Halfway Point- State of the Valley
In its first year as a 12-piece, the MVC is living up to its moniker that my friends and I made up for it years ago, “The Valley be All Crazy n’ S***”. After welcoming three new members and losing Loyola (who are currently killing it in the A-10), the league continues to be competitive and open. Eight members (a full two-thirds of the league) are within two games of first place. Any of those eight teams could realistically still win a title. And that is exciting. There aren’t any squads who have put themselves in position for an at-large bid, unfortunately, so this will likely be a one-bid league. However, the Valley will probably be the best one-bid league in the country.
We have reached the midpoint of the season, which means it is time for my annual “State of the Valley” report. I typically do this for my friends every year (which was the original inspiration for this blog), so I figured I would briefly come out of my hiatus to post this for anyone who wants to read it. The teams are ranked below based on what seed they would be if Arch Madness started today. These are not power rankings. I know some people will miss that and complain about their ranking, but I am putting it in bold to minimize that phenomenon. I have run the tiebreakers to the best of my ability, and I am fairly certain that if they had to do the tournament this weekend for some reason, these would be the seeds. That is it.
With that said, here is my breakdown of the Valley at the midway point.
12.) Evansville Purple Aces (0-10, 4-17, NET: 345, KenPom: 349)
There is a lot of parity in the Valley this year, and the slimmest of margins can mean the difference between four or five places in the standings. That does not apply to Evansville. There can be no doubt that the Aces have been the worst team in the league thus far this season. Losers of all ten of their MVC contests and eight straight overall coming into the week, Evansville has lost their league games by an average of 21.5 points and have only managed to lose by single digits three times in league play. UE hasn’t just lost games, they’ve also lost players, and they are just simply outgunned right now. Alcorn State transfer Kenny Strawbridge has been the team’s leading scorer by far, at 15.4 per game. Little Rock transfer Yacine Toumi is third in scoring (10 PPG), and first in rebounds (5.7 RPG). UNLV transfer Marvin Coleman is second in scoring (10.6 PPG) and rebounding (5.5 RPG) while leading the team in assists (2.7 APG). I did some looking back, and if my math is right Evansville has gone 14-68 in MVC contests since 2018-19. That is tough. And the thing is, when you see a program that gets knocked around like Evansville there are usually obvious reasons. But for UE there really isn’t a serious reason they need to be this bad. They have nice facilities and a strong fanbase that is still supportive even after all their struggles. They are 0-10 and second in the league in attendance! And the town of Evansville isn’t an urban utopia, but it is certainly comparable to most MVC communities. They should be able to be at least….decent…..sometimes. If you are looking for a silver lining it is that Evansville has managed to lose two of their last three, and three of their last five, by just single digits including a 7-point road loss to league leading Southern Illinois. They also play half of their remaining games against the league’s bottom third including a pair against UIC who is only one game ahead of UE. There is a path out of the cellar for Evansville. But I can’t see them doing much better than that. I hope new head coach David Ragland can turn this thing around, but it doesn’t look like it is going to happen in year one.
11.) Illinois-Chicago Flames (1-9, 9-12, NET: 289, KenPom: 293)
Coming in a game ahead of Evansville (but it feels like more) in avoiding the basement are the newcomers from the south loop, the UIC Flames (alma mater of Mrs. MVCBeat). Finishing in the cellar in your first season is an MVC tradition. Both Loyola and Valpo finished at the bottom of the league on their maiden MVC voyages. It doesn’t look like Murray or Belmont are likely to continue that run, so the responsibility falls to UIC. The Flames aren’t in last but have put themselves in a position to make a run at it. They sit just one game in front of Evansville at 1-9 with two matchups with the Aces still in front of them. While their record may be only slightly better, the Flames have been much more competitive overall than UE. For starters they were 8-3 in the noncon, and while that came against weak competition it is still a solid performance for a…..lets call it…..rebuilding program. UIC has lost seven straight since their 55-51 win over Illinois State, but lost by only six to league-leading Belmont, five in overtime to Drake, ten at Valpo and six against UNI. Sophomore Jace Carter, a returning starter who has made big strides relative to his freshman season last year, leads them in scoring with 15.5 PPG, and is second in rebounding with 6.1 per game. Second leading scorer Toby Okani (13 PPG) is the leading rebounder (7.3 RPG) and third overall in the MVC. Okani is a transfer from Duquesne. Idaho and San Francisco transfer Travante Anderson is their third leading scorer (12 PPG) and top distributor (3.6 APG, sixth in the MVC). UIC has four games remaining against the bottom third of the league including a pair against Evansville that will likely determine who will finish the season in the cellar. They also have three games against the league’s co-leaders. It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that the Flames will be able to catch Valpo or Illinois State. They do have a win against ISU in their pocket and a home game with Valpo still on the schedule. More likely UIC will battle UE for cellar avoidance for the remainder of the season.
10.) Illinois State Redbirds (3-7, 8-13, NET: 262, KenPom: 266)
It wasn’t too long ago that we were talking about ISU Red coming on strong and being a “tough out” after a pair of wins moved their league record to 3-4. Since then, three straight losses have quieted that talk a bit, and pushed them behind the streaking Valpo Beacons into tenth place (via tiebreaker). ISU went on the road and played SIU relatively tough, then nearly upset UNI. Things were looking OK, then they got torched at home against Valpo, 71-51. Needless to say, new head coach Ryan Pedon has an inconsistent and inexperienced team on his hands. I do think Coach Pedon is going to get ISU back on the straight and narrow, and a good ISU is good for the MVC. But this year, they seem to be a couple steps away from putting it all together. The Redbirds have a balanced attack, led (at least for now) by Elon transfer Darius Burford with 11.7 PPG. He also leads the team in assists (2.1 APG). I say “at least for now” because his scoring lead is a slim 1.1 points ahead of Seneca Knight (a BYU transfer) who is second in scoring with 10.6 PPG, and second in rebounding with 6.2 PPG. Kendall Lewis is the team rebounding leader at 6.6 RPG, and is third in scoring with 9.8 per game. Each of the Redbirds’ top seven leaders in minutes played are transfers, and all but two transferred in this year. That may provide an explanation for the inconsistency. Illinois State’s highs include a win over league-leading Belmont, and a ten-point win over Missouri State. But the Redbirds also provided UIC’s only MVC win in the history of their program, lost by 20 to Valpo, and trailed Evansville with four minutes to go. Coach Pedon is going to have to build his culture from the ground up and try and build in a little stability to go with it. I think he will, but it seems likely that ISU will finish in the bottom third of the league this year. You aren’t going to want to draw Illinois State in the first round of Arch Madness, though. You don’t know what kind of opponent you’re going to get. It could be an easy W, or you could get your ass handed to you. They remain a “tough out” depending on the night.
9.) Valparaiso Beacons (3-7, 9-12, NET: 287, KenPom: 272)
At first glance, Valpo’s situation looks bad. And that is because it is. It is very bad. You have a veteran team, with some star players, in a league with 66% of its teams within two games of first place……and you are not one of them. But they ARE on a winning streak. A road in at Evansville, a home win over UIC, and a blowout, 71-51 road W over Illinois State have positioned the Beacons to be the best of the worst at this juncture. Hooray! But that isn’t good enough for a veteran team with a veteran coach in Matt Lottich. I haven’t done the research to see if this is true, but I would imagine Lottich is on the hot seat right now. Valpo has a lot of reasons to excuse why they might be bad…..including mundane fan support at current and just……awful……facilities. But they really shouldn’t be bad based on the roster they have! Ben Krikke (17.4 PPG) and Kobe King (17 PPG) are 4th and 5th in the MVC in scoring. Nick Edwards (5 APG) is second in assists. Krikke is one of the best players in the league, and all three of those guys were on the team last year (only one, King, is a transfer at all). Why are these guys so bad? They lack depth, to be sure….but one would think the talent listed would be enough to at least avoid an 0-7 start. The winning streak is a positive sign, although it came entirely against the league’s bottom third. Valpo had only played teams in the top eight to that point and their three wins show that they really are a step above the others in their cohort. They’ve had some bad luck. VU kept it close with Murray, Drake and UNI. And they seemingly have a more manageable schedule in the second half. If there is a team in the bottom four that can rise up and nip some of the teams above them it would be Valpo. But I am done giving them the benefit of the doubt. I have for the last few years, and they always seem to let me down. I need you to prove to me that you deserve it, Valpo. Until that happens, it seems VU is on a crash course with that 8-9 tournament opener in St. Louis.
8.) Indiana State Sycamores (6-4, 13-8, NET: 128, KenPom: 131)
I said it at the top but I feel compelled to say it again for those who skipped down to their team. These are not power rankings; they are based on where each team would be seeded at Arch Madness if the season started today. So don’t @ me Sycamores fans. The Trees are here because two-thirds of the league is basically all bunched together, and someone needs to be at the bottom of that bunch. ISU Blue is in a five-way tie for fourth, but the Sycs are 1-3 against their fellow fourth placers and fall to last in the tiebreaker for that reason. For most of the year, for better or worse, Indiana State has been the talk of the league. Picked by most to be in the bottom half of the league preseason (but also picked to be the darkhorse by many), ISU started the season a blistering 9-1, with a head scratching loss to Kansas City as their only blemish. They opened the early league slate with a pair of victories over two of the league’s top teams (Drake and @ SIU) and it truly looked like the Sycamores were off to the races as a legitimate title contender. That enthusiasm was put on pause when they lost their three final nonconference games to Southern Indiana, Duquesne and Northern Illinois, but was resumed when they extended their league record to 6-0 with four straight wins. From there, I believe they have perhaps regressed to the mean. Their four victories came against the four squads in the bottom third of the MVC and four consecutive losses have since been suffered to SIU, Missouri State, Bradley and Murray State. Here is the thing though. I don’t think Indiana State is the best team in the league as it may have appeared when they were 6-0, but I also don’t think this four game losing streak is who they are either as they were competitive in each of those four losses. I think ISU will now settle in as one of the better teams in the league, but not the best. Regardless, what Josh Schertz has done with this program in just two years has been downright impressive. And I expect ISU to continue to have success while he is in the big chair. Coach Schertz was very excited about DePaul transfer Courvoisier McCauley, and that excitement has proven to be warranted. He leads the team in scoring (16.5 PPG, 7th in the Valley) and rebounding (5.5, 16th in the Valley). Cam Henry, a returner from last year, is second in both categories (11.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and leads the team in assists (3.9 APG, 4th in the Valley). ISU is one of the lucky squads that plays all four bottom third teams twice, and still have four more games against that group on the schedule. I expect them to be competitive the rest of the year, and while I don’t expect them to win the MVC I do think they’ll be in the hunt for a bye at Arch Madness.
7.) Drake Bulldogs (6-4, 15-6, NET: 91, KenPom: 89)
Once again, for those Bulldog fans that skipped to your team and did not read the top, this is not a power ranking. This is based on where your team would be seeded if Arch Madness started today. Because I know ya’ll will @ me. Drake currently sits in a five-way tie for fourth and would be seeded seventh right now based on their 2-3 record against the other fourth place teams. I think it is fair to say that Drake has been the most disappointing team in the MVC to this point. Not because their season has been a disaster…..it hasn’t. But preseason expectations from the media and fans were pretty much “Drake then everybody else”. No other teams were returning the level of talent and experience the Bulldogs were. So to be sitting here with four losses in their first ten league games and no realistic shot at an at-large NCAA bid you have to be disappointed if you are Darian Devries’ team. The flip side of that is that of the teams currently in the middle of the standings, I believe Drake is the squad with the best shot at still competing for the league title. It would probably take nine or so wins over their last ten, but the ‘Dogs have the talent and experience to do it. They have three games remaining against co-league leaders Belmont (2) and Southern Illinois, but only two of their remaining contests are against the Valley’s bottom third. Preseason POY Tucker Devries has been labeled as “disappointing” by some, but he still leads the league in scoring at 18.8 PPG while adding 5.9 boards. Darnell Brodie is second in the league in rebounds (7.4 RPG). Roman Penn is the league’s top distributor with 5.2 APG and is second on the team in scoring with 10 points per game. Garrett Sturtz continues to be the league’s top rebounding guard (6.6 RPG) and is 5th overall in the league in rebounding. If Drake is going to make a run at the league title, they must start now, but they can do it. Three of their four league losses were by four points or less, and they’ve had a number of big wins (including a 25 point blowout of Bradley). They are not a bottom half team and will not finish there. They will very likely still finish in the top four and be a favorite at Arch Madness. The biggest question will be whether they can climb all the way back into the title race. It probably needs to start with a 2-0 week against Indiana State and Belmont this week.
6.) Bradley Braves (6-4, 13-8, NET: 76, KenPom: 85)
I said it at the top and in the last two blurbs, but I feel compelled to say it again (hopefully for the last time). These rankings are not my personal power rankings but are based on where the teams would be seeded if the tournament started today. Please do not @ me Braves fans. Bradley is in a five-way tie for fourth but end up in the middle of that tiebreaker for now due to their 2-2 record against their fellow tied teams. While it hasn’t been a total disaster, I do think Braves fans would say this season (at least to this point) has not lived up to their hopes or expectations. To be completely fair to the Braves, for one, they are probably not 6th in the league talent wise (and probably won’t finish there). For two, they have absolutely battled the injury demon. And for three, the situation would look utterly different if it weren’t for some very bad luck at the end of a pair of games against Belmont. Bradley started the season without Rienk Mast who is only now really starting to get going with a pair of double-doubles in his last two games. He leads the team in scoring (13.8 PPG) and rebounding (8.5 RPG) and isn’t listed among the league’s top rebounders on ESPN, I assume due to missing so many games, but sits second in the league if he is counted. Malevy Leons has stepped up big-time for BU and has delivered 11.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG and 1.7 BPG. He is the “official” team leader in all four of those categories and is 4th in the league in steals while sitting first in blocks (defensive POY anyone)? Troy transfer Duke Deen has stepped up and Ja’Shon Henry has been solid when healthy as well. Brian Wardle’s squad still has four games against the bottom third starting with a pair this week against UIC and Illinois State. They also play SIU twice and host Drake. It is all still there in front of them, and I do expect the cream to rise to the top and for Bradley to ultimately claim a top four spot and make a run at Arch Madness. I wouldn’t count them out of the title chase either, although that will be an uphill battle. The team is too talented and experienced to stay this far down, though I do think they are going to need to get some more from their depth than they have been getting. Guys like Connor Hickman, Ville and Darius Hannah need to start making bigger contributions as depth becomes more important as the season grinds on. That all said, I still believe in the Braves.
5.) Murray State Racers (6-4, 11-9, NET: 174, KenPom: 181)
Considering they are playing in a new league with an almost entirely remade roster and a new (ish?) coach, Murray State’s first half of their first MVC season can be considered a success. The Racers find themselves in a five-way tie for fourth place and are currently slotted into the fifth seed due to their 2-1 record against the rest of the fourth placers. They also have a win over a ranked Texas A&M squad under their belts and lead the Valley in attendance. Certainly a more impressive debut than the last-place finishes both Loyola and Valpo put up during their first MVC seasons. Steve Prohm’s team is led by Stetson transfer Rob Perry who is averaging 15.1 PPG (10th in the Valley). DJ Burns leads the team on the boards with a 7.2 RPG average, good for fourth in the MVC. Jamari Smith is second on the team in both categories (12.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG), and Belmont transfer Jacobi Wood is third in both scoring (12 PPG) and rebounds (4.5 RPG), while leading the team in assists (4.5 per game, third in the Valley), and steals (1.5 SPG). The Racers have taken a couple on the chin, and blew one at UNI. And four of their six wins are against the league’s bottom third. We will find out what they are truly made of in the next three weeks as their schedule shows six consecutive games against teams outside the bottom four including a trip to Carbondale and a home game against Belmont (and a trip to Peoria and a home game against Drake). If they are still hanging in the top four orbit after that stretch, they’ll have a good shot to get in because three of their final four games are against bottom four teams, two of which are at home. So they have more-or-less reached the “prove it” stage of the season. I wouldn’t bet against Murray and their fanbase, but that is at least partially because I don’t gamble. Gun to my head, I don’t think Murray gets into the top four. But I do think they’ll have a respectable final showing in year one.
4.) Missouri State Bears (6-4, 10-10, NET: 132, KenPom: 136)
Of the five teams tied for fourth, the MSUs have the lowest computer rankings. But they take the top two spots in the tiebreaker due to head-to-head success. Mo State is one of five teams tied for fourth place and the only one that isn’t above .500 overall. But they would get the 4-seed and the final bye if Arch Madness started today due to their 3-1 record against Drake, Indiana State and Bradley (they have not yet played Murray). An unscientific method to be sure, but the one I am going with right now. I think the Bears and their fans would be thrilled if this were the final outcome of the season as it would not only give them a bye into the second round but would keep Drake and Bradley, along with Belmont, on the other side of the bracket. MSU is another team that has been more-or-less completely rebuilt. They are built on transfers, many of which came from P6 teams. Arkansas transfer Chance Moore is their leading scorer at 11.5 PPG. Donovan Clay, their second leading scorer (10.3 PPG) and top distributor (3.6 APG) is a transfer from Valpo (although he did play with MSU last year). Their third, (Bryan Trimble- Akron and St. Johns), fourth (Jonathan Mogbo- JuCo), fifth (Kendle Moore- Colorado State), sixth (Alston Mason- Oklahoma), and seventh (Dalen Ridgnal- Georiga) leading scorers are all transfers too and only Clay played with the team last year. Perhaps that explains why Missouri State has been so inconsistent this year, with a 4-6 nonconference record and both a loss to Illinois State and a pair of wins over Drake. It is tough to say what to expect from the Bears moving forward after results like that. They seemingly have the talent to make a push to claim a top four spot and win Arch Madness, but they have yet to put it all together. MSU has three games left with the bottom third of the league and only one in their last seven games. They have a lot to prove, and they are going to get their chance. It is getting near put up or shut up time for Dana Ford.
3.) Northern Iowa Panthers (7-3, 11-9, NET: 184, KenPom: 173)
Going into the season, UNI had only three guys on their roster with significant DI experience. One of those guys (Austin Phyfe) hasn’t suited up once, and another (Nate Heise) saw his season end after two games. That left the defending regular season champs with nine scholarship players including Bowen Born, a few very inexperienced returnees (none averaged over 8.5 minutes per game last year) and five freshmen. In a move that is unheard of in college basketball nowadays they brought in no transfers. That is the rotation UNI has been using, and here they are sitting in third place halfway through the season. How did they do it? Well, for one, Bowen Born has been one of the better players in the league. He is tied with Tucker Devries as the Valley’s leading scorer with 18.8 PPG. Secondly, Tytan Anderson has been (arguably) the league’s most improved player. After averaging eight minutes a game last year, Anderson leads the MVC in rebounding (9.4 RPG) and is 12th in scoring (13.4 PPG) and has become an energetic force for UNI both underneath the basket and away from it on offense and defense. Those two have been by far UNI’s top statistical performers, but in their current run they are also getting solid efforts from several freshmen (Trey Campbell, Michael Duax and Landon Wolf) and improved numbers from big man Cole Henry. If Drake is the most disappointing Valley team relative to expectations, their state counterparts UNI might be the most pleasant surprise. However the computers still love the Bulldogs more than the Panthers, as do the projections. Five of UNI’s seven league wins have come against the league’s bottom third, and only two of their remaining games are against that group. While the Panthers do have a win against league-leading SIU (and played the other league leader Belmont tough on the road), they took it on the chin at Bradley and against MSU. UNI has won several close games and it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to keep this level of play going against a much tougher stretch of games in the second half of the season. Matt Hackman’s seeding prediction tool puts UNI’s most likely seed at 7 when it is all said and done. But I wouldn’t bet against Ben Jacobson, who seems to always find a way to make his teams competitive. Gun to my head, I think UNI will fall into the middle-of-the-pack by the end of the year, but no matter what happens you know this team will battle and claw to the end.
2.) Belmont Bruins (8-2, 15-6, NET: 115, KenPom: 117)
Not a bad start to year one in Nashville! Like many teams in the MVC, the Bruins are sporting a largely rebuilt roster, but unlike most of their counterparts they are doing it in the uncharted territory of a new league. To be sitting atop the league standings at the halfway point has to feel like a success to Casey Alexander and his squad. Belmont has a loss to one of the lower performing teams in the league, Illinois State, that they’d probably like to have back. They’ve also lost to their co-leaders SIU in blowout fashion. But they have a sweep over Bradley (both games were dramatic) and have already pocketed notable wins over Missouri State, UNI and Murray State to boot. Belmont is led by the league’s third leading scorer (and a returning senior…….rare to see in the wild) Ben Sheppard who averages 18.5 PPG. Shepard leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, so he is kind of a big deal. Lest you think the future isn’t bright in Nashville, Belmont’s second leading scorer is freshman Cade Tyson who is averaging 13 PPG, followed closely Princeton transfer Drew Friberg (12.9 PPG). If Tennessee Tech transfer Keishawn Davidson had played enough games for his stats to count he would be third in the league with 4.7 APG. The knock on Belmont, at least as far as I can see, is that most of their big wins have come at home (at least until they won in Peoria last weekend). Their remaining schedule includes trips to Murray, Missouri, Drake and UNI, so they will get a chance to prove their road bona fides. They also do not have a return game against SIU so they would lose the tiebreaker for seeding to the Salukis. Poor job there, MVC schedulers. Belmont does have four games out of their final ten against the bottom third, so there is no reason to think they can’t challenge for the league title this year. And they are looking good for a top four seed and a bye. I expect the Bruins to be in it right until the bitter end, and they will have a legit shot at the league title.
1.) Southern Illinois Salukis (8-2, 16-5, NET: 106, KenPom: 114)
Its been a long time Saluki fans. Is “Floor Burn U” back? SIU was possibly the best MVC program of the early aughts. Certainly, the best program amongst the ones that are still in the league. But they slipped into a rut of mediocrity for about the last decade and a half. Enter Coach Bryan Mullins, a captain of some of the original “Floor Burn U” teams. His first few seasons have been up-and-down, but he has his Salukis poised to make a run at a long-awaited league title in year four. And these Salukis are legit in many ways. Star power? You bet. Marcus Domask is 6th in the league in scoring (16.9 PPG), leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, and has seemingly been around since his coach was a player. Lance Jones is 11th in scoring (13.9 PPG) and is one of the league’s best defenders (topping the league in steals per game). A high ceiling? You betcha. How about a road win over Oklahoma State? Consistent results? Yes. After losing to Indiana State in one of the early December random MVC games, SIU has won eleven out of twelve contests including a win at Murray State, a home win over co-leader Belmont, a win against Drake, a revenge win at Indiana State and a W in Springfield against Mo State. They have a manageable second half schedule too, with four games against the league’s bottom third remaining. Their only remaining road games against top eight teams are at Drake and Bradley. SIU certainly struggles with their depth, as they don’t get a lot offensively from anyone other than their two studs. But they’ll put the screws on you on defense and grind out wins which has proven to be a recipe for success in the MVC in the past, particularly in Carbondale. For me, the Salukis are the favorite to win the title at this point, and I would certainly be surprised if they fell out of the top 4. And while I am a UNI alum, I remember the battles we had with SIU in the 2000s when I was in college (in both football and basketball) and I would be happy to see them back on top and in the dance if they are able to pull it off.
Here is how the MVC Tournament would look if it started this weekend with the standings how they currently are.
Thursday, March 2nd
-12pm- Game 1 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #8 Indiana State vs. #9 Valparaiso
-2:30pm- Game 2 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #5 Murray State vs. #12 Evansville
-6pm- Game 3 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #7 Drake vs. #10 Illinois State
-8:30pm- Game 4 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #6 Bradley vs. #11 UIC
Friday, March 3rd
-12pm- Game 5 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #1 Southern Illinois vs. Game 1 Winner
-2:30pm- Game 6 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #4 Missouri State vs. Game 2 Winner
-6pm- Game 7 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #2 Belmont vs. Game 3 Winner
-8:30pm- Game 8 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #3 Northern Iowa vs. Game 4 Winner
Saturday, March 4th
-2:30pm- Game 9 (CBS Sports Network): Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner
-5pm- Game 10 (CBS Sports Network): Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner
Sunday, March 5th
-1pm- Game 11 (CBS): Championship Game
And here is what the tournament would look like using Matt Hackman’s current seeding probabilities.
Thursday, March 2nd
-12pm- Game 1 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #8 Murray State vs. #9 Valparaiso
-2:30pm- Game 2 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #5 Indiana State vs. #12 Evansville
-6pm- Game 3 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #7 Northern Iowa vs. #10 Illinois State
-8:30pm- Game 4 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #6 Missouri State vs. #11 UIC
Friday, March 3rd
-12pm- Game 5 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #1 Belmont vs. Game 1 Winner
-2:30pm- Game 6 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #4 Drake vs. Game 2 Winner
-6pm- Game 7 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #2 Southern Illinois vs. Game 3 Winner
-8:30pm- Game 8 (ESPN+/Regional Networks): #3 Bradley vs. Game 4 Winner
Saturday, March 4th
-2:30pm- Game 9 (CBS Sports Network): Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner
-5pm- Game 10 (CBS Sports Network): Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner
Sunday, March 5th
-1pm- Game 11 (CBS): Championship Game
And that is it! I have enjoyed doing this write-up, although I am not back full-time. I do intend to do another one of these at the 15-game mark in a couple weeks. Best of luck to all your teams and see you in St. Louis!