Indiana State Preview — 02-10-2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018 1:00 p.m.
Hulman Center, Terre Haute, Ind.

Just three weeks ago, Indiana State was making a bid to be one of the top four teams in the MVC. On Jan. 20, Coach Greg Lansing’s crew demolished Illinois State 84-54 before 5100 fans at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute. The win put the Sycamores at 5-3 in conference, with a road win over the Ramblers and their three losses by a combined nine points.

But in a league with the kind of parity the MVC has this season, the long scoring droughts the Sycamores often suffered began to catch up with them– and fast. Consecutive losses at SIU, at home against Bradley, and at Valparaiso put the Trees in negative territory. A road win against UNI brightened their prospects and brought them back to break even, but a 19-point drubbing at home by an MSU team lugging around a 5-game losing streak nipped that optimism in the bud.

Inconsistency has been the problem all year long for the Trees. You never know whether you’re getting the team that beat Indiana and Loyola on the road, or the team that has lost home games to Ball State and Elon.

Indiana State has a starting lineup of 6’7” center Brandon Murphy, 6’8” forward Devin Thomas, and three high-scoring guards: Jordan Barnes, Brenton Scott, and Quiydar Davis. Barnes is a speedy 5’11” sophomore who can be explosive on offense. Barnes averages 17.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and has already connected on 92 threes this season, which leads the league by a wide margin. Scott, a 6’1” senior, is nearly as dangerous, averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. Davis is a 6’5” grad transfer from Louisiana Tech who puts up 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 54.6% from the field.

Freshman guard Tyreke Key (currently under concussion protocol and may not be available), 6’9” junior center Emondre Rickman, 6’8” sophomore forward Bronson Kessinger, and 6’6” freshman guard Clayton Hughes are the top players from the bench.

The Ramblers are coming off a 72-57 home win over Drake that equaled their best conference win total since 1985. Loyola is 4-2 this year in conference road games, but they’re 1-3 at the Hulman Center since joining the MVC. The Sycamores beat Loyola 61-57 at the Gentile Arena on Jan. 3 this year, led by Brenton Scott with 16 points and Brandon Murphy with 12.

Before the game, Indiana State will be honoring Clarence Walker, a pioneering African-American player from the late 1940s, who was recruited to ISU by Coach John Wooden.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents … df?id=5845

Indiana State game notes: http://gosycamores.com/documents/2018/2 … 6Notes.pdf

TV/Streaming video: ESPN3 / http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3273295/ … iana-state

Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/indstate/mbball/media/

Vegas odds: Pending

Drake Preview — 2-07-2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

On Wednesday Loyola welcomes Drake to Gentile Arena, where Loyola boasts a 10-1 record (8-0 when MVC Player of the Year candidate Clayton Custer is guiding the Ramblers). Drake, fresh off doing what no other team has been able to do this year– defeating Bradley in Peoria– come into Gentile Arena with as many conference wins so far this year as they’ve had in the past two full seasons combined. Drake’s seven MVC wins are their most since 2012-13, and there are still six games left. The Bulldogs have three home games left against teams in the bottom of the standings, and a realistic chance at their best season since their Top 25 ranking and trip to the tournament in 2007-08.

Two weeks ago, Loyola and Drake faced off in Des Moines with both teams tied for first place in the conference at 6-2. With the score tied at 51 on a big three-pointer by Drakes’ Nick McGlynn and the Knapp Center rocking, Loyola went on a 22-2 run over the ensuing seven minutes, holding Drake without a field goal. The Ramblers won 80-57, and have held on to first place with a 2-1 record since. Drake has lost two out of their last three.

The Bulldogs are using the same starting lineup of 6’8” junior forward Nick McGlynn and four guards: 6’1” senior Reed Timmer, 6’2” senior C.J. Rivers, 6’3” senior Ore Arogundade, and 6’2” senior De’Antae McMurray. Graham Woodward provides big scoring off the bench. Six-ten forward Casey Schlatter, 6’11” center/forward Kory Kuenstling, and freshman guard Noah Thomas also get significant playing time off the bench.

The Bulldogs, with their quick guards, free shooters, and long-range bombers, seems like a team that depends of their offense, but not so. In Drake’s three recent losses against Loyola, Evansville, and SIU, the Bulldogs gave up an average of 78.3 points per game. In their win against Bradley on Saturday night, they held the Braves to less than 20% shooting on threes and only 37.3% from the field. In fact, Drake is 7-0 when the hold the opposition to under 45% field goal percentage, and 0-5 when opponents shoot better than 45%.

Meanwhile, the Ramblers shot 60.9% against Missouri State on Saturday, and now lead the nation in home field-goal percentage at 55.1%, ahead of Michigan State at 54.7%. Beginning with Loyola last game against Drake, Clayton Custer is averaging 20.3 points per game, has only missed 12 out of 44 field goal attempts overall, and is shooting 83.3% on two-point shots. For the season, the 6’1” Custer is shooting 56.1% from the field, which would be pretty good for a frontcourt player.

The season is ticking down. Wednesday’s game is one of only three home games left to play for the Ramblers, and with five teams within two games of the top spot, every game (especially home games) is vital. While Loyola is playing Drake on Wednesday, third place Bradley will be playing at Northern Iowa. And on Thursday night, the short-staffed, second-place Salukis (winners of five straight games despite essentially having only six players) will be playing at resurgent third-place Illinois State.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents … df?id=5840

Drake game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: NBC Sports Chicago / http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3273188/ … basketball

Stats: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=189603

Vegas odds: Pending

Missouri State Preview — 2-3-2018

Saturday, February 3, 2018 1:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

As everyone even mildly interested in the MVC this season knows, Missouri State, with their exceptional talent, experience, and depth – especially in the frontcourt— was expected to win the conference title this season. Northern Iowa was voted a close second, behind the promise of their experienced coach, experienced starting lineup, and some newcomers bringing more athleticism to Cedar Falls. And Loyola was voted third, thanks to some admired returning talent and potential from a few good-looing newcomers. Prognosticators can gauge the coaching and the past performance of returning players, but they can never know for certain how team chemistry or a couple of game-changing bounces can go. And there are always injuries, mishaps, and unexpected circumstances.

Many people will blame an adverse reaction to a cryotherapy treatment for the Bears not coming close to their potential and expectations this season. A treatment session on Jan. 22 resulted in two players, 6’5” junior forward Reggie Scurry and 6’7” Abdul Fofana, getting blisters on the bottom of their feet. At first the players were said to be out day to day, but later it was admitted that recovery will take “weeks.” Fofana rarely plays significant minutes, but Scurry has made a significant difference as the first or second player off the bench, including 18 points and seven rebounds in Missouri State’s five-point win over the Ramblers in December. Scurry averages 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds on the season.

In spite of Scurry’s bizarre injury, the Bears were not living up to potential before the cryotherapy session. At 5-3 in conference and 15-6 overall against a snoozer of non-con schedule, Missouri State showed flashes of dominating athletic talent meted out in undersized and infrequent doses. A lot of random Saturday afternoon YMCA pickup squads have more chemistry, and too often the team plays like there has been zero game planning. An early home loss to North Dakota State featured Alize Johnson getting 23 points and 20 rebounds, but the team—the entire team—had only one (1) assist.

After a mystifying loss at Oral Roberts (a team that was 2-9 at the time and coming off a loss to a non-D1 team), MSU briefly played some exceptional basketball—a decisive win over a very good Wright State team and three straight conference wins to start their MVC campaign. But malaise or complacency or indifference again swept over the team.

The three games since losing Scurry have just tacked on more dread to what has become a numb fog of season. The Bears have now lost four in a row, and six of their last eight. As their lackluster performances have increased, their rotation off the bench has tightened, even without Scurry. In their loss at home last Saturday against SIU, they got only 26 minutes from their bench as all five starters played 31 minutes or more. In Tuesday night’s home loss to Illinois State, the starting backcourt was 1-for-16 from the field for two points and three assists.

Sixth man and outside shooting specialist Ryan Kreklow has struggled mightily in the past four games, averaging 2.8 points while shooting 21.4% from the field. Kreklow, a junior guard, came into the season with a 39.6% mark in career field goal percentage (including 44.9% last season), but is averaging only 28.9% this season. Even Preseason Conference Player of the Year Alize Johnson has struggled; in two key road conference games last week at Drake and at Bradley, he combined for only nine points on 2 of 14 shooting from the field. Last time out against Illinois State, Johnson got his double-double– 12 points and 10 rebounds—but it came on 4 of 14 shooting. Johnson continues to shoot three pointers with team-leading frequency despite connecting at less than 28%. Even with one of the best frontcourts in the league, rebounding—once the definitive strength of the Bears—has eroded of late; three of MSU’s last four opponents have won the rebounding battle, and despite the recent slump, MSU still leads the league on the season with a +6.2 rebounding margin.

In Loyola’s last outing, the Ramblers ended their second 7-game winning streak of the year at Bradley when a furious comeback came up short with a botched last possession. Loyola has had seven 7-game winning streaks in the past 12 seasons, but hasn’t won eight in a row since 1984-85. Loyola still has a chance to get a third streak of seven wins or more in the 2017-18 season if they win out the regular season.

Saturday’s game at 1 p.m. is the kick-off to a big day at Loyola. The game will be a “White-Out” at Gentile Arena, with fans asked to wear white to show support for the team. The Ramblers have a chance to set a new high in conference wins with a victory, Coach Porter Moser has a chance to achieve a new career season high in MVC conference wins, and a win would reduce Loyola’s magic number to 6 to win the conference. And at 7 p.m., the #7 Loyola men’s volleyball team hosts #13 USC at in Gentile Arena.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents … df?id=5831

Missouri State game notes: https://missouristate_ftp.sidearmsports … s%2025.pdf

TV/Streaming video: CBS Sports Network / http://www.cbssports.com/watch/cbssportsnetwork

Stats: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=189602

Vegas odds: Loyola by 7