Today, we have reached the third and final part of my whatifsports.com simulation featuring each school’s best team of the century (as featured in my earlier article “Every MVC School’s Best Team of the 21st Century”). For this exercise I simulated a full MVC double-round robin home/away season using every school’s best team of the century from that list. In part one of the series we simulated the first half of the season. In part two we simulated the second half. At the end of the day, the 2016 Valpo Crusaders were crowned regular season champions.
Today we will start the simulation of the all-time Arch Madness. For the regular season, I just had the simulator give me the scores for each game. For Arch Madness, though, I will have the simulator give me a full box score and play by play. For each game I will post the box score and provide a little recap of the game based on the play-by-play. I’ll post by session, one session a day, over the next five days. Today, we’ll start with session 1.
Game 1: #8 2016 Evansville Purple Aces (7-11) vs. #9 2011 Missouri State Bears (7-11) The Enterprise Center was more full than usual for a Thursday Night at Arch Madness as the 2016 Evansville Purple Aces and the 2011 Missouri State Bears kicked off festivities. Typically, there would be just a smattering of fans in the arena for these opening games, but this isn’t a standard Arch Madness play-in game. Unlike most tournaments where the opening game features two of the worst teams in the league, this opener features a regular season champion and a regular season runner up. Both fell one win short of taking home the trophy the first time around. Missouri State lost a heartbreaker to Indiana State in the 2011 title game, and Evansville lost on a buzzer beater to UNI is 2016. Despite stellar seasons, Missouri State had to settle for the NIT while Evansville didn’t play any postseason ball. Today’s game is the start of what both hope will be a road to redemption in this event.
The game started off very back-and-forth. When Isaiah Rhine slammed the ball home for Missouri State on a nice feed from Nafis Ricks, the score stood 13-12 UE with 10:40 to go. DJ Balentine then hit consecutive buckets that sparked a 9-1 UE run to give them a 22-13 edge. Kyle Weems made two free throws with 5:33 left to cut the Aces’ lead to 6, but the Bears would get no closer in the first half. DJ Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius teamed up for a 7-0 UE run to give the Purple Aces a 31-18 lead. Jermaine Mallett and Nafis Ricks tried to keep the Bears close, but after DJ Balentine hit a 12-footer at the buzzer, the Aces held a 40-27 lead at the break.
A 14-4 Bears run early in the second half, capped off by an Adam Leonard layup on a pass from Jermaine Mallett cut the UE lead to 47-41 with 15:25 to go. Unfortunately for Missouri State, a Kyle Weems driving layup would be the only points they would get in the ensuing 5:55. Mockevicius and Balentine would each score twice in that time to extend the UE lead to 55-43. The Aces controlled the game from there and led by double digits the rest of the way. They increased their lead to as many as 15 on an Adam Wing layup with just over six to play and held on to win by a 72-61 final. Jermaine Mallett led the scoring for Mo State with 19, while Kyle Weems had 13 and Will Creekmore had 12. The Aces shot 71% (5-7) from three and were led by their two stars Balentine (25 points) and Mockevicius (20 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks). Balentine, Mock and Jaylon Brown (14 points) accounted for 81% of the Aces scoring. Evansville will advance to play in a match up that could very well have happened in real life (but didn’t) when they play top seeded 2016 Valparaiso in our first game tomorrow. Up next, though, will be 2006 Bradley and 2001 Indiana State in our second opening round matchup.
FINAL: 2016 Evansville 72, 2011 Missouri State 61
Game 2: #7 2006 Bradley Braves (8-10) vs. #10 2001 Indiana State Sycamores (5-13) The second game of our first session features the two oldest teams in the competition. The 2001 Indiana State Sycamores finished in last place during our simulated regular season, but they didn’t exactly light it up in their initial go-round in 2001 either, finishing fourth. A year after finishing as regular season champions and losing in the Arch Madness semifinals, the Sycamores were the five-seed but stormed through the league tournament, finishing as the first five-seed to win the title. As a 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament they beat Oklahoma before losing to Gonzaga. The Bradley Braves had a similar type of season in 2006. Finishing fifth in the MVC, BU beat Creighton and top-seed Wichita State to reach the Arch Madness final where they eventually lost to Southern Illinois. This was the MVC’s peak year in which four teams went to the NCAAs and two more to the NIT, but these Braves are the only representative in this competition from the 2006 season. Like Indiana State, they were seeded 13th in the NCAAs, and they beat Kansas and Pitt to make it to the Sweet 16. Neither of these teams had the regular season they wanted, but both are familiar with making a postseason run from an unfavorable seed. This game was back and forth early on, with the lead changing ten times in the first 13 minutes. A scoop shot by Matt Renn (assist to Michael Mesner) tied the game at 23 with 7:32 to go in the first half. Neither team would make a shot from the field over the next three minutes, but the Braves made a pair of free throws by Marcellus Sommerville and Daniel Ruffin each to give the Braves a 27-23 lead before Terence Avery made a jumper from the left block (assist to Mesner). After the final media timeout of the half, Daniel Ruffin hit a three that sparked a strong BU finish to the half in which the Braves outscored the Sycamores 13-6 over the final 3:36. Ruffin hit another jumper, the teams exchanged free throws and Ruffin continued his one-man show making a long two to give BU a 36-27 advantage. The two teams traded baskets over the final minute to give Bradley the 40-31 edge at the break. After Michael Menser hit a three on Indiana State’s first possession of the second half, and later Barry Welsh hit a shot to cut the Bradley lead to six, BU went on a run that allowed them to control the game from that point forward. Tony Bennet hit two three pointers as part of a 9-3 Braves run over the next four minutes that gave BU a 55-43 lead. Over the next six minutes all ISU could muster was two Michael Menser free throws and a Menser tip in off a miss, as Bradley increased their run to 18-7 to blow open the game. They led 64-47 with just 8:40 to play. The Braves cruised from there, maintaining a double-digit lead the rest of the way. An Indiana State basket by Michael Kernan in garbage time provided the final margin of 72-61 in favor of the Braves. The Sycamores’ shooting did them in as they were only able to muster three three-point baskets in thirteen tries. A balanced attack of Michael Mesner (12), Matt Renn (13), Kelyn Block (12) and Terance Avery (11) led the Sycamores. For the Braves, who shot 45.9% and made five threes in twelve tries, Daniel Ruffin and Marcellus Sommerville led the team in scoring with fifteen apiece, while Patty O’Bryant just missed a double-double scoring nine points and nabbing 12 rebounds. BU will advance to play the 2008 Drake Bulldogs to lead off tomorrow’s night session. We will see you tomorrow as we open up the quarterfinals with a matchup between the 2016 Valpo Crusaders and today’s first winners the 2016 Evansville Purple Aces, followed by the prime-time matchup of the quarterfinals between the 2018 Loyola Ramblers and 2010 UNI Panthers!
FINAL: 2006 Bradley 72, 2001 Indiana State 61