See you next week
It seems a shame to interrupt a fascinating MVC race for a less-than-sizzling BracketBusters weekend. Let’s take this opportunity to fast forward to Wednesday, when the Valley features one of the delights of its round-robin schedule. For the third time this season, all 10 teams play on the same night.
Scoreboard-watchers at home or in the five arenas will enjoy a feast of possibilities. Drake at Indiana State tips at 6:05 p.m., one hour before the rest. By 9:30, MVC fans will know if Wichita State clinched a share of the title. The muddle in the middle will also clear up.
• Evansville at Wichita State is the biggest game of the night. A win gives the Shockers at least a share of the MVC title. Evansville is 1-7 in MVC road games.
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• Second in importance is Creighton at Bradley. Creighton, the preseason favorite, must win or risk handing WSU the title outright. Bradley, 12-3 at home, is fighting to avoid the MVC Tournament’s play-in round.
• Northern Iowa will enter Wednesday’s game at Southern Illinois with a slim shot at sharing the title. More realistically, it will concentrate on solidifying the third seed and giving itself a chance to pass Creighton should the Bluejays slip. UNI has won six in a row. SIU is locked into the No. 9 or No. 10 seed, but the Salukis are 7-4 at home with wins over WSU and Indiana State.
• Missouri State may catch Illinois State at the right time. The Redbirds lost an emotional game to Wichita State on Sunday and lost 79-62 at Evansville on Wednesday. Next up is a trip to Utah State. Their regular-season finale is at Northern Iowa. How much attention will the Redbirds devote to the Bears?
• Indiana State desperately needs a get-right game after losing three MVC games in a row. Its MVC title hopes and NCAA at-large dreams are dashed and it plays at Evansville on March 2. Beating Drake is a must or the Sycamores risk stumbling into St. Louis at a low point.
The best thing about Wednesday? Any arguments left unresolved will be finished Saturday, when all 10 teams play again.
• The MVC will miss at least one aspect of BracketBusters. The conference cleaned up with ESPN exposure and victories. In the 10 years of the made-for-TV series, Valley schools played 43 games on ESPN networks, more than any other conference. They went 25-18 in those marquee matchups, also the most wins by the 12 conferences that participated (to varying degrees). The Colonial Athletic Association, whose departure hastened the death of BracketBusters, went 19-10.
• Indiana State’s R.J. Mahurin converted the seventh four-point play of his career in Tuesday’s loss to Wichita State. It’s a Sycamore thing. Indiana State claims former guard Aaron Carter holds the NCAA record with eight.
One to watch
Saint Mary’s at Creighton, 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) — If you love scoring, check this one out. Entering Tuesday’s games, Creighton ranked second nationally (tied with Florida) in points per possession at 1.16. Don’t care about fancy stats? Just know these teams can change your mood on ugly college games.
In their words
"It was very huge for coach. The first one we couldn’t get for him, but we definitely wanted to get this one for him, because we know how he feels about that. We can’t let him go 0-2 vs. them, so we had to get this win for coach.” — Southern Illinois guard Desmar Jackson, in the Southern Illinoisan, after a 62-54 win over Missouri State on Saturday. SIU coach Barry Hinson coached nine seasons at MSU.