Your big question is answered.
Austin Reaves plans to play on Saturday after practicing on Thursday.
Here’s what else is on your minds:
WSU remains the favorite. I’d move Northern Iowa second, although losing a home game to George Mason is not helpful.
I’d group Illinois State and Missouri State close behind, although that’s mostly on reputation. Neither has a significant win. Loyola appears to be coming up. Indiana State has some nice losses. They appear the best bet to supplant the Redbirds or Bears.
After that? SIU, Bradley, Evansville, Drake.
Can you have an All-MVC team without a Shocker? If not, who’s your pick?
How about Markis McDuffie, Jaylon Brown, Milton Doyle, Jeremy Morgan and Everett Clemons?
In part, that depends on how you judge the MVC. It’s all about NCAA bids or does the depth matter? They’re related, certainly.
With the success of Wichita State and Northern Iowa, the past three years can be judged relatively positively, especially 2015 with both those schools ranked in the top 15. Both teams have been ranked, in the NCAA Tournament and winning games the past two seasons.
That compares with any period since the mid-1980s.
To see the MVC struggling from top to bottom, check the early 1990s. Or 2011, when the MVC champion couldn’t get an at-large bid.
Because of the Shockers and Panthers (and Creighton), the Valley has been a two-bid conference four of the past five seasons.
But, it’s all on those two schools if you’re not considering Creighton part of the mix.
The big issue is Southern Illinois, Missouri State and Bradley. Those are schools with good support and good history.
The last time one of those schools finished in the top 50 of the Pomeroy rankings is 2007 (SIU and Missouri State). Drake has that beat with No. 17 in 2008.
SIU, MSU and BU must get better. Illinois State’s in a solid place. Evansville has been helpful.
At the top, the Valley’s enjoyed good quality in recent seasons. It’s the rest of the conference that is dragging. Really dragging in many cases. As we may see again this season, that means two months of games for WSU where the likely outcome is a blah victory or a bad loss.
I think somebody will step up, at least to a greater degree. After the Bahamas, Daishon Smith seems like a growing leader. I expect Landry Shamet to continue to grow in that role.
It’s harder to lead when you’re not playing well. So far, WSU has 10 rotation players who play up and down. Perhaps the Shockers need a player or two to get past the point where he is worried about playing time and his own performance. Once a player reaches that level, it’s easier to focus on helping others.
That’s not to say it’s not happening now. It is. It can get better as roles become more defined. The opportunity is there.
The Shockers need to find options who can score when things are tough, to break up a run or late in the shot clock.
I’ll pick Shamet, McDuffie, Darral Willis and Smith as the most likely candidates. Willis can reverse a bad trend with his scoring. He needs to sharpen his defensive concentration.
Shaq Morris should provide a calming presence, if he can stay on the court.
Colorado State may qualify. The Rams are 6-1 with a win over Colorado and a No. 66 RPI rank. While there’s no reason to get too worked about RPI in early December, it’s a place from which the Rams could rise, especially with a game against Kansas State remaining.
Plus, it’s on the road.
Northern Iowa isn’t out of the picture. It needs to finish December strong. The same might go for Missouri State. If Illinois State beats New Mexico and plays well in Hawaii, maybe?
Nothing close to a guarantee in any of those MVC scenarios.
The Shockers need to win at least two of its three remaining top non-conference games to stay solvent for an at-large bid.
Thanks for the questions.