ST. LOUIS — For the first time since 1997, the Missouri Valley coach of the year award did not go to the coach of a team that earned at least a share of the regular-season championship.
Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, whose Shockers finished a game behind Creighton in the standings, won the award for the second straight season. Bluejays coach Greg McDermott finished second in the balloting done by the league coaches, sports information directors and news media representatives.
Northern Iowa's Eldon Miller was the last Valley coach to win the award and not earn at least a share of the regular-season title. Miller's 1996-97 team went 16-12 and finished fourth in the standings.
Marshall's team compiled a 24-7 record and finished one game behind the Bluejays in the regular-season race.
“It was a little bit of a pleasant surprise,'' Marshall said. “I thought it was a tribute to these young men and their perseverance and toughness.''
Marshall had to replace five key players off a team that won the championship last season and made it to the NCAA tournament. He also had to adjust to the loss of three starters in mid-December, two of whom did not return for the remainder of the season.
Marshall received 23 first-place votes and 87 points in the voting, while McDermott, whose Creighton team was the preseason favorite to win the title, received 13 first-place votes and 64 points.
Southern Illinois' Barry Hinson finished third with one first-place vote and 24 points. Hinson's finish is the highest for a coach whose team finished last in the standings.
Greg McDermott throws one down
Marshall might have another trophy but can he still dunk? McDermott can, as he showed at the end of Creighton's practice Thursday morning.
A center during his playing career at Northern Iowa, McDermott built up plenty of steam before going airborne to jam the ball through the net. He then celebrated with a series of airplane whirls as his players went wild.
At Creighton's pre-Valley tournament press conference Thursday, All-American Doug McDermott was asked about his dad's mad hops.
“First off, he's got as many dunks as I do this year,'' Doug said with a straight face. “It's great to see.''
Doug McDermott: NBA situation 'really cool'
Naturally, Doug McDermott received the obligatory question about his future at Creighton. He is expected to consider turning professional after the end of the season rather than returning for his senior season.
“Just to even be in this situation is really cool,'' Doug said. “I try not to think too much about the future, just try and take care of business one day at a time.''
Jays don't want to disappoint fans
Creighton sold more than 4,000 all-session tickets for the tournament and likely will take the court at Scottrade Center for Friday's quarterfinal game against Drake with more than 5,000 fans on hand.
The support is nice, Creighton senior guard Grant Gibbs said, but it does add a little bit of pressure.
“Before I got here, I really didn't understand how big of a deal going to St. Louis is for our fans,'' Gibbs said. “They have a blast, and it's really cool to see all the fans make that trip. Hopefully, we can come out and perform and make them happy.
“It's an advantage for us, but then you think about all the money they've paid to come down there. It makes you really want to perform and not disappoint them.''
A couple of days before the tournament, Doug McDermott was talking about the support the Bluejays receive at the conference tournament
“It gets us fired up,'' he said, “and we just hope we can match their intensity.''
Someone reminded McDermott that Creighton fans have a reputation for showing plenty of intensity in their St. Louis partying.
“I don't know if we can quite match that,'' he said, smiling. “We'll try our best on the court, and it should be a really fun weekend.''
Illinois State coach knows St. Louis well
Illinois State coach Dan Muller made his first appearance at the Scottrade Center since scoring 17 points and helping the Redbirds win the 1998 championship game.
“I have fond memories of this arena,'' Muller said. “We had a great time here a long time ago. Shared a lot of exciting moments with a team that I was very close with.
“It clearly has nothing to do with our team today, but I do have great memories. I know that we're hoping that our group can create some of those memories this weekend.''
— Steven Pivovar