Saturday, January 31, 2015

PW's College Basketball Predictions for Super Saturday (Jan 31)

By Peyton Wesner

17-4 (7-1) 13. North Carolina
at 17-3 (5-2) 10. Louisville

17-4 (7-1) 13. North Carolina
Solid Wins:
-Davidson 90-72 (in Charlotte)
-#22 UCLA 78-56 in Consolation Bracket of Battle 4 Atlantis.
-#18 Florida 75-64 in Consolation Championship of Battle 4 Atlantis.
-#12 Ohio State 82-74 in CBS Sports Classic (in Chicago)
-#5 Louisville 72-71 (Home)
-NC State 81-79 (Road)
Losses to Unranked Opponents:
-Butler 74-66 in Quarterfinal of Battle 4 Atlantis.
-Iowa 60-55 in ACC/Big Ten Challenge (Home)
Last Game:
-Win Against Syracuse 93-83
Key Players:
---#5 Marcus Paige (JR)
-14.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, & 1.4 SPG.
---#3 Kennedy Meeks (SO)
-13.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, & 1.3 BPG.
---#11 Brice Johnson (JR)
-12.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, & 1.0 BPG.
---#44 Justin Jackson (FR)
-10.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, & 2.6 APG.
---#13 J.P. Tokoto (JR)
-9.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.1 APG, & 1.3 SPG.

17-3 (5-2) 10. Louisville
Solid Wins:
-Minnesota 81-68 (in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico)
-Cleveland State 45-33 (Home)
-#14 Ohio State 64-55 (Home)
-Indiana 94-74 (in Jimmy V Classic)
-Long Beach State 63-48 (Home)
-Pittsburgh 80-68 (Road)
-#1 Kentucky 58-50 (Home)
-#18 North Carolina 72-71 (Road)
-#4 Duke 63-52 (Home)
Key Players:
---#0 Terry Rozier (SO)
-18.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, & 2.1 SPG.
---#24 Montrezl Harrell (JR)
-14.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, & 1.2 BPG.
---#3 Chris Jones (SR)
-13.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, & 2.0 SPG.
---#25 Wayne Blackshear (SR)
-11.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, & 1.6 SPG.

If today's matchup is even half as good as their first meeting, we are all in for a treat. The North Carolina Tar Heels have been one of the hottest teams in the country since their loss to Notre Dame after the death of UNC graduate Stewart Scott. Since the defeat, North Carolina has averaged just under eighty points per game including 93 points against Syracuse's zone defense. The task will be tall though against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals once again have a great team on the North side of Kentucky as they have only lost three games this season all coming against ranked teams. One loss came against today's opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels, as All-American Point Guard Marcus Paige ended his early game woes and made a layup to give UNC the lead and later the win on their home court. The revenge meeting is today as two of the best teams in the ACC face-off. My key for Louisville is personally for Montrezl Harrell as he needs to stay out of foul trouble and keep on the court to rebound and dominate the paint. For North Carolina, I believe the key is for Sophomore Kennedy Meeks to have another good game and not get pushed around in the post by Louisville's veteran big men. If Meeks holds his own and pulls down rebounds, Virginia better look out because they will be facing the hottest team not undefeated on Monday. 
---Louisville 73, North Carolina 69

14-6 (3-4) 19. Texas
at 15-5 (3-4) 20. Baylor

14-6 (3-4) 19. Texas
Solid Wins:
-North Dakota State 85-50 (Home)
-Iowa 71-57 in Semi-Final of 2K Classic.
-California 71-55 in Championship of 2K Classic.
-#24 Connecticut 55-54 (Road)
-Long Beach State 78-68 (Home)
-#16 West Virginia 77-50 (Home)
Conference Losses:
-#16 Oklahoma 70-49 (Home)
-Oklahoma State 69-58 (Road)
-#11 Kansas 75-62 (Home)
Last Game:
-Loss To #15 Iowa State 89-86 (Road)
Key Players:
---#1 Isaiah Taylor (SO)
-13.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, & 1.1 SPG.
---#10 Jonathan Holmes (SR)
-11.9 PPG & 6.7 RPG.
---#52 Myles Turner (FR)
-11.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, & 2.8 BPG.
---#3 Javan Felix (JR)
-10.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, & 2.1 APG.
---#55 Cameron Ridley (JR)
-8.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, & 1.8 BPG.

15-5 (3-4) 20. Baylor
Solid Wins:
-South Carolina 69-55 (Road)
-Stephen F. Austin 67-61 (Home)
-Memphis 71-47 in Semi-Final of Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
-Texas A&M 77-63 (Home)
-New Mexico State 66-55 (Home)
-#11 Iowa State 74-73 (Home)
-#19 Oklahoma 69-58 (Home)
Conference Losses:
-#18 Oklahoma 73-63 (Road)
-#12 Kansas 56-55 (Home)
-Kansas State 63-61 (Road)
-Oklahoma State 64-53 (Road)
Key Players:
---#21 Taurean Prince (JR)
-12.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG, & 1.2 SPG.
---#1 Kenny Chery (SR)
-11.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, & 1.7 SPG.
---#2 Rico Gathers (JR)
-10.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG, & 1.3 SPG.
---#00 Royce O'Neale (SR)
-9.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, & 3.2 APG.
---#35 Johnathan Motley (FR)
-9.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, & 1.9 BPG.
---#11 Lester Medford (JR)
-8.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, & 3.6 APG.

Although you can make the case for the ACC to be the best conference in college basketball, the Big 12 is the conference with the best teams from top to bottom. The stat that proves my case is that nine of the ten teams have been in the Top 25 for at least one week this season. Amazing right? Indeed it is but another thing that amazes me is that both of these teams are currently in the Top 25 with under .500 conference records, which is another testiment of how great the Big 12 is. Both Baylor and Texas are so evenly matched in my opinion as they both contain opponents to 58 points per game and score about the same amount of points. In addition, both teams have lost at least two conference games on the road, which gives the edge to Baylor in the matchup. Despite the best player wearing orange tonight in Texas guard Isaiah Taylor, I feel the better team is wearing green and will use home court advantage to get back to 4-4 in conference play.
---Baylor 68, Texas 65

17-3 (4-3) 4. Duke 
at 19-0 (7-0) 2. Virginia

17-3 (4-3) 4. Duke
Solid Wins:
-#19 Michigan State 81-71 (Home)
-Temple 74-54 in Semi-Final of Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
-Stanford 70-59 in Championship of Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
-#2 Wisconsin 80-70 (Road)
-Connecticut 66-56 (in East Rutherford)
-Toledo 86-69
-#6 Louisville 63-62 (Road)
-Pittsburgh 79-65 (Home)
-St. John's 77-68 (Road)
Conference Losses:
-NC State 87-75 (Road)
-Miami (FL) 90-74 (Home)
-#8 Notre Dame 77-73 (Road)
Key Players:
---#15 Jahlil Okafor (FR)
-18.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, & 1.5 BPG.
---#2 Quinn Cook (SR)
-14.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, & 1.3 SPG.
---#5 Tyus Jones (FR)
-10.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.0 APG, & 1.4 SPG.
---#12 Justice Winslow (FR)
-10.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG & 1.8 APG.
---#21 Amile Jefferson (JR)
-8.8 PPG & 7.4 RPG.

19-0 (7-0) 2. Virginia
Solid Wins:
-George Washington 59-42 (Home)
-La Salle 64-56 in Semi-Final of Barclays Center Classic.
-Rutgers 45-26 in Championship of Barclays Center Classic.
-#21 Maryland 76-65 in ACC/Big Ten Challenge (Road)
-VCU 74-57 (Road)
-Cleveland State 70-54 (Home)
-Harvard 76-27 (Home)
-Davidson 83-72 (Home)
-Miami 89-80 in Double Overtime (Road)
-NC State 61-51 (Home)
-#13 Notre Dame 62-56 (Road)
-Clemson 65-42 (Home)
Key Players:
---#1 Justin Anderson (JR)
-13.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG & 1.9 APG.
---#15 Malcolm Brogdon (JR)
-13.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, & 2.7 APG.
---#13 Anthony Gill (JR)
-11.3 PPG & 6.7 RPG.
---#10 Mike Tobey (JR)
-7.6 PPG & 5.6 RPG.

If you think I am picking Duke, then you may not know me that well. I am sorry Duke fans, I don't root nor pick for Devils. Today's matchup was once thought to be a possible battle of the undefeateds but then Duke turned into the Blue Devils' team I love that shows up every year during the middle of March during the NCAA Tournament with losses at NC State by 12 and at Cameron Indoor Stadium by 16 against Miami. After righting the ship and getting Coach Krzyzewski his 1,000 career win last Sunday at Madison Square Garden against St. John's, Duke lost thier third conference game at Notre Dame on Wednesday. Number four coming tonight on ESPN against the best defense in college basketball? Personally, I cannot believe that the Virginia Cavaliers are better than last year's team. It is truly unfathomable since Joe Harris, who is now in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is not on their team anymore. Defense is the key for Virginia as they only allow opponents to score an average of 49.2 points per game. The matchup to watch is no doubt Duke's great offense led by Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook versus Virginia's great defense. Virginia cannot outscore Duke but if their defense can play like they have, Virginia will win. Lastly, do not sleep on Justin Anderson as he is finally on the national stage and could show NBA scouts how good he really is.
---Virginia 62, Duke 60

13-7 (4-4) 24. Oklahoma
at 14-6 (4-4) Oklahoma State

13-7 (4-4) Oklahoma
Solid Wins:
-#22 UCLA 75-65 in Quarterfinal of Battle 4 Atlantis.
-Butler 59-46 in Semi-Final of Battle 4 Atlantis.
-Tulsa 87-68 (Road)
-#22 Baylor 73-63 (Home)
-#10 Texas 70-49 (Road)
-#24 Oklahoma State 82-65 (Home)
Conference Losses:
-Kansas State 66-63 in Overtime (Home)
-#16 West Virginia 86-65 (Road)
-#11 Kansas 85-78 (Road)
-#21 Baylor 69-58 (Road)
Last Game:
-Win Against Texas Tech 81-36 (Home)
Key Players:
---#24 Buddy Hield (JR)
-17.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, & 1.4 SPG.
---#11 Isaiah Cousins (JR)
-12.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, & 1.3 SPG.
---#35 TaShawn Thomas (SR)
-10.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, & 1.5 BPG.
---#00 Ryan Spangler (JR)
-10.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, & 1.3 BPG.
---#10 Jordan Woodard (SO)
-8.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, & 1.3 SPG.

14-6 (4-4) Oklahoma State
Solid Wins:
-Oregon State 66-53 in Semi-Final of MGM Grand Main Event.
-Tulsa 73-58 in Championship of MGM Grand Main Event.
-Memphis 73-55 (Road)
-Missouri 74-72 in Overtime (Home)
-Kansas State 61-47 (Home)
-#10 Texas 69-58 (Home)
Conference Losses:
-#17 Iowa State 63-61 (Road)
-#9 Kansas 67-57 (Road)
-#18 Oklahoma 82-65 (Road)
-Kansas State 63-53 (Road)
Key Players:
---#13 Phil Forte III (JR)
-17.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, & 2.3 SPG.
---#2 Le'Bryan Nash (SR)
17.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, & 1.0 BPG.
---#12 Anthony Hickey Jr. (SR)
-8.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, & 2.0 SPG.

Are you a Big 12 Basketball fan and sad Texas at Baylor was a non-exciting Baylor win? Don't worry Oklahoma at Oklahoma State comes on right after Texas at Baylor on ESPN2. The Oklahoma Sooners have hit a turbulanet part of their schedule as they have dropped games at Kansas and at Baylor after defeating tonight's opponent the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Norman a few weeks ago. Although, times have been better for the Sooners, none have been better for star Buddy Hield as he has been tickling the twine in conference play and is averaging 20.6 points per game, good enough for most in the conference during the span. In addition to Hield's great performances, fellow guard Isaiah Cousins is averaging thirteen points per game in his last three and forward Ryan Spangler is averaging 14.3 per game in his. Will Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte III be able to produce enough to avoid a series sweep this year? The Oklahoma State Cowboys are coming off a huge win at home against Baylor where the whole team contributed to help the Cowboys shoot down the Bears by eleven points. Although, It is very possible that Oklahoma State will return the favor to their Oklahoman rival tonight at home, in my opinion this is a must-win game for Oklahoma State because their next three games include at Texas, home against Kansas, and at Baylor. I just do not see Oklahoma State having a better chance to win in their next four but right here. On the other hand, this game is crucial for Oklahoma because with a loss they would drop outside the top twenty five rankings and no team wants that. Ultimately I see it coming down to who can score more between Oklahoma's trio of Hield, Cousins, and Spangler and Oklahoma State's of Forte III, Nash, and Hickey Jr.
---Oklahoma 72, Oklahoma State 70

10:00 PM EST-ESPN2
13-7 Memphis
at 21-1 3. Gonzaga

13-7 Memphis
Solid Wins:
-Indiana State 72-62 in Third Place Game of Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
-North Carolina Central 81-47 (Home)
-Cincinnati 63-50 (Home)
American Athletic Conference Losses:
-Tulane 74-66 (Home)
-SMU 73-59 (Road)
-Tulsa 73-55 (Road)
Key Players:
---#4 Austin Nicholls (SO)
-13.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, & 3.2 BPG.
---#0 Trashon Burrell (JR)
-9.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, & 2.2 APG.
---#20 Avery Woodson (SO)
-8.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, & 1.2 SPG.
---#2 Shaq Goodwin (JR)
-7.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, & 1.0 BPG.

21-1 3. Gonzaga
Solid Wins:
-#22 SMU 72-56
-Georgia 88-76 in Semi-Final of NIT Season Tip-Off.
-St. John's 73-66 in Championship of NIT Season Tip-Off.
-UCLA 87-74 (Road)
-BYU 87-80 (Road)
-Pepperdine 78-76 (Road)
-Saint Mary's 68-47 (Home)
Only Loss:
-#3 Arizona 65-63 in Overtime (Road)
Key Players:
---#33 Kyle Wiltjer (JR)
-15.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, & 2.0 APG.
---#4 Kevin Pangos (SR)
-12.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, & 1.3 SPG.
---#24 Przemek Karnowski (JR)
-10.8 PPG & 6.1 RPG.
---#22 Byron Wesley (SR)
-10.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, & 1.0 SPG.
---#11 Domantas Sabonis (FR)
-10.0 PPG & 6.9 RPG.
---#5 Gary Bell Jr. (SR)
-8.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, & 2.0 APG.

The last non-West Coast Conference threat to get a crack at the Gonzaga Bulldogs prior to tournament time is the Memphis Tigers. Memphis is currently on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament berth bubble but a win tonight would help significantly. The Tigers do not have the same dominance this year like they used to have in Conference-USA as they have suffered losses to Stephen F. Austin and Tulane. In addition to the poor losses, Shaq Goodwin, a player who was looked to be a big contributor, has had an awful Junior season with his points per game down 3.7 in contrast to his Sophomore year. The only bright spot has been the play of Austin Nicholls who has the looks of a star for the Tigers. The problem for Memphis tonight is that, Gonzaga has five players that can produce almost the same amount as Nicholls. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are off to yet another great season and if it wasn't for the Arizona Wildcats' T.J. McConnell, they would be undefeated. The Zags are led by former Kentucky Wildcat Kyle Wiltjer who is showing UK what they are missing out on as he has emerged as a star in Spokane. In addition to Wiltjer, Senior Kevin Pangos is still in school and is having another solid season facilitating and shooting the basketball. Does Memphis even have a chance tonight? Yes and it would be a season changing upset, but I do not forsee Gonzaga with all their experienced talent allowing the Tigers to come into their building and push them around.
---Gonzaga 75, Memphis 60

10-9 (3-4) Cal Poly
at 15-4 (5-1) UC Davis

10-9 (3-4) Cal Poly
Solid Wins:
-San Francisco 78-71 (Road)
-Northeastern 60-58 (in Santa Clara)
-Santa Clara 69-58 (Road)
-Hawaii 61-57 in Overtime (Road)
Conference Losses:
-UC Santa Barbara 50-45 (Home)
-Long Beach State 50-48 (Road)
-Cal State Northridge 55-48 (Road)
-UC Irvine 67-57 (Road)
Key Players:
---#0 David Nwaba (JR)
-13.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, & 1.4 SPG.
---#34 Brian Bennett (JR)
-10.9 PPG & 6.3 RPG.
---#5 Reese Morgan (SR)
-9.9 PPG & 3.8 RPG.
---#25 Joel Awich (JR)
-8.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, & 1.2 BPG.

15-4 (5-1) UC Davis
Solid Wins:
-Eastern Illlinois 63-61 (Road)
-Utah State 77-70 in Overtime (Home)
-Eastern Illinois 80-70 (Home)
-Air Force 81-75 (Road)
-Northern Colorado 73-63 (Road)
-Long Beach State 73-67 in Overtime (Home)
-UC Santa Barbara 70-64 (Home)
Non-Power Six Conference Losses:
-Idaho 79-71 (Road)
-Seattle 76-67 (Road)
-Hawaii 84-76 (Road)
Key Players:
---#3 Corey Hawkins (SR)
-21.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, & 1.4 SPG.
---#23 Josh Ritchart (SR)
-11.7 PPG & 4.1 RPG.
---#21 Josh Fox (JR)
-9.5 PPG & 4.4 RPG.
---#13 J.T. Adenrele (JR)
-7.4 PPG & 4.4 RPG.

If you are like me and love watching late night college hoops turn over to ESPNU because this game has the capability to be great. If you are not familiar with the Big West Conference or either team let me tell you the only two words that you need to know: Corey Hawkins. Hawkins is a great player and has been a lethal scorer ever since he stepped on campus. In his Freshman year he averaged 20.3 points per game and last year during his Sophomore season he had 18.0 points per game. This season Hawkins has taken his game and his team to a whole other level. The team that has the job of trying to  stop Hawkins is the Cal Poly Mustangs. If the University of Cal Poly sounds familiar it is because they won an NCAA Tournament game in the First Four last year before getting beaten as the sixteen seed by the Wichita State Shockers. Cal Poly does not have a pure scorer like their opponent but do have four players that can collectively put together the bulk of their team's points. This evening though I feel Cal Poly will not be able to put together enough points to counter UC Davis and Corey Hawkins. Who knows maybe Corey Hawkins and UC Davis will be the first team to knock of a one seed in the NCAA Tournament as a sixteen seed if they win the Big West Conference Tournament in March.
---UC Davis 66, Cal Poly 60
Courtney Hawkins Points: 27 

10:30 PM EST-PAC 12 Network
11-9 (4-4) Colorado
at 12-9 (4-4) UCLA

11-9 (4-4) Colorado
Solid Wins:
-Auburn 90-59 (Home)
-Air Force 68-53 (Home)
-DePaul 82-68 in Quarterfinal of Diamond Head Classic.
-UCLA 62-56 (Home)
-Washington State 90-54 (Home)
"Never Should Have Happened" Losses:
-Wyoming 56-33 (Road)
-Georgia 64-57 (Road)
-Colorado State 62-60 (Home)
-Hawaii 69-66 (Road) in 5th Place Game of Diamond Head Classic.
-Arizona State 78-72 (Road)
Key Players:
---#0 Askia Booker (SR)
-17.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, & 1.4 SPG.
---#2 Xavier Johnson (JR)
-12.7 PPG & 5.3 RPG.
---#1 Wesley Gordan (SO)
-7.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, & 1.5 BPG.

12-9 (4-4) UCLA
Solid Wins:
-Coastal Carolina 84-71 (Home)
-Long Beach State 77-63 (Home)
-Stanford 86-81 in Double Overtime (Home)
-#11 Utah 69-59 (Home)
Losses Against Unranked Opponents:
-Oklahoma 75-65 in Quarterfinal of Battle 4 Atlantis.
-Alabama 56-50 (Road)
-Colorado 62-56 (Road)
-Oregon State 66-56 (Road)
-Oregon 82-64 (Road)
Key Players:
---#4 Norman Powell (SR)
-15.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, & 2.0 SPG.
---#20 Bryce Alford (SO)
-15.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.6 APG, & 1.1 SPG.
---#5 Kevon Looney (FR)
-12.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, & 1.1 BPG.
---#23 Tony Parker (JR)
-10.4 PPG & 7.3 RPG.
---#10 Issac Hamilton (SO)
-10.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, & 2.2 APG.

UCLA beat-down Utah and I am still shocked! How can the UCLA Bruins who have looked absolutley awful at times during conference play like at Utah, where they lost 71-39 and at Oregon where they lost 82-64, defeat Utah by ten points? I really don't know but if they play like they did on Thursday, their opponent, the Colorado Buffalos, is in big trouble. The Colorado Buffalos have one of the best guards in the conference in Askia Booker but the Senior can only do so much for his team. On Thursday, Booker scored a career-high 43 points in a triple overtime win at USC, which was just one of many amazing performances he has had in the last four years. The problem for Booker and the Buffalos is that he has had to do it all for his team because of an injury to Colorado's second leading scorer, Josh Scott. In matchup one between the two teams, which also happened to be each team's conference opener, Colorado eventually won behind twenty points from Booker. UCLA's Bryce Alford had the worst game of his career as he shot two for sixteen from the field. I do not expect Alford to play badly again tonight, but I do expect for UCLA to continue their winning streak while returning the favor to Colorado at home.
---UCLA 70, Colorado 64

PW's Prediction Record Coming into Today: 108-42 (34-11 in the MVC)

PW's MVC Men's Basketball Predictions for (Jan 31)

By Peyton Wesner

Today is the day that I and other die-hard Missouri Valley Conference Men's basketball fans have been waiting as the two best teams, the Wichita State Shockers and the Northern Iowa Panthers, face off in the first meeting between nationally ranked MVC teams since January 18, 1982, when the Shockers took on Tulsa. But before we dive into today's great slate of hoops, I would like to reflect and continue to forcast who will place where in the best conference in High-Major basketball. 

Pre-Season MVC Predictions
1. Wichita State
2. Northern Iowa
3. Evansville
4. Missouri State
5. Illinois State
6. Loyola (IL)
7. Bradley
8. Indiana State
9. Southern Illinois
10. Drake

Pre-Season All-MVC First Team
Ron Baker (Wichita State)
Fred Van Vleet (Wichita State)
D.J. Balentine (Evansville)
Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa)
Marcus Marshall (Missouri State)
Egidijus Mockevicius (Evansville)

Obviously I did not expect Marcus Marshall to decide to transfer in the middle of the season, nor for the Bears to win their first two conference games and then lose ever since. Really, there is no valid excuse for my Missouri State pick because they were playing awful with Marshall and I thought they were better than they really are. Surprising to me is the quality of team Indiana State has. Who would have thought that the  Sycamores would be in the top half of the conference without All-MVC Point Guard Jake Odum. Not me, that is for sure! 

Mid-Conference Season Predictions
1. Wichita State 27-3 (17-1)
---It is unlikely that the Shockers will even lose a game this conference season but I believe it will happen. It could come as early as today from my perspective since it is hard to play on the road against UNI, but if Wichita State survives, they could easily underestimate a team like Illinois State or Indiana State leading to their first conference regular season loss since 2013 to Creighton.
2. Northern Iowa 26-4 (15-3)
---Well if you are tired of the conference championship staying in Wichita, the Panthers are the team you should be rooting for. Northern Iowa, led by Seth Tuttle and a very active defense, have held the most potent offenses to a low number of points. But do they have enough offense to hang around with "The Big Four"?! That is what we will find out today.
3. Indiana State 16-14 (12-6)
---Why do I have the Sycamores in the third spot now? Because they only have three games remaining against the top five teams in the conference. In my eyes, that means that Indiana State has some very winnable games for the remainder of their regular season schedule. Maybe Freshman Brenton Scott was exactly what the Trees needed to grow to higher heights.
4. Evansville 21-9 (11-7)
---Mislav Brzoja's broken hand will hurt UE more than you know. Take it from me, Brzoja was finally clicking and becoming a third scorer that Blake Simmons was not during Adam Wing's absence. D.J. Balentine continues to score the basketball but there will be times he will not be able to score enough. I really look forward to the Illinois State/Evansville matchups because it is a realistic Arch Madness matchup that will show the talent of both schools.
5. Illinois State 19-11 (11-7)
---Coming in hot! The Redbirds have bounced back from their 0-2 conference start and should be 7-2 today. Think about it, if Akoon-Purcell would not have fouled at the end of the second half in Terre Haute while up two points and if they could have solved Northern Iowa's zone defense last Sunday we could be having a very different conversation. I look for the Redbirds to continue to compete with good play for the remainder of the season.
6. Loyola (IL) 16-14 (6-12)
---I really hope the Ramblers can figure-out their current struggles because the last thing they want is to be stuck in Thursday Night Action at the Scottrade Center. The ankle injury that has hampered the play of star Milton Doyle and has now taken him out of the action completly could be the bullet that puts the dog to bed. If any two games mean the most for the Ramblers on the "back nine" it would be on the road against Drake and at home versus Missouri State to conclude the regular season. These games are essential for two reasons. Number one, Valley fans will hopefully be able to see a fully healthy Milton Doyle and see how better he plays, and, number two, the Ramblers need to win these two matchups to stay out of the bottom four and create any kind of momentum to get the championship juices flowing for Arch Madness.
7. Southern Illinois 12-19 (5-13)
---Anthony Beane has finally solved his scoring struggles and trust me teams are going to find out quick. Beane is the Salukis' only scorer but he is a very good one. I see SIU ultimately sweeping Drake and winning at least one more game to grab the seventh spot in the conference.
8. Drake 8-22 (5-13)
---Will Drake ever be out of the bottom four? Every time they have a good young player, he transfers to a Big Ten school (Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) and Joey King (Minnesota)). The Bulldogs have a lot of potential in Gary Ricks Jr.'s Senior year and have solid players that could sneak up on a contender prior to March.
9. Missouri State 10-20 (4-14)
---So Austin Ruder, are you enjoying being the leading scorer and having your opponent's best defender guarding you at all times? Marcus Marshall is gone and in a blink of an eye the Bears conference championship asperations have disappeared as well. Hopefully they will not finish the season 0-16 but I suppose anything is possible.
10. Bradley 9-22 (4-14)
---Why does Bradley never live up to expectations? Seriously, they have plenty of scorers, but got beat by double-digits by Drake!  I don't know if their team has the competive fire or what is going on in Peoria but whatever it is, it's not good.

Mid-Season All-MVC Team
Ron Baker (Wichita State)
D.J. Balentine (Evansville)
Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa)
Fred Van Vleet (Wichita State)
Egidijus Mockevicius (Evansville)
Daishon Knight (Illinois State)

Mid-Season All-MVC 2nd Team
Anthony Beane (Southern Illinois)
Devonte Brown (Indiana State)
Darius Carter (Wichita State)
Christian Thomas (Loyola)
Tekele Cotton (Wichita State)

All-MVC Freshman Team
Brenton Scott (Indiana State)
Jordan Carolina (Southern Illinois)
Josh Cunningham (Bradley)
Reed Timmer (Drake)
Shaquille Morris (Wichita State)

I would put Milton Doyle First Team MVC but since he will miss three to four weeks with ankle injury, I have a feeling it will hurt his argument and chances to receive such a high post-season award.

January 31, 2015
1:05 PM EST
7-15 (2-7) Bradley
at 10-11 (6-3) Indiana State

7-15 (2-7) Bradley
Solid Wins:
-Central Michigan 84-73 (Home)
-Southern Illinois 63-44 (Home)
-Missouri State 61-59 (Home)
"Never Should Have Happened" Losses:
-Texas-Arlington 86-75 (Home)
-Robert Morris 68-61 (Home)
-UC Irvine 55-47 in the Semi-Final of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
-Arkansas-Little Rock 64-54 in the Consolation Championship of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
Last Game:
-Loss to Drake 69-57 (Home)
Players to Watch:
---#2 Warren Jones (JR)
-13.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, & 1.6 SPG.
---#4 Auston Barnes (SR) 
-10.6 PPG & 4.2 RPG.
---#5 Tramique Sutherland (JR)
-10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, & 3.0 APG.
---#24 Omari Grier (JR) 
-8.2 PPG & 2.0 APG.
---#21 Josh Cunningham (FR)
-7.7 PPG & 7.5 RPG.
---#0 Ka'Darryl Bell (JR)
-7.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, & 1.1 SPG.

10-11 (6-3) Indiana State
Solid Wins:
-Illinois State 63-61 (Road)
-Evansville 79-75 in Overtime (Home)
-Missouri State 71-56 (Home)
-Illinois State 71-70 in Overtime (Home) 
"Never Should Have Happened" Losses:
-Eastern Illinois 60-56 (Home)
-Missouri-Kansas City 73-70 in Double Overtime.
-Drake 84-78 (Road) 
Last Game:
-Loss To Evansville 89-78 (Road)
Players to Watch:
---#11 Devonte Brown (JR) 
-12.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, & 2.9 APG.
---#4 Brenton Scott (FR) 
-11.8 PPG & 3.8 RPG.
---#1 Khristian Smith (JR) 
-10.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, & 1.0 SPG.
---#5 Justin Gant (SR)
-9.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, & 1.0 BPG.
---#15 Tre' Bennett (JR)
-7.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG, & 3.0 APG.

Although Indiana State has finally hit a bit of a slide (I figured would eventually come), it will stop today. Bradley lost to Drake at home on Wednesday...that means they are definately not a team the Sycamores should be fearing. The Braves do have a lot of scoring options, but Indiana State has just as many players that can guard them. The thing I am really looking forward to seeing is which Freshman will steal the show, Bradley's Josh Cunningham or Indiana State's Brenton Scott. Both players have had really good first seasons in "The Valley" and are showing the fans that they could be the future stars of the conference. Ultimately, I feel Indiana State will be too much for their opponent and will put the Braves away behind a good performances from Brenton Scott, who scored twenty points at Evansville, and  Devonte Brown, who is averaging 21 points per game in his last two.
---Indiana State 63, Bradley 54

2:00 PM EST-Full Court/ESPN3
13-8 (5-4) Illinois State
at 13-8 (3-6) Loyola (IL)

13-8 (5-4) Illinois State 
Solid Wins:
-Old Dominion 64-45 in the Semi-Final of Paradise Jam.
-DePaul 78-72 (Road)
-Missouri State 69-55 (Road)
Conference Losses
-Indiana State 63-61 (Home)
-#16 Wichita State 70-62 (Road)
-Indiana State 71-70 in Overtime (Road)
-#20 Northern Iowa 54-53 (Road)
Last Game:
-Win Against Missouri State 67-57 (Home)
Players to Watch:
---#3 Daishon Knight (SR) 
-15.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, & 1.2 SPG.
---#44 DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (JR)
-12.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, & 1.1 SPG.
---#4 Bobby Hunter (SR) 
-9.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, & 1.7 APG.
---#22 Reggie Lynch (SO) 
-8.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, & 2.6 BPG.

13-8 (3-6) Loyola (IL)
Solid Wins:
-Kent State 69-61 (Road)
-Texas Tech 62-44 in the Semi-Finals of the Las Vegas Classic.
-Boise State 48-45 in the Championship of the Las Vegas Classic.
-Bradley 64-49 (Home)
-Evansville 71-70 (Road)
Conference Losses:
-#23 Northern Iowa 67-58 (Road)
-Southern Illinois 59-52 (Road)
-#15 Wichita State 67-53 (Home)
-Southern Illinois 59-52 (Road)
-Evansville 65-56 (Home)
-Indiana State 72-61 (Road)
Last Game:
-Loss To #12 Wichita State 58-47 (Road)
Players to Watch:
---#32 Christian Thomas (SR) 
-11.9 PPG & 4.2 RPG. 
---#24 Montel James (JR)
-8.4 PPG & 4.0 RPG.
---#4 Devon Turk (JR)
-8.3 PPG & 2.5 RPG.

Do not sleep on Loyola in this game! The Ramblers held Wichita State's high powered offense to only 58 points on Wednesday. Through my eyes, that is a very good performance, but without Doyle, the offense cannot competitively produce pointd. Devon Turk was the leading scorer against the Shockers with nine points. A team's highest scorer with under ten points normally does not get the team a win. The offense will need to step up against today's opponent, the Illinois State. The Redbirds rebounded from their home loss to Northern Iowa with a ten point win to sweep the season series against the Missouri State Bears. Many Redbirds' had great individual games against Missouri State as Reggie Lynch had twelve points and five rebounds, Daishon Knight scored fourteen points, and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell had his first great game since returning from injury with a twenty point, twelve rebound performance. Loyola's defense may be able to contain the scoring of Illinois State but if the offense continues to be unseen, expect another L in the Joseph J. Gentile Center.
---Illinois State 60, Loyola (IL) 53

3:05 PM EST
16-5 (6-3) Evansville
at 5-16 (2-7) Drake

16-5 (6-3) Evansville
Solid Wins:
-San Francisco 79-72 in Third Place Game of Gulf Coast Showcase.
-Wright State 86-78 (Home)
-Belmont 65-62 (Road)
-Ohio 81-69 in Overtime (Home)
-#23 Northern Iowa 52-49 (Home)
-Bradley 66-56 (Home)
-Loyola (IL) 65-56 (Road)
-Green Bay 64-62 in Semi-Final of Gulf Coast Showcase.
-Murray State 81-79 (Home)
-Indiana State 79-75 in Overtime (Road)
-Loyola (IL) 71-70 (Home)
-#13 Wichita State 61-41 (Home)
Last Game:
-Win Against Indiana State 89-78 (Home)
Players to Watch:
---#31 D.J. Balentine (JR)
-19.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, & 3.5 APG.
---#55 Egidijus Mockevicius
-13.0 PPG, 10.9 RPG, & 2.7 BPG.
---#50 Blake Simmons (SO)
-8.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, & 2.4 APG.
---#12 Adam Wing (JR)
-6.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, & 2.6 APG.

5-16 (2-7) Drake
Division I Wins:
-IUPUI 73-60 (Home)
-Jackson State 76-66 (Home)
-Indiana State 84-78 (Home)
Single-Digit Conference Losses:
-#16 Wichita State 66-58 (Home)
-Loyola (IL) 50-47 (Road)
-Illinois State 64-56 (Home)
Last Game:
-Win Against Bradley 69-57 (Road)
Players to Watch:
---#2 Gary Ricks Jr. (SR) 
-11.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, & 2.2 APG.
---#12 Reed Timmer (FR) 
-9.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, & 2.5 APG.
---#3 Jordan Daniels (SR)
-8.0 PPG.
---#11 Jacob Enevold Jensen (SR) 
-8.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, & 1.0 BPG
---#25 Chris Caird (SR)
-7.5 PPG & 2.2 RPG.

"D.J. Balentine from downtown" is what the Purple Aces will need to be seeing today for any chance of victory. Evansville is coming off a huge 89-78 win over in-state rival Indiana State where the whole team played well and shot 53.2% from the field. Today the same performance will be required against a pesky Drake Bulldogs squad. The Bulldogs started off the conference season horribly as they dropped their first five games, but since, Drake has slowly dug themselves out of the conference cellar and are in the thick of a race for Loyola's six seed. In Drake's last game, the Bulldogs behind a total of 44 points from Ricks Jr., Timmer, and Enevold Jensen, dominated Bradley on their home court. Evansville better not underestimate them or Drake will be 2-0 against Indiana teams at home.
---Evansville 65, Drake 59

19-2 (9-0) 12. Wichita State
at 19-2 (8-1) 18. Northern Iowa

19-2 (9-0) 12. Wichita State
Lunardi's Bracketology: 4 Seed
Solid Wins:
-Memphis 71-56 (in Sioux Falls)
-St. Louis 81-52 (Home)
-Seton Hall 77-68 (Home)
-Alabama 53-52 (Home)
-Illinois State 70-62 (Home)
-Loyola (IL) 67-53 (Road)
-Evansville 61-41 (Road)
-#25 Utah 69-68 in Overtime (Road)
-George Washington 60-54 in the Championship of the Diamond Head Classic.
Last Game:
-Win Against Loyola (IL) 58-47 (Home)
Players to Watch:
---#31 Ron Baker (JR) 
-16.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, & 1.1 SPG.
---#12 Darius Carter (SR) 
-12.0 PPG & 5.9 RPG.
---#23 Fred Van Vleet (JR) 
-11.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, & 1.9 SPG.
---#32 Tekele Cotton (SR) 
-9.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, & 1.3 SPG.

19-2 (8-1) 18. Northern Iowa
Lunardi's Bracketology: 6 Seed
Solid Wins:
-Stephen F. Austin 79-77 in Overtime (Road)
-Virginia Tech 73-54 in Semi-Final of Cancun Challenge.
-Northwestern 61-42 in Championship of Cancun Challenge.
-Iowa 56-44 (in Des Moines)
-Loyola (IL) 67-58 (Home)
-Indiana State 66-60 (Home)
-Illinois State 54-53 (Road)
-VCU 93-87 in Overtime (Road)
-Evansville 52-49 (Road)
Last Game:
-Win Against Southern Illinois 59-52 (Road)
Players to Watch:
---#10 Seth Tuttle (SR)
-15.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, & 3.1 APG.
---#11 Wes Washpun (JR)
-8.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, & 1.2 SPG.
---#1 Deon Mitchell (SR)
-7.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, & 2.2 APG.
---#14 Nate Buss (JR)
-6.4 PPG & 2.4 RPG.

On paper the Northern Iowa Panthers do not stand a chance, but on the court they have the best chance in the Missouri Valley to end Wichita State's thirty game regular season winning streak. Northern Iowa has had a great season so far led by All-MVC Power Foward Seth Tuttle and a defense that has held conference opponents to 50.2 points per game. The deceiving stat for UNI is that Seth Tuttle is their only scorer averaging double-digits. So shut down Tuttle and UNI losses? Not exactly, since the Panthers have one of the best benches in the country. Playing Northern Iowa in my opinion, is like protecting a fortification in war because you can analysis where you think the bulk of the damage will come from (Tuttle) but never know where the other destruction will occur. One day Bohanon could drop fifteen plus, another day Buss or Mitchell, or maybe Washpun and Morgan. It is hard to determine who will step up with Tuttle for Northern Iowa but someone always does. With Northern Iowa's opponent, Wichita State, one does not need to guess who will play great as it comes from their "Fantastic Four" of Juniors Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet, and Seniors Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton. The four have completely ran over Missouri Valley Conference opponents with their shooting, paint scoring, and defensive intensity without shocking anyone. Now, one weakness for Wichita State could be their lack of a go-to scorer off the bench. The bench talent is young and unexperienced led by Freshmen Shaquille Morris and Rashard Kelly. Morris and Kelly have had some good performances this season but together the two are only producing an average of 7.8 points per game. THIS HAS BEEN THE GAME WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR! Wichita State's offense versus Northern Iowa's defense. Tuttle versus Carter. The Fantastic Four against Tuttle's Troops! Sit back and buckle up, because this game is for sure to be a ride.
---Northern Iowa 56, Wichita State 54

8:05 PM EST-Full Court/ESPN3
9-13 (2-7) Southern Illinois
at 8-13 (2-7) Missouri State

9-13 (2-7) Southern Illinois
Solid Wins:
-SIU-Edwardsville 79-67 (Road)
-Loyola (IL) 59-52 (Home)
-Bradley 70-59 (Home)
"Should Not Have Happened" Losses:
-Southeast Missouri State 55-54 (Home)
-New Orleans 56-52 (Home)
Last Game:
-Loss To #18 Northern Iowa 59-52 (Road) 
Players to Watch:
---#25 Anthony Beane (JR) 
-16.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG.
---#14 Jordan Caroline (FR) 
-9.0 PPG & 6.0 RPG.
---#33 Sean O'Brien (SO) 
-8.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, & 1.2 SPG.

8-13 (2-7) Missouri State
Conference Wins:
-Southern Illinois 53-50 (Road)
-Drake 62-37 (Home)
Conference Losses:
-Indiana State 71-56 (Road)
-Illinois State 69-55 (Home)
-Evansville 56-54 (Home)
-#23 Northern Iowa 60-46 (Road)
-#14 Wichita State 76-53 (Home)
-Bradley 61-59 (Road)
Last Game:
-Loss to Illinois State 67-57 (Road)
Players to Watch:
---#2 Austin Ruder (SO) 
-8.8 PPG & 2.1 RPG.
---#23 Dorrian Williams (JR)
-7.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.7 RPG, & 1.5 SPG.
---#30 Camyn Boone (JR)
-7.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, & 1.0 BPG.

First one to sixty points wins! The Southern Illinois Salukis have been trending upward after a five game losing streak to begin conference play, the team won two games in a row at home against Loyola (IL) and Bradley to snap the skid. The losses eventually came back though at Evansville and in a game against Northern Iowa, where the Salukis' leading scorer and Missouri Valley Conference's third best, Anthony Beane, shot two for nine from the field while scoring only five points. Will Beane's struggles continue against the coldest team in the conference? The Missouri State Bears were suppose to be a contender this season and everything was looking optimistic when they started the conference season 2-0 with one of their wins coming against SIU in Carbondale. Then the losses started piling up and their star Marcus Marshall had a verbal altercation with head coach Paul Lusk leading to his decision to take the rest of the season off and transfer after the current semester. Nineteen points were gone in the blink of an eye and Missouri State struggles worsened. Tonight is the Bears best chance to win in a long time since it is a home game and against a team with only one scorer to shut down. This game will be close but close enough that I feel the Bears come out on top.
---Missouri State 61, Southern Illinois 60

It is never to early to begin looking ahead to March so here is the seedings and matchups if the 2015 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament started today.
Arch Madness if it Started Today
1. Wichita State 19-2 (9-0)
2. Northern Iowa 19-2 (8-1)
3. Evansville 16-5 (6-3)  
4. Indiana State 10-11 (6-3)
5. Illinois State 13-8 (5-4)
6. Loyola (IL) 13-8 (3-6) 
7. Southern Illinois 9-13 (2-7) 
8. Missouri State 8-13 (2-7) 
9. Bradley 7-15 (2-7)
10. Drake 5-16 (2-7)

Thursday Night

Friday Afternoon
G3: WSU vs W-G1
G4: INST vs ILST (INST Swept Season Series)
Friday Night
G5: EVAN vs LOY (Split Season Series, Both Teams Won on Road)
G6: UNI vs W-G2

PW's Prediction Record Coming into Today: 108-42 (34-11 in the MVC)