Valley Pride in Kansas
By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
OAKLAND, CA (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) With basketball’s March Madness around the corner, the Wichita State Wheat Shockers and The Lady Shockers have emerged from the mid-west. They are among mid-major teams that shocked the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) which is the second oldest conference in the United States founded in 1907.
Take a good look at this historic conference especially the undefeated Black and Gold clad Wichita State Wheat Shockers and the stellar record of the Lady Shockers. It will be the first time in Missouri Valley Conference history that both teams from the same school will win the regular season conference title.
Four teams from the MVC have made The Final Four: Indiana State., Wichita State, and the Drake Bulldogs – the Bradley Braves being the only MVC team to do it twice. The conference sent five teams to March Madness in 2006-07 and again in the Mid-1990′s. The MVC has become a Bracket Busting nightmare for other conferences because they win games.
In 1979 The Missouri Valley Conference came of age in the ESPN era with the undefeated Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamore Basketball team. Bird and his baby-blue clad teammates went undefeated before running up against the faster-talented Evergreen and White Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State had a player named Earvin “Magic” Johnson and a sidekick in Greg Kelser.
WICHITA STATE WHEAT SHOCKERS
History might be repeating itself with the Wheat Shockers of Kansas. Can they repeat the history of the Larry Bird Indiana State Sycamores? They are running roughshod over the other MVC teams heading into the Tournament undefeated and a 30 game winning streak. The Shockers are the only undefeated team in the country in Division I.
Their last defeat was in the Final Four against former MVC member Louisville Cardinals 72-68. WSU had the lead the first half but the smaller, quicker Cardinals just outpaced them the 2nd half. That loss has fueled their fire this year.
This year they come on the floor angry and they have not stopped. They enter the season with a senior-laden team on the bench that has experience and that will help them in critical times.
They have a fast point guard from Auburn High School in Rockford, Illinois. Sophomore Fred VanVliet is the motor that runs the Shockers offense. Forward and senior Cleanthony Early cleans the backboards for Wichita. Scant back guard Tekele Cotton slides through teams defenses to dish out assists along with sophomore guard Ron Baker. The Shockers can play big or small and that confuses other teams giving Wichita an advantage. It’s worked so far.
Could this be the time the Valley finally receives the Crown Jewel – a NCAA National Title?
THE LADY WHEAT SHOCKER STORY
The Wichita State women can match the men with their run to a Missouri Valley Conference Championship. No men and women’s team have ever won the regular-season title and the tournament title. This could be the year in St. Louis.
The Lady Shockers are number two in the country in total defense and they have stifled Valley Teams. They have blown out eight teams in the first half of conference games this year.
Big Michelle Price has eight double-doubles this season and leads the team in scoring with five more games to go before the conference tournament.
Alex Harden is the assist machine and she makes the Lady Shocker engine run. Harden scored 31 points in the loss against Northern Iowa Panthers Monday night.
Harden throws the ball to the twin sisters Michaela or Moriah Dapprich, for easy scores in the paint.
Wichita State uses multi- forward-guard positions like the men and it confuses the defense and causes opponents to lose their assigned player.
The Lady Shockers are the class of the mid-majors with a 21-3 record and they love home cooking as they are 12-1. Their 20 game winning streak was snapped this week by the Northern Iowa Panthers in Cedar Falls, Iowa 81-70.
Wichita will start another streak Friday night against the Illinois State Redbirds. The Lady Shockers will be waiting in March to see where they will be going to continue this journey.
MOVEMENTS IN MVC HISTORY
Currently, there are six former members and current members of the MVC in the nation’s top 25 basketball list. The Current members are, The Bradley Braves from Peoria, Illinois, Drake Bulldogs from Des Moines, Iowa, Evansville Purple Aces from Evansville, Illinois, Illinois State Redbirds of Normal Illinois, Indiana State Sycamores of Terre Haute, Indiana, new member Loyola-Chicago Wolves/Ramblers of Chicago, Illinois, Missouri State Bears of Springfield, Missouri, Northern Iowa Panthers of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Southern Illinois Salukis from Carbondale, Illinois, and last Wichita State Wheat Shockers from Wichita, Kansas.
The Drake Bulldogs are the longest standing member from 1907-1952 leaving four years before returning in 1956. The Loyola-Chicago Wolves/Ramblers are the babies of the bunch entering the conference this past spring 2013.
Let’s take a historical trip. The Valley had many strong teams in the Golden Triangle or Little Egypt as the geographical area is called. Just like in Egypt the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet in Southern Illinois. The Memphis Tigers, Louisville Cardinals, Wichita State Shockers, Northern Iowa Panthers, Creighton Blue Jays, Illinois State Redbirds, and Southern Illinois Univ. Salukis are close to one of these rivers. This trend continues this year with the hard hitting Wheat Shockers of Kansas.
The Valley had great teams in the conference back in the 1900′s. The University of Nebraska, Kansas State, and both of the Oklahoma schools joined the MVC. In the modern era, the conference expanded south and west in 1950. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Louisville Cardinals, Memphis State Tigers, New Mexico State Lobos, West Texas State, North Texas State, University of Detroit Titians, and St. Louis University Billikens joined the MVC party.
In the 1970′s the conference went back to its roots and back to the Midwest with Western Illinois and Northern Illinois joining the MVC.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane left the Conference for a 2nd time to join Conference USA in 1995.
The conference has stabilized the past 10 years only losing the Creighton Blue Jays to the Big East while adding The Chicago – Loyola basketball program.
Let’s look at the AP top 25
# 3 Wichita State*
#10 St. Louis
* Current member
What would the Missouri Valley be like if all of these teams still were enrolled in the conference?
The Valley also has a rich history of basketball stars. The X-Man Xavier McDaniel of the Wichita State Wheat Shockers was Conference player of the year and All-American in 1985. He had a wonderful professional career with the Seattle SuperSonics and New York Knicks, and carried a reputation as one of the most effective scorer/enforcers on the court.
Hersey Hawkins of the Bradley Braves was a prolific scorer and this is when the area in Peoria became the “PIT”. No Valley team wanted to play in the PIT in a critical game because the noise was deafening. Hawkins played for the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers and Charlotte Hornets.
Star forward and center Wesley Unseld of the Louisville Cardinals before they moved to The Metro Conference in 1975. Unseld averaged 20 points and 18 rebounds. Unseld had a Hall of Fame career with the Baltimore Bullets.The Louisville Cardinals and Memphis State Tigers left the conference in 1975 putting a dent in The MVC growing progress. They recovered quickly accepting Southern Illinois and Indiana State into the basketball program that very same year.
Shooting guard/forward Larry Bird of the Indiana State Sycamores; the player to be known as “Larry Legend” put the Valley back on the map with his sharpshooting skills and an undefeated team in 1979. Bird played for the Boston Celtics and won 3 NBA Titles.
Guard Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Big ‘O’ is still one of the Valley’s greatest players. Robertson was named the Sporting News Sportsman of the Year and MVC Player of The Year, twice. Robertson finally got his NBA Title when center Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led Milwaukee Bucks in 1970 -71.
Robertson played as an NBA All-Star many years with the Cincinnati Royals who moved to later become the Kansas City-Omaha Kings.
Last we cannot forget the feisty Southern Illinois University Salukis of Carbondale with star point guard, Walt “Clyde” Frazier who put the maroon and white on the map with his defensive skills.
SIU made their first appearance in New York City at Madison Square Garden and the (NIT) National Innovational Tournament. SIU did it again making their first NCAA Tournament appearance with guard Mike “Stinger” Glenn, Corky Abrams, and center Joe C. Meriweather in 1975-76 giving the DAWGS their first MVC Championship and NCAA appearance.
The Illinois State Redbirds lay their NBA claim to fame with forward-guard Doug Collins. He was on the USA Olympic Basketball Team that lost to the Soviet Union in that famous controversial game in Munich, Germany. Collins played for and coached the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers and Chicago Bulls.
The Creighton Blue Jays claim to fame is the sharpshooting guard, Kyle Korver, a.k.a. Saluki Killer with his three point bombs. He guided the Blue Jays to 2 MVC Championships. Korver is currently playing for the Atlanta Hawks and has been called the mini Larry Bird.
The Conference headquarters are in St. Louis, Missouri and they have had their conference basketball championship in the Gateway City since 1992. The MVC Tournament is ably named Arch Madness, a play on words with the NCAA’s March Madness.
MVC PLAYOFF RECORD
Indiana State, Wichita State, The Drake Bulldogs, have gone to the Final Four and the Bradley Braves twice. The MVC has sent five teams to March Madness in 2006-07 and again in the Mid-1990′s, emerging like stealth to be a Bracket Busting nightmare for other conferences.
The Salukis of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale played in three straight NCAA playoffs appearances. The Salukis won the very first MVC Title. With Mike “Stinger” Glenn, Joe C. Meriweather, and Corky Abrams, the DAWGS became known as “Floor Burn University” in 1998-2008.
The moniker stuck because of the way the players drove for the loose ball on the floor under head coach and former player Chris Lowery. The Salukis made six straight NCAA appearances from 2002-2007. SIU has not been the same since assist coach Rodney Watson went to the University of Southern Indiana in 2009. He was the architect of Floor Burn University; by the way, Watson led his team to a 23-0 record in Division II in 2009.
The Valley moved into the future with Creighton returning to the Valley a 2nd time and became the new powerhouse. The Blue Jays have been champions 12 times since The Valley was reorganized with the SIU Salukis winning 5 times, The Illinois State Redbirds 4, and the Northern Iowa Panthers and the Indiana State Sycamores right behind them with 3. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane won their last title in 1996 before leaving the conference.
The Blue Jays have won the last two MVC Championships but last year may have been an eye opening event for the Valley and the NCAA. A team from Kansas, no not the Kansas Jayhawks but the Wichita State Wheat Shockers went to the Final Four and scared the Louisville Cardinals to death.
Congratulations to the Wichita State Wheat Shocker basketball programs for putting the Valley in the spotlight AGAIN.
As a Southern Illinois University Saluki Alumni1978 – GO-SHOCKERS!
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove on Blogtalkradio.com Disabled Community Activist. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org