Posted on: February 11, 2012 7:50 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 7:52 pm
By Gary Parrish
"It was all good just a week ago." -- Kanye West (and, presumably, Greg McDermott)
When we woke up last Saturday Creighton was 21-2 overall, 11-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference and alone atop the league standings. The Bluejays were going H.A.M. They were ranked 13th in the AP poll. Doug McDermott was a National Player of the Year candidate. It was all good.
Now it's remarkably bad.
The Bluejays lost their third straight Saturday.
This loss came by 21 points.
This loss came at home.
So now Creighton is 21-5 overall, 11-4 in the MVC and on its way to a second-place finish behind Wichita State, the school that delivered Saturday's 89-68 beatdown in Omaha. Barring too many stupid voters, the Bluejays will be unranked in both the AP and Coaches polls Monday. If not, you know what'll happen. But I really can't believe this has happened. It's the result of not making shots.
Creighton is statistically one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams.
Or perhaps I should say was.
When we woke up last Saturday the Bluejays were shooting 45.3 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked first nationally. Then they went 5-of-16 from 3-point range in a loss to Northern Iowa, 4-of-22 from 3-point range in a loss to Evansville and 5-of-23 from 3-point range in a loss to Wichita State. Translation: Creighton is 0-3 in its past three outings while shooting 22.9 percent from beyond the arc.
That's the obvious reason for the decline.
It was all good just a week ago.
Now, not so much.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:18 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:40 am
By Matt Norlander
Wichita State is going to the NCAA tournament. Count on that as much you would Syracuse, North Carolina, Kentucky or Ohio State to get to the field of 68. Gregg Marshall has his team performing at the highest of “mid-major” levels once again; his shockers sit at 17-3, on the verge of another 20-win season … yet find themselves an afterthought on the national landscape.
That a team like this isn’t catching eyes and tugging ears isn’t surprising — plenty of three-loss teams from outside the Big Six have yet to get their true do; Murray State will soak up all the non-BCS conference attention so long as that bagel sits on their ledger — but normally such a strong team in the Missouri Valley would command more attention by late January. Perhaps that speaks to first-place Creighton and its First Team All- America-worthy forward, Doug McDermott. We’ve already said, and will continue to say, plenty about the Bluejays.
But for now let’s discuss the Shockers’ not-so-shocking season so far and the man responsible for it.
It’s ironic that Marshall gets so much more attention in the offseason than he does from November to February. Marshall’s become one of the top targets for major-conference jobs. He could have easily not been the subject of this post. He could’ve left Wichita State last spring, after his team won the NIT, or the year before that. He passed on the N.C. State job (with a $1.9 million-per-year contract on the table) and the Texas A&M job and other jobs too. He’s done interview after interview, becoming a guy that’s on many an athletic director’s cherished “list,” should they choose to bail on the current coach in search of the next big one.
“In 13 years as a head coach, every year when you have success — Winthrop or Wichita State — when you have success, something is bantered about,” he said by phone last Friday, one day before his team beat Southern Illinois 85-42 at home. “In nine years at Winthrop, I probably had nine interviews. Maybe two one year and none the other year.”
It’s about timing as much as it is — or, in some instances, isn’t — about money for Marshall. He desperately wanted the Tennessee job that went to Buzz Peterson in 2001. He passed on a particularly tough Big East gig (that was offering more money) in 2007, when he opted to leave Winthrop for Wichita State. Winthrop was willing to name its court after him. But it was only if Marshall agreed to an ironclad 10-year contract, no outs involved.
He couldn’t do it. Loved Winthrop, but didn’t want his options taken away.
Through four and a half seasons at WSU, Marshall’s 99-58 and once again showing why he’s earned all that coveting by the bigger boys each April. He’s thrilled with where he is now, though. And in talking to him, I think the way this season’s gone so far has only enhanced just how happy he and his wife were to make the decision to not leave Wichita last year. What was once thought to be a gamble turned into a no-brainer.
Because he stayed, Wichita State is one of the best clubs from outside the Big Six. Marshall’s got a team with a load of experience but also just enough young guys to keep it unpredictable. Among non-Big Six teams, his point guard, Joe Ragland, is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons at the 1 in the country. Seven-footer Garrett Stutz — who Marshall laments lacks some of “my nasty” when it comes to how he plays — leads the team, by one decimal, in scoring (12.4 per game to Ragland’s 12.3). Stutz is day-to-day with a back injury.
The team has a great win over UNLV. Not only great, but definitive. The Shockers beat the Runnin’ Rebels by 19 in early December. It’s the win that will vault them to a seed line higher than they would have had without the victory.
The winning’s felt good and reassuring, but these days it’s the loss to Creighton that eats at Marshall. It’s like he can’t wait to punch back. The rematch comes in Omaha on Feb. 11. Marshall maintains the Dec. 31 loss was the only game this season when all five of his seasons played poorly simultaneously. The losses to Alabama and Temple in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off? He can’t avenge those two, the only other scratches from the schedule. Creighton’s another story. Creighton’s when Wichita State can get the chance to become the story of the Valley.
“I don’t know that we’re better than Creighton. I think that if we played 10 times, the series would go 4-6, 5-5,” Marshall said.
When I offer up the fact this team is top-20 in points per possession scored and allowed — something that’s never happened with any of his teams before — Marshall is shocked and please. He took the opportunity to reflect on 52 months spent in Kansas.
“When we got here, it was a little bare,” Marshall said. “Mark Turgeon had done a wonderful job. They were eighth-ranked in the country in Christmas of ’06, and then lost 14 out of 22, and it just fell apart. There were transfers, and when l arrived April 14, 2007, we had seven scholarships to give.”
The first year wasn’t good, but it remains the only time Marshall’s coached a team under .500. Since then, the real mark of his work as a coach is shown in the chart below. Every year since his arrival in Wichita, his teams have noticeably, incrementally gotten better in scoring more points per possession and allowing few points per possession, save the minor dip (103.8 to 102.2) on offense from year one to two. It's incredibly tough to get your team to improve like this year each over the course of five seasons. He’s approaching a ceiling, which is a good thing — there isn’t much room left to climb! Currently the Shockers are 14th overall in both adjusted offense and defense on KenPom.com.
Marshall attributes the ever-rising rankings to his change in strategy. Up until two years ago his teams jogged the ball up the floor after a made basket, always running a methodical set play. Now it’s pushing more frequently, evidenced by the 66. 8 possessions per game, also an all-time high for Marshall at Wichita State.
“Maybe I’ve just gotten smarter,” Marshall joked. “Maybe I’m playing more to the strengths of my group than I was earlier in my career. And as for our rebounding, we always say the defensive is possession is not over when the shot is taken. It is only over when you have the ball secure and are now on offense.”
If WSU keeps winning like this, and Marshall’s able to get the Shockers to their ninth NCAA tournament (the first under him), the calls will come again once the season ends. Don’t bank on him leaving, unless an incredible deal comes along. Marshall has coming in what he thinks is the best recruiting class he’s ever assembled. He and his wife would like to see their children graduate from high school in Wichita.Nevertheless, we're approaching a point where Marshall's work will be noticed as much during the season as after it. He's earned it, and his team deserves the same amount of credit as well.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:47 pm
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 21, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 3:29 pm
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."
Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 12:02 pm
Every Monday, we’re going to be giving you readers and fans and coaches more and more reason to hate us. How can we do this outside of just being our natural, irritating selves? By ranking as many teams in as many ways as possible, of course. And we won’t reserve our judgment for your scorn in big-boy country. No, we’d like to alienate ourselves to the fan bases around the nation, mid-major schools included.
This feature serves as a complement to the weekly Top 25 and One, which you can read right here.
No more ado — here’s how we see it, the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball as of Monday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m ET.
1. Xavier (6-0). A Sentence: There’s a considerable difference between X and everyone else, when you take into account the Muskies’ wins over Vandy on the road and the comeback W against Purdue last week. A Statistic: The only major flaw with Chris Mack’s team right now is the free-throw shooting. X is under 60 percent as a team. Will get them eventually. The Schedule: at Butler Wednesday; vs. Cincinnati Saturday.
2. Iona (6-1). A Sentence: Saw this team in person a week ago, and no joke, they look incredibly dangerous for pretty much any team outside of the top five right now. A Statistic: The Gaels are scoring 1.14 points per possession, which is definitely good, but a little less than I expected from the highest-scoring and highest assisting team in the country. The Schedule: at Denver Wednesday; at Marshall Sunday.
3. Harvard (8-0). A Sentence: I’d love for Harvard to justify me putting them this high with a win Thursday, but they merely need to keep it compelling. A Statistic: The Crimson have been helped by a “defensive” stat they have such little control over: free throw defense. Opponents are shooting an NCAA-worst 54 percent from the line against them. The Schedule: at Connecticut Thursday; at Boston University Saturday.
Ron Swanson Approves
4. UNLV (8-1): A Sentence: Beating North Carolina, then losing on the road at a Power Pyramid Wichita State team equates to a UNLV team smelling the Pyramid’s ceiling. A Statistic: 52.2 was the percentage from 3-point range the Shockers put up against UNLV over the weekend. It was the first time this season Vegas has had a team shoot better than 50 percent against them from downtown. The Schedule: vs. NAIA Cal State San Marcos Wednesday; at Wisconsin Saturday.
5. Creighton (7-0). A Sentence: Greg McDermott’s team is playing so well because his son is on his way to an Adam Morrison-like year in terms of offense. A Statistic: Remarkably, the Jay’s effective field goal percentage has rise, up to a still-tops-in-the-U.S. 60.9 clip. The Schedule: at St. Joseph’s Saturday.
6. Gonzaga (5-1). A Sentence: I’m not quite sure what Gonzaga will become, but I do know they’ve got plenty of chances, plenty of talent, and believe they’d beat everyone below them here on a neutral floor more times than not (as of today). A Statistic: The game, and loss, to Illinois was the first road game of Gonzaga’s season. Last year, the team was 7-5 on the road, and didn’t get above .500 in that category until the end of the year. More road woes coming this year?. The Schedule: vs. Michigan State Saturday.
7. Saint Louis (7-1). A Sentence: Have been impressed with Saint Louis so far, but for reasons I won’t expound upon here and now, I still remain wary. A Statistic: Saint Louis is in the shorter half of D-I teams, and they’re rebounding like it. The 24.2 offensive rebounding percentage will eventually need to come up, unless the team’s able to keep the eFG% above 58 (which it is now). The Schedule: vs. Vermont Wednesday; vs. D-II Illinois Springfield Saturday.
8. San Diego State (8-2). A Sentence: Interesting about this team right now: the numbers don’t love it, but boy have I and so many others been impressed. A Statistic: Despite the strong start, Aztecs are 58 in KenPom. Where’s the love? BYU is 21! The Schedule: at San Diego Wednesday.
9. Memphis (4-2). A Sentence: Tigers had a couple of patsies last weeks, so they fall slightly be default. A Statistic: Just take notice of the team above and the team right here. One’s played 10 games, the other six. There is a lot of room to flex between groups right now; we’ll have a better sense of the Pyramid’s hierarchy in about three weeks. The Schedule: at Miami Tuesday; vs. Murray State Sunday.
10. Belmont (5-2). A Sentence: I’ll take this moment this week to say: Unless Belmont starts ripping up opponents by 20-plus on the regular, they’re just going to be a really good, nondescript team off most non-Pyramid radars until late February. A Statistic: Last year, Belmont was one of the best teams in the country at turning you over. This year, it’s the opposite. The 14.1 offensive turnover rate is third-best nationally. The Schedule: vs. Tennessee State Tuesday.
11. Northern Iowa (7-1). A Sentence: The Valley is going to be a multi-bid league this year, and UNI will be making the NCAAs — yes, I’m saying that on Dec. 5. A Statistic: The Panthers’ D, giving up .93 points per possession, hasn’t been given enough love so far. Let’s see if this team can become as good on the D end as the 2009-10 group. The Schedule: vs. Iowa Tuesday; vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday.
12. Temple (4-2). A Sentence: Pretty sure Owls are in a tough spot this week; they’ll most definitely need to go 2-0 to remain inside the Pyramid’s walls on Dec. 12. A Statistic: Owls senior Michael Eric is currently taking more of your misses than anyone else. He possess a 34.6 success rate at grabbing defensive boards. The Schedule: at Toledo Wednesday; vs. Villanova Saturday.
13. New Mexico (6-2). A Sentence: Sophomore guard Kendall Williams has turned into a better player than I’d expected and is the reason UNM keeps a logo on this graphic. A Statistic: 23-4. That was the opening run to start Saturday’s game against Missouri State, which was in the Power Pyramid last Monday. The Schedule: at USC Saturday.
14. Wichita State (5-2). A Sentence: Valley swaps one team for another, as the Shockers replace Missouri State this week, keeping three teams in the rankings. A Statistic: In the out-of-nowhere performance to date this season, senior Joe Ragland scored 31 in the 89-70 WSU W over UNLV, thanks to eight 3s. Ragland boosted his PPG average to 11.9. The Schedule: at Tulsa Wednesday; vs. Utah State Saturday.
15. Murray State (9-0). A Sentence: Small surprise of the season: Billy Kennedy’s former team has started out terrifically without him. A Statistic: Three of the nine wins have been against foes outside of D-I, so that’s a big caveat. Wins over So. Miss and Dayton were convincing, though, so I’ve got the heart to put them in, just ahead of Tulane and College of Charleston. The Schedule: at Memphis Sunday.
Roaming outside the Pyramid:
♦ Out this week: Missouri State, Marshall. In: Murray State, Wichita State.
Posted on: September 21, 2011 8:52 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 8:59 am
The highly-publicized recruitment of Perry Ellis is just hours away from ending.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Wichita Heights (Kan.) will announce his commitment at 2:45 p.m. local time during a press conference at his high school gym. The finalists for his services are Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State.
Throughout his recruitment, Kansas has been considered by some to be the favorite, but the family has not shown their cards heading into the final day.
“All four coaches have recruited him for at least three years,” Fonda Ellis, Perry’s mother, told CBSSports.com. “They have built a relationship with Perry and our whole family. They are all great programs and we think they all are great choices.”
Fonda Ellis took some time to break down each of the four choices.
Kansas and Kentucky are in the mix because of their tradition.
“They both have it,” she said. “From the history to the winning to the fans to the coaches.”
Ellis likes the desire that Kansas State players have.
“Coach [Frank] Martin has his players playing with heart,” she said.
As for the hometown school, Ellis thinks Gregg Marshall has put Wichita State on par with bigger and more traditional basketball schools.
“Under Gregg Marshall, he has done an awesome job rebuilding the program to the next level,” Fonda Ellis said.
Ellis is ranked No. 27 by CBSSports.com. He is a versatile forward who can score in a variety of ways. Ellis is able to post up defenders and score with his back to the basket, but he is also capable of facing up opponents and knocking down mid-range and perimeter shots. He finishes well at the rim, and is solid on the glass.
Whichever school hears its name this afternoon will be getting an impact performer.
“Perry wants to pick a school that makes him feel totally comfortable,” Fonda Ellis said. “From the coaches to the players to the style of play and the campus. We just want Perry to be happy, and if he is happy, he will be comfortable and successful.”
Photo: Adidas Nations
Posted on: August 24, 2011 9:16 am
Edited on: August 24, 2011 9:19 am
By Gary Parrish
Gregg Marshall likes to win.
He's competitive and he's a basketball coach, and that means every time he puts a team on a court he wants his players to have more points than the other players when the final buzzer sounds. He can't help it -- which is why it took great discipline to do what Marshall did during Wichita State's recent 11-day, five-game trip to Brazil.
"There was one game where I played nothing but freshmen and a transfer," Marshall said. "That was good. And in a lot of games I played the veterans and the new guys equally -- just tried to put my competitive nature on check and get those new guys meaningful minutes. I think that's going to help us in November and December. We all want to win, but you're there to get better. So you have to alter your mindset a little bit."
Wichita State returned home from Brazil last week.
Marshall shared his thoughts about the trip with CBSSports.com on Monday.
What Marshall learned: "I learned that our young guys have learned how intense and focused and passionate they have to be on every possession [at the college level]. This is different for them. A lot of these guys are so talented that they could coast a little bit [in high school]. But they now know what's expected, and they now have two months to do all the things to get prepared for [the start of practice on] Oct. 15. They'll be able to say, 'I'm ready for this.'"
What or who impressed Marshall: "I was most impressed with some of our new guys. That was the group I was focusing on, and, to be honest, that's the group that showed the most positive signs relative to what I was expected. There are some new guys who we are going to need to be ready, and they showed that they're going to be ready."
What concerned Marshall: "My veterans were up and down. They need to be more consistent. Obviously, they've got talent. I've got five or six guys who could be all-conference. But which ones are going to do that? Which ones are going to step up in the next 50 days and get ready to have a monster junior or senior season?"
----- NOTES -----
Posted on: May 20, 2011 12:29 pm
Wichita Heights (Kan.) has won three consecutive state championships and currently own a 44-game winning streak.
It’s scary to think they could be even better next year given the way Perry Ellis is improving.
“Perry is getting stronger,” said his mother, Fonda. “His shooting has really improved, he is more explosive and more confident.”
Ellis is a 6-foot-8 forward who is ranked among the top-20 players in his class by most services. He can score in a variety of ways, with his back to the basket or in the mid-range while facing up. Ellis runs the floor effectively and knows how to finish at the rim.
He was receiving interest and offers from nearly every big-time school, but trimmed his list in early December. Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma and Wichita State made the finalists for Ellis, who has since heard from Minnesota and Duke.
“I would say that Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State have all shown the most [interest] this spring,” Fonda Ellis said. “We received a call from Duke’s new assistant Jeff Capel on Tuesday.”
Ellis said the perseverance and time each school put in has made them attractive to her son.
“They are all great programs and they all have been recruiting him for a while,” she said. “He has built strong relationships with most of the coaches since eighth and ninth grade.”
Perry visited Wichita State this week, but does not plan to make any other visits until the fall. He will be on the AAU circuit this spring and summer with the Kansas Pray and Play Players.
His mother said there are no favorites yet, but he is looking for a place where he will be “totally comfortable.”
“He is really not ready to do that yet,” Ellis said in terms of leaning one way or another. “He wants to see what happens this summer first.
“He would like to take his official visits this fall and hopefully commit or sign by early signing [period].”
By that time, Wichita Heights will be on the verge of starting a run at a fourth straight state title – led by Ellis, of course.