FUTURE GAINS IN THE MVC
OK, this season is looking grim in many ways for the Missouri Valley. It's mid-February, and no team has locked up an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. High-profile wins are few. While the conference race is balanced and entertaining, it's not great for national respect.
So we'll take a break from that reality to look at what the future might hold. The MVC freshman class represents with two of the most promising youngsters in years — at least since the Osiris Eldridge-Josh Young class in 2006-07.
Creighton forward Doug McDermott should be the first freshman named All-MVC since Wichita's Cleo Littleton in 1951-52. McDermott, son of Bluejays coach Greg McDermott, is fourth in the MVC in scoring at 14.2 points and second in rebounding at 7.8. His seven double-figure scoring and rebounding games lead the MVC.
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"His number are ridiculous across the board," Drake coach Mark Phelps said. "He's doing it every way imaginable. He has a poise and an ease about his game."
Phelps also owns some good young talent — his Bulldogs are on a three-game win streak and he has one senior on the roster. Freshman guard Rayvonte Rice leads Drake with an average of 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds. In his past three games, Rice is averaging 19.3 points and made 8 of 13 three-pointers.
In most years, the MVC's All-Newcomer team is dominated by transfers. This season, it may be heavy on freshmen. McDermott and Rice are locks. Indiana State point guard Jake Odum ranks third in the MVC in assists (4.0) and first in steals (1.8). While transfers such as Southern Illinois' Mamadou Seck, Evansville's Kenneth Harris and Wichita State's Ben Smith are playing well, this season's new faces are highlighted by freshmen.
* Creighton guard Antoine Young ranks fifth in the MVC in scoring (14.2 points) and first in assists (4.7). The last player to lead the MVC in assists and finish in the top 10 in scoring was Drake's Curt Smith in 1992-93. Smith earned Player of the Year honors by leading the conference in scoring (21.1 points) and assists (4.6).
* When Creighton played Drake on Tuesday, it marked the 26th straight game with a Korver on the roster for one of the teams. With Creighton's Kaleb Korver a senior, it was the last, barring a rematch in the MVC Tournament.
* Evansville defeated Northern Iowa on Tuesday to win its fifth straight home MVC game. It is Evansville's longest conference win streak at Roberts Stadium since 1997-98.
What to watch
Wichita State at Northern Iowa, 9:05 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2, Ch. 33) _ The Shockers need to keep their road magic rolling at a place they haven't won at since 2007.
Keep an eye on
Northern Iowa sophomore guard Anthony James is scoring as well as anyone in the MVC. In his past three games, he averaged 17.7 points. What's not expected from a 5-11 guard are 10 rebounds against Illinois State and 11 against Drake.
In their words
"They're still the best team in the league. They're the deepest. They're the toughest, and they're the most capable of making an MVC Tournament championship run, because they have depth."
_ Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery, about Wichita State after Tuesday's 56-53 win over the Shockers at Koch Arena