Wichita State Shockers

OH, THOSE ACES

In 1961, TCU's football team defeated No. 1 Texas, inspiring Longhorns coach Darrell Royal to compare the Horned Frogs to a household pest, in the most favorable way possible.

Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson can relate after Tuesday's 55-54 loss to last-place Evansville.

"History proves that the lowest team in the conference can rise up and defeat the leader," Royal told the Port Arthur (Texas) News. "That situation is kind of like the cockroach. It's not so much what he gets into and carries away but what he falls into and messes up."

The Aces, with all due credit, cockroached their way to two MVC wins this season. They beat second-place WSU on Feb. 9 to deal the Shocker NCAA at-large resume a death blow. Did they do the same to No. 25 Northern Iowa, which long ago wrapped up the MVC title?

Probably not.

The Panthers (24-4 with a No. 22 RPI rank, according to Jerry Palm) still own a solid case. ESPN's Doug Gottlieb points to an 8-1 record against top 100 opponents as a strong point in their favor.

The loss to No. 258 Evansville could be more important from a seeding standpoint. Entering the week, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had the Panthers a No. 6 seed. Palm placed them as No. 8. Moving up a spot or two from those positions puts UNI in a better position to win NCAA games. The loss to the Aces means the Panthers are more concerned with getting in the tournament than earning a good seed.

Evansville didn't carry off UNI's NCAA hopes. The Aces sure made them less appetizing.

Fast breaks

* Old SIU Arena went out with a loss to hated Creighton on Tuesday. Workers showed up Wednesday morning to begin renovating the arena, which opened in 1964. New seats, a new upper bowl and concourse highlight the upgrades. The addition of 1,000 chairbacks will reduce capacity from 9,400 to 8,500. Renovations are scheduled to be finished in time for next season. "The last game in the old arena is a loss, and that's frustrating,'' Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery told the Omaha World-Herald. Once almost unbeatable at home, SIU went 4-5 in MVC home games this season.

* SIU's loss locked the Salukis into either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the MVC Tournament. It is the first appearance in the tournament's play-in round since 1999 for SIU.

* SIU guard Kevin Dillard sprained his ankle in practice Monday and did not play against Creighton. The Salukis play at Wichita State on Saturday.

* Evansville freshman Colt Ryan has 413 points after scoring 10 against Northern Iowa. He needs four more to pass Creighton's P'Allen Stinnett as the highest-scoring freshman of the decade in the MVC.

* Bracketbusters continues to be a winner for the MVC on the court. Valley teams went 7-3 last weekend to improve to 47-26, and 23-12 in televised games.

* Drake is getting a boost from the return of senior point guard Craig Stanley. He missed nine games after surgery on his right wrist. Coach Mark Phelps likes the combination of starter Frank Wiseler and Stanley, who play with different styles. "When you put Craig in there, he has the ability to get in the paint and create things for himself and his teammates," Phelps said.

What to watch

Illinois State at Northern Iowa, 7:05 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2, Ch. 33) _ The hottest team in the MVC plays the champion. Could it be a preview of the tournament championship game?

Keep an eye on

Wichita State fans should watch Illinois State center Dinma Odiakosa and hope recruit Ehimen Orukpe follows the same path. In 2005, Odiakosa came to Illinois State a raw talent from Nigeria. He took a redshirt season in 2006-07 and moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore. After a 30-point effort against Missouri State, some are talking about him as an MVC Player of the Year candidate. Entering Wednesday's game against Indiana State, Odiakosa averaged 12.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. His 63.1 percent shooting percentage ranks second nationally.

In their words

"I thought our preparation was good. I don't really know that there's much to fix. There isn't anything broken."

_ UNI coach Ben Jacobson after Tuesday's 55-54 loss at last-place Evansville

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