I miss last week. It was so full of excitement and hope. Loyola had a favorable draw in the Sweet 16, and the MSU women were on their way to locking up a Sweet 16 berth themselves. Even UNI’s women had made a run to the WNIT Final Four. All was well in the world of the MVC. Then this week happened.
As you probably already know if you’re reading this, Loyola laid an egg on Saturday in the Sweet 16. After showing the world the peak of what they were capable of in handling top seed Illinois with ease in the second round, they showed the other side of what they were capable of in the Sweet 16. The Ramblers made only four baskets and scored just 16 points in the first half in trailing 24-16 at the break. After falling behind by as much as 13 at one point, Loyola stuck around. There were a few instances when it felt like they were on the cusp of turning it around and pulling it out, but they never quite got over the hump. If you have been watching Loyola all year, you knew this was a possibility. The Ramblers have had their share of rough offensive nights, with long periods where they just couldn’t find the bucket. In MVC play against the likes of Southern Illinois, Valpo and UNI the Loyola was often able grind it out. But when the plague hit in the Sweet 16, Loyola couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole. Still, yet another great run for the Ramblers and the MVC. Its to the point where we almost expect this type of thing from a Valley squad in the dance. We’ll see which of Loyola’s seniors return next year, but no matter what you’d expect them to come in as one of the favorites in the league in 21-22.
On the women’s side, things got ugly. Missouri State advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins over a 12 and 13 seed, but the competition ramped up considerably when they faced top seeded Stanford in the next round. It was always going to be a tall order for MSU to pull off an upset, but you hoped they would have at least been more competitive. The Lady Bears trailed 49-26 at halftime and 71-37 after three quarters before a decent fourth made the final score a more respectable 89-62. Do not let that take away from the Lady Bears run, though. Stanford is a team that blew through its schedule including winning its three Pac 12 Tournament games by an average of 31 points. If you look at their schedule, blowouts were the norm. They played 27 games heading into the tournament and won 19 by at least 20 points. MSU is still an outstanding basketball team that had an outstanding season and pushed MVC hoops forward into what will hopefully be regular multi-bid territory soon. UNI also made the semifinals of the WNIT where they fell to Ole Miss 60-50.
The transfer portal is busy this year. With a one-time transfer rule likely to be approved and an extra year of eligibility creating a glut of senior/grad transfers, by one estimate there could be well over 1,200 DI men’s basketball athletes in the portal this offseason. Not all are going to find what they want. The MVC has not been immune, and some programs have been hit harder than others. After Greg Lansing was let go, Indiana State has seen eight guys enter the portal including key players Jake Laravia, Cooper Neese and Tre Williams. Laravia has already landed at Wake Forest while Williams will play at Duquesne. After the mess that was the latter part of the last season in Peoria, Bradley’s Danya Kingsby, Kevin McAdoo, Terry Nolan Jr, Sean East and Antonio Thomas have all entered the portal. Kingsby is off to Grambling while Nolan will play at Towson. Valparaiso has also seen a mass exodus to the portal with Donovan Clay, Nick Robinson, Mileek McMillan, Daniel Sackey and Jake Ogacevic the most noteworthy of a group of seven (none of whom have landed elsewhere yet). Those schools have been hit the hardest but they aren’t the only ones to take a hit. Evansville has already lost one of their three that entered the portal (Samari Curtis to Bowling Green). Illinois State’s biggest hit is Keith Fisher, who opted out last season and transferred to UTEP this year. Dedric Boyd and Abdou Ndaiye (Fullerton) have also left the program. Missouri State has seen only Jared Ritter enter. SIU, UNI and Drake have only seen the little used Eric Butler, Connor Gholson and Evan Gauger (respectively) enter the portal (although Noah Carter hopped on and then back off for UNI). Loyola has no one in the portal as of now, but their season just ended. They have a lot of guys who likely will graduate but still retain one more COVID year of eligibility. What happens with their roster will probably be one of the biggest storylines of the offseason for the MVC. Bottom line: the Valley will look different next year. But ours isn’t the only league dealing with this problem, and it can also work in reverse. The Valley could end up bringing in as much talent is it loses. In what basically will be a year of free agency for college players, it should be an interesting offseason for college hoops fans.
-UNI had quite a day yesterday. Early in the day it was announced that assistant coach Kyle Green, better known as AJ Green’s dad, was leaving UNI to become an assistant at Iowa State. Speculation ran rampant that AJ would be following him. It makes sense, as one would assume his dad was the primary reason AJ was at UNI to begin with. Later on, it was reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls courier that AJ and his sister Emerson (who plays for UNI’s women’s team) would be remaining in Cedar Falls. This was confirmed with a direct quote from AJ. Then, shortly thereafter it was confirmed that with the exception of walk-on Evan Gauger all of UNI’s eligible players would be returning next season including Trae Berhow, Tywhon Pickford, Antwan Kimmons, Goanar Mar and Noah Carter (who had previously entered the transfer portal). A full article was published not long after. Quite a rollercoaster ride for UNI fans, but overall it was a good day despite losing one of your best assistant coaches. Things could be setting up for a special year in Cedar Falls. They said that last year too…..I know……but maybe it is for real this time you guys.
This will probably be my last MVC article in some time. I’ll probably pop back on as rosters start to take shape or if there is any other major news to talk about. But for the most part, with the season over, this should be it until next season. Thank you to everyone who read my stuff this year! I had a blast doing this and I hope to be back next year. Thanks everyone and Go Valley!