MVC Tournament rewind

Score: Creighton 68, Wichita State 65

Key stats: Creighton made 11 of 24 three-pointers. It made 12 of 24 field goals and committed one turnover in the second half.

How the game turned: Two three-pointers by Creighton’s Jahenns Manigat expanded the lead from 38-33 to 44-35 with 15:02 to play. The Shockers spent the next 13 minutes trying to rally.

  • What’s next gets more important by the hour, so let’s get right to bracket projections. SI.com. ESPN.com. CBSSports.com. Two wins in the MVC Tournament didn’t help WSU much. Perhaps the wins kept them out of Dayton. We’ll know more Sunday.
  • Props to Ehimen Orukpe for making the MVC’s Scholar-Athlete team.
  • In short, the game came down to WSU refusing to let Doug McDermott score 41 points again. They made other Bluejays produce. Ethan Wragge (15 points) and Manigat (16) did. Some defensive breakdowns, by WSU’s Cleanthony Early, let Wragge get going in the first half. Creighton is expert at getting people open with an array of sets and screens and used McDermott as a decoy to draw defenders away from shooters. WSU knows it can’t leave Wragge. Manigat, a good shooter, did not score in the two regular-season meetings. The Shockers aren’t the only team who knew Wragge could shoot. Somehow, Creighton gets him open for a lot of threes.
  • WSU guard Malcolm Armstead tops the short list of great MVC Tournament performances (St. Louis version) for the Shockers. Armstead never plays scared and that showed up Sunday with his 28 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists. “He was dynamite,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He carried us in a lot of ways offensively.” Xavier  McDaniel scored 34-34-25 in the 1985 tournament, capped by 34 points and 13 rebounds in the championship game at Tulsa. Armstead’s performance is surely close behind on WSU’s list.
  • Ron Baker’s return is a boost for the offense. As much as his passing and shooting, Baker seems to move with a real purpose and energy on offense.  He is in his second season running the offense (and he played some point early in the season) so I think his understanding of how WSU does things is higher than most of his teammates, many of whom are   in their first or second season. Given another week-plus of practice, Baker should be ready for a larger role.
  • Creighton played excellent defense in St. Louis, which bodes well for its NCAA Tournament run. The Jays held teams to 32.4 percent shooting and an average of 53.7 points in three games. Center Gregory Echenique is the key. WSU’s Carl Hall had trouble scoring against him (4 of 14) and that doesn’t happen against many defenders. “He makes things difficult on the block because of his weight and size,” Hall said.
  • WSU’s stay in the NCAA Tournament will be short without more scoring from Early, who scored 15 points in three games and went 1 of 4 from three-point range. I’m sure his illness played a part, as did defenses determined to keep the ball away from him.
  • WSU is 5-3 in games decided by four points or fewer, which, according to Ken Pomeroy, is about where they should be. Close games are basically a 50-50 proposition most of the time. So should Marshall have called timeout with 12 seconds remaining? Not in my mind. Coaches spend the whole game trying to get their offense playing against a defense that isn’t set. WSU had the advantage and a chance to catch Creighton unorganized. The time for Marshall to call timeout may have been when Armstead’s venture went badly, but that was with 5 seconds remaining and may have been too late. Early’s lackluster screen probably doomed the play by not giving Armstead much separation from the defender. A timeout gives WSU a chance to get organized and get better shooters in the game. It also gives Creighton a chance to set up, perhaps foul, and get better defenders in the game. WSU must then inbound the ball and run a play, while Creighton, if it doesn’t foul, only needs to defend for a short time. WSU used a timeout before Early’s game-winner at Illinois State. At VCU, Armstead made the game-winner without needing a timeout.
  • The biggest mystery of the Valley season is how Illinois State started 0-6. That is a talented team that should be in the NIT, at worst, and more likely, in the NCAA discussion. Tim Jankovich did that program no favors by bailing for SMU and taking his point guard with him.
  • Great atmosphere for the tournament and even Thursday’s games seemed livelier than usual. Should Creighton depart, the tournament will change dramatically. However, the Illinois schools can compensate, as they have in the past, if their programs improve.