2005-2006 Missouri Valley Conference Preview - Bracketography.com

2005-2006 Missouri Valley Conference Preview


by Andy Force
Senior Writer, Bracketography.com
December 9, 2005


'Tis the season to be jolly for the Missouri Valley Conference. Noteworthy wins abound for the insultingly dubbed "mid-major" conference. In particular, December 6th was a landmark night for "The Valley." Across the country, only two top 25 teams lost, and both were bested by a MVC opponent. Northern Iowa knocked off Iowa, 67-63, in an outstanding overtime contest. Meanwhile, Indiana State disposed of the pride of Indiana, the Hoosiers, 72-67. Grouped with an Evansville win over Purdue, the MVC is 3-1 on the year versus the Big Ten.

Indiana State has a mid-sized arena called the Hulman Center, which was filled to the rafters on Monday night. The crowd was electric but not unified. As per usual, the court's end was filled with rowdy Sycamore fans whipped into frenzy by the opportunity to knock of a ranked opponent for the first time in nearly five years. The upper bowl, however, featured a highly visible red hue as Indiana fans did not shy away from the red sweater look. With a student section featuring five painted bodies, masks, and continuous tongue-lashing chants directed at the officials, the mood was focused intensity.

Despite trailing by 11 at the half, Indiana State came out with a prolonged 14-6 run to open the second frame. Playing from ahead they attacked the offensive glass and nailed timely triples. More than anything else, the story of the game was ISU coach Royce Waltman figuring out a way to stop the gargoyle-strong Marco Killingsworth, something Mike Kryzyzewski and Duke could not do.

Indiana State defended the Hoosiers with a collapsing 2-3 zone. The focus was double- and triple-teaming Killingsworth, who committed a mind-boggling 7 turnovers. Storming the floor, Sycamore fans celebrated their team's second straight home win over Indiana. The blue-clad members of that sell-out crowd relished knocking off big brother (as predicted by Bracketography writer Matthew Stevens), as their team turned up the burners beneath Mike Davis' already hot seat.

Northern Iowa entered the season with a smidgen of national respect, as the current nucleus earned an at-large bid to last year's NCAA Tournament.

Other Valley teams have also made their way into the NCAA draw in recent years. Creighton has been the flag-bearer in this not-so-subtly improving conference. Creighton has worn its Cinderella slipper to six of the last seven Dances.

This year's edition does not appear to be the same caliber, though it is early in the season. Dana Altman frequently utilizes three players under 6'4" at the same time. Instead of fighting his team's size problems, Altman embraces it. Pressing in different forms will be commonplace and infuriating for any opponents who lack trustworthy point guards. Scrappy as any team in the conference, Creighton will only be beaten by teams with strong post scorers or athletic ball-handling wings.

Behind two emerging head coaches Bruce Weber (Illinois) and Matt Painter (Purdue), Southern Illinois had a number of good teams, though looks to have slipped a little this season, with early losses to Div-II Alaska-Anchorage, Monmouth, and Saint Louis. Still, you can never count out Chris Lowery's crew, who knocked off St. Mary's in the first round last year before falling in a very close game to the Eddie Sutton's Cowboys in Oklahoma City.

Wichita State has jumped out to a quick start, playing Illinois very close, and defeating upstarts Northwestern State and always-dangerous San Francisco. A win over Michigan State this weekend would not be at all "Shocking." WSU is perhaps a little frustrated by missing out on an NCAA invite a year ago.

Missouri State is unbeaten but unproven. It's doubtful the Bears will remain atop the conference long, but a top half finish would be nice for the newly renamed school.

Bradley was touted as a top-5 team before the season started, but suspensions have decimated what was to be a large front line.

Clearly the MVC is one of the deepest, most balanced "mid-major" conferences in the country, and after the Great Domino Effect of 2004, the pieces are in place for the MVC to battle CUSA, the A-10, the MAC, MWC, and WAC for the title of TNBCSCA: The Toughest Non-BCS Conference in America.