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Quick Hitter: Worst MVC Team This Millennium?

I was listening to the @MarchArchPod and an interesting question was posed to the hosts. Is this year’s Evansville team the worst MVC team this millennium? The guys had some good options but didn’t give a definitive answer. I set out to answer that question with this quick hitter article. What squad was the worst MVC team since 2000?

To be eligible for this list you have to have finished at least tied for last place. My logic is, if you weren’t even the worst team in your season, how could you be the worst of the last 22 years? Also, I should note that there really isn’t a definitive, obvious answer to this question (which is probably why the MarchArch guys didn’t have one). If you pushed the timing back just a few years you’d have the 96-97 and 97-98 Drake Bulldogs that finished a combined 5-50 with an 0-36 mark in league play (those five wins, by the way, include a win over Loyola, an Arch Madness win, and a win over Iowa State). Those squads are worse than any on this list. However, they didn’t play this millennium, so they are not eligible.

Here are my candidates for worst MVC team of the millennium.

2000-2001 Northern Iowa Panthers (7-24, 3-15): This Panther team managed to win just three nonconference games against Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Jackson State, and something called American-Puerto Rico. They started 0-7 in the MVC (as part of a 10-game losing streak) and managed just three home victories in the league. They did, however, beat 7th seeded Drake at Arch Madness and nearly advanced to the semifinals after losing to 2nd seeded Bradley 59-56 in the quarterfinals.

2001-2002 Indiana State Sycamores (6-22, 4-14): It was a down year for the MVC, with three teams totaling single digit wins and only four finishing above .500. ISU was actually the nine seed at Arch Madness after tying for last, but still may have been the worst of the bunch. The Trees won just two noncon games against Murray State and IUPUI before a 4-14 league season in which they did not beat anyone who finished in the top six of a weak MVC.

2002-2003 Indiana State Sycamores (7-24, 2-16): This Indiana State team won a decent amount of noncon games (4-a pair each against the Horizon and OVC) but finished three games out of 9th in the final MVC standings after suffering both a 10-game losing streak and a 6 game losing streak in league play. Still, they beat 7th seeded UNI at Arch Madness and nearly pulled off the biggest upset in MVC Tournament history with a one-point quarterfinal loss to 19th ranked Creighton. That two-day stretch might be enough to keep them out of the running for worst of all-time.

2008-2009 Missouri State Bears (11-20, 3-15): The league went through a golden era where no one was really that bad in the mid-2000s. That is probably one of the reasons the league got multiple bids regularly. This MSU team falls into that category too, as they were a healthy 8-5 in the nonconference. However, they were a full four games behind ninth place in the final MVC standings, well behind every one of their contemporaries, so they bear considering. Still, they probably did enough to avoid being the worst of all time by quite a margin.

2009-2010 Evansville Purple Aces (9-21, 3-15): With a 6-6 nonconference record, these guys look to have done enough to avoid the title of the worst. But two of their wins came against D2 squads and they were a full three games behind ninth place SIU. This team started the MVC season 0-13, and they were 1-15 when they shockingly beat 25th ranked UNI (and then Drake) to finish the regular season. They were the last team to beat that UNI squad until Michigan State in the Sweet 16. Even with that UNI win, this is a squad that is a real candidate for the cellar, but probably did enough to avoid it.

2011-2012 Bradley Braves (7-25, 2-16): This BU squad started the season 3-0 and was 5-4 after nine games. From there they went 2-21. They lost nine in a row, beat UNI at home, lost six in a row, beat Indiana State at home, and lost six more in a row to end the season, including a 65-49 blasting by 7th seeded Drake at Arch Madness. Their 2-16 league record left them 3 games behind 9th place SIU, who themselves were three games behind 8th place Indiana State. This was a very, very bad team and a definite candidate for worst of the millennium.

2013-2014 Loyola Ramblers (10-22, 4-14): Loyola’s debut season in the MVC wasn’t pretty. They had a few noncon wins against low-major teams and did win four MVC games, but finished losing nine of their last ten regular season contests. Still, double-digit wins coupled with Milton Doyle’s heroics on Thursday in St. Louis probably keep them from being a serious “worst of the millennium” candidate.

2014-2015 Bradley Braves (9-24, 3-15): Geno Ford’s last year in Peoria was a train wreck. Accruing just four DI noncon wins, Bradley finished dead last after losing nine of their last ten games and fourteen out of their last sixteen. The Braves did get an upset win over Drake in the play-in round of Arch Madness before falling by 25 to UNI in the quarterfinals. This was a team that had but one sophomore and two freshmen and were supposed to be a lot better. They are a candidate for worst of all-time as well.

2015-2016 Drake Bulldogs (7-24, 2-16): One could argue that this Drake team wasn’t even the worst in the league that season, as Bradley finished one game ahead of them in the standings but just 5-26 overall. Still, standings don’t lie so the Bulldogs are the 2015-16 reps on this list. A decent noncon run saw them claim wins over the likes of Western Kentucky, Pepperdine and UIC. However, Drake started 0-9 in the MVC before a win over Bradley, then lost seven more before a win over Loyola. This is a squad that did not win a road game all season. Definite candidates for the title here. FWIW, 9th place Bradley won only one noncon game against a DI team. Possibly an all-time worst for this list.

2016-2017 Drake Bulldogs (7-24, 5-13): Nevermind, Drake matched it the next season with a lone DI win over Mississippi Valley State. Coach Ray Giacoletti was fired after a 1-7 start to the season. Replacement Jeff Rutter started league play an impressive 5-4, but the Bulldogs finished the year with ten consecutive losses. Five conference wins is the high-water mark for squads on this list, but the lack of any noncon presence and the absolute implosion to finish the year makes this squad a strong entry in the race for worst of the millennium.

2019-2020 Evansville Purple Aces (9-23, 0-18): Perhaps the most interesting team on this list, a lot happened at UE during the 2019-2020 season. Fan enthusiasm was at an all-time high as coach Walter McCarty navigated UE to a win at top ranked Kentucky in the second game of the year. UE had a respectable 9-4 nonconfernce run before McCarty was removed from his post in scandal. Caretaker coach Bennie Seltzer could only manage an 0-6 record, and full-time replacement Todd Lickliter finished 0-13 for the first (and to date only) winless MVC season by any squad in the new millennium.

2021-2022 Evansville Purple Aces (6-21, 2-14): The book is not yet finished for this squad, but they have put up the bona fides to be considered among the worst teams so far. Currently two games short of 9th place, this team’s 4-7 noncon record includes a win over 2-22 IUPUI, an 11-point win over D3 Depauw, a win over 5-24 EIU, and a win over 9-19 Tennessee Tech. If the Aces lose their last two to Loyola and Mo State, they’ll finish with just six wins total heading into Arch Madness. That would tie them with 2001-02 Indiana State for fewest on the list.

So, who is the worst of the worst? After digging through it, I have five finalists.

· 01-02 Indiana State

· 11-12 Bradley

· 14-15 Bradley

· 15-16 Drake

· 19-20 Evansville

· 21-22 Evansville

It is tough to pick a “winner” here as they can all make a pretty “good” case. I am going to go with the 2014-15 Braves as my choice as they are the only ones that don’t really have any type of saving grace. They had only four noncon wins against DI teams, and they lost 14 of their last 16. I nearly cleared them due to their Arch Madness win, but they got torched in the quarterfinals so it wasn’t enough to save them. The Evansville team of 2020 had that huge W and some extenuating circumstances. The 2015-16 Drake team, and 2011-12 Braves team were also very similar, but they weren’t the Veteran team that the 14-15 Braves were. The ’02 Trees were saved by that Arch Madness run, and it is too early to call the 21-22 Aces the worst of all time. The 2014-15 season was Geno Ford’s last chance, it was a veteran team, and that squad just completely came apart.

Well, that is all for this quick hitter. Congrats to the fans of Southern Illinois and Illinois State who are the only schools that have been in the league for the full 22 years and didn’t have an entry on this list. GO VALLEY!

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Feb 23, 2022

You're not wrong including the two Drake squads on the list. They've certainly earned their spot. But I do want to give a shoutout to the follow up 2017-18 squad that finished third in the conference with the same guys. Those seniors certainly left Drake with their heads held high.

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