What’s at stake
- A coveted trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The winner of this weekend’s MVC tournament earns a trip to the Big Dance. The top seeds, Wichita State and Creighton, will probably earn at-large bids. Last season, the league’s third seed, Indiana State, surprised the conference by making a run to the championship.
- National Glory.
There are plenty of individual players in the field that can carry a team to victories in three-straight games. Doug McDermott (Creighton), Joe Ragland (Wichita State) and Kyle Weems (Missouri State) are prime candidates to lead their respective teams to deep tournament runs, which will in turn boost their own reputations on the national stage.
All 10 of these teams have played each other twice a piece this season. Now is the time for teams to get a second shot at those near upsets. Drake would love nothing more than to get another shot at Creighton. When the Bluejays came to the Knapp Center on Jan. 25, the Bulldogs put on one of their best performances of the season, but still came up short. A win tonight versus Bradley will pin Drake against Creighton in the quarterfinals.
5 players to watch
- Jake Odum, Indiana State
The sophomore 6-foot-4 guard dazzled the rest of the MVC field last season as he led the Sycamores to the tournament title and to the NCAA Tournament. The All-MVC second team performer will have a more difficult task in repeating the feat, as Indiana State earned the No. 8 seed this year.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton
On Tuesday, McDermott was selected as the 2012 MVC Larry Bird Player of the Year. He is the first sophomore in league history to earn the distinction. He led the Valley and is third in the nation in scoring at 23.1 points per game. He also ranked second in the MVC in rebounding (8.1 per game) and 3-point percentage (47.9).
- Colt Ryan, Evansville
Ryan was named to the All-MVC first team. He ranks second in the conference in scoring, averaging 20.5 points per game. He also leads the Valley in minutes played, and he ranks in the top 10 in assists.
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State
Last year’s MVC player of the year had another solid season, as he was named to the All-MVC first team for the second-straight year. After losing in the title game last season, the senior will be hungry to leave a lasting impression is his final trip to Arch Madness.
- Toure’ Murry, Wichita State
This do-it-all guard is the glue to the Shockers’ success. The senior 6-foot-5 guard was named to the All-MVC third team and the MVC All-Defensive team.
- Wichita State
In addition to being the Valley’s hottest team, the Shockers are one of the hottest teams in the country. The regular-season conference champs have won eight in a row since losing to Drake on Jan. 28, and they have won 16 of their last 17. The Shockers are the best team in the MVC and riding the longest winning streak of any team heading into the tourney — a lethal combination.
Since Drake pounded the Purple Aces 78-54 on Feb. 12, Evansville has won three out of its last four. It upset Creighton earlier this season and lost 93-92 in overtime to the Bluejays on Feb. 21. With a win over Missouri State to end the season, the Purple Aces won the five-way tiebreaker to earn the No. 3 seed for the tournament.
- Missouri State
The Bears appeared to have a grasp on third place in the Valley, but a late-season slump dropped them into the five-team jumble, and Missouri State earned the sixth seed. The Bears have lost four straight, including a loss to Evansville on the last day of the regular season. The Purple Aces are Missouri State’s opening round opponent.
- Southern Illinois
The Salukis have fallen on hard times in recent years. The one-time MVC juggernaut finished in ninth place this season, and they are riding a six-game losing streak heading into the tournament.