No. 1 Illinois State (25-5)
Coach: Dan Muller
Top players: G Paris Lee is the MVC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He averages 13 points and an MVC-leading 5.1 assists. F Deontae Hawkins leads the Redbirds with averages of 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Trend: On the rise after Saturday’s 63-42 win at Northern Iowa. The Redbirds shot 54.3 percent and F MiKyle McIntosh made 7 of 9 shots to score 15 points. If McIntosh is fit, after knee surgery in early February, the Redbirds are capable of ending a four-game losing streak in the title game.
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Best case: The Redbirds cut down the nets on Sunday after winning their first tournament since 1998. Maybe Muller gets a chance to call a late timeout against Wichita State.
If you see a Redbirds fan: Don’t ask if they think they’ll get an NIT home game.
Last title: 1998, 84-74 over Missouri State
No. 2 Wichita State (27-4)
Coach: Gregg Marshall
Top players: F Markis McDuffie finished second in the MVC Player of the Year voting. He leads the Shockers with averages of 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. G Conner Frankamp leads the MVC in kenpom.com’s offensive rating at 1.33 points per possession. G Landry Shamet, the Freshman of the Year, is second at 1.32.
Trend: Up on a rocket. WSU brings a 12-game win streak to St. Louis. It is shooting 44.8 percent from three-point range in that stretch and outscoring opponents 83-59.9. The Shockers can score 75 on a bad day and it isn’t clear if any MVC opponent can match that.
Best case: The Shockers run through the bracket so impressively the NCAA selection committee awards them a No. 5 seed. Any revenge on the Redbirds for tournament defeats in 2012 and 2015 is a bonus, especially if by a wide margin.
If you see a Shocker fan: Don’t ask where Jerry Palm seeds the Shockers.
Last title: 2014, 83-69 over Indiana State
No. 3 Northern Iowa (14-15)
Coach: Ben Jacobson
Top players: G Jeremy Morgan leads the Panthers in scoring (14.7), rebounds (5.9), assists (2.8) and steals (1.7). … C Bennett Koch averages 12.8 points and is shooting 56.2 percent in MVC play.
Trend: Down after losing to Wichita State, Indiana State and Illinois State to end the season. UNI started MVC play 0-5, then went 9-1 and finished 0-3. The Panthers are in danger of suffering their first losing season since the 2003 team went 11-17.
Best case: Northern Iowa, two-time defending champion, rediscovers its past St. Louis magic to upset Wichita State in the semifinals.
If you see a Panthers fan: Don’t bring up Texas A&M. Or Doug McDermott. And walk away before they bring up Ben (the player) Jacobson.
Last title: 2016, 56-54 over Evansville
No. 4 Southern Illinois (16-15)
Coach: Barry Hinson
Top players: F Sean O’Brien averages 12.4 points and 8.5 rebounds. He handed out nine assists in back to back games in November. C Thik Bol, a member of the All-Defensive team, averages 2.4 blocks.
Trend: Winning two of three passes for surging in the MVC. SIU swept Loyola in the regular season with O’Brien making 16 of 21 shots. The Salukis made 13 of 26 three-pointers in the two games.
Best case: Barry Hinson wins on Sunday and all major networks carry his postgame speech live.
If you see a Salukis fan: You can discuss who misses Creighton the most.
Last title: 2006, 59-46 over Bradley
No. 5 Loyola (18-13)
Coach: Porter Moser
Top players: G Milton Doyle, an All-MVC pick, leads the Ramblers with averages of 15.5 points, 4.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks. F Aundre Jackson ranks fifth nationally, according to kenpom.com, in true shooting percentage at 70.4. He averages 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Trend: Up moderately with a 2-2 record entering the tournament after a four-game losing streak. The No. 5 seed is Loyola’s best in four seasons as an MVC member.
Best case: Sister Jean gives the invocation before Sunday’s game and fans in maroon-and-yellow scarves and Cubs hats pour into Scottrade Center.
If you see a Ramblers fan: Tell them you’re so happy they beat Creighton last season.
Last title: None
No. 6 Missouri State (16-15)
Coach: Paul Lusk
Top players: F Alize Johnson, an All-MVC pick, ranks eighth nationally in defensive rebound percentage at 30.5. He recorded 16 double-doubles and averages 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. G Dequon Miller averages 13.1 points and 3.8 assists.
Trend: Hibernating after six losses in the final seven games. The Bears are one of many MVC teams that kicked away a chance at third place.
Best case: Johnson carries the Bears into Saturday’s semifinals.
If you see a Bears fan: Don’t remind them Barry Hinson’s SIU teams have won five in a row over the Bears.
Last title: 1991, 71-68 over Tulsa
No. 7 Bradley (12-19)
Coach: Brian Wardle
Top players: G Darrell Brown averages 12.5 points and 2.8 assists. C Koch Bar, like Brown a member of the All-Freshman team, averages 6 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Trend: Modestly up on the strength of Bradley’s first three-game win streak since 2013-14. Bradley swept the season series with Drake and didn’t trail in either game.
Best case: The Braves are competitive on Friday and send their freshmen into the offseason confident and motivated.
If you see a Braves fan: Ask them to explain the gargoyle mascot.
Last title: 1988, 83-59 over Illinois State
No. 8 Evansville (15-16)
Coach: Marty Simmons
Top players: G Jaylon Brown leads the MVC with a 20.6 scoring average. He also leads the MVC in foul shots made (197) and attempted (229). F Ryan Taylor averages 14.3 points.
Trend: Up after winning five of the final seven games, three over higher-seeded teams. Brown scored 24 points in Saturday’s 65-63 win over Indiana State.
Best case: The Aces make Illinois State miserable on Friday before fatigue catches up to them.
If you see a Aces fan: Take a picture. It’s a rare sighting at the tournament.
Last title: None
No. 9 Indiana State (11-19)
Coach: Greg Lansing
Top players: G Everett Clemons averages 9.7 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds. G Brenton Scott averages 15.9 points and is shooting 35.9 percent from three-point range.
Trend: Fading. The Sycamores turn the ball over too much to get past Friday.
Best case: The Sycamores ride a Scott heat wave into Friday.
If you see a Sycamores fan: A 72-71 win over Butler is the best by an MVC team, so that’s a talking point.
Last title: 2011, 60-56 over Missouri State
No. 10 Drake (7-23)
Coach: Jeff Rutter
Top players: G Reed Timmer averages 15.4 points and shoots 82.9 percent from the foul line. F Ore Arogundade shoots 40.2 percent from three-point range, 45.2 percent in MVC play.
Trend: Way down, with a nine-game losing streak and a coaching search soon to follow. Drake allows 80.1 points in conference play.
Best case: The Bulldogs toss in a bunch of threes, lose with grace, and get started with what’s next.
If you see a Bulldogs fan: Offer congratulations on the MVC women’s title.
Last title: 2008, 79-49 over Illinois State