Action tips off at Missouri Valley and MAAC Conferences

First set of games to be aired regionally across the Midwest and nationwide on the CSN Chicago and NBC Sports apps

For the last several years, it has sometimes seemed that the Missouri Valley Conference tournament takes on a life of its’ own.

From the simple name of “Arch Madness” to the great nationwide attention they get in the final game thanks to CBS Sports, these are a group of teams that are easy to fall in love with.  Consider also that several of these schools have fared very well once they enter the NCAA Tournament:  1979 Indiana State national runners-up, 1985 Loyola (Chicago) Sweet 16, 2002 Southern Illinois Sweet 16, Bradley 2006 Sweet 16, 2013 Wichita State Final Four, and 2015 Northern Iowa Second Round.

This year, the Illinois State Redbirds are looking to rewrite the history books.  They are one of a handful of bubble teams worth checking out, since their record is a bit suspect at 25-5.  Three of their losses have come to teams with a sub-100 RPI in Tulsa, San Francisco and Murray State.   Any other year, a team with an RPI of 33 and a KenPom ranking of 45, one might say in the Rolodex of our brains, “This team is pretty good, but are they tournament worthy?”  Bottom line, if they end up winning the MVC title over Wichita State or perhaps Northern Iowa–they would have earned the automatic bid the hard way.

But also don’t count out Gregg Marshall and Wichita State.  They have been in hovering around the Top 20 most of the season and they could return to their winning formula of steady guard play and crashing the boards on the offensive end.  It is time for the nation to get used to names such as Markis McDuffie and Landry Shamet, replacing Shockers legends in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.  I look at their schedule and it tells me that they have a stellar record of 27-4, along with a very high RPI of 40 and a KenPom ranking at a solid 10.  A deeper check into their schedule shows that their best wins thus far are at Colorado State and at home vs. Illinois State and Oklahoma.  They will have to ride a lot on their conference leading averages of 81.6 points per game and 44.9 rebounds per game to carry them into Sunday.

If somehow the final game is close, I would not be surprised if this is only a one bid league this year.

All games in the first two rounds are on CSN Chicago and CSN Chicago Plus if there is a conflict with a Chicago Bulls or Blackhawks game.

All games played at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

First Round:

8. Evansville vs. 9. Indiana State, 7 p.m. Thursday–good regional rivalry game

Winner plays the top seed of Illinois State at 1 p.m. on Friday.

Earning a single bye into the Second Round:

4. Southern Illinois vs. 5. Loyola (Chicago), 3:30 p.m. Friday.

First Round:

7. Bradley vs. 10. Drake, 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

Winner plays 2. Wichita State, 7 p.m. on Friday.

Earning another single bye into the Second Round:

3. Northern Iowa vs. 6. Missouri State, 9:30 p.m. on Friday.

Saturday semifinals will air on the CBS Sports Network at 3:30 and 6 p.m. respectively, and the final game on Sunday is at 2 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference or MAAC:

All games in Albany, New York and can be seen online at ESPN3:

8. Quinnipiac vs. 9. Niagara, 5 p.m. Thursday

Winner plays top seed Monmouth in quarterfinal.

Also earning a single bye to Saturday, March 4:

4. Siena vs. 5. Fairfield, 9:30 p.m.

6. Rider vs. 11. Manhattan, 9 p.m. Thursday

Winner plays 3. Iona

7. Canisius vs. 10. Marist, 7 p.m. Thursday

Winner plays 2. St. Peter’s

Semifinals on Sunday and final game on ESPN2 Monday night, March 6.

Action continues in the Big South, Atlantic Sun, and Patriot League.

I will check in if and when any major upsets occur later tonight.

See you then.


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