Record: 24-7, 13-5 MVC
Coach: Greg McDermott
Tournament titles: 11 (last in 2012)
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RPI as of Thursday: 33
Best non-conference win: 84-74 vs. Wisconsin (Las Vegas)
Why its fans drive 444 miles: Because it will be hard to drive to Madison Square Garden next March. And because the Scottrade Center serves beer.
Players to watch: Two-time MVC Player of the Year F Doug McDermott (23.4 points, 7.6 rebounds) makes 48.1 percent of his three-pointers. G Grant Gibbs (8.7 points) averages 5.9 assists. F Ethan Wragge (7.8 points) is the MVC’s Sixth Man of the Year because of his outside shooting.
Can CU win three in a row?: Creighton can outscore anybody and McDermott can turn St. Louis into an audition for NBA scouts. Cutting down the nets will depend on his supporting cast and its scoring. Creighton is vulnerable if it must rely on defense.
2. WICHITA STATE
Record: 24-7, 12-6
Coach: Gregg Marshall
Tournament titles: 2 (last in 1987)
RPI as of Thursday: 38
Best non-conference win: 53-51 at VCU
Why its fans drive 446 miles: To help the clock operator and wear their 2011 NIT championship T-shirts.
Players to watch: F Carl Hall (12.4 points, 7 rebounds) displayed an accurate jump shot in the last regular-season game. All-MVC F Cleanthony Early (14.5 points) makes 47 percent of his shots in MVC games. G Tekele Cotton made 12 of 21 three-pointers (57.1 percent) in nine February games, best percentage of any MVC player.
Can WSU win three in a row?: WSU owns the depth and the defense. An average scoring weekend should keep the Shockers around until Sunday.
3. NORTHERN IOWA
Record: 18-13, 11-7
Coach: Ben Jacobson
Tournament titles: 3 (last in 2010)
RPI as of Thursday: 72
Best non-conference win: 82-75 vs. Saint Mary’s
Why its fans drive 346 miles: To prove it’s not just a football and wrestling school.
Players to watch: G Anthony James (12.6 points) averaged 19 points in two games against Illinois State. G Marc Sonnen (10.2 points) makes 44.8 percent of his threes to lead the team. F Jake Koch (10.5 points) will guard the best scoring big man. Illinois State’s Jackie Carmichael scored five points in the regular-season finale.
Can UNI win three in a row?: Yes, if its outside shots are falling. The Panthers took 390 three-pointers in MVC games, more than any other team except Drake. UNI won six MVC games in a row, matching Creighton for the longest streak in conference play.
Record: 18-13, 10-8
Coach: Marty Simmons
Tournament titles: None
RPI as of Thursday: 101
Best non-conference win: 49-44 vs. Western Illinois
Why its fans drive 172 miles: Let us know when you find out.
Players to watch: G Colt Ryan (20 points, 3.4 rebounds) averaged 23.4 points and 4.3 assists in MVC games. He averaged almost seven foul shots in conference play. G Troy Taylor averages 6.6 points and a team-leading 7 rebounds.
Can UE win three in a row?: Not likely, but this is Ryan’s chance to steal the spotlight from McDermott and carry the Aces into the NCAA Tournament. The Aces are deeper than in past seasons and bring a four-game win streak to St. Louis.
5. INDIANA STATE
Record: 17-13, 9-9
Coach: Greg Lansing
Tournament titles: 3 (last in 2011)
RPI as of Thursday: 77
Best non-conference win: 57-55 vs. Miami (Fla.) in Hawaii
Why its fans drive 168 miles: To show off the Wabash Cannonball and explain what a Sparkette is.
Players to watch: The Sycamores struggle when All-MVC G Jake Odum (14.4 points) rests. Much depends on F Manny Arop (12.6 points), who missed the past two games due to a suspension. He is expected to play and Indiana State needs his scoring and athletic ability.
Can ISU win three in a row?: Yes, if it can recapture the magic of a 68-55 win at Wichita State and a 76-57 rout of Creighton. The Sycamores need to shore up their defense after allowing 69.3 points and 45.4 shooting percentage in February.
6. ILLINOIS STATE
Record: 17-14, 8-10
Coach: Dan Muller
Tournament titles: 4 (last in 1998)
RPI as of Thursday: 125
Why its fans drive 169 miles: To make NIT plans on the Sunday drive home.
Players to watch: G Tyler Brown (18.1 points) averaged 24 points in nine February games, making 30 of 64 three-pointers. All-MVC Jackie Carmichael (17.4 points, 9.4 rebounds) leads the MVC in rebounds and blocks (1.9).
Can ISU win three in a row?: Absolutely. This is the team nobody wants to face. The Redbirds are 8-4 in MVC games since an 0-6 start and can match any team with athletic ability.
7. MISSOURI STATE
Record: 10-21, 7-11
Coach: Paul Lusk
Tournament titles: 1 (1992)
RPI as of Thursday: 213
Best non-conference win: 57-54 at Eastern Michigan
Why its fans drive 216 miles: To scout the route for next week’s women’s tournament in St. Charles.
Players to watch: G Anthony Downing (13.7 points) is the leader of team that relies heavily on freshmen. G Marcus Marshall (10.8 points) earned MVC Freshman of the Year honors. F Gavin Thurman (7.1 points), from Heights, started 12 games.
Can MSU win four in a row?: No. The Bears are the Valley’s worst team from behind the arc (30.2 percent) and slumping after a February in which it shot 25.7 percent.
Record: 16-15, 7-11
Coach: Geno Ford
Tournament titles: 2 (last in 1988)
RPI as of Thursday: 180
Best non-conference win: 72-68 vs. George Washington
Why its fans drive 168 miles: To watch the 1996 Deon Jackson three-pointer beat Missouri State on the videoboard and wonder if firing Jim Molinari worked out.
Players to watch: G Walt Lemon (15.5 points, 3.5 assists) forms a tenacious defensive combo with MVC defensive MVP Dyricus Simms-Edwards (12.5 points). Both average more than two steals and the Braves lead the Valley at 9.5.
Can BU win four in row?: No, but if a Thursday team emerges, this is the best candidate. The Braves own the best mix of size and experience to make a surprising run.
Record: 14-16, 7-11
Coach: Mark Phelps
Tournament titles: 1 (2008)
RPI as of Thursday: 147
Best non-conference win: 71-54 vs. Green Bay
Why its fans drive 348 miles: To watch Creighton and wonder why they can’t do that.
Players to watch: F Ben Simons (14.4 points) makes 41.1 percent of his threes and 87.1 percent of his free throws. F Jordan Clarke (9.6 points, 8.6 rebounds) averaged an MVC-best 10 rebounds and made 59.7 percent of his shots in the past nine games.
Can DU win four in a row?: No. Teams that routinely are out-rebounded, commit more turnover than opponents and shoot fewer free throws aren’t built to win a tournament.
10. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
Record: 14-16, 6-12
Coach: Barry Hinson
Tournament titles: 5 (last in 2006)
RPI as of Thursday: 179
Best non-conference win: 57-54 vs. Fresno State
Why its fans drive 104 miles: Hoping to get another shot at Creighton in the title game.
Players to watch: G Jeff Early (13.1 points, 7.4 rebounds) shoots 51.2 percent from the floor. G Desmar Jackson (15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds) scored 28 points in a January loss at Wichita State.
Can SIU win four in a row?: No, but it might stay longer than expected. The Salukis are 6-3 since Feb. 1.
— Paul Suellentrop