The cameras found the right basketball teams in the Missouri Valley Conference this season.
Showtime will spend most of February and early March chronicling 12th-ranked Wichita State. No. 18 Northern Iowa is the subject of a season-long series on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. WSU coach Gregg Marshall sees the five-episode series as a way to highlight the team and his school. He grabbed every bit of publicity available during the 2013 Final Four and the pace kept up during last season’s unbeaten streak.
WSU, for all its success, can’t turn down opportunities to show off its story.
“By and large, we’ve had quite a bit of exposure,” Marshall said. “We try to make that very positive exposure and have a very good reflection on our university.”
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A seven-person production crew will follow the team in practices, road trips and around campus through Selection Sunday. The first episode of “The Road to March Madness” is on Feb. 17 and it continues weekly until March 16. The first four one-hour episodes are at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays with the final one on Monday after the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced.
While the series is billed as all-access, WSU will have the right to approve footage.
“We have editing power, so we can control the message a little bit,” Marshall said. “One of the reasons you have athletics at the university level is to gain exposure for your school.”
Showtime will also feature Oklahoma, Maryland and Notre Dame in the series.
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson overcame his natural hesitancy to possible distractions to allow cameras to follow his team.
“In this year alone, I’ve gotten on Twitter,” he said. “And now we’ve got the all-access show. I would have been able to tell you a year ago I would never do either one of them.”
The weekly 30-minute shows debuted on Jan. 2. Jacobson wore a microphone for a game against Illinois State. UNI also shows the episodes on unipanthers.com.
“Our players, not only have they enjoyed it and had fun with it, but I think they’ve learned some things about each other and they’ve learned some things about me,” he said. “That message has been good for our guys. From a recruiting standpoint, it’s a real positive. I’ve enjoyed it, probably a little more than I thought I would.”
Unbeatens in Iowa — The MVC women’s basketball race saved the best for last at the halfway point.
MVC unbeatens WSU (17-3, 8-0 MVC) and Drake (13-6, 8-0) meet at 1 p.m. at the Knapp Center on Sunday. It is the MVC’s first meeting of teams with 8-0 records.
The Shockers could use a win to improve their NCAA Tournament at-large resume. They are No. 51 in the power rankings (RPI) and No. 86 Drake is the MVC’s only other team in the top 100. WSU is 3-2 against the top 100, with wins over No. 36 Ohio State, No. 77 Kansas State and No. 93 Creighton and losses to No. 2 Tennessee and No. 23 Florida Gulf Coast.
WSU won its 11th straight game on Friday to start its Iowa road trip, defeating Northern Iowa 70-52. The loss knocked the third-place Panthers two games behind the co-leaders.
Drake, which defeated Missouri State 94-89 in overtime Friday, leads the MVC with a 78.2 scoring average, almost 13 points more than second Illinois State. WSU leads the MVC in scoring defense by allowing 49.5 points.
Drake guard Lizzy Wendell leads the Valley with an average of 23.6 points. Guard Kyndal Clark, last season’s MVC Player of the Year, is out for the season with a knee injury suffered in November.
Where did the wins go? — WSU will appeal the part of the NCAA punishment that requires the baseball program to vacate as many as 74 wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
WSU contends that part of the penalty unfairly punishes athletes who unknowingly violated rules. It will also take a lot of work to fulfill that part of the NCAA’s ruling.
On Thursday, the NCAA hit WSU with one-year probation, a $5,000 fine and the order to vacate wins and the 2013 NCAA appearance. The punishment is the result of baseball players purchasing non-baseball apparel at a discount through the baseball office.
WSU has until Feb. 13 to appeal and will wait on the verdict to calculate how many wins are vacated. That will require looking at 74 box scores to determine which of the 21 players played in which games, and if those players had purchased apparel from the account at the time of the game. The NCAA considers those players ineligible for those games by virtue of them accepting an impermissible benefit.
Those players will also lose their statistics from the 2012 and 2013 seasons. For example, a player who played in 2011 will keep those stats, while losing his stats from seasons in which he was ruled ineligible.
Notable players who could be affected include infielders Dayne Parker and Erik Harbutz, catcher Tyler Baker and pitchers Cale Elam, Foster Vielock and Kris Gardner. They played large roles on the 2012 and 2013 teams and were among the eight players suspended for three or more games in 2014 in the first penalties from the violations. Eight players who ordered less than $100 of merchandise paid back the money. Five players left the program or transferred before the 2014 season.
Two losses in the 2013 NCAA regional, against Kansas State and Arkansas, are erased from WSU’s record. All other losses remain on the record for WSU and former coach Gene Stephenson. Opposing teams do not gain victories.
The NCAA regularly requires schools to vacate wins, although it is most commonly associated with football and basketball. In 2010, the NCAA forced Arizona State to vacate 44 wins and a College World Series appearance from the 2007 season for more serious and wide-ranging violations. ASU’s record book notes the penalty and lists the 2007 record as 5-15.
ASU’s appeal was denied.
NCAA violations cost Florida State four victories from the 2007 season, including one in an NCAA regional. The Seminoles media guide lists the scores while omitting a “W.”
Williams to watch — WSU first baseman Cacy Williams is one of 50 players on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year watch list.
Willliams, a junior from Platte City, Mo., earned MVC Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors last season after hitting .424 with a .812 slugging percentage and a school-record 16 home runs. WSU won its first MVC title and is the preseason favorite in 2015.
WSU opens the season on Friday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Baylor in the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas.