The MVC continues to be surprising as Northern Iowa dropped two tough games, falling to Drake and Evansville.
Front-runner Wichita State had a nine-game winning streak snapped to SIU, who had lost five straight games, and was without four players.
So the top of the conference has been shaken up, but the conference is still holding its own and is looking at two bids. However, for that to happen, the top teams are going to have to step up, as the bracket-busters are coming up in a week.
Here are this week's rankings:
10. Southern Illinois 10-13 (4-8 MVC)
Last week: No. 10
Results: 1-1 (Bradley 69, Southern Illinois 66; Southern Illinois 56, Wichita State 53)
Notes: The Salukis had their first taste of success in the last three weeks, as they upset the Shockers. SIU had lost five straight games and had three regulars suspended for violating team and university conduct codes. However, Senior Forward Carlton Fay stepped up scored 21 points and hit two clutch free throws to help the Salukis stun then MVC leader-Wichita State.
This week is key for SIU and coach Chris Lowery. Two games against middle of the pack Creighton and Indiana State await. If the Salukis play like they did against WSU, they have a chance to move up the conference standings and the power rankings.
9. Bradley 8-17 (2-12 MVC)
Last week: No. 9
Results: 1-1 (Bradley 69, Southern Illinois 66; Missouri State 77, Bradley 69)
Notes: Bradley continued to play better this week as they managed a split. The Braves hung tight with the Bears, leading with just over four minutes left in the game, but just could not stop MVC Player-of-the-Year candidate Kyle Weems.
The Braves will be put to the test this week as they welcome in Evansville and the suddenly-slumping Panthers of Northern Iowa. While the regular season title is out of the question, moving out of the MVC cellar is within their reach.
8. Illinois State 11-14 (3-11 MVC)
Last week: No. 6
Results: 0-2 (Wichita State 74, Illinois State 57; Indiana State 56, Illinois State 46)
Notes: ISU hit a major bump in the road this week as they dropped two games to upper-division teams. While the loss to the Shockers was disappointing, the fact that ISU allowed the Sycamores to score 19 of the game's last 20 points makes one think that the brief success the Redbirds had the past two weeks was an anomaly.
The Redbirds have a tough week ahead as they host Missouri State and then travel to Omaha to face Creighton. If ISU doesn't watch it, they will be having to fight off Bradley for the MVC cellar.
7. Creighton 15-11 (7-7 MVC)
Last week: No. 7
Results: 1-1 (Creighton 75, Evansville 69; Drake 67, Creighton 64)
Notes: Consistency continues to be a problem for Creighton. For the second consecutive week, the Bluejays started the week with a big win, as they upended Evansville, then lost a hard-fought contest to the streaking Bulldogs.
A RPI at 146 means that post-season play will not be in the cards for Creighton. Right now, the Bluejays are hoping to play spoiler and also avoid playing the first day of the conference tournament. The schedule is definitely helping them, as they host two of the bottom three teams this week, Southern Illinois and Illinois State.
6. Drake 11-14 (6-8 MVC)
Last week: No. 8
Results: 2-0 (Drake 72, Northern Iowa 69; Drake 67, Creighton 64)
Notes: What a week for the young Bulldogs as they went 2-0 this week. They won a hard fought game against MVC-contender Northern Iowa and the kept the momentum going as they were able to hold off Creighton, who almost rallied from a nine-point deficit with 2:28 to go. Drake is the hottest team in the MVC with three straight wins and a waved off three away against the Redbirds from a fourth.
Drake's losing record and RPI of 200 make the post-season a stretch, but the recent success is setting up the Bulldogs nicely for the future. This week will show how far this team has come, as they face road match-ups against former MVC contender Indiana State and MVC co-leader Missouri State. A split here would go a long way for the future.
5. Indiana State 13-12 (8-6 MVC)
Last week: No. 5
Results: 1-1 (Missouri State 73, Indiana State 66; Indiana State 56, Illinois State 46)
Notes: The Sycamores needed a late run against Illinois State to bring an end to their five game losing streak.
This week is huge for ISU as they have two must win games. First they host the streaking Bulldogs, and then they travel down I-70 to face Southern Illinois. If the Sycamores want to make the College Basketball Invitational Tournament two wins are needed.
4. Evansville 14-10 (8-6 MVC)
Last week: No. 4
Results: 1-1 (Creighton 75, Evansville 69; Evansville 70, Northern Iowa 62)
Notes: The Aces saw their four-game winning streak come to an end, but they pulled off their biggest win of the season when they upended Northern Iowa behind Ned Cox's season-best 16 points.
The Aces have continued to move up the RPI rankings, as they now are at No. 99. Bradley and Wichita State are up for Evansville this week. If the Aces of the past three weeks show up, their post-season chances will continue to be "in the cards."
3. Northern Iowa 18-8 (9-5 MVC)
Last week: No. 1
Results: 0-2 (Drake 72, Northern Iowa 69; Evansville 70, Northern Iowa 62)
Notes: Northern Iowa managed in two games to undo what they had worked hard to obtain over the four previous weeks, as they dropped two games that should have been winnable.
This should not be totally surprising, as the Panthers struggled the week prior, winning late against the Bears, and squeaking out a win against Illinois State. UNI's RPI took a nose drive this week, as it went down 21 spots to No. 73, placing the Panthers on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament. UNI has a must-win game Saturday, as they host the conference co-leader Shockers. A loss then, and UNI NIT plans are in order.
2. Wichita State 20-5 (11-3 MVC)
Last week: No. 2
Results: 1-1 (Wichita State 74, Illinois State 57; Southern Illinois 56, Wichita State 53)
Notes: The Shockers are holding onto a share of the MVC lead after a very bad loss to SIU. Like Northern Iowa, struggles this past week are undoing their recent success. WSU's loss to the underachieving Salukis knocked the Shockers on the edge of the NCAA bubble, with an RPI of 55. Unless Wichita State gets back on track, a MVC tourney win will be the only way the Shockers make the dance.
WSU has two tough games this week, which makes the task at hand even more challenging, as they travel to Cedar Falls to face UNI, and then travel for a showdown with Evansville. Win, and their chances are definitely helped, lose in either, and they are in trouble.
1. Missouri State 19-6 (11-3 MVC)
Last week: No. 3
Results: 2-0 (Missouri State 73, Indiana State 66; Missouri State 77, Bradley 69)
Notes: The Bears return to the top spot following two big wins, getting Missouri State back on track. A No. 47 RPI still places the Bears in bubble territory, so they cannot afford to slip up. The Bears face Illinois State and the streaking Bulldogs this week so wins are not guaranteed.
Will the Bears be the first team to be number one in the power rankings two weeks in a row? Or will they stumble and leave the door open for someone else? Will Wichita State top this week's fan poll, or will the Bears move back to number one? We will see this week. Thank you for reading and voting.
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