Any given day
Time for the annual parity report, in which we document evenly matched Missouri Valley Conference teams making life miserable for each other.
Ignore past seasons. This one is setting new standards for equality.
The regular-season champion will have at least four losses, which has happened twice in the past 10 years. It is possible the champion will win with five losses, which has happened once in the current 10-team lineup (since 1997) and three times in conference history (1971, 1993 and 1999).
The reason is simple — road wins are harder to come by than normal. Entering Wednesday’s games, MVC road teams compiled an 18-48 record (27.3 percent). Last season, road teams won 36.6 percent.
“I was in the Mid-American Conference, and we won two championships, and there were a couple places in the league that were hard to play,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “The other road games were really difficult only from the standpoint of you weren’t playing at home. It wasn’t because there was an atmosphere. It wasn’t because you were rolling out in front of seven, eight thousand people pretty much on a consistent basis.”
The end of the 2011-12 season foretold this parity. Five teams finished 9-9. The 10 schools combined to return 33 starters, most since 2006-07. The Valley avoided large-scale coaching instability, turning over two jobs and filling one of those (Southern Illinois) with nine-season MVC veteran Barry Hinson.
Parity is exciting during January and February. It should spike interest in the MVC Tournament, where at least half the conference can show up with a reasonable expectation of success. On Selection Sunday, however, parity can turn into a problem.
Creighton and Wichita State possess solid NCAA Tournament resumes, although neither can relax. Indiana State’s is wobbly after — of course — a loss at Missouri State on Tuesday.
“What I wish is, overall, the league as a whole got more credit and was basically talked about as a three- or four-bid league all the time,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “I heard somebody on ESPN the other night say that hurts, that Creighton losing hurts. Well, why? I think that speaks volumes about the league, instead of Creighton and Wichita State running away.”
Fast breaks• Missouri State guard Marcus Marshall is making a February push for Freshman of the Year. He averages 11.2 points in MVC games and 33.5 minutes, most by any freshman. He scored 19 points in a loss to Wichita State and 19 in the win over Indiana State.
• Evansville’s Colt Ryan became the 14th player in MVC history to pass 2,000 points when he scored 33 against Drake on Sunday. Ryan entered Wednesday’s game with 2,027 points. Bradley’s Hersey Hawkins (3,008) leads the list.
One to watch
Creighton at Evansville, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU). Ryan and Creighton’s Doug McDermott are in the top 10 nationally for career scoring among active players.
In their own words
"We’re a good team, we’re not a bunch of good individuals. Maybe they’ve done their own thing a little bit too much in the last couple of games. Maybe we’re not ready to compete for a regular-season championship, we’re probably not," — Lansing in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star