Any time you have a conference with multiple teams who could make the NCAA Tournament, there is tons of intrigue. And that is once again the case in the Missouri Valley Conference. We will have 10 teams going at it, with two of them needing to win in order to not sweat on Selection Sunday. The other eight will look to burst the bubble of another team, as this is their only hope.
So which two teams have the chance of making the Big Dance even if they do not come out on top here you may ask? Well, as per usual, Wichita State leads the way, with the most impressive resume of anyone in this conference. But despite their stronger non-conference schedule, they did not earn the one seed in this one. That honor went to Illinois State, who is our other contender for a potential at-large bid. Will either one of those teams be able to survive and advance? Only time will tell.
Things will tip-off on Thursday, March 2nd. Things will then continue for the next three days, with games going on each day through Sunday March 5th. That is the day the MVC title game will be held, along with several other conferences’ championship games. You can catch this one on CBS at 1:00 pm EST, and you can check out the seedings and bracket below.
(1) Illinois State
(2) Wichita State
(4) Southern Illinois
(6) Missouri State
(9) Indiana State
Here's the Bracket for the 2017 State Farm MVC Men's Basketball Tournament.
— MVC Basketball (@ValleyHoops) February 26, 2017
So let’s kick things off with our eight-nine game. We have Evansville and we have Indiana State for the chance to take on the top-seeded Illinois State. To put things kindly, there is nothing about Illinois State that makes me want to pick them. Therefore, I shall go with Evansville, who can at least play a little defense, 73-68. But unfortunately for them, that will be as far as they go. They will be outclassed by bubble team Illinois State, who ca advance to the semis by the score of 69-66.
They will get the winner of the four-five matchup, which pits Southern Illinois and Loyola against one another. If you are looking for this conference’s sleeper team, look no further than Loyola Chicago. This team is sneaky good when you look at their numbers. If there is a team that could sneak past both Illinois State and Wichita State, it would be them. They will win this one with ease, 71-63.
Next up we have Bradley and Drake, with the winner moving on to face the Shockers. How does one go about picking between two crap teams like this? Well, I use my formula on Excel and see what it says. When it tells me Drake is better by 0.07 points, I pick Drake, 74-74. But then they will get absolutely demolished by Wichita State. The team that is likely in the NCAA Tournament wins this one 95-67.
Now we have UNI (Northern Iowa) taking on Missouri State for the final spot in the semifinals in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Missouri State is a team that I see as decent, while UNI simply is not very good. So when you look at the numbers, all signs seem to point in the Missouri State direction. They take it 75-63.
Now the most interesting game of the tourney. Illinois State will push for the championship game against Loyola. But this is where their MVC Tournament, and NCAA Tournament hopes, come to an end. Loyola will pull off the upset, 69-65, which will ultimately cost Illinois State a bid in the Big Dance. But who will Loyola face in their effort to steal a bid?
We have Wichita State and we have Missouri State. There is a reason Wichita State is considered a team who could earn an at-large bid. That starts with their nearly 12 created possessions margin. For that reason, they have to be the pick in this one. Give me the Shockers in a no-contest, 80-68.
So will Loyola be able to finally slow down Wichita State? The answer, no. They will stick around in the first half, but then things will go south in the second half. Wichita State will simply outclass them, as they are the best team in this conference by far in my eyes. All of their losses came to quality teams. But they won’t suffer one here, as the Shockers win this one 80-67.
So what do you think? Who will emerge with the Missouri Valley Conference’s automatic bid? Can Illinois State, who does not have as good a resume as Wichita, seal the deal? Or will the Shockers make sure it is a long wait until Selection Sunday for them? Tell us in the comments!