MVC Basketball Postseason Preview
Six MVC or MVC-adjacent teams will be playing in this year’s postseason. Apart from Drake, who I thought would be playing in the NIT (and should be playing in the NIT), I thought everyone ended up where they should be. Seven women’s teams will play in the postseason as well. See below for my quick MVC postseason preview. I’ve also included a full MVC postseason basketball viewing guide, including all first-round games for each tournament (men’s and women’s NCAA, NIT, WNIT and CBI) at the bottom of the page.
Fourth-seeded Illinois State (19-13) overcame a late deficit and held third-seeded UNI scoreless over the final five minutes of the Hoops in the Heartland championship game, taking the MVC Tournament title by a score of 50-48. The women’s tournament followed Arch Madness exactly in terms of which seeds won which games, with chalk holding throughout the first two rounds while the lower seed won each game in the semifinals and finals. The win puts the Redbirds into the dance as a 15-seed where they will make the short trip to Iowa City to face the second seeded Iowa Hawkeyes (23-7) on the road. That game will be played at 3pm on Friday and will be broadcast on ESPN. Missouri State (24-7) also made the women’s field as one of the last at-large teams included and will play in the inaugural women’s First Four. As an 11-seed, they’ll face Florida State (17-13) at 8pm on Thursday in Baton Rouge on ESPN2. The winner will advance to the first round where they’ll face six-seed Ohio State (23-6) on Saturday at 1:30pm on ESPNU, also in Baton Rouge. OVC Champion Belmont (22-7) is a 12-seed and is making the relatively short trip to Knoxville where they will face fifth-seeded Oregon (20-11). That game will tip at 4:30pm on Saturday on ESPN2. Three MVC teams (and an incoming newbie) will play in the WNIT as well. The unseeded tournament is regionalized and features 64 teams, including an automatic bid from every league. Regular season champion Southern Illinois (21-9) was the MVC’s automatic bid winner. They’re headed to West Lafayette to play Purdue (16-14) at 6pm on Wednesday in a game that will be streamed on Big Ten Network+. Northern Iowa (22-10) and Drake (18-13) are also included in the field but have been put into an absolutely loaded (by WNIT standards) group of eight teams that includes South Dakota State, Minnesota, Green Bay, Missouri, and Kansas City. UNI hosts Kansas City (23-8) at 6pm on Thursday on ESPN+. Drake will be on the road against Missouri (18-12) at 7pm, no word on TV/stream for that one (I would guess SEC Network/ESPN+ like Murray/Vandy). If both win, they’ll face each other in round two. Murray State (22-9) is also in the field and will be in Nashville to play Vanderbilt (14-18), the autobid winner from the SEC. That game tips off at 7pm on Thursday on SECN/ESPN+.
CBI and The Basketball Classic
The College Basketball Invitational and The Basketball Classic (formerly known as the Collegeinsider.com Tournament or CIT) have taken some flack in recent years, and for good reason. The costs to host a game in the third-tier pay-to-play tournaments were prohibitive and after some initial enthusiasm early on, many schools opted out of these events as the years passed. This year, both events have taken steps to make their competitions a better experience for the student-athletes and more palatable for the bookkeepers at their participants’ institutions.
The Basketball Classic made their first solid step by changing their name from the CollegeInsider.com Tournament to the more branding friendly “The Basketball Classic”. Also, according to Harry Schroeder’s podcast, The Basketball Classic no longer charges a flat fee to host a game but instead works with institutions to negotiate a portion of ticket sales. That way, the school is not left SOL if they don’t sell enough tickets to cover the fee (and they usually don’t). They’ve also attached themselves to anti-racism campaign #Erascism which is a cause I believe everyone can get behind. It looks like the classic has gotten 22 teams to sign up for this season’s event, with games starting tomorrow. No MVC teams are involved.
The CBI has turned their event into a 5-day neutral site single elimination tournament that is fully seeded and bracketed and takes place in Daytona Beach. I don’t know if there is an entry fee, and if so what it is, but it will not turn into a situation where teams need to pay over and over to host games. A short neutral site tournament is also more manageable for teams than a long drawn out process that requires travel across the country for multiple teams. Drake (24-10) is the #1 seed and will play the tournament opener on Saturday at 11am against Purdue Fort Wayne (21-11). Should the Bulldogs advance, they’d play in the quarterfinals on Monday, semifinals on Tuesday and Championship Game on Wednesday. The first two rounds will be streamed on FloHoops, with the semis and finals on ESPN2. Of the two tournaments, the CBI seems more organized a legit with their ESPN contract, fully seeded bracket, and solid neutral site location. Also, their website and information available to fans is substantially better. Looking at the field, there are some pretty good teams here. But Drake has to be one of the favorites, if not the favorite.
Three MVC and MVC-adjacent squads find themselves in the NIT field. I thought Drake would be included as well. They deserved to be. But apparently, they didn’t quite do enough to get in according to the committee. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think the NIT should follow the women’s model and include 64 teams and an auto-bid from each league. A team like Drake should be in this field. The NIT committee threw us a bit of a curveball with seeding. Historically (at least recently), they’ve seeded the tournament all the way through. Most NIT bracketology sites had it set up that way. This season they chose to only seed the top 4 in each region, then match teams up regionally. There really isn’t a huge problem with that method, just nobody really knew what was going on until the brackets were released.
Belmont (25-7) got a bid and will face 4th seeded Vanderbilt (17-16) on the road in round one. Tipoff for that game will be Tuesday at 6pm on ESPN2. Missouri State (23-10) will be on the road to take on the top-seeded Big Oklahoma Sooners (18-15) out of the Big 12. That will also be a 6pm Tuesday tip on ESPN. Northern Iowa (19-11) will be headed back to a familiar place when they play Saint Louis (23-11) on the road. That game will be at 7pm on ESPN+. All three games will be tough, but not unwinnable matchups for the MVC school. Should any of the Valley squads advance, Belmont would play either #1 Dayton or Toledo, Missouri State would play either #4 Colorado or St. Bonaventure (who have both already lost to MVC teams this season), while UNI would play either #2 BYU or Long Beach State.
#7 Ohio State (19-11) vs. #10 Loyola (25-7) – 11:15 AM Friday – CBS
As the season has progressed, I have been more and more ambivalent about Loyola after their announced move out of the Valley. They are no longer part of the fraternity, they’ve moved on, and it is what it is. I have no hate for the Ramblers, they just are not really “one of us” anymore. However, this matchup has reinvigorated my Rambler enthusiasm (and not just because I’d like to see the MVC’s history of first-round success continue). Any time a solid mid-major from any league is matched up against one of the biggest, most-well funded squads in the nation at the dance my little small-school heart gets pumping. So yeah, I am unambiguously cheering for Loyola. Let’s have one last hook-up before you move on to your new guy. I fully expect the Ramblers to make life difficult for the Buckeyes, who have lost four of their last five games including a first-round B1G Tournament contest to Penn State. Is there anyone on the Rambler roster who can stop EJ Liddell? I expect it to be a team effort. Loyola will likely need to shoot the ball well, but if they do, I think their defense can carry them to a W in this one. A probable round-two date with Villanova awaits.
#7 Murray State (30-2) vs. #10 San Francisco (24-9) – 8:40 PM Thursday – CBS
The Racers are not an MVC team, yet, but they are the only team in the dance that will be playing in the Valley next season and for that they have MVC Beat’s full support. Here we have a classic first-round mid-on-mid situation. The committee seems to like to do this. Both these teams are solid squads capable of making a run. Both teams piled up wins early in the season, with USF toppling the likes of Davidson, Nevada, Towson, UAB, UNLV, Arizona State, and Southern Illinois in the noncon. They did lose a neutral site game to Loyola, though. Murray’s noncon included wins over Memphis and Chattanooga and a loss to Auburn. In conference play, MSU continued to dominate the relatively weak OVC while USF ran into some issues in the tougher West Coast Conference losing seven times to finish fourth. That included three separate losses to Gonzaga, and two to Saint Mary’s. So, we have two great but relatively unproven commodities who will battle for a crack at Kentucky in round two. That probably means more to MSU than it does USF, hailing from the same state as the Wildcats. I hope they get their chance to take on their in-state brethren.
And that is it for this MVC postseason preview. I have left a handy viewing guide below for your pleasure. I am about 70% done with another article, a way-way-too-early look at next season, that I hope to release on Thursday or maybe even Wednesday. Until then, enjoy the madness and GO VALLEY!
MVC March Basketball Viewing Guide (All Times Central)
-Tuesday (NIT): Belmont (25-7) @ #4 Vanderbilt (17-16) – 6pm – ESPN2
-Tuesday (NIT): Missouri State (23-10) @ #1 Oklahoma (18-15) – 6pm – ESPN
-Wednesday (WNIT): Southern Illinois (21-9) @ Purdue (16-14) – 6pm – BTN+ (S)
-Wednesday (NIT): Northern Iowa (19-11) @ #3 Saint Louis (23-11) – 7pm – ESPN+ (S)
-Thursday (WNIT): Kansas City (23-8) @ Northern Iowa (22-10) – 6pm – ESPN+ (S)
-Thursday (WNIT): Drake (18-13) @ Missouri (18-12) – 7pm – (TBD), Likely SECN/ESPN+ (S)
-Thursday (WNIT): Murray State (22-9) @ Vanderbilt (14-18) – 7pm – SECN/ESPN+ (S)
-Thursday (NCAAW): #11 Florida State (17-13) vs. #11 Missouri State (24-7) – 8pm – ESPN2
-Thursday (NCAA): #7 Murray State (30-2) vs. #10 San Francisco (24-9) – 8:40pm – CBS
-Friday (NCAA): #7 Ohio State (19-11) vs. #10 Loyola (25-7) – 11:15am – CBS
-Friday (NCAAW) #2 Iowa (23-7) vs. #15 Illinois State (19-13) – 3pm - ESPN
-Saturday (CBI): #1 Drake (24-10) vs. #16 Purdue Fort Wayne (21-11) – 11am – FloHoops (S)
-Saturday (NCAAW): #5 Oregon (20-11) vs. #12 Belmont (22-7) – 4:30pm – ESPN2