Bad Weekend of Losses
(St. Louis, MO) – In the midst of the exhileration of Loyola’s Wednesday win over Florida, the other Missouri Valley Conference teams lost all four games they played. Then things got worse.
During the Ramblers historic win over then No. 5 Florida, they lost Clayton Custer to a significant ankle injury. Meanwhile, Bradley was dismissing Jo Jo McGlaston from its team, Valparaiso’s Tevonn Walker was contracting mono and even while Southern Illinois was getting Marcus Bartley back into their lineup, they were learning that center Thik Bol will remain side-lined longer than expected.
Then there were some heart-breaking losses and big missteps. Despite winning four of seven games Saturday, Valley teams lost a pair of home games to Ohio Valley Conference teams (SIU to Southeast Missouri and Illinois State to Murray State) and the Walker-less Valpo lost a nail-biter (71-70) to Ball State in what would have been a signature non-conference victory for the Crusaders.
Preseason favorite Missouri State lost a game they shouldn’t have and couldn’t afford to sustain, when they dropped a decision at Oral Roberts. Northern Iowa’s win over D3 Dubuque was a non-issue. Those games are not genuinely helpful in the overall scheme of things.
After those ups and downs, the Valley fell from sixth to eighth in the latest Realtimerpi.com rankings. The Salukis have dropped 91 places in the RPI to 238 and Bradley has dropped out of the top 100. Illinois State has sunk 20 places.
Rankings, injuries, sickness and some narrow losses have dimmed the glow of the meteoric start to the Valley season.
The Latest Roster Struggles
Bradley dismissed forward Jo Jo McGlaston for “consistent violations of team standards”. The 6’5 forward was one of the most athletic performers on the Braves’ squad and was averaging 6.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Bradley’s five game winning streak was snapped at San Diego State and Brian Wardle’s team hasn’t played a game since December 3rd.
Evansville continues to play without leading scorer Ryan Taylor, who is expected to miss at least another month. The Purple Aces are 3-1 without Taylor who was averaging 21.3 points per game. UE is off until Saturday’s game with Austin Peay.
Illinois State is yet to play a game with 7-footer Daouda (David) N’diaye or highly touted freshmen Elijah Clarance. Both are out with foot injuries. Clarance’s original injury is fine, but he has developed extremely painful blisters from orthotics placed in his shoes to protect against future injuries.
Loyola has played several weeks without senior guard Ben Richardson and now his high school teammate, Clayton Custer, has joined him on the injury list with a severely sprained ankle. Custer didn’t play the second half of the Florida victory nor in Saturday’s win over Norfolk State.
Northern Iowa is finally fully healthy. Guard Wyatt Lohaus seems fully recovered. Sunday, the red-shirt junior scored 11 points, making three of four shots from long distance.
Southern Illinois doesn’t foresee the return of Bol for several more weeks.
Perhaps the biggest blow of the weekend was the loss of preseason all Valley guard Walker with a bout of mono. The very nature of that sickness makes his return to the Valparaiso lineup a moving target. His ability to defend and make his teammates perform at a higher level cannot be replaced.