In the last few years, the Missouri Valley Conference has been one of the frontrunners in bringing the “mid-majors” to national attention. They’ve had some teams make very deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, probably starting with Bruce Weber taking the Southern Illinois Salukis to the Sweet Sixteen in 2002 and culminating with last year’s HUGE first-round upset of #13-seed Bradley over #4 Kansas.
Last year, the MVC had a conference-record 4 teams make it to the Dance with Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Bradley. Both Wichita State and Bradley shocked the nation by making it to the Sweet Sixteen, particularly Bradley with upsets over Kansas and Pittsburgh. This year, it is looking like the MVC will get their automatic bid plus two at-large selections and those three will most likely by Southern Illinois, Creighton and Missouri State. However, should Bradley or UNI sneak in there and win the conference tournament, it could be another year of 4 MVC teams dancing.
The tournament kicks off tomorrow with Evansville and Drake at 6:00 pm and Illinois State vs Indiana State at 8:30 pm. The other 6 teams all get a bye in the first round, but on Friday March 2nd we’ll get some great match-ups when S. Illinois gets the winner of Evansville/Drake, Bradley takes on UNI, Creighton gets the winner of Ill St/Ind. St and Missouri State vs Wichita State finishes off the night. The tournament wraps-up Sunday March 4th and I’ll be back on Monday, March 5th for a recap. I’m frankly hoping for my hometown Panthers of UNI (Cedar Falls, represent!) to run the table and score the automatic bid, just to see what happens to the top 3 regular season teams. I don’t envy the Selection Committee’s job and the conference tournaments being won by a team that isn’t already accounted for in the field of 65 always seems to throw an interesting wrench in the works.
Here is your MVC All-Conference Hottie Team. I gotta say, the MVC is pretty stacked with hotties, particularly their guards. I had quite a time narrowing it down to two. Also, the two forwards? Holy cow. They can be forward with me.
Jamaal Tatum, G, Southern Illinois, 6’2, 175
Chris Bryant, G, Drake, 6’1, 180
Casey Harriman, F, Creighton, 6’5 200
Dane Watts, F, Creighton, 6’8, 220
Kenny Lawson, C, Creighton, 6’9, 220
Just some random trivia for you folks: The MVC is the second-oldest athletic conference in the country. It celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2007. The original 7 members were WashU, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Drake, Nebraska and Iowa State.