1. Wichita St. (20-5, 9-4, 41st): This week: Drake, at Illinois State. Pressure is on Shockers’ defense to compensate for shooting skills that rank 106th (FG), 168th (3-point) and 203rd (FT) nationally.
2. Creighton (20-5, 9-4, 43rd): This week: at Northern Iowa, at Evansville. Three months of taking everyone’s best shot might have finally caught up mentally with Bluejays.
3. Indiana St. (16-9, 9-5, 46th): This week: at Bradley. Four wins over top 50 RPI teams are offset by some puzzling losses, the latest coming Tuesday night at Missouri State.
4. Northern Iowa (14-11, 7-6, 86th): This week: Creighton, at Drake. A win over Creighton would give Panthers first four-game winning streak in a season where greater things were expected.
5. Illinois St. (15-10, 6-7, 113th): This week: Bradley, Wichita State. Red-hot Redbirds starting to play like a team that will be capable of doing plenty of damage at conference tournament.
6. Evansville (14-11, 7-6, 128th): This week: at Southern Illinois, Creighton. Colt Ryan gets the attention, but Ned Cox has put together an outstanding career that includes scoring 1,000 points.
7. Bradley (14-11, 6-7, 175th ): This week: at Illinois State, Indiana State. Facing the Valley’s hottest two teams in the same week a tall order for a team struggling with its consistency.
8. Missouri St. (8-18, 6-8, 215th): This week: at Southern Illinois. Bears continue to show the resiliency of youth, knocking off Indiana State three days after getting spanked by Wichita State.
9. Drake (11-13, 5-8, 157th ): This week: at Wichita State, Northern Iowa. Offseason retooling of veteran roster fails to pay dividends, leaving coach Mark Phelps facing uncertain future.
10. S. Illinois (9-15, 2-11, 199th ): This week: Evansville, Missouri State. Beating Wichita State and losing one-point game to Indiana State last week indicates Salukis still have a pulse.