Category Archives: MVC media

MVC Travel Channel: Carbondale

 

Due to my technical limitations, this is a few days late. As part of my travels around the Missouri Valley Conference, I want to fumble through a few minutes of video that gives you a look at the cities and schools that you won’t get from watching on TV. I hope to get to all nine schools, but I won’t guarantee the ratings will keep my show afloat for that long.

Here is a short look at Carbondale and Southern Illinois. For the most part, I’m going to skip the easy jokes at the expense of these towns (and, really, now that Omaha is out, how many jokes are there?). That’s the oldest sportswriter cliche, so I will leave to old sports writers such as Bob Lutz. For the most part, I visit these towns in January and February, when they all look cold and gray and they all have the same Buffalo Wild Wings, Best Buy and Fairfield Inn. Most of them have a Steak and Shake, which is pretty good. Chicago – now I hear that city may be a little different than your typical Valley stop. We’ll see.

Enjoy and happy travels around the MVC. For your viewing pleasure, I try to limit my face time and use a lot of pictures.

MVC media day

One note from each team from Monday’s teleconference:

Bradley

Center Will Egolf is back for a sixth season (after two injuries) and made 4 of 5 threes in Monday’s exhibition win over Upper Iowa. He entered the game 0 for 16 from three-point range. Read More »

Q&A with Steve Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald

Steve Pivovar is the beat writer for Creighton basketball and a chat machine at Omaha.com. He will be in town for Saturday afternoon’s game and home in time for a late dinner. Read More »

Q&A with Jim Benson of the Pantagraph

Jim Benson is the Illinois State basketball beat writer for the Pantagraph of Bloomington-Normal, Ill.

Q: What did the win at Utah do for Illinois State’s confidence? Read More »

Q&A with Todd Hefferman

Todd Hefferman covers SIU for the Southern Illinoisan. He wins the brevity award for responses. Probably bad questions. Read More »

Q&A with Todd Golden

Todd Golden is on his fifth season covering Indiana State for the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He blogs at Down in the Valley. I am supposed to take Todd to lunch on Tuesday before the game and promised to show him Wichita’s best burger – which I say is at Ty’s Diner. I’m open for other nominations. Let me know.

Q: Will Indiana State earn the title of “Team nobody wants to play in St. Louis?”

A: I think the winner of Tuesday’s game gets that honor.

Certainly, Indiana State has righted a lot of what it had going wrong during its five-game winning streak, notably avoidance of unforced turnovers. Moreover, the Sycamores have been hard to defend with Jay Tunnell, Harry Marshall, Rashad Reed and Jordan Printy all on their game offensively … they’ve each hit double-digit scoring in four consecutive games. Four road wins in the conference is impressive too no matter how you slice it.

It’s easy to forget, and hard to fathom given the 4-19 start, that ISU has something to play for against the Shockers. ISU needs a lot of help, but it can still avoid Thursday in St. Louis.

If ISU beats the Shockers and avoids Thursday, anything’s possible, including a long stay in St. Louis. If ISU wins, but have to play Thursday anyway, I wouldn’t want to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed that’s going to see them Friday. I think a No. 1 or a No. 2 is going to go down at St. Louis this year regardless, whether they play Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Drake, Evansville or Wichita State.

If ISU loses to the Shockers, especially if they get trucked out of Koch Arena (I don’t see it, most of the WSU-ISU games in my time at Koch have been competitive), it will be interesting to see how the team responds. The current winning streak is the first taste of success this team has had, so in return, it will be the first time they will have had to bounce back.

But to answer your question and make a long story longer, if I were an opposing Valley school, I’d rather face Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Drake, or even Northern Iowa before I’d want to face the Sycamores or the Shockers right now.

Q: Rank Jay Tunnell’s 8-of-9 three-point performance at Illinois State on the list of most incredible sports events you’ve witnessed.

A: Restricting it to my time on the ISU beat, it’s in the top three. Tunnell was one make short of Marico Stinson’s school-record 9 of 11 3-point blast-off against Drake and Tom Davis’ zone defense in 2007. The incredible thing about that game was that Stinson had most of those three’s in a 10-minute span wrapped around halftime.

What might have been more incredible than Tunnell’s 8 of 9 3-point shooting (a lot of the credit, incidentally, should go to Harry Marshall, who repeatedly found Tunnell open on the high pick-and-roll) was his 10 of 11 overall shooting the next game against Drake. Both were school records for percentage. Combine those two games and nothing can touch it since I’ve been around the team.

It brings to mind that the best thing about covering Indiana State men’s basketball — ISU conjures up these off-the-charts bizarre performances, games, and wild swings of success and failure. More than anything else, that’s what defined ISU basketball in my time covering the team, besides the losing seasons, of course.

Tunnell’s performance, the nature of that comeback win (ISU was down 12 with two minutes and change to go at Redbird Arena) and subsequent winning streak, fits perfectly in the Sycamore zeitgeist.

There’s too many examples to cite, but if you want to get a feel for what it’s like to follow ISU around, a snapshot of the 2006 season is a great example. An 8-0 start is followed by an 0-for-January. The 11-game losing skid gets broken with a victory at Southern Illinois, when SIU had the nation’s longest home-court winning streak and it was considered near-impossible to win in Carbondale. Later, ISU set the MVC Tournament record for worst and best shooting halves in the same game against Drake.

Last year’s comeback win over Wichita State at Hulman Center is another example. ISU wiped out 21-point and 10-point deficits in the same half to win the game.

Regardless of who’s coaching or who’s playing, surreal is the norm at Indiana State.

Q: How does this last week unfold in the MVC? I say Northern Iowa is done.

A: Before I go on, I picked UNI to finish 10th in the preseason poll, so my soothsaying abilities should be taken with several ba-zillion grains of salt. On a happier note for Shockwaves readers, I had WSU avoiding Thursday in St. Louis (I can’t remember if I had them fifth or sixth), so my magic 8-ball floated me some knowledge.

I agree on the current state of UNI … stick a fork in them. They’re out of gas and their schedule isn’t favorable either. Too bad, they’ve been the best story in the Valley this season.

It’s hard to go against Creighton at this point. They should take care of Missouri State and I haven’t seen any evidence that Illinois State is mentally tough enough to win at Qwest on Saturday, even if the conference title is on the line.

Of course, knowing the way this season has gone in the Valley, Illinois State will roll to the Valley regular season title with a win in Omaha, perhaps even on a buzzer-beater from prodigal son Lloyd Phillips.

The battle for fifth to ninth is equally intriguing, though there isn’t enough bandwith to discuss the myriad scenarios.

Q: Different sport – Are you surprised Indiana State is building a new baseball stadium and that the school intends to bid for the MVC Tournament? I expect more schools to cut back on baseball in tough economic times.

A: Not at all. This has been in the works for a long time. ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman has been a big believer in baseball from day one. Prettyman has a baseball background — his son Ronnie scored the College World Series-clinching run for Cal State-Fullerton in 2004 — and among the reasons ISU hired coach Lindsay Meggs in 2006 was that he was instrumental in building a stadium for Cal State-Chico for the Division II program there.

Given Terre Haute’s affinity for baseball — I’ve lived all over Indiana and baseball interest is higher here than anywhere else I’ve been — as well as a thriving prep scene that has turned out Division I-caliber talent in recent years out of proportion to its population, I think it’s a sound move.

College baseball is a niche Indiana State can take advantage of. Aside from Notre Dame, and maybe, fellow Valley member Evansville, the college baseball landscape is wide open in Indiana. No one pays one iota of attention to baseball at Purdue or Indiana (I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that IU baseball is more popular in Terre Haute because of Hautean and All-American-caliber catcher Josh Phegley than it is in Bloomington), and the rest of the state’s mid-majors are a mixed bag.

Membership in the Missouri Valley Conference has a lot to do with it … none of the other conferences that include Indiana-based schools is better, including the Big East and Big Ten. It’s one sport where Indiana State can exploit an advantage over other state schools if the program is turned around and with a new facility.

ISU is also hoping to have a summer collegiate league team play in its stadium, which will make its facility the focal point of the local sports scene during what is now a fallow Terre Haute summer and a time when ISU is off the map, so there’s a public relations bent to it too. They just want to avoid that messy Missouri State-type sharing scenario the Bears have with the Double-A team in Springfield.

The economy is the 800-pound gorilla, to be sure, and Title IX plays a role too, but I think getting rid of baseball, as UNI is doing, is short-sighted. The sport is creeping into the national consciousness via more television, etc. It will never be like college football or basketball, but I think it’s safe to say it’s gaining in popularity, not declining.

Q&A with Jim Benson of the Pantagraph

Jim Benson covers Illinois State for the Pantagraph of Bloomington, twin city to Normal, home of the Redbirds.

Q: Have the Redbirds emerged from a tumultuous week a better team, as the win at Drake might suggest? Or are the Redbirds in a bad spot after the Lloyd Phillips leave of absence and return?

A: I definitely saw a better team in the last week. With the Phillips leave of absence and Sead Odzic’s knee injury, the team found some depth it didn’t seem to have a week earlier plus it played more as a team. There was a chemistry on the court that was missing. Whether it had anything to do with Phillips is the big question.

Q: How do you expect coach Tim Jankovich to handle his starting lineup when Phillips returns?

A: Jankovich will probably keep Shipley in the starting lineup and bring Phillips off the bench for the next couple games and maybe the rest of the season. Phillips probably will get Odzic-type minutes, which is about 10-15 minutes a game. The interesting part will be if the game is close down the stretch, whether Shipley or Phillips get the call. Not sure right now how that would play out.

Q: WSU’s bench outscored Illinois State’s bench 23-2 in Koch Arena. Will the ISU reserves play better at home, or is that still a problem for the Redbirds?
A: Brandon Sampay has really played well in the last three weeks or so, plus now Brandon Holtz and Alex Rubin had good games last week without Phillips around. If Phillips come off the bench, that should give the Redbird reserves even more punch. ISU looked like a seven-player rotation two weeks ago, but now it could be 9-10 deep the rest of the season, especially when Odzic returns in a couple weeks. Jankovich has more confidence in some of his subs now.

Q: How much enthusiasm is there for the BracketBusters trip to Niagara around the Redbird basketball office?
A: Actually, the Redbird coaches seem to like the idea of going to Niagara. I think some of them haven’t seen Niagara Falls, so that’s one perk to the trip. Plus, they like getting on ESPN2. ISU volunteered to play on Friday night so it could have an extra day of rest because the Redbirds play Northern Iowa on the following Tuesday. ISU really has nothing to lose at Niagara. The only way the Redbirds go to the Big Dance is by winning the Valley tourney, so a loss won’t bust anything.

Q&A with Matt Coss

Matt Coss covers Northern Iowa (Saturday’s WSU opponent) for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. He survives the coldest place on earth by wearing grippy attachments to the soles of his shoes that give him traction on the ice that covers Cedar Falls from October to June. Read More »

Q&A with Todd Golden of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star

Q: Technical fouls and ejection? 21-point rally? Fights? Why does this mostly nondescript rivalry produce such wacky moments and what can we expect tonight? Read More »

Q&A with Dave Reynolds of the Peoria Journal-Star

Since taking over the beat in 1990-91, Dave Reynolds has covered 569 straight Bradley games, 146 of them last March and April in the College Basketball Invitational. My streak is 117.

Q: What is behind Bradley’s recent changes to the starting lineup?

A: After a poor start at Southern Illinois, Jim Les decided the Braves
needed to develop a stronger defensive mindset at the beginning of the
game. So Dodie Dunson and Darian Norris replaced Chris Roberts and Sam
Maniscalco. The results were excellent. BU opened the Northern Iowa game
with a 13-2 burst and started the Indiana State game by forcing five
turnovers in the first six minutes. And Maniscalco has been an offensive
spark off the bench, averaging 13.5 points in the two games.

Q: Out of necessity, Jim Les remade the Braves from a three-point
shooting team to a driving team. How did he do it so quickly?

A: When Bradley didn’t have Andrew Warren available from the start, it
became apparent that the strength of the team was more driving to the
basket than shooting threes. It almost helped not having him at all because
it gave a new team a chance to find its own way. Jim did a good job
recognizing that as the non-conference season wore on and began to
de-emphasize the three and promote the players’ strengths.
As with most everything, a balance is usually best and the Braves’ best
games have come when they have knocked down enough threes to keep the
defense honest. But it’s pretty clear they don’t have the knockdown
shooters of a year ago with Warren out and the graduations of Jeremy
Crouch and Daniel Ruffin.

Q: At the halfway point, pick your MVC Player of the Year. Did Drake’s
Adam Emmenecker ruin it for every good player not on the championship
team?

A: He may have although if Northern Iowa continues its pace, I’d be
hard-pressed to pick one guy off that team who is as critical as
Emmenecker was for Drake. Kwadzo Ahelegbe would be the closest and may
well become the POY although I’m sure Osiris Eldridge, Josh Young,
Theron Wilson, Bryan Mullins and Shy Ely may have something to say about
that before it’s all said and done.

Q: When Bradley wears its 1985-86 throwback jerseys, do you wear your
Miami Vice jacket or your button-down Oxford cloth shirt with penny
loafers?

A: I was never that cool in the ’80s when I was kind of young so I’m not
going to pretend to be cool when I’m pretty old. Some might say, though,
the sweater I wore that night was kind of like those worn by Nolan
Richardson in the ’80s. Without the polka dots.