Yesterday, Drake played Southern Illinois in its final home game of the season. On Saturday, the Bulldogs play at Wichita State for their final regular-season game.
Then, it is time for State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
Until then, though, a lot needs to be hashed out in the MVC standings. Drake will have a lot to do with that.
The Bulldogs (15-13, 8-8 MVC) were locked in a three-way tie for fourth place in the jumbled MVC standings heading into this week’s action. No. 19 Wichita State has clinched at least a share of the regular-season title. The Shockers were 14-2 in conference play heading into this week.
Creighton was 12-4 in the MVC and has a solid stranglehold on second place.
Then, the mess begins.
Missouri State was 9-7 in league play and was in third place. Breathing down the Bears’ necks are the three fourth-place squads with 8-8 records: Illinois State, Drake and Evansville.
Behind those teams were two 7-9 teams in league play: Northern Iowa and defending MVC tournament champion Indiana State.
Behind those two teams were Southern Illinois and Bradley, respectively, in the MVC cellar. The Salukis were 5-11 in the MVC heading into this week while the Braves were 2-14.
Each team plays 18 league games. The top six teams in the standings avoid the play-in games for the conference tournament. If a team is in the play-in round and has aspirations of winning the tournament, it must win four games in four consecutive days.
Last Saturday, the Bulldogs travelled to Las Cruces, N.M., to take on New Mexico State of the Western Athletic Conference in one of the annual ESPN BracketBusters games. Drake was no match for the home team as New Mexico State won 71-55.
That game was the 2,500th played by the Drake men’s basketball program in its 106-year history.
The last time that Drake met Wichita State, the Bulldogs earned their best win of the 2011-12 campaign. Drake outlasted the Shockers 93-86 in a triple-overtime thriller.
“Our team kept responding in a really exciting, intense, passionate, tough game,” head coach Mark Phelps said after the team’s season-defining win over Wichita State. “They (the players) demonstrated toughness. They continued to respond. They were resilient. Everybody contributed. It was just a really, really fun game.”
Junior Ben Simons scored a career-high 29 points in that contest. However, the Bulldogs will probably be without Simons once again this weekend. The MVC’s top 3-point shooter has missed the last five games due to contracting mono. He is out indefinitely.
Tip-off for Saturday’s game in Wichita, Kan., is set for 12:30 p.m. Details from last night’s game against Southern Illinois will be available in the next issue of The Times-Delphic.