Thursday, March 2, 2006

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference previews.

The Missouri Valley Conference was the best conference in the country outside of the "Big Six". It is ranked #6 in the RPI and has six teams in the Top 50 of the RPI. Wichita State won their last four games to win the conference by two games at 14-4. Five teams finished either 12-6 or 11-7. The race for the championship was one of the best in the country. This could be the most wide-open conference race in the nation.

Favorites and Contenders: This league does not have a clear-cut favorite. Even Wichita State can not be considered to be the team to beat headed into the conference tournament. The Shockers did not have the league wrapped up until the final week of the season, and that is because everyone else began losing. Therefore, we are going to group the six teams with a chance to win the tournament championship in one group, starting with the top-seed, Wichita State. As we mentioned before, the Shockers have won their last four conference games and 12 of their last 14 MVC contests. On paper, they aren't the most impressive team, but they find ways to win. They have possibly the best frontcourt in the conference in the MVC in Paul Miller, Kyle Wilson, and swing forward P.J. Couisnard. Miller and Wilson are excellent down low, while Couisnard is an inside-outside threat. On the perimeter, Sean Ogirri is the main scorer. Southern Illinois got the second seed, but has lost 3 of 4 and 5 of 8 overall. They have the best defensive team in the league but also have the worst scoring offense. The backcourt duo of Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young is one of the best in the MVC, as Young is a lock-down defender and Tatum is a solid all-around performer. Randal Falker is the main option down low, while Matt Shaw is another decent player up front. Missouri State has won 8 of 9 and are one of the hottest teams in the country. They are the second highest-scoring team in the MVC and are the best-shooting team as well, from the field, the free-throw line, and beyond the arc. The Bears are led by Blake Ahearn, the MVC's leading scorer. Also producing on the perimeter are guards Tyler Chaney and Deke Thompson. Up front, Kellen Easley is the league's best sixth man, while Nathan Bilyeu is a solid performer. Creighton is another MVC team that is backing into the conference tournament. The Bluejays have lost 3 of 5 and have only scored above 70 points once in the past ten games. However, it is still surprising that they have played this well without star Nate Funk, who went down with an injury after 6 games. Guard Johnny Mathies and center Anthony Tolliver form one of the best inside-outside duos in the league. Nick Porter has been playing well lately, while Dane Watts has been inconsistent down the stretch. Bradley might be the hottest team in the league after winning 9 of their past 11. Many consider the Braves to be the most talented team in the league, and they lead the league in blocks, steals, assists, and rebounds per game. They can also get it done on the offensive end. Patrick O'Bryant is one of the best big men in the league and is a premier shot-blocker. Marcellus Sommerville is an excellent offensive player can carry the Braves on that end. However, he tends to be selfish at times and force shots. Lawrence Wright rounds out an outstanding frontcourt. Tony Bennett is the main man in the backcourt. Northern Iowa was considered one of the top mid-majors in the country a few weeks ago. However, they have lost four of their last five and five of eight overall. They need to right the ship if they want to feel safe about an NCAA Tournament bid. They do have the potential to win the title, though. Ben Jacobson is one of the best players in the conference, while Erik Crawford has great potential on the wing. Grant Stout is an excellent scorer and rebounder on the interior and Erik Coleman is a talented but inconsistent post player.

Sleeper: Indiana State started the season 7-0, but then star David Moss went down with an injury. They then lost 11 in a row. However, Moss is back and the Sycamores have beaten the likes of Bradley, Northern Iowa, and Southern Illinois in the past month. Moss is one of the best all-around players in the conference and can carry ISU on his back. Tyson Schnitker and Gabriel Moore are also solid scorers in the backcourt.

Prediction: This is one of the toughest leagues in the country to predict. Any one of six teams could easily find a way to win the title. Whoever gets the most momentum and gets hot at the right time will win the automatic bid. Right now, the two hottest teams are Missouri State and Bradley. Guess what I think the title game is going to be? You got it--Missouri State and Bradley. I think that Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois are both slumping, while Bradley has the talent to take down Wichita State and Creighton. In the championship, Missouri State is going to ride the league's best offense and Blake Ahearn to a conference championship. Bradley is going to give them an excellent run, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment