Arch Madness: MVC Tourney Preview & Predictions

    
March 5th, 2009

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:

 

Missouri Valley Conference

Arch Madness is always a fun tournament, and with a tumultuous season in the Valley, the 10 teams that start play in St. Louis over the next two days should contest an interesting tournament.

 

Tournament Odds

#

Team

QF

SF

F

W

1

Northern Iowa

100.00%

85.62%

66.54%

38.32%

2

Creighton

100.00%

85.61%

49.52%

27.45%

3

Illinois St.

100.00%

82.32%

43.51%

23.21%

4

Bradley

100.00%

67.10%

21.45%

7.10%

5

Southern Illinois

100.00%

32.90%

6.53%

1.31%

6

Evansville

100.00%

17.68%

3.82%

0.84%

7

Wichita St.

65.34%

11.02%

2.64%

0.60%

8

Drake

56.54%

8.91%

3.60%

0.77%

9

Indiana St.

43.46%

5.47%

1.88%

0.33%

10

Missouri St.

34.66%

3.37%

0.50%

0.07%

 

There’s not much surprise that the three teams that were at the head of the conference all season look to have the best chances at taking the auto-bid.

 

#1 – Northern Iowa Panthers (20-10, 14-4) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.112

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (1st Round)

 

After finishing 2008 7-6, it seemed unlikely that Northern Iowa would end up claiming the regular season title and the #1 seed in the tournament, but an 11-game winning streak put it into the top spot, and it held on through a mid-February lull to finish atop the standings. The Panthers play a fairly slow, deliberate style, struggling on the offensive glass, but committing few turnovers and making a lot of shots. While its offense has focused more on three-point shots, NIU has defended the interior well, and is one of the nation’s best teams in defensive rebounding.

 

Players to watch:

7-1 JR Jordan Eglseder, 10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 59.3 eFG% - If Eglseder could manage 25 minutes a game, he might very well be the league’s best player, but even at his current 19 minute average, he’s pretty impressive. When he’s on the floor, he’s the focal point of the Panthers’ offense, and as a 62% shooter, he should be. He leads the team in rebounding and blocks, and puts up spectacular rates in both areas. One area you’d like to see him improve in is getting to the free throw line, but if this guy can improve in his senior season, UNI will be a major danger again.

 

6-8 JR Adam Koch, 11.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 51.4 eFG% - Eglseder may have trouble getting to the line, but that’s not a problem for Koch, his interior partner. Koch is in the top 5 nationally in getting to the stripe, and his 78% once he gets there helps him to be the team’s leading scorer.

 

 

#2 – Creighton Bluejays (25-6, 14-4) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.098

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)

 

Creighton is the only realistic hope for the Valley to pick up an at-large bid, which would presumably need it to win at least a game or two in the tournament. It has a number of solid wins over Dayton, New Mexico and Oral Roberts, no really bad losses, and has won 10 consecutive games as the tourney starts. The Bluejays are excellent shooters, best in the conference at the line and from behind the arc, and turn the ball over only rarely. They have struggled on the glass at both ends of the floor, but have made up for that to some extent by holding opponents to a fairly low percentage inside and forcing a lot of turnovers.

 

Players to watch:

6-1 SR Booker Woodfox, 15.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 63.5 eFG% - The Valley player of the year, Woodfox is second in the conference in scoring, but perhaps more importantly, leads the MVC in both free throw and three-point shooting. He’s a deadly scorer from all over the floor, and has committed just 29 turnovers all season.

 

6-2 SR P’Allen Stinnett, 12.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 50.9 eFG% - Stinnett’s percentages look pretty shabby next to Woodfox’s, but he’s a quality second scoring option who is best when  his game focuses on the inside shot.

 

 

#3 – Illinois St. Redbirds (22-8, 11-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.086

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (2nd Round)

 

One of the only teams to survive December undefeated, Illinois St.’s weak non-conference schedule eventually caught up with it, and a tough final three games saw them slump to a seven loss season. The Redbirds have the Valley’s best defense, causing opponents a lot of problems with the long-distance shot, and dominating the defensive glass as well as any team in the country. On the offensive end, Illinois St. shoots a lot of threes, and does a pretty good job on them .

 

Players to watch:

6-3 JR Osriris Eldridge, 13.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 49.1 eFG% - Eldridge  has been a good shooter and an effective rebounder for the Redbirds all season, but has gone just 7-34 in his last three games, something that needs to change for Illinois St. to pick up some wins.

 

6-6 SR Chamberlain Oguchi, 14.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 52.1 eFG% - ‘Champ’, as he’s known, does a lot of good things for his team, a solid three point shooter who’s a strong rebounder and free throw shooter,  and shows excellent ball control.

 

 

#4 –Bradley Braves (17-13, 10-8) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.020

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (Sweet Sixteen)

 

Bradley ‘s season was briefly derailed by an early February four-game losing streak, but it rallied to finish above .500, and is the last of the teams in the Valley to finish with an EM above zero. The key has been the Braves’ offense, which, despite shooting poorly from three and committing a lot of turnovers, has been a fairly efficient unit; especially at the free throw line. Also, Bradley has managed to force a lot of turnovers, which has hurt opponents enough to keep the Braves in the conference’s upper tier.

 

Players to watch:

6-5 SR Theron Wilson, 13.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 48.0 eFG% - Wilson leads the team in scoring rebounding and steals, but his best talent is getting to the free throw line: he’s been to the stripe 218 times this season, and his 72% from there makes up for his poor long-distance shooting.

 

6-0 SO Sam Maniscalco, 12.1 PPG,1.9 RPG, 51.5 eFG% - Maniscalco is an effective guard who doesn’t really shine in any area, but plays a fairly large role and is a good percentage player.

 

 

#5 – Southern Illinois Salukis (13-17, 8-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.042

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (Sweet Sixteen)

 

After making the NCAA tournament for six consecutive seasons, the program that has been the face of the Missouri Valley for the last half-decade will be hard-pressed to avoid back-to-back years out of the Big Dance. The Salukis have been well known for their defense over recent years, but they’ve been rooted to the bottom of the Valley in defensive efficiency this season. Their biggest problem has been fouls, allowing opponents far too many shots from the stripe. They’ve also struggled on the defensive glass, and have been vulnerable to inside shots. The one good thing they’ve done is shoot, 38% from behind the arc, but their offense hasn’t been strong enough to make up for their defensive woes.

 

Players to watch:

5-11 FR Kevin Dillard, 12.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 4.1 APG, 54.7 eFG% - Dillard looks to have a bright future, but still has some of the weaknesses we’d expect from a freshman. He’s a very good three-point shooter, 47% from the field, but his percentage of two-pointers is awfully low, and while he puts up a lot of assists, he has a lot of trouble with turnovers.

 

6-8 SR Tony Boyle, 10.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 47.7 eFG% - Boyle is the Salukis’ best rebounder, but that’s not saying a lot on a team that hasn’t been very good on the boards. He’s had some big offensive games, but his consistency still leaves something to be desired.

 

 

#6 – Evansville Aces (17-12, 8-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.045

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1999 (1st Round)

 

Evansville has one of the conference’s worst offenses, but is more notable for taking a higher percentage of its shots from inside the arc than any team in the country. There’s good reason for that, as its 30% three-point shooting should definitely be minimized. However, the Aces’ two-point percentage is not good enough to overcome their problems inside, leaving them struggling for points. They force a lot of turnovers on the defensive end, but have the two-part problem of giving up a high percentage inside while also committing a lot of fouls.

 

Players to watch:

6-4 SR Shy Ely, 18.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 47.4 eFG% - Ely is the conference’s leading scorer, and earns a lot of points both inside and at the free throw line. He has a good rebounding average as well, but his rates aren’t particularly impressive.

 

 

5-11 SR Jason Holsinger, 12.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 49.8 eFG% - The only serious three-point threat on the Aces, Holsinger heated up late in the season, averaging 17 points over his last seven games, including putting up 30 against Creighton.

 

 

#7 – Wichita St. Shockers (15-15, 8-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.043

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (Sweet Sixteen)

 

Wichita St. recovered from an 0-6 start in Valley play to get nearly all the way back to .500, a reasonable finish from a team that put on an impressive show in finishing 6th at the Old Spice Classic. The Shockers are a very good team in the interior, shooting more than 50% from inside the arc and putting up solid rates on the boards at each end of the floor. Their perimeter play is much more of a problem, as they turn the ball over a lot and are weak shooters. A similar problem with the outside shot plagues Wichita St.’s defensive play as well, with opponents making 37% of attempted threes.

 

Players to watch:

5-11 JR Clevin Hannah, 11.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 58.1 eFG% - The team’s leader in points, assists and steals, Hannah is an excellent three-point shooter who produces a lot of positive things for the Shockers. His assist total doesn’t look that impressive, but his rate is one of the country’s best.

 

6-6, SR Ramon Clemente, 7.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 58.7 eFG% - Clemente is only 4th on the team in scoring, but that’s mostly due to a lack of attempts, rather than his ability to finish the chances he does get. He’s a 59% shooter from the field who hits less than 53% of his free throws.

 

 

#8 – Drake Bulldogs (17-14, 7-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.034

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

 

A year removed from their magical conference championship season, the Bulldogs have not had a great campaign, though from an efficiency margin standard they were 5th, rather than 8th, in the league. Their basic style of offense hasn’t changed too much from last season, but they’ve regressed in every area, most notably their ability to hold onto the ball and get offensive rebounds. Drake’s biggest defensive strength has been the one thing you don’t tend to notice much, avoiding fouls. This helps it to have the best defense outside the top three teams, but it just hasn’t been consistent enough to string together a sequence of more than a couple of wins since early January.

 

Players to watch:

6-8 SR Jonathan Cox, 11.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 53.2 eFG% -  One of the most interesting players in the Valley, Cox is the conference’s top rebounder but also a 40% three-point shooter. His scoring average has actually regressed from last season, mostly due to the fact that his percentage inside the arc plummeted.

 

6-1 JR Josh Young, 15.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 47.4 eFG% - Young leads the Bulldogs in scoring; he’s a solid shooter who thrives at the free-throw line, where he shoots nearly 85%.

 

 

#9 – Indiana St. Sycamores (10-20, 7-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.058

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2001 (2nd Round)

 

Indiana St. looked on course for a last placed finish when it was 2-10 in the conference in early February, but a strong finish moved it up to 9th, and gives it a serious chance in its opening round game. The difference in the later games has been improved shooting, especially from behind the arc. This has helped the Sycamores overcome their inability to stop opponents from making shots.

 

Players to watch:

6-8 SR Jay Tunnell, 12.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 57.6 eFG% - Tunnell put together what may be the most impressive performance I’ve seen all season when he went 8-9 from three to put up 28 points and drive the Sycamores to a huge, come-from-behind overtime win over Illinois St. Since that game, he seems to have found a new confidence, averaging more than 20 points in his last seven outings. Besides his ability to hit threes, he’s also the team’s leading rebounder, and can cause a lot of problems for any opponent.

 

6-1 JR Rashad Reed, 10.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 47.8 eFG% - Reed is another player who takes a lot of threes and has seen his play improve of late. He’s not as high a percentage a player as Tunnell, but he’s still a solid scoring threat.

 

 

#10 – Missouri St. Bears (11-19, 3-15) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.098

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1999 (Sweet Sixteen)

 

The league’s worst team has both the worst defense and offense, and will face a serious challenge in St. Louis. They allow opponents to score easily, and don’t make many shots themselves, so their decent performance on the boards and ability to force turnovers don’t really help much.

 

Players to watch:

6-4 SR Chris Cooks, 12.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 44.8 eFG% - Cooks leads the team in scoring and rebounding, but shoots under 40% on two-pointers, meaning he ends up wasting a lot of possessions. He’s an OK long-distance shooter, but not good enough to cover his problems inside the arc.

 

6-6 FR Kyle Weems,9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 44.3 eFG% -  Weems has actually been the most efficient Bears regular, which really surprised me, given his sub-30% three-point shooting. He’s a good free throw shooter, and decent inside, but his biggest strength is avoiding turnovers, having committed only 33 all year. When that’s the main thing to highlight about you, it’s typically not a very good sign.

 

My statistical all-Missouri Valley team:

Illinois St.  JR G Osriris Eldridge, 13.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 49.1 eFG%

Creighton SR G Booker Woodfox, 15.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 63.5 eFG%

Evansville SR G/F Shy Ely, 18.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 47.4 eFG%

Drake SR F Jonathan Cox, 11.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 53.2 eFG%

Northern Iowa JR C Jordan Eglseder, 10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 59.3 eFG%