Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Gavin Thurman and Camyn Boone scored 10 points apiece Tuesday to help a depleted Missouri State men’s basketball squad to a 30-30 halftime tie against the University of Evansville at the Ford Center.

D.J. Balentine and Adam Wing scored seven points apiece to lead UE, while sophomore guard Jaylon Brown added five points. Missouri State shot 13 of 26 (50 percent) from the field and Evansville made 11 of 26 attempts.

Missouri State, with only seven healthy scholarship players, played a 2-3 zone the entire first half. The Aces tried a full-court press for one of the first times this season, forcing a five-second call on an inbounds play.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Missouri State (9-15, 3-9 MVC) at Evansville (16-8, 6-6), 7:05 p.m. at the Ford Center

Preview story: Aces to host depleted Missouri State

Live stream/Radio: ESPN3; WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Missouri State: Shawn Roundtree (6-0, Fr., G, 2.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg); Chris Kendrix (6-5, Fr., G, 5.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg); Loomis Gerring (6-5, Jr., G, 5.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg); Camyn Boone (6-6, Jr., F, 7.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Tyler McCullough (6-11, So., C, 4.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.6 ppg, 2.4 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 19.4 ppg, 3.3 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G, 8.0 ppg, 2.2 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., F, 6.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Jaylon Moore (6-7, Sr., F, 3.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg).

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Noting Missouri State: The Bears have only seven healthy scholarship players, including one point guard (Roundtree). … Austin Ruder is the team’s top remaining scorer at eight points per game. Leading scorer Marcus Marshall (19.5 ppg) transferred in January after a brief suspension. … The Bears have lost nine of 10. … Kendrix is averaging 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds over his last eight games.

Noting Evansville: The Aces are missing 6-foot-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius for the second straight game with a head injury. … UE is on its first three-game losing streak of the season. … Balentine ranks 22nd in the nation in scoring. … The Aces rank 14th in Division I in field-goal percentage at 48.7 percent, but are shooting 44.1 percent during MVC play. … Evansville beat Missouri State 56-54 on Jan. 14. Mislav Brzoja scored a team-high 18 points, knocking down three 3-pointers in the contest.

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Predictions: Evansville is favored by 7 1/2 points. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 67-59 UE win and gives the Aces an 82 percent chance of victory.

 

Posted by & filed under Baseball.

Seeking the right balance between offense and pitching, college baseball will be played this season with flat-seam baseballs that researchers have found fly up to 20 feet farther.

The change is to combat a recent ‘dead-bat’ era that began in 2011, when the current standards were introduced for metal bats at the college level. The less-lively bats have led to a reduction in offensive numbers, particularly at spacious TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, the site of the College World Series, where only three home runs have been hit in each of the last two tournaments.

“I’ve seen the ball hop off the bat a little bit differently,” said University of Evansville coach Wes Carroll, whose team has practiced with the flat-seam balls, which more closely mirror ones used in professional leagues.

“I think it’s carried an extra five to 10 feet. I think ground balls are a little more firmer. I haven’t seen a drastic effect in breaking balls like some were predicting; I’m still seeing a sharp bite to breaking balls. I think it’s going to improve the college game with a little more offense, which I think is always good.”

Hitters are nearly universal in their support of the new ball, for obvious reasons.

A pair of Evansville’s pitchers — the group expected to be affected most by the change — said the transition has been relatively smooth.

“It takes away a little bit from my curveball, but my fastball moves a little bit more so I like the change,” said Matt Rodgers, a senior right-hander who will start the season as the Aces’ No. 2 starter. “(The adjustment) is not super drastic.”

Connor Strain, UE’s No. 1 starter, echoed those sentiments.

“I feel like the ball moves a little bit more on some pitches and other pitches not,” he said. “It’s supposed to fly a little bit farther but I haven’t noticed much difference. It’s still a baseball.”

The Aces open their season Friday when they begin a three-game series at Arkansas-Little Rock.

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Bradley rallied from a 17-point deficit in the final 17 minutes to knock off Evansville 56-53 Saturday at the Ford Center (you can read my game story here).

Here are some leftover notes, quotes and observations from that game:

1. Bradley’s diamond-and-one defense did just enough to slow down the Aces.

It took Bradley coach Geno Ford just 5 minutes, 4 seconds to realize man-to-man wasn’t the proper defense to play against the Aces. That’s how long it took D.J. Balentine to bury his first three 3-point attempts and for the Aces to race to a 17-4 lead.

The Braves eventually settled into a diamond-and-one defense where one player chased Balentine and the rest covered a zone. Balentine still finished with a game-high 22 points, but his scoring pace slowed considerably after that and the rest of the Aces didn’t get inside for as many easy looks.

“We just wanted to try to see if we could get (Balentine) out of rhythm,” Ford said. “We showed zone and we worked on it a little bit, and we just figured, ‘What the heck?’ We haven’t been able to stop that guy, ever.

“I think what it did was it got their motion a little bit disrupted, and they’re so great at their motion. It forced some guys to play a little bit different.”

Ford added that most of Bradley’s perimeter defenders are quick but small, or lengthy but slow afoot.

“We can’t guard Balentine man-to-man,” he said. “I’ve got two years of tape watching that so we definitely weren’t going to do that one again. … There’s only a few guys in our league that really have a chance to guard him.”

2. Jaylon Moore played a great first half for UE, but the Aces missed Egidijus Mockevicius’ presence in the second half.

The Aces played their first game this season without Mockevicius, a 6-foot-10 center who averages a double-double but sat out with a head injury. In the first half, Jaylon Moore filled in admirably, contributing five points, two rebounds and two steals. He also had a pair of deflections that led to more Bradley turnovers, which helped the Aces get baskets in transition.

As a result, UE led 30-16 at halftime.

But in the second half, Moore had two rebounds, no points and no steals. The Aces’ other big man, David Howard, finished with no points, one rebound and one block in 12 minutes.

Those two didn’t combine to match Mockevicius’ regular production and Bradley’s guards — especially Tramique Sutherland, who scored 14 of his team-high 18 points after halftime — were effective at driving the lane without Mockevicius’ shot-blocking presence.

Not that Ford felt sorry for the Aces, nor should he. The Braves have been ravaged by injuries, illness and suspensions all year, and were missing leading scorer Warren Jones (13.9 points per game) on Saturday for the 11th game this season.

“He’s a great player and he makes them a much better team if he plays,” Ford said of Mockevicius. “Our leading scorer has missed more games than he’s played. We lead the world in missed games. … That’s one of the rare cases we’ve benefitted from someone being out.”

Said UE coach Marty Simmons: “Bradley’s had guys hurt all year; that’s just a part of college basketball. We’ve got to play with the guys we’re allowed to play with, and we’ve got to win with them.”

3. Bradley’s Nate Wells came out of nowhere.

The 7-foot-1 junior scored a career-high eight points, all in the second half after starting forward Josh Cunningham suffered an asthma attack at halftime. Wells also hit the first two 3-pointers of his career, buried another jump shot and added two blocks and two steals in 16 minutes of action.

Entering Saturday, he had played just 72 minutes on the season and averaged 0.8 points and 0.6 rebounds.

Wells’ contributions pumped up his teammates enough that one of them knocked him over with a chest bump as Wells returned to the bench for a timeout.

“He’s been a great teammate and that’s really the first game in his career that he’s been able to impact statistically, but he’s impacted our program just with his attitude and effort over time,” Ford said. “That’s why I think the guys were overly happy with him just because he’s so genuine in their approach with them.”

Wells’ hot start out of halftime and six quick Evansville turnovers began Bradley’s big comeback. Sutherland finished it.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

D.J. Balentine buried his first three 3-point attempts Saturday and scored 11 points to lead Evansville to a 30-16 halftime lead against Bradley at the Ford Center.

The Aces opened the game on a 12-0 run and later stretched their advantage to 17 points.

Bradley shot 6 of 21 from the field — including 0 of 8 from 3-point range — and committed 12 turnovers. Braves freshman Josh Cunningham tied for the team lead with four points and led all players with seven rebounds in the half.

Evansville senior Jaylon Moore replaced injured center Egidijus Mockevicius in the starting lineup and recorded five points, two rebounds and two steals. UE shot 11 of 26 (42 percent) from the floor.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Bradley (7-17, 2-9 MVC) at Evansville (16-7, 6-5), 1:05 p.m. at the Ford Center

Preview story: Aces could be without Mockevicius against Bradley

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Bradley: Omari Grier (6-4, Jr., G, 8.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg); Auston Barnes (6-8, Sr., F, 10.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Mike Shaw (6-8, Jr., F, 2.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Josh Cunningham (6-7, Fr., F, 8.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg); Tramique Sutherland (5-11, Jr., G, 11.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.6 ppg, 2.3 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 19.3 ppg, 3.3 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., F, 7.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 8.0 ppg, 2.3 apg); Jaylon Moore (6-7, Sr., F, 3.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg).

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Noting Bradley: Leading scorer Warren Jones is serving the final game of his suspension for underage drinking. Two other players who were suspended due to the same incident, Omari Grier and Ka’Darryl Bell, will be in the lineup today. … Josh Cunningham is a top candidate for MVC Freshman of the Year. The Chicago native, who was ranked in the top 100 of his recruiting class, is averaging 10.1 points and 8.5 rebounds in league play. … The Braves took No. 16 Wichita State to the wire Wednesday before losing 62-59. … Bradley hasn’t won a road game this season.

Noting Evansville: The Aces will play without 6-foot-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius, who hasn’t been cleared to return since suffering a head injury Tuesday at Illinois State. Mockevicius averages 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, and his 15 double-doubles this season is a single-season UE Division I record. … UE won 66-56 earlier this season at Bradley. … The Aces have attempted 270 3-pointers this season, which ranks 343 out of 351 Division I teams. … Evansville was ranked No. 17 this week in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major top 25 poll. … D.J. Balentine ranks 25th in the nation in scoring.

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Predictions: Evansville is favored by eight points. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 68-58 UE win and gives the Aces an 88 percent chance of victory.

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University of Evansville senior Jaylon Moore was named one of 16 finalists Friday for the State Farm Dark Horse Dunker Competition.

Fan voting will determine which one of the “dark horse dunkers” — candidates from mid-major Division I schools or lower-division teams — will join high-flyers from big-name programs in the televised college dunk contest during Final Four weekend in April in Indianapolis.

Voting opens Wednesday at noon CST on DarkHorseDunker.com, a website that won’t be active until Wednesday. Fans may vote once per day, per platform (email, Google+, Facebook or Twitter).

Moore, a 6-foot-7 senior, has throw down his share of explosive slams this season. This one, from a January loss to Wichita State, appeared in some versions of SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that night.

The 16 dark horse finalists will be paired up weekly, and whichever dunker receives the most votes will advance to the next round of voting.

Here is the complete list of finalists:

LeShaun Murphy – Auburn Montgomery

Jevoni Robinson – Barry University

James Sinclair – Western Carolina

Chrishawn Hopkins – Wright State

Brandon “Snap” Peters – Talladega College

Deshawn Delaney – New Mexico

Antjuan Ball – West Texas A&M

Evan Pannell – Wooster

John Jordan – Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Malcolm Miller – Holy Cross

Kendall Hargrove – Mount Olive

Andrew Smith – Liberty

Javonte Green – Radford

Kevin Blake – Elon

Davene Carter – Tarleton State

Jaylon Moore – Evansville

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Evansville center Egidijus Mockevicius hasn’t been cleared to return to workouts since suffering a head injury in the second half of Tuesday’s game at Illinois State.

Mockevicius crashed to the court while on defense. Illinois State sophomore Reggie Lynch — a 6-foot-10, 257-pound center — said he accidentally stepped on Mockevicius’ face after he had already hit the floor.

“He’s being evaluated on a daily basis,” UE coach Marty Simmons said Thursday. “He’s not been cleared and he will not practice today, and he’ll be re-evaluated again tomorrow.”

When asked if Mockevicius had a concussion, Simmons didn’t answer directly.

“He did hit his head on the floor. He’s much improved today as opposed to (after) the game and yesterday,” Simmons said. “I think we’ll just have to see.”

Mockevicius averages 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-10 Lithuanian has already set the Aces’ single-season Division I record with 15 double-doubles this season.

The Aces (16-7, 6-5 Missouri Valley Conference) host Bradley (7-17, 2-9) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Center. If Mockevicius isn’t cleared to play, 6-7 senior Jaylon Moore and 6-8 sophomore David Howard will likely split the minutes at center.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Illinois State dominated Evansville 77-51 Tuesday (you can read my game story here.) The teams entered the game tied in the Missouri Valley Conference standings at 6-4 but appeared miles apart once they took the court.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Illinois State media members said that was by far the best game the Redbirds have played. And that was probably the worst game Evansville has played this year; the other candidate is the Wichita State loss in which UE shot a season-low 30 percent from the floor. So while Illinois State looked the far better team Tuesday, I doubt the Redbirds would come close to averaging a 26-point victory if the teams played each other 10 times.

My main observation: the Redbirds overwhelmed UE with superior athleticism. Evansville’s ballhandlers couldn’t create enough space to comfortably run their offense, cutters had a difficult time getting open and Illinois State’s shot blockers — especially Reggie Lynch — swatted or altered most of UE’s shots in the lane. The Redbirds tied a school record with 10 blocks, including five from Lynch.

The Aces exacerbated these issues by being sloppy with the ball and committing 18 turnovers. Evansville’s struggles to even pass and catch cleanly allowed Illinois State to be even more aggressive in its defensive pressure, and the Aces weren’t able to make the Redbirds pay when they overextended their defense.

I don’t have much more insight on the lopsided game, so I’ll just share some extra quotes that didn’t make my game story.

— UE coach Marty Simmons, on Illinois State: “They were really good, they were really aggressive — just so much more aggressive than us. Give them credit; they’re really good. They do a lot of good things out there and we didn’t give them a whole lot of resistance.”

— Simmons, on how the Aces could better attack shot blockers: “When you’re driving the basketball, and you’ve got Lynch standing right in front of the rim, you’ve got to have your eyes up and stop. You can’t just keep taking it into the big man and letting him block your shot. You want to stop at 12 feet and shoot a pull-up shot. It’s being aggressive but being under control and making smart basketball plays.”

—Simmons, on Illinois State’s perimeter pressure on defense: “They were aggressive, they were contesting passes. You’ve got to screen to release pressure (and) if you’re contested you got to backcut. There’s things you have to do and we didn’t do them very well.”

— Illinois State coach Dan Muller on ISU guard Paris Lee, who had 11 points, seven assists, three steals and three turnovers: “He was so good in every which way. …He’s had a lot of good games and that was one of the best games he’s ever played.”

Muller, on his team’s defense: “One thing we can do that’s hurt other teams is we can get some pressure on the ball, and that can disrupt your offense.”

— Lynch, on the impact the Redbirds’ shot blocking had on the Aces: “We knew that we were going to be contesting their shots and I do believe that some of their players might have been not wanting to drive as much or maybe kicking it out, and that’s something that really helps our team.”

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

NORMAL, Ill. — Illinois State forced Evansville into 12 turnovers and shot 59 percent from the field in taking a 43-24 halftime lead Tuesday at Redbird Arena.

Evansville’s 12 turnovers matched their season average for an entire game. The Aces committed nine miscues in the first 8:30, helping Illinois State take a 21-9 lead.

The Redbirds led by 22 on two occasions. Daishon Knight and Reggie Lynch had nine points apiece to lead Illinois State’s balanced effort.

D.J. Balentine led UE with eight points.

Illinois State appeared to fluster Evansville with its athleticism. The Redbirds recorded six steals and five blocks in the half, including three blocks by Lynch, the Missouri Valley Conference leader at 2.8 blocks per game.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Evansville (16-6, 6-4 MVC) at Illinois State (14-8, 6-4), 7:07 p.m. Tuesday at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.

Preview story: Aces look to bounce back against Illinois State

Live stream/Radio: ESPN3; WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.8 ppg, 2.4 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 19.6 ppg, 3.4 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 8.2 ppg, 2.4 apg); Jaylon Moore (6-7, Sr., F, 3.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 12.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg).

Illinois State: Paris Lee (5-11, So., G, 6.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Daishon Knight (6-1, Sr., G, 14.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg); MiKyle McIntosh (6-7, Fr., F, 5.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Tony Wills (6-3, So., G, 6.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg); Reggie Lynch (6-10, So., C, 8.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

——

Noting Evansville: Sophomore forward Mislav Brzoja is warming up with a wrap on his left hand. Brzoja missed four games with the broken hand but could return tonight. He averages 9.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. … Balentine leads the MVC in scoring, while Illinois State’s Daishon Knight ranks fifth. … Mockevicius is tied for the national lead with 15 double-doubles. … The Aces are coming off a 70-65 loss at Drake, their fifth straight loss in Des Moines. Drake shot 54.8 percent from the field that game, including 7 of 15 from 3-point range.

Noting Illinois State: One of the Redbirds’ top statistical players has come off the bench recently. DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell averages 12.3 points and a team-best 5.6 rebounds. He has reached double figures in 10 of his 15 games this season. … Lynch leads the MVC and ranks No. 19 nationally with 2.8 blocks per game. … Illinois State has won four of five games, with the only loss coming 54-53 to nationally ranked Northern Iowa. UNI hit a late 3-pointer in that contest. … The Redbirds rank first in the MVC in rebounding margin (plus-6), steals (8.0 per game) and offensive rebounds (13.5 per game).

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Predictions: Illinois State is favored by six points. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 70-63 Illinois State win and gives the Redbirds a 77 percent chance of victory.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Now that the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball season is more than halfway complete, the league race is clearly defined in three groups: the race for No. 1 (Wichita State and Northern Iowa), the race for No. 3 (Indiana State, Illinois State and Evansville) and everyone else (everyone else).

Here are the current league standings, plus my (probably inaccurate) attempt to project the seeds of Arch Madness, which begins March 5 in St. Louis.

1. Northern Iowa (20-2, 9-1): The Panthers beat Wichita State 70-54 on Saturday in the first MVC game between ranked teams since 1982. UNI leapfrogged the Shockers in the polls Monday, coming in at No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the USA Today coaches poll.

Projected finish: 2. Even though the Panthers won convincingly against the Shockers on Saturday, I’m not convinced they’ll dethrone Wichita State in the long run. UNI has looked a bit more vulnerable against the rest of the league. Even with the 16-point loss Saturday, Wichita State’s margin of victory against MVC teams (13.4) is greater than UNI’s (10.1).

— —

2. Wichita State (19-3, 9-1): Poor Bradley. The Braves have battled injury after injury this season and last week suspended three players following an incident at a strip club. Now they get the pleasure of playing Wichita State on Wednesday, when the Shockers will truly be playing angry after seeing its MVC win streak — counting the 2014 conference tournament — snapped at 30 games.

Projected finish: 1. See my justification for Northern Iowa’s projected finish. I’m not ready to bet against the Shockers after one conference loss in 31 games.

— —

3. Indiana State (11-11, 7-3): The Sycamores have surprised many around the league considering their 4-8 nonconference record. With the exception of a loss at Drake, ISU has taken care of business against the teams it is supposed to beat.

Projected finish: 5. ISU is a game ahead of Evansville and Illinois State (which the Sycamores beat twice) in the standings, but has been underwhelming in its last two contests. Indiana State’s defense looked shoddy last Tuesday in Evansville and the Sycamores barely beat a depleted Bradley team at home on Saturday.

Also, the Sycamores play Wichita State twice and Northern Iowa once the rest of the season, while UE and Illinois State each has only two games remaining against the MVC’s top two squads. And Loyola star Milton Doyle could return from an ankle injury by the time Indiana State plays the Ramblers on Saturday. UE and Illinois State were able to pick up wins against Loyola while Doyle was sidelined.

— —

4. Evansville (16-6, 6-4): The Aces are coming off a dud of a loss at Drake after compiling a three-game winning streak. UE’s two remaining games against Illinois State — the first one coming Tuesday night – are huge in determining the No. 3-5 seeds.

Projected finish: 4. Tuesday’s game at Illinois State is tough but winnable. After that, the Aces play four consecutive games against bottom-half MVC teams, including three at home. UE can set itself up well for tournament seeding by rattling off a few wins in a row against that competition. And key player Mislav Brzoja appears relatively close to returning from a broken left (non-shooting) hand.

— —

5. Illinois State (14-8, 6-4): The Redbirds are balanced, deep and a UNI 3-pointer away from a five-game winning streak.

Projected finish: 3. The fight for third in the MVC will be fun to watch, and I’m giving it to Illinois State because — unlike Evansville and Indiana State — the Redbirds haven’t lost a game to the MVC’s bottom four. That bodes well for Illinois State, particularly if it can at least split the two-game series with UE.

Also, Illinois State’s scoring margin in MVC games is 6.9, while Evansville’s and Indiana State’s are 1.4 and 1.9, respectively.That means the Redbirds have been closer to beating the top teams and also handling the other teams more comfortably.

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6. Loyola (13-9, 3-7): The Ramblers have dropped five in a row, including the last four with standout sophomore Milton Doyle sidelined with an ankle injury.

Projected finish: 6. Assuming Doyle returns soon and is close to his top form, Loyola could pick up a few more regular-season wins. Doyle is that good, and that important to the Ramblers.

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7. Missouri State (9-13, 3-7): It’s never a good sign when a team’s best player — in this case, Marcus Marshall — is suspended and then leaves the program in the middle of the season. Missouri State had lost seven in a row before Saturday’s win against Southern Illinois.

Projected finish: 9. Four of the Bears’ next five games are against Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Evansville and Indiana State. Not an ideal stretch for a struggling team.

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8. Drake (6-16, 3-7): The Bulldogs are in the middle of their first winning streak of the season. It’s only two victories long, but Drake hosts Southern Illinois on Wednesday in another winnable game.

Projected finish: 8. Drake has a couple of scoring threats and a decent big man in 7-footer Jacob Enevold. That’s more than some of the other bottom-tier MVC teams can say. And Drake’s remaining schedule is a bit more favorable than that of Missouri State.

9. Southern Illinois (9-14, 2-8): Junior guard Anthony Beane is a dynamic scorer and freshman forward Jordan Caroline shows promise, but they don’t have much offensive help. The Salukis need another perimeter scorer to take some pressure off Beane.

Projected finish: 7. I could see the No. 7 spot coming down to SIU’s Feb. 28 home matchup vs. Drake. I’ll give the Salukis the edge there. While no wins will come easily for SIU, its remaining schedule features one game against Wichita State and none against Northern Iowa.

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10. Bradley (7-16, 2-8): Freshman forward Josh Cunningham (10.1 points, 9.0 rebounds per game in MVC play) is a major bright spot for the Braves. He’s a player to build around the next couple seasons. For Braves fans, the next couple seasons can’t come quickly enough.

Projected finish: 10.