Two of the hottest teams in the nation are in the Missouri Valley Conference as Indiana State (5-straight) and Wichita State (17-straight) open the week tied for first in the MVC at 4-0. They meet in Wichita on Saturday, Jan. 18 (ESPN2, 3 pm CT).
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jarmar Gulley, Missouri State -- Gulley averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in a pair of memorable performances. He registered a career-high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting to help the Bears past Bradley on Wednesday, including 6 points in the final minute of the game to seal the win. He also posted a career-high four 3-pointers against BU and drew two charges. He followed that effort with 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in MSU’s narrow overtime loss to No. 6 Wichita State on Saturday as MSU’s first double-double of the season. He accounted for 10 points against the Shockers during a key five-minute stretch in the second half that helped push MSU ahead by 19 points at the time.
NEWCOMER OF THE WEEK
Wes Washpun, UNI -- Washpun made 11-of-14 field goals (78.6 percent) and averaged 14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg in leading UNI to a pair of MVC wins. Washpun scored 12 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor in guiding UNI to an 80-53 win road win at Evansville on Wednesday. Washpun dished out five assists against the Purple Aces. Washpun followed that effort up with a 17-point, 7-rebound performance against Drake. Washpun made 7-of-10 shots from the field and handed our four assists in the 76-66 triumph over the Bulldogs.
And Then There Were Four
Just four Division I teams remain perfect, through games of Jan. 12. At 17-0, Wichita State is tied with Arizona for the nation’s best record:
Wichita State (17-0) -- next vs. Bradley (1/14)
Arizona (17-0) - Arizona State (1/16)
Syracuse (16-0) - next at Boston College (1/13)
Wisconsin (16-0) - at Indiana (1/14)
Best Starts Ever
Wichita State (17-0) will next look to extend a school record with an 18th victory to start a season when the Shockers host Bradley on Tuesday. Counting WSU, a total of 8 MVC teams have started a season 17-0 or better. The last MVC team to go 17-0 to start a season was Indiana State in 1978-79 (The Sycamores won their first 33 games that year.) Only four teams in the MVC’s 106-year history have started a season with 18-straight wins.
Inside The RPI Report
The RPI Report (Collegiate Basketball News) was released Monday, Jan. 13, and the MVC -- led by Wichita State’s No. 10 ranking -- has four teams in the Top 75. In the past 10 seasons, the MVC has had three or more top-75 teams nine times, including six in 2005-06.
Impressive Rally by Shox
Wichita State trailed Missouri State by 19 points (54-35) with 11:48 remaining on Saturday, Jan. 11, but rallied to win in overtime. It marks the seventh-best comeback on record in MVC men’s basketball history.
Shockers at No. 5 This Week
Wichita State is ranked No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 5 in the AP Poll this week (Jan. 13). The Shockers finished 2012-13 ranked No. 4 in the coaches poll but were not ranked in the final regular-season AP poll. Only five MVC teams have cracked the AP Top 10 in the past 20 years, and before this year (Dec. 23) Wichita State was the last to do it -- in 2006. The last MVC team to climb as high as No. 5 was Wichita State -- on Dec. 28, 1981 (No. 2).
A total of 36 teams in Division I have not lost since Christmas, including two in the MVC -- as both Indiana State and Wichita State are 5-0 since Dec. 25. Following a mid-week game for both ISU (vs. Missouri State) and Wichita State (vs. Bradley), the two teams meet in Wichita on Saturday in a game seen on ESPN2 (3 pm CT).
Scoring ... It’s Up
This year’s UNI team is scoring at its highest pace in the past 27 years. UNI is scoring 71.8 points per game and the Panthers have not averaged a number that high since the 1986-87 season when they averaged 72.4 points per game. Eight of the league’s 10 teams are scoring more this season.
Loyola’s Milton Doyle is the league’s top scoring freshman in 2013-14, already reaching 234 points through 16 games. Only four freshmen in MVC history have reached 500 points - the last to do it was Creighton’s Doug McDermott in 2010-11.
Sycamores Stand Alone
Indiana State is the only team in the country with five double-figure scorers who shoot 33 percent or better from three-point range. Manny Arop, Dawon Cummings, Jake Odum, Khristian Smith, and Justin Gant all average 10.0+ points per game and shoot 33.3 percent or better from long range.
Wichita State’s three-headed monster of Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet are in select company nationally. In fact, only three teams nationally have three players who average 12.2 points, shoot better than 80 percent from the line, and shoot better than 30 percent from long range.
Lemon in Exclusive Company
Bradley’s Walt Lemon, Jr. became the sixth player in BU history to eclipse both 1,400 career points and 300 assists, the first since James Gillingham (1416 and 308) from 2000-04. After adding 22 points and six assists Saturday at Indiana State, Lemon now boasts 1,437 points and 309 assists and is on pace to join Hersey Hawkins and Anthony Parker as the only Bradley players with 1,500 career points and 300 assists.
With 496 career made free throws, Indiana State’s Jake Odum is looking to join just 12 other players in MVC history to make 500 free throws. Odum already has eclipsed 500 career assists (526 through games of Jan. 12, 2014). With four more made free throws, he’ll be the first player in MVC history to reach 500 in both stats.
Ruder Connects for Three(s)
Austin Ruder of Missouri State has connected on 36 treys this year in the Bears’ first 16 games. Should he keep that pace, he’ll join a small group of freshmen in MVC history to make 70+ triples.
So far this year, league teams have won 12 of 20 home games in conference play (60.0 percent), which - should it continue at that pace - would match the lowest success rate by home teams in any of the past 11 seasons. Last year, MVC teams won 71.1 percent of league games on their homecourts -- tying for the best percentage in the last 10 years:
Last year, Doug McDermott of Creighton and Colt Ryan of Evansville both averaged more than 20 points per game. Currently, D.J. Balentine of Evansville and Desmar Jackson of Southern Illinois are averaging 20+ points per game.