Tag:Missouri Valley
Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:53 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:43 pm

Southern Illinois parts ways with Lowery

By Jeff Goodman

Chris Lowery was one of the hottest names in the country just a few years ago. Now Southern Illinois has decided to part ways with its head coach. 

A news conference is scheduled for Friday at 3:30 p.m. 

Sources have told CBSSports.com that Lowery was fired Friday after eight years that produced a 145-116 record. The Salukis went to three NCAA tournaments in Lowery's first three seasons but have struggled over the past four seasons and failed to reach the postseason each time. Southern Illinois was 8-23 this season. The Salukis lost Thursday night to Indiana State in the opening round of the Missouri Valley conference tournament. 

Lowery, 39, had two years remaining on a seven-year contract worth more than $5 million.

A source told CBSSports.com that SIU will target Illinois' Bruce Weber if Illinois parts ways with its coach after this season. The Illini have lost seven of their past eight games, which has brought Weber's job security into question. Weber coached Southern Illinois from 1998-2003.

Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:47 pm

Despite depth, MVC could be headed for two bids

By Jeff Borzello

The Missouri Valley Conference as a whole hasn’t been this good in several years, with several teams capable of winning the league title. Moreover, the middle of the league is strong and road games in the MVC are as tough as any league in the country.

But it’s those strengths – good depth and teams that protect their home court – that could limit the Missouri Valley to two bids this season.

Right now, there’s six teams with at least 10 wins and RPIs that are 102 or better.

Creighton has the best chance of any team in the league to get an at-large bid. The Bluejays are the regular-season favorite and already have non-conference wins over Northwestern and San Diego State. Moreover, they beat Wichita State on the road and held off Northern Iowa on Tuesday night. While the losses at Saint Joseph’s and Missouri State were surprising, they’re not bad defeats. They’re in the best shape going forward.

Then there’s Wichita State. The Shockers have the best win of anyone in the league, their 19-point home victory of UNLV back in early December. All three of their losses are to top-25 RPI teams and they’ve already picked up two road wins in MVC play. Assuming Wichita State is still in the mix come February, a six-game stretch where it faces Creighton, Northern Iowa, Indiana State, Illinois State and Missouri State (twice) will put them in or out of the field.

After that, I’m not sure there’s anyone with a NCAA tournament-worthy profile at this point.

Northern Iowa has great computer numbers, but the Panthers need more quality wins. Iowa State is the best one so far. Two sub-100 losses and a 2-3 start to conference play aren’t helping either.

Missouri State could be an interesting case. The Bears already won at Creighton and Indiana State, which will give them a big boost later in the season. If they hold serve at home, they could be in contention for the regular-season title. That would be a nice card to play on Selection Sunday.

Illinois State has a gaudy record and wins over Northern Iowa and Missouri State, but three sub-100 losses and bad computer numbers will seal their fate. Indiana State has a road win at Vanderbilt, but the rest of the cupboard is pretty bare. Both would have to make a huge run.

Although league play is only a couple of weeks old, we’re already starting to see the top teams beat up on each other. While that makes for an exciting conference race, it’s not good for at-large teams. Moreover, some of the teams at the bottom are proving to be very tough tests for the top-tier teams, especially on their home court. Going forward, a couple of teams are going to need to separate themselves from the pack. A big Bracket Busters weekend from the league is necessary, too.

Creighton and Wichita State seem to be in good shape, but the rest of the league has a lot of work to do if more than two teams are coming out of the MVC.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:42 pm

Missouri State's Weems shows loyalty paying off

By Jeff Goodman

OMAHA, Neb. - Kyle Weems had every excuse to bolt. 

New coach, seven new faces and a team that was set to be picked in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley. 

However, Weems - who could have taken advantage of the NCAA's fifth-year rule and played for a high-profile program such as Kansas, Kansas State or Oregon this year - remained at Missouri State. 

"It was flattering," Weems said moments after torching Creighton for 31 points in a 77-65 road upset. "But I love this university. I didn't want to leave this place." 

"I could have left," said Weems, who would have needed to finish an internship in the summer. "But I didn't want to be like that. My mother and father raised me not to run from challenges." 

Weems was the Valley's reigning Player of the Year, but the rest of the starting unit from the Bears team that went 26-9 overall and 15-3 in the league had moved on. The leading returning scorer to accompany Weems was Caleb Patterson, who played just 13.6 minutes last season. 

Then his coach, Cuonzo Martin, left for Tennessee. 

"I never worried about him leaving, mostly because of the people around him -- his mom and dad," new coach Paul Lusk said. "He's too good of a kid and has so much substance." 

There was Weems, who had struggled for much of the season with a new, unproven cast surround him, draining key 3-pointers in the second half to give the Bears the unlikely road victory over a Creighton team that entered the contest ranked 19th in the nation. 

Outplaying the guy on the other side, Doug McDermott, who had received far more accolades for his play thus far this season. 

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to come out and prove something -- not only for the team," Weems said. "But this was huge for us. It shows that we're still a team to be reckoned with." 

But this was a Missouri State team that has Weems and a bunch of guys that few know much about. Lusk had no option but to add a couple of junior college guys in Anthony Downing and Jarmar Gulley. He took Michael Bizoukas and handed him the starting point guard spot despite being nothing more than a role guy for the last three seasons at DePaul. He was forced to give Caleb Patterson major minutes even though he rarely played meaningful time on last season's veteran-laden team. 

It was a Bears team that came into the game with a 7-5 record, one that has been omitted from the conversation when discussing potential Missouri Valley teams that could make their way into the NCAA tournament conversation. 

"I understand it," Weems said of the lower expectations. "But it's hard to deal with it." 

Weems had also struggled individually, averaging 14.3 points while shooting below 40 percent from the field and just 33 percent from beyond the arc. But it was just a matter of time before he broke out -- and it happened in the second half on Wednesday when he scored 25 of his points and made all three of his attempts from long distance. 

"Every coach hoped he didn't bust out against them," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "But it happened tonight." 

In the same uniform he's donned for the past three years. 

Posted on: December 27, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:35 pm

Conference Reset

As well roll into January that can only mean one thing -- we're about to launch full swing into conference play.

For some teams, non-conference play was a wake-up call. Teams that many thought would easily stroll into the NCAA tournament come March will now have to pick up the pace in league play.

Through Jan. 5, the CBSSports.com college basketball crew will be putting the spotlight on every major league, letting you know what you may have missed and what do you need to watch out for going forward.

  • ACC
    The ACC is going to be great soon with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But is it great right now? Not really. North Carolina remains a national title contender, Duke is Duke (despite Wednesday's loss at Temple) and Virginia is a surprise. But the league's other nine teams are either unproven or proven to be average or bad, and that's not a good look for a conference that prides itself on playing a high level of basketball. Read More >>
  • Atlantic 10
    For a while, it appeared the Atlantic 10 might finish without a conference champ. Xavier got off to a sizzling start with nine straight victories. Then came The Brawl -- followed by the Fall. Xavier suspended Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells after the fight with cross-town rival Cincinnati -- and it all fell apart. Chris Mack's team lost three of its next four, including setbacks to Oral Roberts and Hawaii, which gave hope to everyone else in the league. Now Rick Majerus' Saint Louis team, which has only one loss thus far, may have a shot. Temple has struggled at times, but the Owls could challenge. And Saint Joseph's finally appears back in contention after two brutal campaigns. Read More >>
  • Big 12
    The Big 12 title is up for grabs. Kansas has been king of the league for most of the past decade, but this season the Jayhawks look vulnerable. No one can match the talent and length of Scott Drew's Baylor squad, but the Bears haven't been the most impressive team in the conference thus far -- that honor belongs to Missouri and new coach Frank Haith. But don't count out Kansas State as long as Frank Martin has this group of somewhat anonymous Wildcats buying into his brand of basketball -- which means playing hard. Read More >>
  • Big East
    When compared to last season, the Big East might look down this year. It's not going to be in the mix for 10 or 11 NCAA tournament bids, and the bottom of the league is not very strong. With that said, don't underestimate the conference too much; it has at least three legitimate top 10 teams and six teams who should receive top-four seeds in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Big Ten
    How many teams can enter league play these days and legitimately say they have eight teams in the equation for an NCAA tournament bid? Probably just one, and that's the Big Ten. After Ohio State, there's plenty of depth in this conference, which has established itself as the premiere league in the country this season. Read More >>
  • Conference USA
    Though Memphis is a disappointment, it's still the best team in Conference USA by a wide margin. But don't take my word for it. Take Ken Pomeroy's. His invaluable site (KenPom.com) still has Memphis ranked 31st and projected to be favored in every game it plays the rest of the way. So that 8-5 record is likely to turn into something like 26-8 on Selection Sunday (barring serious injuries or notable suspensions, the latter of which is always a possibility at Memphis). So Memphis will win C-USA. The real question is whether C-USA can put two teams in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Horizon League
    It doesn't seem likely that the Horizon will produce a national finalist for the third year in a row, but that doesn't mean the conference has taken a huge fall. Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee have played well during non-conference play, and the league has had a few marquee clips against BCS-league teams. And what about Butler, the aforementioned two-time national finalist? The Bulldogs are turning things around as we enter conference play. But the rest of the league won't let Brad Stevens' troops waltz to a yet another Horizon title. Read More >>
  • Missouri Valley
    It's been a few years since the Valley was this good, even though the bottom part of this one (like most leagues) has a few bad teams. The race to win the league should be among four teams. For whatever reason, MVC clubs capture the hope of many in the tournament. Creighton, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Southern Illinois are all schools that have had big March moments. Two of the aforementioned can and should get into the Big Dance this year. Read More >>
  • Mountain West
    It's better than the Pac-12, and the case could be made it's the fourth-best collection of teams in college hoops. There isn't one group that's even flirting with .500. For a non-BCS conference, that's pretty unexpected and really good. And its success so far goes much deeper than Vegas' defeat of UNC back in November and Steve Fisher's insistence on looking like he teaches grad-level lit classes. Read More >>
  • Pac-12
    The Pac-12 has become the rebellious teenager that gets in its own way and is hurtling toward a life with no future. Here we are again having the same discussion we’ve been having the past few years. Nothing seems to be changing. This league is putrid yet again, and where’s the hope? Not an overstatement: Three Pac-12 teams making the NCAA tournament will be a genuine achievement. Read More >>
  • SEC
    Some fans take joy in the fact that John Calipari has never won a national title. If you're one of those, you might be in trouble. Kentucky really might do it this year. The Wildcats are big and strong and long and talented. They have shooters. They have shot-blockers. They've got everything you need to win a national championship, and they are, right now, the favorites out in Las Vegas. Read More >>
  • West Coast
    Outside of the six BCS-affiliated conferences, the No. 7 spot in league rankings is up for grabs. Why not the West Coast Conference? With three legitimate threats to win a game in the NCAA tournament, the WCC has as good of an argument as anyone. Moreover, with some of the non-conference wins the bottom half of the league picked up in November, the quality victories are there as well. Read More >>

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 3:29 pm

Missouri Valley has look of multiple-bid league

By Jeff Goodman

The Missouri Valley has been a one-bid league for the past four years. 

That'll change this season. 

League commissioner Doug Elgin isn't quite ready to put his league on par with 2005 and 2006, but he's also not afraid to admit that this year the conference should be in position to receive multiple bids come March. 

The top four teams -- Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State and Northern Iowa -- are 36-7 overall. All rank in the Top 50 of the RPI and the league certainly has the look and feel of a multiple-bid conference this season. 

Back in mid-December of 2005-06, when the Valley wound up with three teams in the NCAA tournament, there were six teams in the RPI's Top 75 and the non-conference mark for the league was 57-20. The next season, when a record four schools got into the Big Dance, there were four teams in the Top 75 and the non-conference record was 66-22. 

This season there are four teams in the Top 50 and the non-conference record is 70-33. 

"We're decidedly stronger and deeper than we've been in the last three or four years," Elgin said. "Juniors and seniors are leading the way, and we have some really good point guards on the contending programs." 

There are some marquee wins for the league as well. Indiana State took care of Vanderbilt with its star big man, Festus Ezeli; Wichita State defeated UNLV; and Creighton knocked off San Diego State on the road. The league isn't ranked second or third in the RPI - as it was back in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons - but it's eighth overall. 

Creighton is considered the premiere team in the league and also boasts the frontrunner for conference Player of the Year honors -- Doug McDermott. But Greg Lansing's Indiana State team proved it may be improved from a year ago -- when it went to the NCAA tournament -- with the win in Nashville against Vandy. Gregg Marshall has his best overall team since arriving at Wichita State, with five guys in double-figures, and Ben Jacobsen has made certain Northern Iowa hasn't fallen off the map since the huge upset over Kansas in the NCAA tournament a couple years ago. 

Elgin said that there has clearly been an increased commitment by the league as a whole to boost their non-conference schedules.

"Part of the problem the last few years was that the teams that ended up being our strongest didn't have the non-conference schedules," Elgin admitted. 

Elgin also said coaching stability has something to do with the success this season. Missouri State's Paul Lusk is the only rookie coach. New Bradley coach Geno Ford has experience coming from Kent State and every other coach has at least three years of head coaching experience in the league except for Lansing - who was an assistant coach for the Sycamores before getting the head gig. 

"It's too early to start counting our chickens," Elgin said. "But I think we're certainly getting close to where we were." 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com