• MVC Beat

Quick Hitters: Ranking MVC Basketball Openers By Difficulty

Hello all! With basketball season on the horizon, I wanted to get some more hoops content out there. This isn’t my day job, and I only have so much bandwidth between football and basketball, my day job and real life. I will mostly be posting quick hitter articles for hoops until football season dies down.


The other day I noticed that all ten Valley schools are in action on opening night. In this article, I am going to quickly rank the opening games by difficulty from the perspective of the Valley team. I’ll also include game times and broadcast information.


10.) Coe College Kohawks @ Drake Bulldogs – 7pm – ESPN3

You typically expect to see some mismatched games on opening night, but the only Valley team playing a lower division opponent to open the season is Drake. They’ll be hosting the D3 Kohawks of Coe College. Coe finished in the middle of the American Rivers Conference last year, and will have already played twice before their appearance in the Knapp Center on Tuesday. I don’t expect the Valley co-favorites to break much of a sweat in this one.


9.) Coppin State Eagles @ Loyola Ramblers – 7pm – ESPN3

The other Valley co-favorites are not facing too much of a challenge either. Coppin State is picked to finish in the middle of the MEAC (with one first place vote) which is typically one of the weaker leagues in the nation. The Eagles do have a member of both the preseason MEAC first team and second team, so they have a couple guys to watch out for. You may recall Coppin State shocked Loyola in Rogers Park two years ago, so the Ramblers are unlikely to take them lightly.


8.) Southeast Missouri State Eagles @ Missouri State Bears – 7pm – ESPN+

Two decades ago, this would have been an uber-directional rivalry game, but our Bears claimed the definitive Missouri State name and have sort of built their university identity around it. SEMO is picked fourth in the Ohio Valley, but it is a distant fourth behind Belmont, Morehead and Murray. If Mo State is as good as they’re supposed to be they should have little trouble with this one at home.


7.) UNC-Wilmington Seahawks @ Illinois State Redbirds – 7pm – ESPN3

Wilmington was picked a distant ninth out of ten in the CAA with no members of the preseason teams and are (on paper) one of the worst teams an MVC team will face this weekend. However, much the same can be said about Illinois State relative to the rest of the MVC. I give the Redbirds the edge playing at home, but it should be a good game between two teams trying to find their identity.


6.) Southern Illinois Salukis @ Little Rock Trojans – 5pm – ESPN+

The Trojans are talked about as a low-key candidate for MVC expansion and have had some basketball success recently. However, they are picked 8th out of 12 in the Sun Belt and don’t have a ton of expectations this year. Southern Illinois does have expectations, and they will look to start the year off right and avoid an L in a tricky road game. This isn’t a given W for SIU but starting the season with a decent road W would be big for them and the league. If they want to be part of the mix at the top, they need to win games like this.


5.) Nicholls Colonels @ Northern Iowa Panthers – 7pm – ESPN3

UNI is hoping to show definitively that they are back and will be MVC title and at-large contenders this year. They picked a challenging-but-not-overly-so opener. Nicholls is not a powerhouse, but they are picked to be the favorites in the Southland Conference. The SLC is not a great conference by any means, but any school that is picked to win their league is going to come in with confidence. They also won their league last year. UNI should win at home, but the Colonels won’t just lay down here.


4.) Indiana State Sycamores @ Green Bay Phoenix – 7pm – ESPN+

This is another contest between two teams looking to find their identities. The Phoenix are picked second-to-last in the twelve team Horizon League after finishing 8-17 last year. Indiana State may-or-may-not be playing with Tyreke Key, and if not, this will be a very untested team with several new players and a new coach playing their opener on the road without their leader. That is tough no matter who you are playing, and while Green Bay may have a forgiving roster this will no doubt be a tough one for the Sycamores.


3.) Toledo Rockets @ Valpo Beacons – 6pm – ESPN+

Valpo has scheduled a bit of a banger for their opening contest of the season as the MAC’s Toledo Rockets will be coming to the ARC. Toledo was picked third in the MAC (with one first place vote) and sophomore guard Ryan Rollins was named to the preseason MAC first team. The Beacons’ new additions will have to gel quickly to get a W against a squad that finished 21-9 and played in the NIT last season. Playing at home will certainly help.


2.) Evansville Purple Aces @ Cincinnati Bearcats – 6pm – ESPN+

The Purple Aces have a challenge on their hands with the American/Big 12’s Bearcats of Cincinnati. UC is coming off an offseason of turmoil. They missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 and head coach John Brannen was fired for the toxic culture he had created within the program. The Aces know a thing or two about rebuilding after the end of a toxic two-year coaching tenure. Cincinnati is likely more vulnerable than usual, but the Aces will still need to play an excellent game to come out of this one with a W.


1.) Bradley Braves @ South Dakota State Jackrabbits – 8:15pm – ESPN+

The Valley’s toughest task of opening night goes to the rebuilt Bradley Braves who head to Frost Arena to face an SDSU Jackrabbits team that beat them last year in Peoria. That SDSU team finished 16-7 with wins over the likes of Utah State and Iowa State and lost in the Summit League Tournament on a buzzer beater to eventual Sweet 16 participants Oral Roberts. SDSU is picked to win the Summit again this year, and sports two members of the league’s preseason first team (Baylor Scheierman and Douglas Wilson), and a member of the second team (Noah Freidel). Bradley will have to be sharp to come out of Brookings with a win, but if they do what an excellent start to the season it would be.


And that is all for this quick hitter! Good luck to all the MVC teams in their openers on Tuesday. GO VALLEY!

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