If you're Keno Davis, it's certainly come much quicker than you might have expected.
Just one season after leading Drake to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971, a school-record 28-5 record and its first national ranking in 33 years, the 2008 AP Coach of the Year is headed to the Big East to take over Providence for Tim Welsh, who was fired last month after failing to take the Friars to more than two NCAA Tournament appearances in 10 seasons.
For those of you who might not know Keno Davis, you should get to know him.
Because after the way the first-year Drake coach has handled his business so far in Des Moines, Iowa, there could be a lot more good things coming Davis' way.
For now, though, he can be happy with the fact that he helped lead the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament berth and Missouri Valley Conference championship in 37 years, good enough to earn himself this year's Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
ST. LOUIS -- The Valley saved its more gregarious coaches for the afternoon session. On the big stage were Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery, Barry Hinson of Missouri St, and three newcomers, Marty Simmons of Evansville, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, and Tim Jankovich of Illinois St. This group was a lot more loose...
ST. LOUIS -- This just in from the Department of Shameless Self-Interest: While I was waiting for the second session with the men's coaches to start, I went over to introduce myself to Tricia Cullop, the head women's coach at Evansville and a fellow Boilermaker.
She saw my CSTV shirt and starting gushing about the coverage CSTV gives women's basketball. She said it's the first place she goes every day and is the only consistent and reliable source for news in her sport.
Someone alert the promotions folks.
We now return you to the men's basketball coverage, already in progress.
Southern rallied, but it was too little, too late and Creighton advances to the NCAA tournament with a 67-61 win. You will not be surprised to learn that the fans CU fans have stormed the court and Queen's "We are the Champions" is blaring from the PA.
Creighton has now beaten SIU in the MVC title game four times in the last ten years.
The announcement hasn't been made yet, but Nate Funk ,who had 19 today, will be named the tournament MVP.
The ushers and others are trying to get a stage set up for the postgame presentations on the court, but it's taking a while because all the CU fans are on the floor.
This tournament blew away the attendance records. Today and yesterday were sellouts of 22.612 and the total for all five sessions was 85,074, almost 22,000 better than last year's total, which was the old record.
This was my first time attending this event. I've always watched it on TV because I'm a Midwestern guy and had at least a passing interest in these teams, long before I ever had a professional interest in them. Now, that I've seen it in person, I can see why it does so well. The level of play is good, the facility is nice and the competitiveness makes it a great show. I hope I get another chance to come back sometime.
Southern Illinois is making one final push. They have cut the lead to 8 and have been as close as 6. Bryan Mullins led the run with two threes and a layup, but if the Salukis are going to finish this comeback, they'll have to do it without him. He just fouled out by hitting Funk's arm on a jumper, which went in.
The lead is now 14 with 7:46 to go. Jamaal Tatum is trying to get the offense going for SIU. He's probably trying too hard and forcing some stuff, but you can't blame him because nothing else is working.
They are coming by in a few minutes to take our all-tournament team ballots, so here's mine:
MVP: Nate Funk - Creighton
Others: Anthony Tolliver, Nick Porter - Creighton, Tatum - SIU, Deven Mitchell - Missouri St
Both team have kicked up the defensive pressure, but Southern isn't able to make any headway at all. Tatum hit another three, but Tolliver scored four points around that and the lead is now 11 with 12:26 to go. I know that's a lot of time and anything can happen, but this game looks over. Creighton just wants it more.
Creighton has scored six straight points after Randal Falker split a pair of free throws (he airballed the first one) and now leads by nine. Nick Porter got a layup, then a steal and a layup, and then Creighton got another steal and Dane Watts finished it and was fouled. The ref signaled the basket good like he was calling a batter out on strikes. Very strange. Watts goes to the line after the SIU timeout to try to send the lead to double digits.
Creighton has a four point lead at the half, thanks to Nate Funk's 12 points. SIU has actually done a decent job of defending him, but he's shooting well with a hand in his face.
Tatum has seven to lead SIU. Mullins hardly played because of foul trouble, and Falker sat a long time as well, but he had no fouls, so Lowery must have been ticked at him. Anyway, SIU has to be reasonably happy to be close with those two on the bench that much.
A quick 5-0 run has put SIU on top for the first time today. Tatum hit two free throws after Creighton was called for its first foul of the half at 7:17 (SIU only has 3 fouls), then Wes Clemmons hit a 3 after a stop to put the Salukis up.
Also, thankfully, the pillow is gone from Tolliver's nose.
It's starting to get a little rough out there, but the refs are letting them play - for now. Tolliver is back on the floor with what looks like a pillow sticking out of his nose.
With 7:36 left, Creighton still leads by four, but the good news for Southern is that Jamaal Tatum is finally on the board. He hit a long three with the shot clock running down right before the time out.
At the last timeout, the Creighton cheerleaders came out on the floor and encouraged us to root on the "SYAJEULB". We plan to do that as soon as we figure out how to pronounce it.
Both teams are off to a hot start at the first timeout. Creighton leads 11-10, and most of the games in this tournament, that would be the score with 8 minutes left in the half instead of 4 minutes in.
Anthony Tolliver scored inside on the first possession of the game, and lost his contact lens again. That's the second game in a row. It may be time to consider that Lasik surgery if this is going to happen all the time.
The championship game is about to get underway here between Southern Illinois and Creighton.
Creighton can take any suspense away from selection Sunday by winning today, although I think they'll get in even if they lose. The Jays' seniors took over against Missouri St, scoring 65 of their 75 points. They'll have to step it up again today.
There's not a whole lot of love with these two. They've been the top two teams in this league for a number of years and it's developed into quite a rivalry. Creighton coach Dana Altman is still looking for his first win against SIU coach Chris Lowery. They came close in both regular season meetings, but couldn't finish. The Jays have played better than SIU here this weekend, and I think that will continue today.
Before the game, some SIU fan got to take a half-court shot for $50,000. He shot a two-handed set shot and bounced it just off the front iron.
The PA announcer just asked us to give a "big Missouri Valley Conference welcome to Gus Johnson and Clark Kellogg (the CBS announcers doing the game)". You can tell the league is excited to be on CBS.
I met Clark before the game. He's always been one of my favorite announcers. Nice guy too.
The Jays were never seriously threatened down the stretch as they knocked out the #3 seeded Bears 75-58. That's the third win for the Jays over MSU and pretty much guarantees they'll be ahead of the Bears in the eyes of the committee. MSU had two long, cold stretches from the floor and just couldn't overcome that.
Nate Funk had a huge game with 33for Creighton. Blake Ahearn had 20for Missouri St, but only 5 after halftime. Deven Mitchell added 19for the Bears.
The top two seeds, Southern Illinois and Creighton, meet in the final tomorrow.
Right before Creighton called timeout just now, Nathan Bilyeu hit a layup for Missouri St to cut the lead to 10. The Bears are now a frigid 2-14 from the floor in this half. Neither team has been able to secure a defensive rebound. I don't have numbers, but both teams are getting a ton of second chances in this half.
Missouri State's Deven Mitchell stole the ball on two straight possessions, but the Bears threw it right back to Creighton both times. Then Spencer Laurie got a steal, but that was wasted as well. After that, Nate Funk hit a long two to put the Jays up 12 with 11:57 left.
Creighton and MSU traded shots for a while to start the half, with the Bears unable to get closer than 5, but the Jays unable to get away either. That changed after the first timeout. Nate Funk hit a couple of jumpers, including one falling out of bounds on the baseline, and they Jays are now up 10
At the second media timeout, Creighton leads 13-5. Missouri St can't hit the broad side of a barn. The Bears are 1-8 from the floor and already have three turnovers and six fouls. They started cold yesterday and overcame it, but Creighton is less likely to give them the chance.
Speaking of cold, it looks like Anthony Tolliver is fighting one. He's going through some kleenex during the timeout.
Nate Funk hit his first three point attempt and Anthony Tolliver has four early points to stake Creighton to a 7-2 lead. The Bluejays are sitting in front of me for this game, so I'll get a good look at Dana Altman, especially since, unlike most teams, they meet on the bench during timeouts.
During the first timeout, he was reminding his team to talk on switches.
He also has an unusual signal for an offensive play. Most coaches hold up a number of fingers or something similar to indicate a play, but he has one where he taps the underside of his chin with the back of his hand.
I was standing outside the SIU locker room after the game as Creighton coach Dana Altman was making his way toward the floor. Just then, the door opened and half a dozed Salukis filed out past coach Altman, who shook their hands and congratulated them as they went by.
There could be a lot at stake for the teams in the second semifinal, Missouri St and Creighton. At a minimum, the winner will be ahead of the loser in the NCAA tournament pecking order.
We now interrupt this preview for the singing of God Bless America.
It could end up being an elimination game, depending on what happens in other leagues around the country. We'll have to see where the committee ends up drawing the line.
Don't tell MSU coach Barry Hinson that it's an elimination game though. He blew up at a reporter who asked about that in the postgame yesterday. Hinson said that anyone who doesn't think both of these teams are in the tournament are "idiots."
Creighton swept the regular season, but I like the Bears today. They'll want it more.
SIU has come back to tie the game and Chris Lowery is hot under the collar with the refs, and while he's not entirely correct, it's hard to blame him. It's been a physical game and they've let a lot go (both ways) and I'm not sure they've been terribly consistent.
One thing they have consistently let go is Bradley's guards pushing off with their forearms against the SIU defenders to create space. That hasn't been called once.
Three straight turnovers by SIU, two by Tatum let to an 8-0 run for Bradley that broke a 31-all tie. SIU has cut that in half.
At each time out, the benches get an updated stat sheet and at the last timeout, the SIU assistant coach who got it wadded it up and tossed it behind the bench w/o looking at it. I guess he knew the important stat :6-1 fouls.
Bradley got a couple of fouls called on them on one SIU possession and that drew Bronx cheers from the Saluki crowd.
Daniel Ruffin banged knees with a teammate while handing off the ball and was limping a little bit. He came out of the game briefly, but he's back now.
Bradley had moved out to a three point lead and SIU is already in foul trouble at the first media timeout. The Salukis have six team fouls already, which means Bradley will be shooting free throws the rest of the way. SIU PG Tony Young has three and he's on the bench.
Jamaal Tatum finally got going for SIU in the last 3 minutes of the half. He had two threes and a 15-foot jumper on the baseline for 8 points in the closing minutes, his only points of the half.
Bradley had a chance for the final shot of the half, but Daniel Ruffin threw up a prayer from about 22 feet away a couple of seconds before he had to. The rebound bounced off a Saluki player and went out of bounds to Bradley under the basket with 0.7 seconds left. Will Franklin inbounded by trying the old bounce-the-ball-off-the-back-of-the-defender play, which worked, except that he missed the layup. It was the perfect ending to the half in which both teams missed about half a dozen layups each.
Both teams are having trouble navigating the opposing defense and scoring points. Southern appears to be gun-shy from long range after going 1-9 so far from there. Bradley is having trouble getting many good looks and SIU forced a shot clock violation on one possession. With 3:22 left, it's Bradley up 20-18.
It appears maintenance forgot to take the lids off the baskets. Bradley is 4-13 from the floor, including one for its last seven. SIU missed its first eight shots before finally hitting one and is currently 2-13. Bradley leads 10-9 with 11:01 left.
I think I'm going to need earplugs. The SIU section is right behind me, and there are these two ladies who scream at the top of their lungs every time a Bradley play shoots, as if that's going to have an impact. Maybe they think they are changing the airflow in the arena when they yell. I don't think it's working, but it is giving me a headache.
Southern Illinois has missed its first six shots from the floor, three from around the rim, and trails Bradley 7-1. It took the Braves a while to find the hole also, but they've now scored on three of its last four possessions.
You can tell things are getting serious now. The place is packed. It's loud. Pregame introductions are now being done with the house lights off and the spots on. We've had everything but fireworks. I assume those are coming after the tip.
Game 1 at the Scottrade Center this afternoon is top seed SIU against #4 Bradley. SIU is looking to break the jinx of top seeds failing to win the MVC tournament, while Bradley is hoping to make a case for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
If the Braves win today, but not tomorrow, they will probably get a few minutes of discussion, but likely come up short in the committee room.
The one thing that bothers the SIU defense is quick guards penetrating, and the Braves have very quick guards. The question is, can they figure out what to do if they get inside and then execute it. Also, Bradley did not seem very disciplined on the defensive end, and the Salukis should be able to exploit that.
I like SIU today, but it wouldn't be the biggest upset in the history of college basketball if they lost.
Missouri St held off a valiant effort by Wichita St to win 67-64 and advance to play Creighton tomorrow night.
WIth the game tied, Blake Ahearn and Deven Mitchell hit two free throws each, sandwiched around a missed three pointer by WSU's Matt Braeuer. After the teams traded stops, Braeuer hit one free throw to cut the lead to three.
Nathan Bilyeu drove the lane and dished to Mitchell for an easy layup to extend the lead to five, but Karon Bradley of Wichita St came down quickly and hit another three, the Shockers' 13th of the game to bring the lead back to two with 49.3 seconds left.
Tyler Chaney missed a runner in the lane for the Bears, but Bilyeu grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled with 15 seconds left. Bilyeu only hit one of two though, giving the Shockers one last chance.
Braeuer got a good look at a three as time expired, but it was long, and the Bears advance.
If we have three more games as good as this one, I'm going to need to have a medic standing by. I'm not sure my heart can take it.
Time for a cold beer and a nap before we get back after it tomorrow.
The refs are trying to figure out who should be in the game for WSU. Coach Hinson is yelling (from a distance) to find out what the problem is, Wichita's PJ Couisnard tells Hinson that the refs think he shouldn't be in the game. Hinson waved his arms at him as if to say that's no big deal.
The Bears have seized momentum - for the moment - with a 10-3 run that has them out to a seven point lead. Blake Ahearn finally hit a three from the deep corner to set them off, and Nathan BIlyeu hit one as well.
WSU is getting a little sloppy with the ball, and almost playing too fast. They get themselves in a bad spot, make a bad pass, and it goes the other way.
Right before the time out, Drew Richards was called for a foul when he just appeared to be standing straight up, and coach Hinson did the "oh, no" dance in front of the bench. I have to agree with him - it was a bad call, but you'll forgive me if I leave the dancing to him.
As a commenter to a previous post noted, Royce Waltman confirmed after the game that he would not be returning as the coach at Indiana St.
Waltman was asked how he found out he would not be returning. He said, "Well, don't take this as a bitter comment because I'm not one bit bitter, but the administration handled this with the deft touch of a 20-mule team. They said it at a Board of Trustees meeting which is obviously going to leak out, but yet said the didn't want it announced until after the tournament, so it just left us with every man, woman and child in Terre Haute knowing I'm fire, but it's not official. So, I found out a week ago, but it still hasn't been made official by whoever's going to make that statement."
This half has been much like the first. Lots of back and forth action. PJ Couisnard is still hot for WSU and Blake Ahearn is still leaving everything short. However, a couple of turnovers has sent MSU on a 7-0 run to take a four point lead, which is its biggest of the night.
Like Lindsay found at the WCC tournament, the halftime entertainment here is the participating schools' dance teams (the Southern Illinois Saluki Shakers are the top seed in that category too, but I digress). At halftime of this game, the Wichita St dancers were performing when one appeared to land wrong and injure herself. The other performers kept going, almost oblivious to the crowd of people aiding their fallen partner. The show must go on, I guess. She was eventually carried off the floor by the medical staff.
The pace of this game is faster than I can type. Wichita leads by 2, thanks to some deadeye three point shooting, led by Gal Mekel and PJ Couisnard. Missouri St is having trouble from long distance, although Tyler Chaney hit one right before the half to cut the lead to two. Blake Ahearn, the Bears' leading scorer, is forcing bad shots and, needless to say, that's not working. He's only 2-7 from the floor with five points.
When the Bears go inside, they're having more success, but they'll need to take and make better three point shots if they are going to win this game.
This has been a great game so far. Both teams are flying up and down the floor and making plays. Gal Mekel for Wichita hit a three pointer to stop MSU's 14-3 run, and since then, the Shockers have gotten hot. Mekel hit two more short jumpers and PJ Couisnard added five points, so WSU is now up 22-18 with 7:08 left in the half.
Also, Kyle Wilson just came back into the game, so look for MSU to try to go after him to get his third foul.
Missouri St came out of the timeout with a set play for Blake Ahearn to feed Kyle Rausch for a dunk. That sparked a 10-3 run to tie the game. Rausch provided a spark at the other end too, with a steal and a rebound, and Drew Richards has four blocked shots already for the Bears.
Meanwhile, Kyle Wilson already has two fouls and will probably get a lot of pine time for the rest of this half.
Missouri St is still looking for its first points at the first media time out. Nobody scored for either team until the 17:11 mark, when Matt Braeuer hit the first of two three pointers for WSU. During the time out, one of the assistants lit into the team, then Coach HInson let them having it too, calling their effort "ridiculous." I couldn't agree more.
For the nightcap, I'm sitting behind the Missouri St bench and coach Barry Hinson, very likely the shortest coach in Division I. I'll probably be hiding behind my laptop. After last season, coach Hinson doesn't much care for the RPI or anything brackets until he sees his school's name in the official one. If he sees me here and figures out who I am, I could be in trouble, so I'll be under my desk if you need me.
Missouri St, the other team in the Valley with NCAA aspirations, takes on Wichita St in a must win game for the Bears. MSU has borderline NCAA credentials, and may have to win this tournament to get in, but if they can get by tonight, they should get something of a look.
Missouri St has been generally steady. Not so for Whichita St, as in Which one will show up? The good Wichita St rose to the top 10 of the rankings in the preseason. The bad one slumped to a sixth place finish in conference play. They need a good performance from Kyle Wilson to have a chance tonight.
These two teams just played each other in the last week of the regular season in Wichita, which MSU won 71-65 to sweep the season series.
Trent Wurtz, the lone ISU senior who plays much, just came out of the game with a minute left and is fighting back tears on the bench as the clock winds down on his career as a Sycamore. He goes out with six points.
Meanwhile, Royce Waltman is giving Ted Hillary a pat on the back on the sidelines while play goes on.
I'm not really sure why, because I can't hear him, but ISU coach Royce Waltman has been giving referee Steve Skiles a piece of his mind for the last two possessions on this end. Then, he went after him again during the ensuing media time out. It got to the point that Ted Hillary had to come over, and Waltman read him the riot act. I'm not even sure he talked to his team during the time out. Whatever he said, the refs were not of a mind to give him a technical foul. In fact, when Hillary finally turned and left, he was smiling.
I said before the game that Creighton had to play like something was on the line, and they did just that, winning 59-38. Even though the Bluejays' shots weren't falling early, they played hard wire to wire, and the shots did eventually fall. Creighton is going to need another effort like this tomorrow to win the semifinal, and that may be the game that decides whether or not they can get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
After starting the year 10-4, including wins over Butler and Purdue, Indiana St finished 12-18. If they can regain their early season form again next year, they have a chance to make some noise in this league. Only one senior, Wurtz, played any significant minutes for the Sycamores.
This was just short of the largest margin of victory for the Bluejays this season against a Valley opponent. The high was a 23-point win over Drake.
Dane Watts came out of the break and hit two threes to extend the lead for Creighton and they haven't looked back. The Bluejays now lead 44-27 with 12:06 left and seem to have put it in cruise control.
If things continue this way, I would expect Creighton coach Dana Altman to sub liberally in the later part of the game to rest up for tomorrow. Missouri St, which faces Wichita St, probably won't be so lucky.
Creighton finished the half on a 15-3 run - more like a jog, really. It took almost 8 minutes and 7 of the Bluejays points came in the last minute and a half. Creighton got their shooting percentage up to 37. Indiana St had a lot of good looks, but the Sycamores shots just aren't falling They shot 6-25, 4-12 from long range. Creighton leads 32-20 at the break.
Creighton just hit its second shot in a row and tied the game at 15 with 8:04 left. The first of those shots was a tip in of a missed layup by Anthony Tolliver, his first points. That was the first time in the game that either team had scored in consecutive possessions.
After each team scored on it's first possession (a 3 for ISU), both teams went cold. They're playing hard, but shots just aren't falling. Funk hit a baseline drive to give Creighton a temporary lead, but Marico Stinson hit a three right after that to make it 6-4. The teams are a combined 4-11.
Creighton is a team with legitimate NCAA tournament hopes, and those hopes ride on their performance in this tournament. They have played poorly down the stretch in person, including the two times I saw them. I saw the second half of the home loss to Drexel on TV and they looked slow and a little flat. Against Illinois St, which I saw in person, they lacked the sense of urgency a team playing for a spot in the NCAA tournament should have. That's what I'm looking for from Creighton tonight - urgency, desperation, a desire to play in the NCAA tournament. That may not translate to a win (you can play hard and not shoot well), but it better, because they can't afford to lose.
Indiana St won for only the second time in 15 games last night. IN the second half, htey were able to get some good looks at three point shots and hit a bunch. For Creighton, the key will be closing out on those guys. If that happens, this should be an easy win for the Bluejays.
For this game, I'm behind the ISU bench and the always entertaining Royce Waltman.
Coming out of the timeout Northern Iowa passed the ball around, and Jared Josten had a good look from three, but passed on it. McKowen was then forced to put one up to beat the shot clock, and it was an airball (seventh of the game, but who's counting).
Franklin then brings the ball down the floor holding for the last shot. As he comes off a screen into traffic, he fumbles ball at three point line picks it up, throws it up with a hand in his face, and it goes with 2.7 left to win the game.
Franklin finished 4-14 from the floor, but the misses will be soon forgotten. He had 12 points and JJ Tauai led the Braves with 16.
Bradley will take on Southern Illinois tomorrow.
Grant Stout was for the Panthers. He had 19.
The evening session will start pretty soon because this one ran long.
Will Franklin keeps missing shots (he's 3-13 from the floor), and Grant Stout hit a big three to give UNI its first lead at 48-46 with 2:07 to go. Franklin had a runner in the lane roll out after that, but Brooks McKowen walked to give it back.
With 1:23 left, UNI is up 2 and Bradley has the ball.
At the last media timeout, Bradley is still up five. UNI has been able to get as close as one and has had a few possessions where they could have tied or taken the lead, but they just haven't been able to get over the hump yet.
The Braves will be at the line, so the lead could get to seven. We'll see if the Panthers have one more run in them.
It's getting rough in the Bradley-UNI game. The Braves aleady have eight fouls with 12:24 to go in the half. There has also been a double technical foul on the Panthers' Brooks McKowen and Bradley's Daniel Ruffin.
Now, the refs are starting to tighten things up after basically letting them play in the first half. Normally, you wouldn't do that as a ref, but the players are starting to get out of hand, so they have no choice.
Northern Iowa was able to extend its run to 12-2 and cut the lead to two, before Bradley settled down again. The Braves hit back to back threes to get the lead back to eight. Both teams got sloppy at the end of the half, ending with the Braves' Daniel Ruffin missing a layup at the buzzer. Bradley leads 28-21.
At least they don't have to warm up the bus just yet.
Northern Iowa is on a 9-2 run thanks in no small part to sloppy ball handling and bad shooting by Bradley. It's taken four minutes to put this run together, and it happened in spite of the Panthers shooting three more airballs. That's already six airballs for the game.
But no matter how it happened, UNI is showing some toughness and has cut the lead to 5.
Bradley's pressure man-to-man defense is giving Northern Iowa fits. The Panthers didn't even get a good look at the basket until Grant Stout hit from 15 feet with 15:30 left for their first points.
Eric Coleman is really struggling at the start. He missed badly on two turnarounds in the lane, one of which was an airball. Then he committed a frustration foul trying to get position. He's on the bench now.
The Braves were cold from the floor at first, but have hit a couple in a row and lead 9-2.
I've seen every team in the Valley now except Bradley. The Braves think that because they have a borderline top 50 RPI, they deserve consideration for the tournament, but the reality is that they have only one notable win - SIU at home. They need to make some noise in this tournament to get at-large consideration.
Northern Iowa has been one of the more disappointing teams this season. After a 4-0 start, they struggled badly despite being a pretty veteran team. I'll be behind their bench for this game, which is the first time the lower seed has sat at this end.
Panther coach Ben Jacobsen faces the sideline, so I can see his white board as he talks to his team before they take the floor. The word in big letters at the top is "TOUGH". It should be. That's been a problem. Let's see how tough they are this afternoon.
The last three minutes of this game took 30 because Drake was fouling to try to cut into an 11-point lead. That didn't work, but you can't blame them for trying. SIU won 71-59.
Not surprisingly, SIU cleaned up in the league postseason awards. Chris Lowery was coach of the year, Jamaal
Tatum was MVP and Randal Falker was defensive player of the year.
The Valley has brought out the big guns to ref this tournament. We had Jim Burr in this game and Tim Higgins is doing the next one. That doesn't mean the games will be well officiated, just that a couple of the older guys will be working them.
During Championship Weeks, you play through nagging injuries. Apparently that goes for the cheerleaders too. One SIU cheerleader was out there with walking boot on her leg. I'm pretty sure she didn't do any backflips though.
SIU has a great following, and the horde is here. Each of the four teams in this session gets a quarter of the arena and their section is pretty full. Drake's section is more empty, but you wonder if some of their fans had trouble getting here due to the storms in Iowa.
Drake's Al Stewart, a senior, committed a pretty obvious foul on a rebound and vehemently disagreed with ref Mike Sanzere, who promptly T'd him up. That was fouls number four and five, and that's how Stewart's career at Drake comes to a close.
For the second time in this game, two players went up to catch a pass, ran into each other, and the Drake player came down with the ball and fell. Once again, neither a walk nor a foul was called. I'm going to have to dig out my old rule books. I feel like I missed a memo somewhere and that the rule that said if you fell with the ball was traveling must have been changed.
I'm right behind the SIU bench today. Sometimes, good seats aren't good seats.
At the other end of the floor, Tony Young fell and was called for a foul, but we couldn't really see what happened. Lowery couldn't tell what happened either, so he turned to the bench and asked what happened. He got nothing but shrugged shoulders. He was taking Young out anyway ("Wes, Go!") because it was his third foul. When Young came over, Lowery asked him what happened, and Young said "he held me and I fell."
Then again, sometimes good seats really are good seats. Right after that, SIU was trying to pass the ball in on the opposite side and the the inbounder had to call timeout before the five seconds was up.
Lowery turned to the bench and yelled, "We are so <> bad, guys."
Since then, there have been a couple of tough calls against SIU and a couple of bad plays by them as well, and Lowery is getting pretty ticked.
You can imagine what it would be like if this were a game, but SIU is up 17.
Southern finished the half on a 16-6 run. Tatum had two threes in the last couple of minutes, including one right before the buzzer. Even though I'm almost always wrong when I say the following, I'm going to say it anyway.
Whatever Lowery said during the last timeout worked. SIU went inside to Falker for 2, then kicked up the defensive intensity and hustle. Mullins had a steal and save, which he got back for a layup in transition. Then, Falker appeared to have been beaten down the floor, but was able to tip the pass, and while he was falling out of bounds, throw it off the Drake player to save the ball for SIU. Salukis on an 8-2 run to lead 22-15.
Southern had four of its starters on the bench for a short time, during which the Salukis weren't getting much penetration and Josh Bone missed two straight threes. The starters came back in, and Tatum missed one, causing Lowery to turn to his assistants and say, "too many threes!"
Shaw missed another one on the next possession and Korver came down and hit one for Drake to pull the Bulldogs within one. Lowery had seen enough and called a timeout.
After both teams traded stops, the media timeout came and Lowery was really hot with his team. Unfortunately, he had his back to me, so I couldn't hear what he was saying.
Drake's Ajay Calvin hit a shot that was close to the arc, so the officials reviewed the play.
While that was going on, the PA announcer, in his best voice-mail-menu voice, said, "In order to determine the status of the last play, the officials must exercise the NCAA rule and use the courtside monitor to review the play. We thank you for your patience."
Right after that, Nick Grant of Drake and SIU's Tony Young jumped up together to try to catch a pass. They collided, but Grant caught it in the air and came down and fell. That's either a walk, or a foul, but nothing was called.
SIU has another touchdown and leads 14-7. The Salukis will kickoff after the timeout.
With the exception of some sloppy ball handling, Southern Illinois is off to a pretty good start. Randal Falker has already scored in the post, Jamaal Tatum hit his first shot, and Matt Shaw has a three pointer. They have a couple of turnovers though on bad passes. On one, Tony Young penetrated and tried to kick it out across court, but threw it into the stands. Coach Chris Lowery was really biting his tongue on that one.
On defense, the Salukis have their defense extended pretty far. Klayton Korver has a three and is going to shoot three free throws after the time out because Falker fouled him behind the line. Drake has gotten the ball deep a couple of times, but SIU nudges them towards the baseline so they can't do anything with it.
In spite of the fact that it is apparently against the law for the top seed to win this tournament, Southern Illinois has shown up anyway. The last time the top seed won was in 1998. So, it's not a matter of if, but when the Salukis go down this weekend.
This won't be that day. Last night, Drake won the right to get up very early this morning and take on Southern Illinois. The Bulldogs hit a season high 15 three-pointers last night in a 101-96 OT win over Evansville. This will be a very different game. Drake will be lucky to get 15 shots from anywhere to fall this afternoon. The Salukis are one of the top defensive teams in the nation. They have only give up 65 points five times all year. Drake will be closer to 45 and Southern should cruise.
Illinois St had this game all but won with an 11 point lead, but then they called timeout. After that point, two things happened, the Redbirds went cold from the floor, hitting only one of their last 10 shots, and they stopped defending the three point line, allowing way too many good looks to the Sycamores. Indiana St hit their shots, and came back to win 68-65.
The Sycamores advance to face Creighton tomorrow.
Indiana St had lost 13 of its last 14 entering tonight's game.
With the loss, Illinois St fails to finish above .500. The Redbirds dropped to 15-16.
After hitting 5-6 in the first half, Eldridge only hit 1 for 7 in the second. He still finished with a team high 18
Jay Tunnell's 16 led a balanced attack for Indiana St. Three other players finished in double figures.
Illinois St has missed nine straight shots from the floor. It's been almost 6 and a half minutes since Bobby Hill hit a jumper to put the Redbirds up 58-50. Since then, Indiana St is on a 12-3 run and leads 62-61 at the 3:32 mark.
Indiana St got three pointers from Gabe Moore, Trent Wurtz and Cole Holmstrom during a 9-1 run to tie the game. Illinois St is having trouble finding the open shooters at the three point line and closing out on them and the Sycamores have taken advantage.
Illinois St concentrating on going inside to Greg Dilligard and it's working pretty well. Indiana St is staying in the game thanks to some sloppy ballhandling by the Redbirds, which has created a couple of nice chances for them.
However, Illinois St is now on an 8-0 run thanks to five quick points from Eldridge, plus a three pointer from Boo Richardson.
After that, Redbirds coach called timeout. That's the second time tonight a team on a big run called timeout after scoring. Evansville did the same thing earlier. I can't imagine why you would want to kill your own momentum that way.
Illinois St was passing the ball around the perimeter killing time for a final shot when Gabe Moore stepped in and stole a lazy pass by Dom Johnson and went the distance for a layup. Coach Moser's jacket went flying before Moore finished the play, and that was also before Eldridge compounded the problem by fouling Moore. Moore missed the free throw though, and the Redbirds lead 34-31 at the half.
Redbird freshman Osiris Eldridge, perhaps the best freshman in the league (although I haven't see everybody yet) is starting to heat up for Illinois St. He's hit five of his first six shots, including two three pointers for 12 points. The Redbirds lead 29-25 with 3:56 left in the half.
Illinois St doesn't need cheerleaders. Porter Moser is fired up enough for everybody. Every good play, he turns toward the bench and starts clapping and slapping his players. He chased after a ref (nothing T-worthy) after a particularly bad call against the Redbirds. He'll be tired by halftime, but he's not playing, so that doesn't matter.
With 2:41 left, Evansville tied the game by going inside to Matt Webster, who has a bucket and four free throws.
After a stop, Shy Ely slashed to hole with 1:12 left to give Evansville its first lead since 13:01 to go in the first half.
The Aces came up with another stop, but Drake's Nick Grant got a steal and a dunk to tie it with 35 seconds left.
Webster got fouled in the post again with 5.5 sec left, but missed both free throws. Ely came up with the offensive rebound and kicked it to Kyle Anslinger for three, but he missed and we get some free basketball.
The Drake-Evansville game is at the final media timeout with Drake still up 5. Freshman Josh Young has two more three pointers, running his total to five. Young is one of several great freshmen in this league. Two more will play in the next game when Osiris Eldridge and Illinois St face Indiana St with Marico Stinson.
Coach Merfeld is starting to lose his patience with the officiating, although it's all relative. He's not very animated when talking to them, so I don't think a chair toss is coming anytime soon.
Got momentarily distracted while talking to the Hoops Odyssey guys, Jake and Matt, who are here as well. The high-paced action and three point shooting has continued, and we had a technical foul on Drake's Leonard Houston for chinning up on the rim after a dunk. With 11:45 left, it's 66-61 Drake.
You never know what you are going to get in a game like this with two teams that seemingly have little to play for, but the intensity has been great. Both teams are really getting after it.
The three point parade continued through the rest of the half, although both teams did try harder to get to the hole, which resulted in more fouls. Neither team was terribly successful shooting inside. In fact, I think there were as many missed layups as missed threes. Both teams shot better from three point range than from two point range. I didn't really think the defense was all that bad, but the score is a NBA-like 51-47 in favor of Drake.
Drake was 10-13 from three point range, this coming from a team that shoots 31.6% for the season from there. The ten threes matches the season high for an entire game for the Bulldogs. Six different players have hit three pointers for Drake, including three each for Josh Young and Klayton Korver (yes, he's Kyle's little brother). Evansville countered with seven threes, four by Jason Holsinger. Holsinger's range is anything in the front court, and he starts looking for his shot as soon as he crosses the center stripe.
About a half hour before the game, there was more people in the two schools' bands than otherwise in the stands, but we actually have a pretty decent crowd, considering only the bottom feeders are playing tonight.
My seat is right behind the bench that Evansville is using tonight, which might provide some interesting moments as we go through the tournament. So far, nothing terribly unusual had gone on, other than coach Steve Merfeld on one occasion making it perfectly clear how he wanted defense played.
Evansville's Jason Holsinger has been like a gunslinger in the early going. After both teams failed to score trying to go inside, he dribbled up the floor, stopped about 23 feet from the basket and fired away for 3. He added another one on the next possession and Kyle Anslinger hit one as well for an early 9-2 lead.
The games haven't started yet and already it's been an adventure.
The trip down from NW Indiana this morning was long stretches of calm punctuated by moments of terror in the form of thunderstorms, hail and tornado warnings. When the storms moved through, we had temperatures and wind speeds in the mid 60s, Since then, the temps have fallen, but the wind is still going strong. I simply can't do a thing with my hair.
Inside the arena, it was a fight to get an internet connection up from courtside. Apparently at the Scottrade Center, the internet works just fine in the media work room, but it's iffy in the actual arena. That could make blogging difficult.
Tonight's first game feature the #8 seed Evansville taking on #9 Drake, with the winner to face top seed SIU tomorrow afternoon.
Evansville's moment of glory this season came in a two game stretch in January when the Aces beat SIU and Missouri St in back to back games. Drake won the Iowa state championship this year, beating Iowa, Iowa St, and sweeping Northern Iowa.
KINGSTON, R.I. - Rhody got out on a 7-2 run to start the second half, forcing Ray Giacoletti to call a timeout with 17:11 left in the game. It was reminiscent of the first half run by the Rams that had the same effect.
The first possession after the timeout resulted in a Luke Nevill dunk. But the next tow Rhody trips resulted in 3-pointers from Parfait Bitee and Jimmy Baron. Rhody now leads 51-43 with 13:25 left in the game.
Some more newsy notes from the MVC event in St. Louis:
The MVC, which is celebrating its centennial during the 2006-07 season, is the nation's second-oldest conference after the Big Ten.
Twenty-eight different schools have claimed Valley membership over the league's 99-year history. Among them are Tulsa (1934-1996), Grinnell (1918-1939), Kansas (1907-1928), Nebraska (1907-1919; 1920-1928), Cincinnati (1957-1970), Louisville (1964-1975), Houston (1950-1960) and Memphis (1967-1973).
Last season, the Valley was 12-12 against the power conferences, including a pair of Top 25 victories over Big Ten teams, Wichita State's one-point loss to nationally ranked Illinois and Drake's three-point loss to nationally ranked Boston College.
While Wichita State, Bradley, Illinois State and Southern Illinois have each taken turns as national media darlings for the Missouri Valley Conference, the true standard-bearer of the league over the past decade has been Creighton.
Under the steady leadership of Dana Altman, the Blue Jays have emerged as the top program in Nebraska -- besting even the state school’s Cornhuskers and their Big 12 pedigree. Playing before sellout crowds on an almost-nightly basis at the state-of-the-art Qwest Center Omaha, Creighton established school and conference records last season for average home attendance, ranking 20th among the national leaders with 13,901 fans per game.
Altman has won at least 20 games each season over the last eight years, a Missouri Valley Conference record. Creighton is one of 11 programs in college hoops -- and one of just two non-BCS schools (along with Kent State) -- that can make that claim.
But for all their success, the Blue Jays have yet to make that signature run deep into the NCAA tournament under Altman. Could this be the year?
In 1997, the Atlantic 10 sent five teams to the NCAA tournament -- this coming just one season after Massachusetts became the first team in league history to advance to the Final Four. After a number of disappointing one- or two-bid seasons, A-10 made another strong showing in 2004, sending four teams to the field -- including a pair (Saint Joseph’s and Xavier) that advanced to the Elite Eight.
But while the league which Temple put on the national map during the ‘80s and ‘90s has enjoyed flashes of multi-bid brilliance over its three-decade history, sustained success from a conference point of view has eluded the A-10 over the years.
The MVC’s two longest-tenured coaches spoke Monday about the idea of building upon the unprecedented success enjoyed around the Valley in 2005-06 -- a season that saw the nation’s second-oldest conference send a record four schools to the NCAAs.
Perhaps no single anecdote crystalizes the perceived slight of MVC schools better than Missouri State, which made national headlines on Selection Sunday when the Bears missed the NCAA Tournament despite having the best RPI standing (No. 21) of a team that didn't crack the tourney field.
Barry Hinson's club finished the season at 20-8 overall with a 12-6 mark in league play -- good for a second-place finish in the nation's sixth-best conference. Its worst loss from an RPI standpoint was a four-point setback on the road against SEC staple Arkansas, a ballclub that would go on to make the tournament with an at-large bid.
So have the last seven months healed any wounds?
"Absolutely not," said Hinson, deadly serious. "You've just got to move on. I think there's two ways you can approach it: You can be angry or you can be motivated. We chose not to be angry, we chose to be disappointed but hopefully it will be a motivating factor for us with the experience that we've got coming back this year."
I got an e-mail this morning from a friend that Camden -- the New Jersey municipality just a hop, skip and jump away from my Philadelphia birthplace -- has relinquished its longtime title as the Most Dangerous City in America in a study released Monday.
The challenger that wrested the crown from Camden?
You guessed it: St. Louis, the site of today’s Missouri Valley Conference Centennial Gala and Media Day.
But despite the ubiquity of perils that such a scientific study would indicate, your faithful narrator did manage to navigate from the airport to the Renaissance Grand Hotel in one piece.
Before interview opportunities with the league coaches and the Preseason All-Valley team members get underway, here’s a quick look at the MVC Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll as conducted by the league’s coaches, media and sports information directors:
The Preseason All-Conference Team is headed by Creighton guard Nate Funk, the consensus choice for MVC Player of the Year. Also making the team are Missouri State guard Blake Ahearn, Creighton center Anthony Tolliver, Southern Illinois guard Jamaal Tatum, UNI forward Grant Stout and Southern Illinois guard Tony Young.