Time to make an entrance
NBA fans are pondering the Feb. 18 trade deadline, wondering if their team is a buyer or a seller and where will Amare Stoudemire end up. ESPN hasn't demanded college basketball add a trading deadline _ yet _ so its fans are wondering who might emerge in the season's final month. Here are some out-of-the-mainstream players who can influence the MVC race:
* Missouri State junior Nafis Ricks is a bundle of talent and coach Cuonzo Martin can't wait for him to grab the point-guard duties. Ricks may be close. Entering Wednesday, he averaged 12.6 points and 3.0 assists in his previous five games. Turnovers remain a problem. Ricks is strong and quick enough to drive past most guards. On defense, he can use that same assets to disrupt an offense.
"He's really scratching the surface of what he can accomplish, because he's a guy who can really get to the basket," Martin said.
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* Drake started its resurgence with senior Craig Stanley taking over at point guard. He got hurt. Drake is still rolling because of sophomore Frank Wiseler. Wiseler, who redshirted last season, handed out 12 assists in Saturday's win over Wichita State. He did commit five turnovers, but didn't crack against WSU's defensive pressure. The Bulldogs don't miss Stanley as much as expected.
"He's been huge for us because without Craig we didn't know exactly how it would go," Drake coach Mark Phelps said.
* Southern Illinois freshman center Gene Teague played 11 minutes and didn't score in the Valley opener against Indiana State. Monday against Western Kentucky, he played 29 minutes, scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Big men are precious in the MVC, and Teague is 6-foot-9, 290 pounds and coming fast.
* Wichita State sophomore David Kyles continues to tantalize coaches and fans with his talent, and frustrate them with his inconsistency. At times, he seems to play best when he's needed. WSU needed him at Drake, with Toure Murry in foul trouble, and Kyles contributed 27 solid minutes _ nine points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists. The Shockers need more efforts like that one.
* Northern Iowa put history on its side with its strong January. Since 1991-92, all 27 teams to own at least a share of the halfway-point lead reached postseason play. Twenty-two of them played in the NCAA Tournament.
* With SIU's win over Western Kentucky, the MVC moved to 75-32 (70.1 percent) in non-conference games. BracketBusters assignments will be announced Monday.
* MVC Tournament ticket sales are down. Pre-January totals came to 5,913 from the 10 schools, down from 6,624 last season. Most of the decrease can be attributed to Creighton, which sold 1,000 tickets, off 550 from the previous season.
* Four MVC teams entered Wednesday's games in the top 20 of the nation at the free-throw line. Indiana State (76.7 percent) is No. 5, followed by No. 8 Wichita State (75.5), No. 13 Drake (75.1) and No. 19 Missouri State (74.8).
What to watch
Bradley at Illinois State, 4:35 p.m., Saturday (FSKC, Ch. 34) _ Until recently, the schools hogged this game for their local TV packages. It's the Valley's best rivalry, one that doesn't depend on the teams winning to create emotion. The schools are 40 miles apart.
Keep an eye on
Drake guard Josh Young is playing like he did as a sophomore, when he was healthy and surrounded by helpful teammates. Last season, defenses keyed on Young and made his life miserable. This season, teammates Ryan Wedel and Adam Templeton help spread the defense and give Young one-on-one matchups. He averaged 19.5 points and made 53.3 percent of his shots in wins over Evansville and Wichita State.
In their words
"I need to find some way to play hard and channel my emotions in a positive way. I apologize to Creighton, to my team and my coaching staff in my failure to represent the university with the respect and attitude that I should."
_ Creighton guard P'Allen Stinnett in a text message to the Omaha World-Herald after coach Dana Altman suspended him indefinitely. Stinnett received a technical foul, the ninth of his career, in Sunday's win over Missouri State.