We are at the halfway point of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball race. Almost without exception, coaches, fans and the media regard the race as a formality. It is Wichita State’s season to win the MVC and load up on post-season awards.
Indiana State, trailing the Shockers by two games, lost its right to argue with Wednesday’s loss at Southern Illinois. The Sycamores desperately need to win Wednesday’s game against the Shockers at the Hulman Center to revive their NCAA Tournament at-large resume. As February starts, there is no reason for the WSU athletic department not to plan on a trophy haul in March.
The MVC’s mid-season awards:
Patience and a slow introduction of concepts is required when working with freshmen and sophomores.
“You’d like to have more upperclassmen,” Simmons said. “It’s learning on the job, learning by experience. Being able to work with them in the summer helped a lot, that was one big change from when Colt and those guys were here.”
Entering Wednesday’s game at Northern Iowa, freshmen and sophomores accounted for 91 percent of Evansville’s scoring, 90 percent of minutes played and 89 percent of the rebounds. Simmons, son of the coach, is the top scorer among true freshmen in the MVC. Sophomore center Egidius Mockevicius leads the MVC by making 60.4 percent of his shots.
“It’s a way to stay away from the hand check and some of the contact that is being called now so you can keep some guys out of foul trouble,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said.
Simmons is one of the coaches who rarely used zone in the past.
“We have a young team and at times our matchups don’t favor us in man, and we feel the zone has really helped us,” he said. “We’ve actually had multiple zones and in the past we had just one.”
Last year, schools bought 6,929 in the early period, with Creighton fans snapping up 4,000.
If Shocker fans are planning on skipping St. Louis to save up for the NCAA Tournament, it’s not showing up yet. WSU’s sales are up from 1,019 last year.
In their own words
“The biggest factor is the debacle we have going on right now is with college officiating. We just got a memo this week that says it (rules limiting physical play on defense) has changed the game for the better, and I absolutely think that’s a complete political spin and a scam. I’m not upset at the officials. I’m upset at the inconsistency that we have in college officiating. We have officials that night-in and night-out tell me, and we’re sitting here in January, they are confused and still don’t know how to call the game. It just blows my mind.” — Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson.
One to watch
Indiana State at Northern Iowa, 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3) — Sycamores can’t look ahead to Wednesday’s game vs. Wichita State. Their margin of error to stay in the race and build their NCAA resume is thin, especially after the loss at SIU.