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Thinking about the MVC

Some leftover thoughts from the Missouri Valley Conference tournament:

There seems to be no sign that Valley commissioner Doug Elgin will hand down an edict to the league’s coaches to schedule tougher non-conference games, whether or not that means going on the road more often.

Too bad. Elgin did that a few years back and the results were very good. In 2006, four Valley teams reached the NCAA Tournament. That’s an abomination, of course. But the Valley should be guaranteed one at-large bid every year and in some years it should get two. That’s where the Valley was, but where it was not able to stay.I think Creighton and Indiana State will be the top two teams in next season’s Valley preseason poll. I love freshman Doug McDermott (Creighton) and Jake Odum (Indiana State). They’re the kind of newcomers a conference needs to thrive. Throw in Drake’s Ravonte Rice, and the Valley has a trio of freshman who should be starts for years to come.Can’t you feel Missouri State’s pain? Here are the Bears, the winners of the regular-season championship, who now have to sit on pins and needs for a week before finding out their postseason fate. Meanwhile, teams like Missouri and Illinois, teams that were just so-so in their BCS conferences, have all but punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament. It’s the plight of mid-major programs, but there’s a part of me that has difficulty feeling sympathy. Check Missouri State’s non-conference schedule. There’s just not much there.The Valley had two built-in opportunities to shine and create a much better NCAA Tournament resume. But in both the Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge and the ESPN-created Bracket Busters, the Valley fell flat. The four MVC teams in the conference tournament semifinals over the weekend – Missouri State, Wichita State, Indiana State and Creighton – were beaten by Valparaiso, VCU, Morehead State and Akron in Bracket Busters games. That’ll destroy a resume very quickly.If you listened to “Sports Daily” this morning, it probably sounded like we were pretty rough on Wichita State junior guard Toure Murry. He struggled mightily in St. Louis and at the end of the regular season, although he was a second-team choice to the All-Valley team. It’s a tough call to know when to use kid gloves with college players. They’re not pros, after all, but they’re also not still in high school. And Murry is a veteran, a guy who has proven his value to Wichita State over and over again. The Shockers are analyzed up and down, over and out by their fan base. It’s the price the players and coaching staff pay for their popularity. And looking at the number of WSU fans who flocked to St. Louis over the weekend, the team’s popularity cannot be overstated.So, what about Murry? Is he struggling with a lack of confidence, or is there more to it? It’s hard to say. Recently, though, he has not looked comfortable when shooting or handling the basketball. And his defense, while good, isn’t good enough to make up for his shortcomings at the offensive end.I think WSU coach Gregg Marshall lost his feel for his team late in the season. He came to depend on the Shockers’ depth, and with good reason. But depth is only depth if it’s quality depth. And for the past couple of weeks, Wichita State’s 10 deep has struggled to put up consistently good numbers throughout.The Valley has a lot of work to do to once again be a viable conference. The bottom of the league is tremendously weak. It’ll be interesting to see where Bradley goes after firing Jim Les as coach. Les had been given enough time, but the question will be whether the Braves can afford to hire a “name” coach and also buy out the final two years of Les’ contract. I imagine there are people at Bradley wondering why Les’ contract was extended by seven years after the team’s Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament run in 2006.Greg Lansing did a fantastic job of coaching Indiana State after replacing Kevin McKenna after the 2009-10 season. I’m curious about how Lansing does going forward. He has a great foundation on which to build with Odum, one of the most interesting players to come into the league in a long time.Thanks for reading.

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