MRI Chutes and Ladders: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Ian Clark and Belmont are shooting right up the rankings. - John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take another glimpse at which teams made the biggest shift in this week's MRI rankings, and what got them there.

Biggest Drop

Lipscomb (-16.22)

How did Lipscomb suffer this big drop? It was all on the defensive end. Well, ok, mostly. These MRI rankings come out around lunchtime every Monday, and right after the last rankings came out, the Bison went out and got their teeth kicked in by USC-Upstate 98-61. They allowed the Spartans to shoot 55% from the field, and let five different players eclipse the 10-point mark, while only one of their own did the same.

Then against Northern Kentucky, the two squads made the same number of shots (23) and the Bison shot worse, but just barely (41% to 46%). So how did they lose 67-53? Because they shot 3-for-16 from long range, while the Norse went 13-for-28. Not having freshman Steven Hurt most definitely...well, hurts - but so does letting your opponents shoot 51% on three-pointers.

Bradley (-15.51)

A week ago, the Braves had just dropped a close contest to Wichita State, the fourth time in five losses that they fell by eight points or less (including an eight-point loss to Michigan). Now, all of a sudden, they've lost three in a row, and the last two have been by 15 and 31 points, respectively.

Much like Lipscomb, Bradley just went flat. Against Indiana State, they missed 13 of their first 16 shots while letting the Sycamores run out to a 22-6 lead, and it's a wonder it didn't get a lot worse since they let ISU finish the game shooting 50% from the field.

Then against Northern Iowa, only seven UNI players scored a point, but six of them reached 11 points or more; meanwhile the Braves missed 12 of 16 shots in the first half. Not making threes and not defending threes is a great way to dig a hole early.

Northern Arizona (-15.41)

The Lumberjacks are an odd team. In the past month, they nearly beat Montana (62-56) and took down Sacramento State (57-50), both at home. In the remainder of their games in that period, they are 0-5, and their recent 79-74 loss to Portland State is the only loss in that span by less than 23 points.

They are an ugly 1-7 on the road, and while you might expect Colorado and BYU to outscore them 182-105 in their own homes, there's no reason to be outscored 172-136 by Southern Utah and Eastern Washington (combined 10-21 record, and SUU was at home). Dewayne Russell needs someone - Gabe Rogers, Max Jacobsen, someone - to step up into a consistent second scoring role or the Lumberjacks will get worse before they get better.

Biggest Gain

Brigham Young (+12.83)

The Cougars have rattled off consecutive impressive wins, both at Santa Clara and at home against Pepperdine, since last we ranked them. They have now won six in a row, and 13 of their last 15., and those six wins have been by an average score of 85-61. However, the sledding gets tougher for BYU up ahead, as the next week will see them host both Saint Mary's and San Diego before traveling to face Gonzaga (the three teams right below them in the WCC. Combined record: 39-13).

The Cougars have gotten their usual stellar offense from Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws (40 ppg during the current streak), but watch out for sophomore guard Matt Carlino, who has chipped in 14 points per game of his own in that same time span. No guarantees lie ahead for BYU, but if they can keep scoring like this nothing is impossible.

Belmont (+13.04)

The Bruins have extended their win streak to four since they fell to Central Florida by absolutely running both Southeast Missouri and Tennessee-Martin completely off the court. Ian Clark is the surefire catalyst behind it all: in his last three games, Clark has averaged 27 ppg while shooting 79% (30-38) from the field and 66% (14-21) from long range.

Kerron Johnson and Trevor Noack have taken turns as Clark's second fiddle (Clark and Noack both scored 30 against SEMO), and Belmont is in fine mid-season form heading into their own formidable test this week, with home contests against both Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech

Robert Morris (+16.90)

This is not the team I expected to appear here. At the printing of the last rankings, the Colonials had not only lost their third consecutive game, that loss had come at home against a Central Connecticut State team who became the first (and still only) team to lose to St. Francis (PA) two nights earlier.

RMU has since turned things around, with two consecutive dominant wins against Fairleigh Dickinson (85-54) and Monmouth (70-55), both on the road. In spite of that, there are issues. Velton Jones is perhaps a great microcosm of the Colonials offense - in his last nine games, he has scored 22+ points three times, and six or fewer points five times. Coron Williams is averaging 12 ppg in the last four, but has 5 or fewer points twice in that span.

Nobody on this team can score on a nightly basis (or defend on a nightly basis, for that matter), so it is unlikely that the RMU rollercoaster will end anytime soon, even with the weak schedule they face this month.

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