—The Missouri Valley Conference is off to a near-record start at 38-16 so far in non-conference play, including a combined 25-3 home record. The .704 win percentage among all teams is second-best ever for the league.
—Creighton junior Doug McDermott, who’s averaging 21 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, was named the MVC’s player of the week. Wichita State junior Cleanthony Early, a transfer playing in his first season for the Shockers, is averaging a team-high 14 points per game and earned newcomer of the week honors.
—MVC teams will face off against Mountain West Conference counterparts during games in seven of the next eight days in the Mountain West-MVC Challenge. UE plays as part of it on Saturday at Colorado State.
1. Creighton (6-0): The Bluejays, No. 11 in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls, have met their lofty preseason expectations and maybe even exceeded them so far, putting an exclamation point on a strong start with double-digit wins over Wisconsin and Arizona State in last weekend’s Las Vegas Invitational.
T1. Wichita State (6-0): The Shockers turned heads with their early win at VCU and raised eyebrows after knocking off Iowa and DePaul in the Cancun Challenge last week. Wichita State is now earning votes in the AP and USA Today polls, just two spots out of the AP rankings.
3. Illinois State (5-1): The Redbirds were an overtime loss to Northwestern on Saturday away from staying perfect on the season at the South Padre Island Invitational Tournament. Jackie Carmichael (16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) won’t have to match up Saturday against No. 5 Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, as the opposing center will be out with a broken bone in his wrist.
4. Bradley (4-1): Wins are wins early for the Braves, who bolstered their record with victories over a foursome of small-conference schools with low expectations. Against South Florida, however, Bradley lost 82-60 last Tuesday, and a game against No. 3 Michigan looms this Saturday.
T4. Indiana State (4-1): The Sycamores rebounded from a season-opening loss to then-No. 13 UCLA to post four straight victories, most recently a 76-62 win Sunday over High Point in which junior Lucas Eitel hit 9-of-9 3-pointers. With UCLA plummeting out of the rankings, Indiana State should see its toughest test Saturday against No. 25 New Mexico.
6. Southern Illinois (3-1): In coach Barry Hinson’s return to the MVC, the Salukis have so far beaten who they should — New Orleans, Benedictine and SIU-Edwardsville — as well as lost to the expected Jim Crews-coached St. Louis squad that’s coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.
7. Evansville (3-2): After an 0-2 start, the Aces rattled off three straight — playing mostly without star senior Colt Ryan — and have a chance to make it four against a downtrodden Alabama A&M squad at home on Monday night.
8. Northern Iowa (3-3): Somebody had to lose three at last week’s Battle 4 Atlantis, which featured an eight-team field with every team ranked or receiving votes in a national poll. That was the Panthers, who can still salvage their RPI with non-conference games against Iowa, UNLV and St. Mary’s.
9. Drake (2-3): Another victim of a Thanksgiving-week non-exempt tournament, the Bulldogs took close losses to California and Xavier in the DirecTV Classic. Ben Simons became the 23rd Drake player all-time to eclipse 1,000 points during the Xavier loss.
10. Missouri State (2-4): The Bears have already lost to a little bit of everything — major and mid-major school, ranked and unranked. Missouri State’s two wins came against Division II and NAIA teams.