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St. Louis U. v  Southern Illinois

St. Louis University forward Hasahn French blocks a shot by Southern Illinois guard Sean Lloyd in the second half during a game between St. Louis University and Southern Illinois University on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

Drake just missed joining the group of upsets this month Monday night, falling at Minnesota by a point.

The Bulldogs didn't win their fifth game of the season in 2016-17 until January, but are now 5-5 under first-year coach Niko Medved. Drake has helped the Missouri Valley Conference come in eighth in the latest conference RPI. The league has five teams in the top 100, led by Northern Iowa (17) and Valparaiso (73), three more than the end of last season.

The league is now 5-6 against teams from the Power Five conferences and 12-10 against teams from the other top-10 leagues.

Only one team is in action Tuesday night, as Indiana State hosts Green Bay, but check out league games on Thursday and Saturday. Valparaiso is at Northwestern Thursday night at 7 on the Big 10 Network, and Illinois State (at Mississippi) and Northern Iowa (vs. Iowa State in the Big Four Classic) both have big games on Saturday.

Player of the week: Dru Smith, G, Evansville - Smith helped the Purple Aces to a pair of wins last week, averaging 21 points, four rebounds and 6.5 assists a game with three turnovers. Smith scored a career-high 25 points in the win at Bowling Green. The sophomore guard from local Reitz High School made 11 of 13 from the field and had seven assists, five rebounds and four steals in that game.

Newcomer of the week: Cameron Krutwig, C, Loyola - Krutwig is the passing, rebounding big man Ramblers coach Porter Moser has been looking for, and helped his team to the biggest Valley win of the season. Krutwig helped Loyola beat fifth-ranked Florida on the road Dec. 6 for the league's only win so far against a top 25 team.

Here are the Finals Week edition of the MVC Power Rankings:

MVC POWER RANKINGS

1. Northern Iowa Panthers (8-2)

Previous rank: 1

Last week: Beat UT-Arlington 62-58, beat Dubuque 80-47. This week: Against Iowa State Saturday in Des Moines, 3:30 p.m.

Notes: Guard Wyatt Lohaus made his season debut against Dubuque, a non-Division I program. He played 17 minutes, made 4 of 8 from the field, and had three assists and no turnovers to go with his 11 points. ... Northern Iowa won its third straight game. ... The Panthers have only two more games before opening conference play against SIU Dec. 28, against Iowa State and against Xavier Dec. 22. ... Northern Iowa owns the fourth-best scoring defense in the country going into this week, 58.4 points allowed per game. Only four teams have reached 60 points against the Panthers, defending national champion North Carolina (86), North Carolina State (60), top-ranked Villanova (64) and UNLV (68).

2. Loyola Ramblers (10-1)

Previous rank: 3

Last week: Beat No. 5 Florida 65-59, beat Norfolk State 80-52. This week: At Milwaukee Saturday, 1 p.m. (Fox Sports Wisconsin), Milwaukee.

Notes: Freshman center Cameron Krutwig, this week's newcomer of the week, became Loyola's third player of the week honoree this season. Guard/forward Donte Ingram was the league's player of the week Nov. 27, and guard Marques Townes was the newcomer of the week Nov. 20. ... Coach Porter Moser is a win away from No. 100 at Loyola. He won 51 games in four seasons at Illinois State and is in his seventh season in Chicago. ... The Ramblers have had six different scoring leaders through 11 games.

3. Valparaiso Crusaders (8-2)

Previous rank: 4

Last week: Lost at No. 21 Purdue 80-50, lost at Ball State 71-70. This week: At Northwestern Thursday, 7 p.m. (Big 10 Network), Rosemont, at Santa Clara Monday, 9 p.m. (TheW.tv), Santa Clara, Calif.

Notes: All 12 players average eight minutes a game. Guard Bakari Evelyn became the first Crusader this season to play all 20 minutes in a half when he went the distance in the second half at Ball State Saturday. ... Valparaiso will play Northwestern for the first time since 1979 Thursday, even though the programs are separated by only 70 miles. ... New league, no problem. Valparaiso is 8-2 through its first 10 games for the fourth straight season.

4. Missouri State Bears (9-3)

Previous rank: 2

Last week: Beat Hampton 88-75, lost at Oral Roberts 73-66. This week: Hosts Wright State Dec. 19, 7 p.m. (ESPN3), Springfield, Mo.

Notes: Oral Roberts stopped Missouri State's seven-game winning streak Sunday night. The Bears beat Manhattan, Florida Atlantic, Evangel, Colorado State, South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Hampton before the loss. ... Senior guard/forward Jarrid Rhodes is averaging 11.8 points per game over his last four games with 15 rebounds and 10 3-pointers. ... Forward Alize Johnson is eighth in the league in scoring (14.2 points per game), eighth in shooting (42.4 percent), and the top rebounder (10.2 per game).

5. Illinois State Redbirds (4-6)

Previous rank: 5

Last week: Lost at BYU 80-68, lost to Murray State 78-72. This week: At Mississippi Saturday, 2:30 p.m. (SEC Network), Oxford, Miss., hosts Illinois-Chicago Dec. 19, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Channel, ESPN3), Normal.

Notes: Guard Keyshawn Evans (18.6 points per game) is second in the league in scoring and assists per game (4.4). ... The Redbirds will play a team with some shade of blue in its uniform 10 times in their first 12 games this season. Illinois State opens MVC play at Evansville and home against... Indiana State. ... Illinois State's opponents are a combined 43-16 (.729 winning percentage), the highest of any Division I program so far. The Redbirds have gone a long way to play them, too, appearing in every time zone in the contiguous United States (Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific). It is the first time Illinois State has done that since the 1989-90 season. The Redbirds went 6-8 in non-conference games, but 18-13 overall and 9-5 in the MVC that year. Illinois State won the MVC Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

6. Bradley Braves (7-2)

Previous rank: 7

Last week: Did not play. This week: Hosts Arkansas-Little Rock Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN3), Peoria, at Chicago State Saturday, 2:05 p.m., Chicago.

Notes: The Braves are looking for their first perfect start at home in the non-conference since 2007 when they host Little Rock. Bradley is 5-0 at Carver Arena with wins over IUPUI, Delaware, Georgia Southern, Missouri S&T and Eastern Illinois. ... Bradley's 3-point defense has been stellar this season. Opponents are shooting just 24.9 percent behind the arc against the Braves, the third-best mark in the country. Bradley's scoring defense (59.9 points allowed per game) is seventh in the country. ... Bradley didn't win its seventh game last season until Jan. 4, 2017.

7. SIU Salukis (4-4)

Previous rank: 6

Last week: Lost at Saint Louis 74-69, lost to Southeast Missouri State 75-69. This week: Hosts Jackson State Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN3), Carbondale, hosts Lamar Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN3), Carbondale.

Notes: Southeast Missouri State won at SIU Arena for the first time since 1982. ... The Salukis are in the second game of a four-game homestand, their longest of the season. SIU hosts Lamar Sunday and North Carolina A&T as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. The Salukis play Nevada Dec. 22 at 10 p.m. Central and Duquesne Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas to round out their multi-team event (MTE). ... Point guard Marcus Bartley made his Saluki debut at his old stomping grounds, at Saint Louis, and scored 12 points on 2 of 3 shooting. Bartley made all six of his free-throw attempts in his first game in over a year.

8. Drake Bulldogs (5-5)

Previous rank: 8

Last week: Lost at South Dakota 93-65, beat Omaha 93-74, lost at Minnesota 68-67. This week: Against Iowa Saturday, 1 p.m. (Big 10 Network), Des Moines, at South Dakota State Dec. 19, 7 p.m., Brookings, S.D.

Notes: Drake hopes its second trip to South Dakota is better than the first. The Bulldogs shot over 50 percent from the field in a 28-point loss at South Dakota, but had 18 turnovers and allowed the Coyotes to shoot over 56 percent. The Bulldogs are 0-4 on the road this season. ... Entering the week Drake was averaging 9.2 turnovers a game in its five wins and 16.8 in its four losses.

9. Evansville Purple Aces (8-2)

Previous rank: 9

Last week: Won at Bowling Green 91-76, beat Canisius 65-58. This week: Hosts Austin Peay Saturday, 3 p.m. (ESPN3), Evansville, Ind., hosts Midway Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN3), Evansville, Ind.

Notes: Evansville converted 12 of 15 3-point attempts in the win over Bowling Green, and own the top 3-point shooting mark in the country (49 percent). Four players are shooting better than 47 percent behind the arc so far, Dru Smith (12-21, 57.1 percent), Blake Simmons (21 of 40, 52.5 percent), Ryan Taylor (20 of 42, 47.6 percent) and Marty Hill, who is 5 of 6 in four games. ... Smith, this week's league player of the week, is in the top four in assists, steals, shooting and 3-point shooting. ... Evansville has played six games against teams ranked 201st or lower in the RPI. The Aces are 5-1 in those games, losing at New Mexico (218th).

10. Indiana State Sycamores (4-5)

Previous rank: 10

Last week: Lost at North Texas 79-76 in overtime, beat Indianapolis 79-75. This week: Hosts Green Bay Tuesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN3), Terre Haute, Ind., at Western Kentucky Saturday, 11 a.m. (Fox College Sports), Bowling Green, Ky.

Notes: Sophomore guard Jordan Barnes scored a career-high 25 points against Air Force and North Texas. He hit six 3-pointers in the 10-point win at Air Force Nov. 29 and five triples against the Mean Green. ... Indianapolis, a Division II program, shot 46.4 percent from the field in its four-point loss at the Hulman Center. Indiana State shot 42.1 percent. ... After the trip to Western Kentucky, the Sycamores get four of their next six games at home, including three of their first five Valley games. Indiana State opens conference play against Valparaiso Dec. 28, at Illinois State Dec. 31 and at Loyola Jan. 3.

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todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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