Photo: Ashton Weis
For the first time in the history of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship, the tournament will feature two nationally ranked teams. If Drake wins its play-in game against Bradley tonight, it will run into one of those teams.
The MVC regular-season champion, Wichita State, has shot up the rankings in recent weeks. The Shockers are now No. 14 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 15 in the Associated Press poll. Creighton has been ranked most of the season, but a sour stretch of games caused them to drop out of the rankings. After getting back on track, the Bluejays have moved up to No. 24 and No. 25, respectively. Creighton is the second seed in the tournament. If the Bulldogs win tonight, they will play Creighton on Friday at 6 p.m. in the MVC quarterfinals.
Drake, which finished the season 16-14 and 9-9 in the conference, finished in a five-way tie for third place. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs finished last in the tiebreaker based on head-to-head results between the five teams. That means for the second-straight year, Drake earned the seventh seed and faces 10th-seed Bradley once again. Last season, the Braves ended the Bulldogs’ tournament in the play-in round, as they dealt Drake a 63-48 defeat.
Despite its low finish in the standings, the Bulldogs reached .500 in MVC play for just the second time in the last 25 years. The MVC is the eighth best conference in the country, according to the latest percentage index ratings. Last season, it was the 11th ranked conference in RPI.
On Tuesday, sophomore Rayvonte Rice and junior Ben Simons were named to the All-MVC second team. It’s the first season that Drake has had two All-MVC performers since 2008-09, when Josh Young and Jonathon Cox also earned second-team honors.
“It takes an entire team effort for any individuals to shine, but Ben and Rayvonte are certainly deserving of this recognition,” head coach Mark Phelps said in a Drake athletics press release. “They have had terrific seasons and played a large role in our team’s success. We still have more we want to accomplish this year, and they will be central to that effort.”