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Best/Worst MVC Programs of the Millennium

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article on the worst individual MVC teams of the millennium. In that article I looked at individual teams’ individual years. But it begged the question, “Which programs have been the best in the league over the long haul?” Well, I crunched the numbers and I think I’ve found an answer. And that answer is (spoiler alert)………..probably Crayton, but also maybe Loyola, but also maybe UNI. I put together some monster excel spreadsheets and examined each MVC team from 2001-2022 over seven categories. Those categories were: MVC winning percentage, overall winning percentage, KenPom Ranking, Arch Madness seed, Arch Madness winning percentage and Arch Madness accomplishments (averaged out and overall). After doing the work and running the numbers, I noticed that I did not factor in postseason success beyond Arch Madness. So perhaps that addendum can be done by you! Because I’ve spent more time than I wanted to on this and now I’m done.

Take a look below to see the results of my research. There is definitely some interesting stuff here for MVC fans if you care to see it. I’ll review the results category by category.

MVC Winning Percentage

So when you want to determine the best teams in the league over a long period of time, the best place to start (IMO) is winning percentage in league games. Everyone played the same schedules and had the same opportunities for success. I looked at each MVC team’s league performance over the last 22 years and my results are below.

Creighton and Wichita are by far the leaders here. Creighton was remarkably consistent in their 13 MVC seasons this century, never winning fewer than 10 games. Wichita had their ups and downs but were very consistent winners at the end of their MVC run. Loyola has the best winning percentage of “active” teams, due to their never finishing below 2nd place in the last five seasons, but they also only have nine seasons out of 22 counted here. If their Horizon numbers from 2001-2013 were included this would look a lot different. UNI comes out on top among teams that will be in the league next year with a .571 winning percentage. After a 3-15 season in 2001, they never had fewer than 7 wins in any other season during this period and had a run from 2004 to 2017 where they never finished below .500 in the league. Not surprisingly, Evansville is in last nearly 7% behind the next lowest team that had been in the league the entire time (Indiana State). My biggest surprise takeaway here is that there are three teams who have been in the MVC the entire century that have never had a season in which they won more than 12 games (Bradley, Indiana State, Evansville).

Overall Winning Percentage

The order of finish here mirrored the conference winning percentage exactly.

That shouldn’t be terribly surprising as most teams play about 60% of their games in the league. Some takeaways here for me were that seven teams have had at least one season playing .800 or better overall, including four that will remain in the league next year. Wichita’s 35-1 season in 2014 is the best overall, and UNI’s 31-4 season in 2015 is second and tops among current MVC teams. Bradley’s 5-27 season in 2016 is by far the worst. This year’s Evansville team would have had to lose two more games to fall behind them. Of the eight teams that have been in the league for the entire run, Mo State has the “best worst” season, the only one with double digit wins at 11-22 in 2013.

KenPom Ratings

There were some changes between this one and winning percentage, although it was still quite similar overall. The biggest difference was probably UNI and Loyola swapping places at 3rd and 4th.

This is one of the rare occasions where Evansville is not on the bottom, as their body of work puts them slightly ahead of Valpo’s five-year MVC run. But they are still a solid amount behind 10th place Indiana State. Bradley, Drake and Indiana State form a cluster in the 8th-10th spots, while Mo State, SIU and Illinois State form a cluster in the 5th-7th spots. UNI and Loyola are also a cluster at 3rd and 4th. I am not surprised at how high Crayton is, but I am a bit surprised that Wichita is not so far behind them. Wichita has five of the top six overall ratings, which did surprise me. Another surprise: Loyola’s Sweet 16 team (and this year’s team) are rated higher than their Final Four team. The top 20 MVC highest rated MVC teams of the millennium are below. Spoiler, Loyola’s Final Four team is not on there.

-Wichita State (2014) -Wichita State (2017) -Loyola (2021) -Wichita State (2012) -Wichita State (2015) -Wichita State (2017) -Crayton (2013) -Southern Illinois (2007) -Drake (2008) -Wichita State (2013) -Northern Iowa (2015) -Loyola (2022) -Bradley (2006) -Creighton (2001) -Creighton (2003) -Northern Iowa (2010) -Wichita State (2011) -Creighton (2007) -Creighton (2012) -Southern Illinois (2005)

Arch Madness Seed

So instead of overall conference record, this judges teams by how well they compete relative to their peers on a given season. Not all 11-7s are made equal.

However, it still comes out nearly the same. Evansville passes Valpo for 11th and Bradley passes Drake for 8th, but otherwise the order is the same as the winning % standings. Every current member of the MVC has been the 10-seed at Arch Madness at least once this millennium (although UNI was the 10-seed in 2001 and has never been lower than 7th since). Evansville has been the 10-seed more times than any two other teams combined. Wow. SIU is the leader among 1-seed getters, although they haven’t done it since 2007. UNI is second (among current teams) with four, and all have happened since the last time SIU was #1.

Arch Madness Winning Percentage

So how have teams fared at the Kiel/Savvis/Scottrade/Enterprise Center? Well, I looked at it in a few different ways, starting with Arch Madness winning percentage.

Wichita and Creighton are finally broken up. The Shockers propensity to choke in St. Louis catches up to them here and they fall to fourth, keeping CU and WSU from finishing 1-2 in everything. Loyola’s run this year pushed them into second place on this list past UNI who won 5 titles in a 12-year span but haven’t won it since 2016. Interestingly (to me), UNI is the only team that will be in the league next year with an above .500 record at Arch Madness this millennium. Bradley’s two titles in the last four years is probably the difference for them as they likely would be at least 10th without it. Drake has also done better of late, but haven’t pulled out of the 11th spot yet. This is the highest finish for Valpo due to a couple Thursday wins and their run to the title game in 2020.

Arch Madness Finishes

So, I did a couple things here. I wanted to give squads props for their finishes at Arch Madness. I put together a system where a championship gave you five points, a runner up three, a semifinal lost two, and a quarterfinal loss one. I averaged it out to normalize for Loyola, Valpo, Wichita and Creighton playing a different number of seasons. But I also wanted to do something for the teams that have been in the league the entire time. I think you should get some credit for having been in the league through ups and downs and thick and thin. So, I also made a category for total points, which gives you an obvious advantage if you have played in more Arch Madni. For reference, here is the table I used.

And here are the final results.

The big “mix it up” category on this list is overall points, which is the only category not won by Creighton, although they still finish second despite only participating in 13 of the 21 tournaments. UNI edges them out just barely for the top spot. The biggest impact between the two is on Loyola, which falls from 2nd in average points to 9th in overall points. That does end up making a difference in the final standings, but I’ll explain when I get there. Beyond that there are some surprises here including Missouri State in the fourth spot despite no league titles. They even finished two spots ahead of Illinois State despite having half as many title game appearances as the Redbirds. The difference is that Missouri State has only lost on Thursday twice.

Final Results

Once I compiled all that data and rankings, I put them into one final table and added up the finishes, cross country style. Here are my final findings on where the MVC teams have ranked against each other over the millennium.

No surprise to see Crayton on top and Wichita in second as they dominated the rankings all the way through. Crayton won every category, typically by a wide margin, except overall Arch Madness accomplishments (and they almost certainly would have won that had they stayed in the league). UNI finished third overall, four points ahead of Loyola. The difference in the end was the overall point total from Arch Madness which UNI finished first and Loyola 9th. The Ramblers are at a huge disadvantage there since they have only played in nine league tournaments to the Panthers’ 22, so if you don’t want to consider that you can go ahead and count Loyola as #3. Is it fair to Loyola to do that? I would say yes and no. Obviously, that is not something they can realistically overcome with so many fewer seasons. On the other hand, they are certainly benefitting from not having 2001-2013 count in these rankings for them. Had they been in the league for those years and those years would have counted for them like everyone else, they likely would have fallen way down this list as they were very, very bad over that time. UNI has been almost as consistent as Loyola for a much longer period, so I think its fair. Perhaps the biggest surprise on this list, for me, is seeing Missouri State at #5 as they haven’t been known to be an outstanding Valley team and have never been to the dance in this period. They get dunked on quite a bit. But they were consistently above average throughout and slow and steady wins the race, I guess. SIU being 6th shows how tough of a decade the Lowry/Hinson years were, as they absolutely dominated the first part of this millennium. SIU, probably more than any other squad on this list, would have benefitted from the inclusion of a category for NCAA and NIT appearances/success. The current top four teams would have too, but I doubt their spot on the list would have changed much. Illinois State finishing ahead of Bradley may turn some heads, but BU has still been unable to breakthrough into the top 3 of the Valley for two decades and ISU has been more consistent over time. While BU has been to the dance, they had some low, lows. The closest finish between two teams was Indiana State by one point over Drake for 9th, likely due to Indiana State’s two Arch Madness titles. I’d expect DU to pass the Trees soon. Valpo represents the other extreme of how having fewer seasons in the data can impact you. If their 2001-2017 seasons were represented, I would imagine they would have been higher on this list. All that said, I don’t think anyone is surprised who is at the bottom. Sorry Aces.

And there you have it. My definitive, data-based MVC basketball rankings for this millennium. What do you think? Did I miss an important aspect (perhaps NCAA success)? Were the results surprising? Let me know on Twitter @BeatMVC. Until next time, GO VALLEY!

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