately wish the Aces had this schedule).
10) Drake 1-7 - The Bulldogs are who were thought they were – at least so far. If you are a Drake fan, it’s probably not too early to start making hotel reservations for Thursday night in St. Louis.


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PJS Report: Bradley looking at expanding Renaissance Coliseum as a possible full time home to Braves basketball

An article by Dave Reynolds in today’s Peoria Journal Star notes that the Bradley athletic department is looking at a potential expansion of the on-campus Renaissance Coliseum to be the new full time home to Braves basketball.

Coach Geno Ford sounds like he is on board:

“To be dead honest, we should be playing all our games in here. It’s so much louder. The atmosphere is 100 times better than downtown. That’s just the reality. We played with more bounce and more pop because there was an atmosphere.

The students were loud, the band was loud. It gave us extra juice. I thought we played as hard as we have all year in that game. I give the crowd a lot of credit for that. We probably need to evaluate where we’re playing and why. It’s not something that’s my call or the players’ call. But they like playing here.”

According to Reynolds, Bradley is in the final year of their 5 year lease with Carver Arena.

Read full article: Reynolds: Bradley coach lauds campus arena’s atmosphere

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Northern Iowa defeats Northwestern 61-42 to win Cancun Challenge

Congratulations to Northern Iowa for their impressive 61-42 victory over Northwestern in the championhip game of the Cancun Classic.  The Panthers are now 6-0 in the non-conference.

CANCUN, Mexico (AP) – Seth Tuttle scored 19 points and Northern Iowa beat Northwestern 61-42 to claim the Cancun Challenge championship.

Nate Buss added 11 points, including three 3-pointers, as the Panthers (6-0) posted their 11th win all-time against a Big Ten team.


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Missouri Valley Conference Power Rankings – Updated November 23

After two weeks of play, it’s time to quickly analyze what we have seen so far including the early season Valley bright spots (WSU and UNI) and also point out the hopefully premature dim areas of the league (looking at you, Bradley).

Here are my updated MVC Power Rankings:

MVC Power Rankings

1) Wichita State 2-0 – Shockers looked impressive in their season opening wins over New Mexico State and Memphis.  On paper, the Dec. 3 game at Utah appears the only game all season where the oddsmakers might not make WSU a sizeable favorite.
2) Northern Iowa 4-0 - UNI’s impressive win that snapped Stephen F. Austin’s home court winning streak on ESPN showed the nation that the Panthers are formidable and will threaten WSU in the Valley.  I think UNI will have a great resume on Selection Sunday.
3) Evansville 3-0 - UE’s 1-2 punch with Ballentine and Mockevicius is among (if not) the Valley’s best.  Aces scored a 19 point road drubbing of Miami-Ohio already, but schedule unfortunately lacks any potential signature non-con wins.

Chris’ note – After the Top 3 spots, things get really muddled.

4) Missouri State 2-1- After last year’s season ending injury, Marcus Marshall looked fully healthy while scoring 38 points in the season opener.  Yesterday’s loss to Texas Tech was uninspriring, but it’s hard to separate teams 3-8 so far.
5) Illinois State 1-1 – The Redbirds lost to Utah State to begin the year, but bounced back with a win over Weber State.  At this early stage, that’s good enough for 5th relative to their peers.
6) Indiana State 2-1  – A narrow loss at SLU was bookended by wins over IUPUI (in OT) and Brown.  Khristian Smith and Devonte Brown are the league’s highest scoring duo so far at 19.0 and 18.7, respectively.
7) Loyola 2-1 – The Ramblers were blown out at Michigan State by 35 points, but I ask you to find MVC teams not named WSU or UNI that wouldn’t have? Loyola has wins over Rockhurst and McKendree which count for nothing, but Milton Doyle looks good and that does matter.
8 ) Southern Illinois 2-3 – It has been a rough start for Barry Hinson, but today’s win over Illinois-Chicago could be the start of a winning streak as the schedule softens over the next couple of weeks.
9) Drake 0-3- Bulldogs haven’t been very competitive in losses to Bowling Green, DePaul, and Western Michigan.  However, with Gary Ricks and Karl Madison suspended, did you expect them to be?  Freshman Reed Timmer has been a bright spot in their absence.
10) Bradley 0-2 - Home losses to Texas-Arlington and Robert Morris have started the warmers on Geno Ford’s seat.  A win tonight over NC A&T is a must.


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Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet named preseason 1st team AP All-American


Congratulations to Wichita State junior point guard Fred VanVleet for being recognized as a preseason 1st team AP All-American today.

Shockers’ head coach Gregg Marshall told the AP:

“It’s nice that such a great player and great representative of our program is being honored in such a way, but it’s ever more special the quality of individual he is. He’s a great, great young man, he’s persevered and overcome some tough circumstances early in his life to be an exemplary college basketball student athlete.”


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My 2014-15 preseason All-MVC teams and individual award selections

Missouri Valley Conference Media Day returns to St. Louis tomorrow after a one year detour to Chicago last season. I expect Wichita State to be a unanimous favorite to win the league again in ’14-15 and both Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker will vie for Larry Bird Player of the Year honors. My predictions for all-MVC teams and individual honors are below.


First Team All Missouri Valley Conference
Ron Baker, Wichita State – Preseason MVC Player of the Year
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
DJ Balentine, Evansville
Anthony Beane Jr, SIU
Seth Tuttle, UNI


Second Team All-Missouri Valley Conference
Tekele Cotton, Wichita State
Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
Christian Thomas, Loyola
Daishon Knight, Illinois State
Khristian Smith, Indiana State
*Milton Doyle (injured)


Honorable Mention All-Missouri Valley Conference
Paul Jesperson, UNI
Devaughn Akoon-Purcell, Illinois State
Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville
Gary Ricks Jr, Drake
Deon Mitchell, UNI


Player of the Year – Ron Baker, Wichita State
Newcomer of the Year – Paul Jesperson, UNI
Freshman of the Year – Teddy Hawkins, Illinois State


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