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Mid-Continent Notebook

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-Continent Conference Notebook

by Matthew Moll

It’s all over, but it has yet to begin.

For the Mid-Con it was Late-February Madness with teams scampering about fighting for that all-important number-one tourney seed, but none able to take hold of it until the absolute end. The regular season matter in its entirety, even the 1-15 Western Illinois Leathernecks figured into a tie breaker.

But fewer tie breakers were needed courtesy of Valparaiso dashing all hopes of a six-way regular season championship. We are the only regular season champs they decided and this is our number-one seed and our league, try and take it away.

And try they all will.

For nine of the past 10 years this has been Valpo’s league, but this year there will be no guarantee.

Ask IUPUI what it was like to win the Mid-Con tourney. Ron Hunter wants to have another unorthodox celebration, wants to need a new suit, and he has the best player in the conference who wants to watch Hunter dance, then they can dance together.

With no discernable dominant Mid-Con force, forecasting which team will win the fight to get into the NCAA tournament could be as effective predicting the 1948 presidential election.

Knowing who will dance may not be possible, but what in the realm of the know is how the regular season ended.

Let’s start with this seasons surprise teams:

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (17-10 overall, 10-6 Mid-Con) and Chicago State Cougars (11-18, 9-7)

ORU lost starting guard Luke Spencer-Gardner to a knee injury, what followed was one of the largest scoring out-puts in the NCAA this season. In other words Ken Tutt happened. Tutt coupled with Oklahoma’s 2003 High School Player of the year Caleb Green the adolescent Eagles positioned themselves to be a team to beat now. Both Tutt and Green did not receive a lot of pub before coming to ORU. Tutt was recruited lightly by Baylor, Texas State, Arkansas State and North Carolina Wilmington before choosing to fly with the Eagles. Green decided on ORU before his senior year in high school when few considered him a prospect.

The Eagles did not lose for a month winning all their games from December 15-January 15. This eight game winning streak was the longest of the season. Oral hit their stride late in the season as well winning four or their last five games. The only loss in that five game span was at the buzzer to Centenary in the impenetrable Golden-Dome.

Chicago state had their best season since joining the Mid-Con, topping their most wins in a season by two. State is lead by do-everything-guy Rubeen Perry. The senior Perry averages 11 points and lead the team with nearly 6 boards a game. The Cougars’ season was highlighted by a five game winning streak that helped them bounce back from a 1-14 start. The Cougars ended the season winning five of their last seven games.

And now for the champs:

Valparaiso Crusaders (14-12 , 11-5)

Valparaiso has more conference championships than any team in any conference over the last decade. Although there is no clear-cut favorite for the coveted tourney spot, Valpo has what every other team wants. Dominance. Homer Drew coaxed his team into being starless winners. Dan Oppland as emerged as the closest thing to a star, but this team prefers to play with balance and together so they can win. Only three Crusaders average double figures while eight players average at least five points per contest.

The Crusaders’ longest winning streak of the season was six games from Jan. 15-31.

The Crusaders may be more tournament ready than any other team, playing the most recently and playing against the big boys like Marquette, Cincinnati, and Duke. All were losses but all have them ready for what is next.

The defending tournament champs:

IUPUI Jaguars (19-10, 10-6)

IUPUI is set on defending their NCAA tournament spot. Ron Hunter has Player of the Year Odell Bradley on his side and experience winning this tournament.

IUPUI’s season was marked high lighted with wins over Wisc. Green Bay, Ball State, and Pepperdine. The Jag’s also had close games with Dayton and West Virginia.

IUPUI ended their season winning three of their last four games.

The rest:

Centenary Gents (16-11, 10-6)

The Wizard of Shreveport was once again the catalyst for the Gents. Andrew Wisnieski casts his spell for 22.4 points per game and hit on over 55 percent of his shots in conference play.

Unbeatable at the Golden Dome for over a season the Gents strung out their streak to 18 straight games. The last win at home came at the buzzer when the Wizard worked his magic as he said good-bye to the Gold Dome and Oral Roberts’ chance at a win.

The Gentlemen ended their season winning nine of their last 13 games.

UMKC Kangaroos (14-13, 7-5)

The Roo’s record tells the story of their season. Whenever they would lose they would usually follow it with a win, never having a streak of more than five in a row. Michael Watson and his 23.0 points a game led the Kangaroos in scoring and was their leader on the floor.

UMKC managed to at least split every season series with Mid-Con opponents. The tournament is in their town. UMKC could spell NCAA come Tuesday.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies (13-16, 6-10)

Oakland was touted as the pre-season favorite for the Mid-Con only to pick up the final seed in the tournament. The story of the Grizz’s season? Inability to close out games. Eleven loses were by 10 points or less.

Senior Mike Helms leads the team in scoring followed by junior Rawle Marshall.

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (10-17, 6-10)

At one point in time this season the T’birds were the 15th best shooting team in the nation. But Southern Utah found a shooting slump at a critical part of the season and saw blowout losses at Chicago State and Centenary.

Southern will need to revive leading scorer David Palmer’s touch and hope Jason Baker can do the same if there is a chance for a Cinderella run.

Western Illinois Leathernecks (1-15, 3-25)

It was a rebuilding year. One bright spot: new comer T.J. Gray, he will likely emerge as Western’s leader next season.

End of Regular Season Awards

Player of the Year

Odell Bradley, IUPUI

Bradley’s statistics speak for themselves. In the Mid-Con he averaged 24.4 points per game and 8.5 boards per contest. Good for second and third in the Mid-Con respectively. Bradley was IUPUI’s pillar of consistency as well. Odell scored in double digits in all but one game this year and managed 17 games of 20 or more points including two 41-point performances over Oral Roberts. Bradley managed to rack up 11 double-doubles en route to leading the Jag’s to the number-two seed in the conference tourney.

In just two seasons Bradley joined IUPUI’s 1000 point club.

Additionally, Bradley is not just a student of the game, was recognized for his work in the classroom when the Mid-Con named him Student Athlete of the Month for the month of December.

Freshman/Newcomer of the Year

Ken Tutt and Caleb Green, Oral Roberts

No freshman duo in the nation scored more points than the Tutt-Green tandem. Tutt was a scoring machine rattling off eight straight games of 25 or more points. All Green did was lead the league in double-doubles.

Coach of the Year

Kevin Jones, Chicago State

Jones is in his first full season with Chicago State and the difference is apparent. The 9-7 mark is the best the Cougars have put up since joining the league in 1994. The 11 wins the team posted is more wins than they have seen in the previous three seasons. Combined. Jones has the Cougars believing and since it is March the Mid-Con maybe believers too.

Defensive Player of the Year

Matt Crenshaw, IUPUI

Crenshaw lead his team in steals and is regarded as the best on the ball defender in the league. He plays D. He’s their defensive leader. The best in the conference.

First Team
Odell Bradley, IUPUI
Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
Mike Helms, Oakland
Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts
Michael Watson, UMKC
Andrew Wisnieski, Centenary

Second Team
Ali Berdiel, Valparasio
Matt Crenshaw, IUPUI
Dan Oppland, Valparasio
Rawi Marshall, Oakland
Rubeen Perry, Chicago State

New Middies Team
Akeem Clark, IUPUI
T.J. Gray, Western Illinois
Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts
Tony Weeden, Chicago State

     

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