Tied for First:
Creighton (17-2, 6-1): Junior forward and preseason All-American Doug McDermott is among the nation’s leading scorers with 457 total points this season. The highly regarded player is also the team’s second-leading rebounder (7.2). Senior center Gregory Echenique has been a productive post presence for the Jays as he averages 7.4 rebounds from the front court. The team’s lone loss came Saturday at the hands of Wichita State, the No. 2 team in the Missouri Valley Conferece.
Wichita State (17-2, 6-1): The Shockers have outplayed their preseason expectations and look to make a run for an NCAA tournament berth. WSU has yet to lose a game (11-0) at Charles Koch Arena or on neutral courts (2-0). Junior forward Cleanthony Early has been a solid offensive force all season, as he averages 15 points per game and shoots just under 50 percent from the field. Senior forward Carl Hall leads the team in rebounds (8.3), and senior center Ehimen Orukpe is the team’s leading shot blocker with 38 rejections halfway through the conference schedule.
Rest of the Conference
Indiana State (12-6, 5-2): The Sycamores haven’t rebounded extremely well yet, but they’ve shot 44 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free throw line as a team. Junior guard Jake Odum leads the team in scoring (14.2 per game), assists (81), and steals (27).
Bradley (12-7, 4-3): The Braves have compiled a 9-2 home conference record behind the back-court Walt Lemon Jr. and Dyricus Simms-Edwards combo. The defense-minded duo leads the team with 62 steals on the season and is the second-highest scoring player with 11.8 points per contest. Lemon Jr. leads the team in scoring (13.8 points) and assists (72).
Evansville (11-8, 4-3): The Purple Aces are the conference’s biggest surprise so far. Senior forward Colt Ryan has been exploding offensively with an average of 17 points per contest and leads the offense. The Aces’ guard Ned Cox has been on a 3-point shooting tear lately and shoots 43 percent from deep this season.
Missouri State (5-14, 3-4): Coach Paul Lusk’s squad hasn’t faired well on the road this season, as they have won only one game away from JQH Arena in seven attempts this season. Three of the Bears’ victories have been in-conference despite losses to inferior opponents from less competitive conferences, including an ugly Dec. 22 defeat by New Mexico State 71-51. Missouri State’s lead scorer Anthony Downing (14.2 points per game) posted 24 points in back-to-back conference wins against Drake (Jan. 5) and Illinois State (Jan. 8). Downing is the only player to average double-digit points and is the second-leading rebounder on a bad rebounding Missouri State back court.
Northern Iowa (10-9, 3-4): The Panthers have an undefeated record at home during non-conference play because of their balance on offense. UNI has five players averaging more than 9.5 points per game this season. Guard Marc Sonnen has been excellent from behind the arc, as he’s connected on 46 3-pointers for the year. The Panthers big man Jake Koch is the team’s leading rebounder (6.4) and adds more than 10 points per game for the Northern Iowa post attack.
Drake (8-10, 2-5): The Bulldogs have struggled in away games this season. Despite the team’s well-balanced offensive attack, there is only one player who averages double-digit points. The team’s most productive player, senior forward Ben Simons, shoots 85 percent from the free-throw line and averages 14 points.
Illinois State (10-9, 1-6): The Redbirds were slated as the conference’s No. 2 team coming into the season. ISU performed well earlier this season and accomplished a 9-3 non-conference record. Senior forward Jackie Carmichael has been one of the most dominant post players this season. Carmichael pulls 9.2 rebounds and 18 points per game. Redbirds senior guard Tyler Brown has shot well from the field (43 percent) and the free throw line (80 percent), but he shoots less than 34 percent from 3-point range. Illinois State won its first conference game of the season against the Salukis Sunday in Carbondale.