Staff writer Steven Pivovar ranks the Missouri Valley men’s basketball teams, with national RPI rankings from the NCAA.
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1. Wichita State (24-5, 12-4, 30th)
This week: Evansville, at Creighton. Gregg Marshall deserves repeat coach of the year award for taking team picked fourth to verge of second straight title.
2. Creighton (22-7, 11-5, 44th)
This week: at Bradley, Wichita State. Grant Gibbs on track to become first player since Illinois State’s Jamar Smiley in 1998 to lead league in assists in back-to-back seasons.
3. Northern Iowa (17-12, 10-6, 70th)
This week: at Southern Illinois, Illinois State. None of the Panthers’ losses have come to teams with losing records, and five are to teams with 20-plus wins.
4. Indiana State (17-11, 9-7, 59th)
This week: Drake, at Evansville. Sycamores are assured of fourth straight winning season, the first time that’s happened in Terre Haute since the 1998 to 2001 seasons.
5. Illinois State (16-13, 7-9, 116th)
This week: Missouri State, at Northern Iowa. Tyler Brown scored half his team’s points and grabbed almost a third of its rebounds in an 80-71 loss to Utah State.
6. Bradley (16-13, 7-9, 167th)
This week: Creighton, at Missouri State. Walt Lemon Jr. and Dyricus Simms-Edwards are second-highest scoring tandem in league play with 31.8 average.
7. Evansville (16-13, 8-8, 119th)
This week: at Wichita State, Indiana State. Purple Aces need second-leading scorer Ned Cox to shake his foot injury in order to have any chance of making noise in St. Louis.
8. Missouri State (9-20, 6-10, 210th)
This week: at Illinois State, Bradley. Wins in final two games would keep Bears out of play-in round in St. Louis and avoid setting record for losses in a season.
9. Drake (13-15, 6-10, 152nd)
This week: at Indiana State, Southern Illinois. Jordan Clarke has fashioned solid senior season (second in rebounding, third in shooting) despite nagging knee injury.
10. Southern Illinois (12-16, 4-12, 194th)
This week: Northern Iowa, at Drake. A program that almost never used to lose at home has won four straight at SIU Arena for the first time since 2009.