Tag:missouri valley conference
Posted on: March 7, 2010 5:12 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2010 5:14 pm
 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your MVC Champs

C.M. TOMLIN


Today's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament -- or, as I like to call it, "The Battle of Who Has the Flattest, Bleakest Landscape" -- has seen its completion, and your MVC Champs are the repeating Northern Iowa Panthers over Wichita State 67-52. Junior Guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe, aside from being my favorite character from Total Recall, led the Panthers with 24 points as his boys toyed with the Shockers before soundly putting them away and claiming their rightful trophy.

So get used to seeing the name Northern Iowa, because for the second year they'll be in your tournament bracket. We actually got to catch up with the plucky hawkeyes during the College Basketball Road Trip, and if you followed that you know that we're quite the fans of this team and its fans, from one of the loudest student sections you'll ever be completely surprised to happen upon to gritty Irish-Polish Lucas O'Rear off the bench for some muscle. 

They're a good bunch of kids with a good staff behind them, and they're tougher than you might think. And somewhere tonight, Wichita State coach and regional State Farm agent of the year Gregg Marshall goes back to dreading March and the tornados he'll be soon watching roll across the prairie toward his freshly-bailed haystacks.

So another contender goes up on the board, and Sunday rolls along with mid-majors galore (look out, East Tennessee State). Of course, next weekend the party-crashers show up as the ranked giants show up and start hitting on Winthrop's girlfriend. But this weekend belongs to the little guy. It's like a high school band party right now -- next week it becomes a raging kegger.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:59 am
 

Missouri Valley Final is Coming

MATT JONES

11:00 AM

I will be the first to admit..."Arch Madness" has been a disappointment.  With the exception of Drake's buzzer beater on the first night, one could have slept through the last five minutes of most of the games and awaken fully content in the fact that they have missed nothing of consequence.  But I have a good feeling about today.  I am of the belief that today's final between Northern Iowa and Wichita State will make up for the boredom of the last four days with a potential classic that will even wake up the drunk Creighton fans.

A lot is at stake today.  For Northern Iowa, entry into the NCAA Tournament is likely a given.  But what the Panthers need to start worrying about is seeding in the Big Dance.  If they can win the MVC and things play out in the major tournaments the way they hope, one could see a #6 or #7 seed in the cards and a real chance to make some noise.  Lose this game however and the seeding drops, potentially into the dreaded 8/9 game and dreams of the Sweet 16 become much tougher to turn into reality.

For Wichita State however, it is a chance to change history.  The Shockers are headed to the final of the conference tournament for the first time since 1987, and the history of underachievement in Arch Madness has weighed on the program.  This year the Shockers have been overshadowed in conference all year by their brethren from Cedar Falls and this is a chance to get the national attention that they have been lacking all year.  Add to all of that the fact that the Shockers can make it two teams from the MVC, and it is enough to even get their crazy mascot off his feet.

So there you have it...a battle at 2 pm on CBS (I am already a corporate shill) that could end up being the game of the day.  I have picked against Wichita State all tournament long and have actually been to a game this year in Cedar Falls...so I will take UNI, 68-62 in a battle.  Either way, expect Wichita State fans to make hand signals which will have college students everywhere laughing.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 11:33 pm
 

The Day Ahead: Sunday of Championship Week

MATT JONES

11:45 PM

It was a day filled with college basketball, both large and small, a perfect example of what makes the sport great and how wonderful sports can be when you are playing for the name on the front...ah forget it, I cant do that with a straight face.  It was a highly entertaining day of hoops around the college game, although most of the big action occurred with the major powers.  Syracuse was beaten by Louisville for the second time this year, closing down Freedom Hall with chants of a player who going into the contest was averaging three points a game ("You got Kuriced!").  Kansas State kissed their hopes for a #1 seed goodbye with an embarassing loss at home to Iowa State that will force the bars in Manhattan to close extra late (11:00 pm) in order for people to drown their sorrows.  And Vanderbilt lost out on a chance at the SEC crown by losing at home to South Carolina and their coach with a 5th grader's haircut, Darrin Horn.  If you were a fan of the big boys, today was a good day.

But we are here to focus on Conference Tournaments, and in that realm...well I was a bit disappointed.  I had visions of tight matchups, crazy finishes and potential early-round upsets.  Instead, I got something quite different, and I am not just talking about Laphonso Ellis's announcer hair.  The usual suspects punched their tickets to the Big Dance and entertaining games were few and far between.  Lets look at what might qualify as the day's highlights:

1.  Three Tickets to the Big Dance Were Punched

---  We started with the biggest event in Conway, South Carolina since Ronnie Milsap came to town in 1982, as Winthrop defeated Coastal Carolina 64-53 to win the Big South Tournament,  I will admit that I watched the entire game but couldnt tell you one thing that happened during it, as it was played in the most boring manner possible in front of the smallest crowd that I have ever seen watch a game that was for an NCAA berth.  However that was exactly the scenario that Winthrop hoped to accomplish, attempting to slow the game down and believing that if it could hold Coastal Carolina under 60, it would win.  Well the Eagles did, and the Chantacleers ended the dream of an NCAA Tournament team based upon Geoffrey Chaucer.  For Winthrop, it is their 5th NCAA Tournament appearance in 6 years, and continues the trend of dominance over the league, even in years in which they didnt win the regular season title.  Winthrop moves on and someone who only knows basketball in March will see their likely 2-15 game and say "they could pull off a shocker."  I watched them today...they cant.  (John Wilkinson on the win and the fire on Winthrop's Campus)

---  The wackiest early Championship Week tournament concluded in the Atlantic Sun Conference with #5 seed East Tennessee State taking down Mercer 72-66 on Mercer's home court to make its second straight NCAA Tournament.  Again, it was another game that I watched from start to finish and struggled to find memorable moments.  ETSU is however coached by Gene Bartow's kid Murray, who isnt really a kid I guess since he has bigger bags under his eyes than Jeff Van Gundy, but who continues his dad's coaching legacy with another tournament bid.  ETSU is the early favorite to be the lowest ranked team in the field and could be headed for the play-in game in Dayton. However they are headed for the Big Dance, which is more than I can say for North Carolina, which just cut it to a 33 point second-half deficit against Duke.  If UNC were a horse, they would put a curtain around it and start setting up the flower memorials for children who need to weep.  (Thomas Beisner on why the NCAA Hates what the Atlantic Sun stands for)

---  The game of the night was supposed to be in the Ohio Valley Conference, as two heated rivals were going to produce a game that would justify me staying in on a Saturday night to watch OVC basketball.  Instead, we got a Murray State 62-51 snoozer of a victory over Morehead State that even left the players' families on both teams asking why they had been subjected to it.  The refereeing was atrocious, stopping the game of any real flow, and when Morehead's MVP, Kenneth Faried went down with an injury, well the game was more gone than Roy Williams' pride.  Murray's Isaiah Cannan led the way with not only his biblical name, but 16 points as well, setting Murray up as one of the truly dangerous teams in March.  If Murray ends up with a 13 or 14 seed, the team that draws them needs to be on major upset alert.  This Murray State team, like so many in year's past from the program, is built to make March noise and absent drawing Michigan State, I am picking them in the their first NCAA game.  (Here is CM Tomlin's take on the game)

2.  Butler and Siena Hang On

There are three teams playing in conference tournaments right now that could still be in line for NCAA berths even if they lose.  Northern Iowa and Butler are locks for the Big Dance and Siena still has dreams of making it, even if they lose the MAAC tournament.  Thus for major conference bubble teams, these three squads are their new darlings, because any loss by them means ones less team for the big boys.  Today Butler and Siena tried to make life interesting by falling down early in their tournament games.  Butler was in the most surprising trouble, actually trailing at halftime at home to UM-Milwaukee in the Horizon Conference Semifinals before coming back and winning 68-59.  In the MAAC, Siena had an even more difficult time, falling down ten late in the first half to Manhattan, before pouring it on late for a 78-61 win.  Butler now faces Wright State in the finals next week and Siena moves on to play Rider in the Semifinals.

3.  Form Held Everywhere

All across the land I awaited one upset that would leave me shaking in my boots and have my foundations crumbled.  All I got however was news that Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons were fighting, likely for the title of "which formerly really fun sports guy has seen his sense of self-importance skyrocket the most in the last two years?"  Even though opening rounds and quarterfinals took place all across the land, no #1 or #2 were knocked off and the closest thing to an upset occurred with #2 seed Northeastern held off Hofstra in the MAAC Tournament.  March is still hopefully going to be mad, but it just wasnt today.

SUNDAY----WHAT TO WATCH FOR

This Sunday is the proverbial "day of rest" before Championship Week hits a fevered pitch beginning on Monday.  But that doesnt mean that there arent storylines to follow and games to watch:

1.  Missouri Valley Conference Finals

The fifth ticket to the NCAA Tournament will be punched when Northern Iowa plays Wichita State for the MVC Tournament title on Sunday afternoon on CBS.  Stereotypically, "Arch Madness" provides us with the biggest games and at least one shocking upset every year, but this edition has been relatively tame.  Northern Iowa is playing not only for the championship, but seeding, as a win could put them in the 6-7 range when the brackets are finally announced.  Whereas Wichita State is playing for something much greater.  The Shockers have not been to the conference tournament final since 1987, a shocking tidbit considering the history of the program.  Their only chance to play in the NCAA is Sunday, and thus they will give the Panthers their best shot.  I have picked against Wichita State in every game and it has proved unsuccessful, so why not again.  Northern Iowa wins and the major conferences get another mediocre team in the Tournament.

2.  Six Sets of Semifinals Are on Tap

Its Semifinal day across the Tournament landscape, as conferences get ready to set their final matchups for early next week.  Most are relatively boring and can be skipped for your preparation for The Oscars, but two are worth watching:

Southern

#2 Western Carolina vs #1 Wofford

#2 College of Charleston vs #1 Appalachian State

Colonial

#1 Old Dominion vs #4 VCU

#2 Northeastern vs #3 William and Mary

Both of these conferences have been setting up for monster battles for the title all year long, but each team needs one more victory to get to the much-anticipated game.  In the Southern Conference, the possibility of Wofford vs Bobby Cremins and his white hair at College of Charleston has been the goal all year, and the two teams from the same division face stiff challenges in order to make it happen.  As for the Colonial (which Mike Rutherford broke down extensively here), Northeastern and Old Dominon both at one time had visions of potential at-large bids to the Tournament, but now both need to win the title to go dancing.  If they can take care of business on Sunday, their title matchup might be the best of all the smaller conference games during Championship Week.

3.  The MAC Tournament Starts

Well ok that isnt all that exciting, especially since it is only the opening round, but I needed three things and couldnt think of anything else.  But The Oscars are coming, so that counts for something right?  I have "Hurt Locker" as my best picture ("Up in the Air" is second, "Inglorious Basterds" is third), Jeff Bridges as Best Actor (He is great in "Crazy Heart") and I guess Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side", although she was never as good as her performance in Speed 2.  And if movies arent your thing, talk to your family...you wont get to much over this next month.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 1:07 am
 

The Day Ahead: Saturday of Championship Week

MATT JONES

1:00 AM

Chances are you spent Friday of Championship Week doing something that did not involve watching Round 1 of the MAAC Tournament.  Shame on you.  I have taught you better than that.  This is Championship Week and every game is crucial and should be followed with eager anticipation.  However you are busy we know, and you had to take the lady to see "Alice in Wonderland", so that is what we are here for...to give you a primer on what you missed and what is ahead for Saturday:

1.  Form Held in the MVC and OVC:

We were ready for wackiness to take place in St. Louis and Nashville, as the Ohio Valley Conference and the Missouri Valley headed for big games in their Semi and Quarterfinals respectively.  However, we were left with mundaneness that caused both arenas to grow more silent than a meeting of the Lane Kiffin Fan Club.  In Missouri, the top four seeds all won, with the two main contenders, Northern Iowa and Wichita State holding serve against Drake and Missouri State.  It sets up a strong semifinal, as those teams join Bradley and Illinois State in what should be a meaty doubleheader.  In Nashville, the battle that everyone has been waiting for was created as Morehead State exploded over Tennessee Tech and Murray State hung on to beat Eastern Illinois.  Murray vs Morehead could end up being the most competitive matchup of Championship Week.

2.  Detroit Woke Up the Horizon League

Lets face it, the Horizon League Tournament is going to set new levels in predictableness.  Butler is 18-0 on the season, is the dominant team in the league AND gets to host the tournament at home.  And oh yeah, if that isnt enough, the setup of the tournament allows them to have a straight bye into the Semifinals (I hate this trend in conference tournaments).  Thus the finals in this league will be of no interest.  But in the early rounds, the team that formerly employed Dick Vitale has made a small splash.  After beating Valparaiso in Round 1, Detroit upset #3 seeded Green Bay tonight, 62-53.  Detroit is once again the hot team in the league, having won six straight games and now will play Wright State, a team that beat it in both of its regular season meetings.

3.  Wackiness in the Atlantic Sun

I am starting to think that the Atlantic Sun Conference is playing their tournament on Super Nintendo.  In nearly every game, the lower seeded team has dominated the play and after the events on Friday, the Tournament will see a Championship game that will feature the #5 and 6 seeded teams in the Conference.    On Friday, East Tennessee State defeated Kennesaw State, 69-64 and host Mercer beat Jacksonville 66-63, setting a showdown between two mediocre teams for the right to play in the play-in game of the NCAA Tournament.  In both games, the action stayed close throughout and a friend who was in attendance told me that the games were like a "party that I was not invited to but that I crashed."  I dont know what that means, but I would assume it suggests that we all should have been in Macon, Georgia on Friday night.

There were also the beginnings to the Southern, West Coast, MAAC and Colonial Tournaments, but none of the games were very exciting and except for Elon beating Davidson (and no Stephon Curry doesnt play there anymore), there were no real upsets.

All of which leads me to WHAT IS ON TAP FOR SATURDAY.  There are three championship games with NCAA Berths on the line, and they should be your focus on Saturday. 

1.  BIG SOUTH FINAL:  #1 Coastal Carolina vs #3 Winthrop   4 pm

The second NCAA Tournament ticket will be punched in Conway, South Carolina, where the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina seek to make it to the Big Dance by beating a team that has been there a number of times in recent years, Winthrop.  Coastal Carolina is coached by Cliff Ellis, the former Auburn and Clemson coach, who is seeking to become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to take four different teams to the NCAA Tournament.  The Chanticleers (which is an odd name for a mascot and someone has some explaining to do to me as to why we accept it), were 28-5 on the season and anything short of a win in this game will be very disappointing.

2.  ATLANTIC SUN FINAL:  #5 East Tennessee State vs #6 Mercer  6 pm

We all have apparently missed quite the show in Macon.  I havent been there because I would never go to Macon without a subpoena and none of us have seen it on television because apparently some tv network thinks they are too good to show Atlantic Sun games.  But the tournament has been wacky and we are left with two teams with middling records and rather disappointing seasons, playing for a chance to go dancing.  Mercer is the host school and will have the crowd on its side, ETSU had the better season record, but Mercer swept the season series and will have the best individual player in the game in Guard James Florence.  Plus, I have been to ETSU and its in Johnson City, Tennessee and the girls there are fairly cute.  So chances are that ETSU will want to get out of Macon as soon as possible and return home, making Mercer the favorite.

3.  OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE FINAL:  #1 Murray State vs #2 Morehead State  8 pm

There will be those that will be watching Duke-North Carolina on Saturday night.  Dont follow their lead.  North Carolina is terrible this year and Duke has way too many guys that look like they were in the Mickey Mouse Club as children.  The real game of the night will be in Nashville where two OVC powers, Murray and Morehead will square off for the third time this season.  Both of these teams are talented, get up and down the court and their in-state rivalry has defined the OVC this year.  Murray is balanced and brings a lot of players who can score in a myriad of ways.  Morehead has a future NBA prospect (Kenneth Faried) on its roster and won when these two teams played just ten days ago.  This will be one of the best games of Championship Week, and if you miss it, you only have yourself to blame.

So there you go...a big day is ahead and I hope you are ready.  Other conferences such as the Summit, Big Sky, Sun Belt and America East kick off on Saturday as well, and good games will be taking place in St Louis and Indianapolis for the MVC and Horizon Semifinals.  But your attention should be focused on the Championship games, and six hours of great Championship Week goodness.  And if you watch the Duke-Carolina game, you should be forced to a punishment of actually eating dinner with Mike Patrick...I hear his gas is as bad as his stories are boring.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 12:26 am
 

Missouri Valley Holds Predictable Form on Day Two

MATT JONES

12:00 AM

Did you ever watch old episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" when you were a kid?  If you did, you noticed that each episode had a general set playbook.  Beaver or Wally would get into some shenanigan and it would look as if something bad would happen.  Usually the issue might involve mischief at the hands of Eddie Haskell or Lumpy, but in the end, Ward and June Cleaver would help find a way to make everything right and we would all learn a lesson in the end.  The episodes took 25 minutes or so, but they easily could have been condensed into 45 seconds of action/cuteness by Jerry Mathers, thus preventing you from wasting your half hour.  Nothing was new in any episode, yet I always watched, perfectly comfortable in the predictable results and unbelievable lack of humor.

I thought of these old "Beaver" episodes today as I watched a rather ho-hum set of Quarterfinals in the Missouri Valley Conference.  On this very blog, I had hyped the day of "Arch Madness" as one of the better basketball viewing days of the year, full of great basketball, fan revelry and general March mayhem.  Instead the biggest highlight was the lack of points scored by Drake, the drunkedness of the Creighton fans and playing "which of these guys would Larry Bird have punched in the face?" with the Indiana State roster.  The games were rather predictable, and the favorites all held serve, setting up for what would seem to be a "must-watch" day in the Semifinals (although I am not falling for the MVC's sultry tricks again, so I wont make you stay home and watch).

Each game had one highlight:

Drake Couldnt Score:  Yes we dealt with this earlier, but it bears repeating.  Drake went 21 game minutes of action without scoring a field goal, and producing only three points in total in the 55-40 loss.  That is over a half of game action without one basket going through the hoop.  I have spent the day trying to wrap my head around this (and the fact that Keno Davis is apparently no longer the Drake coach...I didn't get that memo) and all I can decide is this.  If you are going to be out of town for a weekend and you need someone to come and hang out with your wife, invite Drake, because they have shown they can't score.  HEY-O!!!!!

Friday is Sam Maniscalco Day:  I expected the game between Creighton and Bradley to be a battle and to come down to the end, as two evenly matched teams squared off and threw body blows for forty minutes.  Instead, I got a free throw shooting marathon, in which Bradley outlasted Creighton 81-62, while shooting 27-28 from the free throw line.  The king of the charity stripe was Maniscalco, who scored a career-high 31 points on 18 of 19 free throw shooting in the victory.  Maniscalco (whose name emasculates all who speak it) had a previous high of 21 points on the season and in a game against Creighton last week, he scored only 3 points in 40 minutes of action.  But that game wasn't on Friday, proving that nothing pumps Sam up like the thought of finishing a game and getting home to see what Urkel, Balki and Uncle Joey are going to be up to on ABC.

Wichita State is Due:  I upset the Shocker masses (a sentence I rarely get to say) by picking against the boys from Wichita in their battle against Missouri State and for most of the game, I looked like I could be a wise sage.  The game was tight throughout and until a key Garrett Stutz three late, the #2 seeded Shocker team looked to be in trouble in its "closer than the score indicates" 73-63 victory.  However once again big shots and (repeat after me) clutch free throw shooting helped the Shockers move on and ruin the dreams of Missouri State fans everywhere.  Wichita State is now looking to make the conference tournament finals for the first time since 1987.  Can you believe that?  In 1987, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the Shockers havent even been to a title game since then?  If there was ever time to end a lingering 23 year jinx, Saturday is that day.

Illinois State is Hot:  I dont necessarily mean the state of Illinois, although it could be hot as well, but the ISU basketball team, which has now won 7 of its last 8.  Illinois State overcame the fact that it, like many in the crowd, was unaware that there were two "ISUs" in the conference and were thus able to focus and beat the kids from Terre Haute, 69-65 behind 17 points from Austin "One Tree" Hill.  The Redbirds now move on to play Wichita State and as I incorrectly predicted last night, Wichita State is due for a beating.  They havent made the finals since 1987 and if I have learned anything in life, it is that 23 years of consistency begats a 24th.  Take all your finances, mortgage your house, move the kids to military school and BET IT ALL ON INDIANA STATE.  Its happening this round, I know it....Wichita State is going down.

So there you go, a rather tame day of "Arch Madness."  However Saturday's semifinals pit the four best teams in the conference against each other and both matchups are repeats of good games from the regular season.  So if you get the MVC channel and can move the drunk Creighton fan out from in front of the television, catch the games tomorrow.  They will be stellar.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:30 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 5:43 pm
 

Drake Does the 21 Minute Walk of Shame

MATT JONES

4:30 PM

Northern Iowa beat Drake 55-40 in the Missouri Valley Conference Quarterfinals.  That much is not surprising and really not all that interesting.  The UNI Panthers were led by Alex Koch and Lucas O'Rear (they make great names in Cedar Falls), who helped bully past Drake with a 29-2 run that took an 11 point deficit and turned it into a 16 point lead.  UNI now moves on to play the winner of Creighton and Bradley, which is being played now in front of an arena full of drunk Creighton fans who are just glad to be out of Omaha and partying in St Louis.

However what is interesting about the Drake defeat is that Mark Phelps' club went 21 minutes without scoring a field goal.  Yes you read that correctly, from the 8 minute mark in the first half to the 7 minute mark in the second half, Drake could not manage to make A SINGLE SHOT.  Not one.  Yes Northern Iowa is statistically the #2 defensive team in America and yes, they were at their best playing a tired Drake team on Friday afternoon.  But still...21 minutes of clock time without a basket?  For real?  21 minutes is a really long time and for comparison sake, here are some things that have occurred during a similar 21 minute time period:

1.  Stephen A. Smith recieved, and then had cancelled, two ESPN talk shows.

2.  Duke players slapped the floor 143 times

3.  Kansas Assistant Coaches invited four porn stars to sit courtside for the Big 12 Tournament

4.  Gregg Doyel received 58 pieces of hate mail and was able to understand 6 of them.

5.  Tom Crean was mistaken for Dwight Schrute four times.

6.  Dick Vitale's voice caused my dad to mute four television sets.

7.  Northern Iowa's Senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh had his name mispronounced by five announcers...and that is even before Verne Lundquist shows up for Sunday's game.

8.  Dick Cheney had three heart attacks.

9.  Rick Reilly phoned in two columns in which he told the heartwarming tale of one kid wiith a (insert disability/tragedy/eating disorder/sleep apnea) who has overcome his demons to show the "true meaning of sport.".

10.  Eight elderly people actually read a hard copy of a newspaper!

So as you can see, a lot can happen in 21 minutes, but for Drake, none of those happenings were actually putting points on the board against Northern Iowa.  I actually watched the vast majority of this game and I feel a better man for it.  But I am also certain that next year when I see "Drake" listed on any potential parlays, I will be taking the under.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 12:13 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 3:01 pm
 

The Day Ahead: Friday of Championship Week

BY MATT JONES

While the preliminary games have been scattered throughout the week, in all actuality today is the day that Championship Week begins with authority.  Last night we saw some random scatterings of games and one great finish, but Friday is the day that we start moving towards bids actually being given and the first battles of big teams trying to punch their March tickets.  A primer on what you might have missed last night and what is coming today:

LAST NIGHT WHILE YOU WERE WATCHING THE OFFICE:

Missouri Valley First Round:

The most major of the mid-major conferences kicked off last night with Missouri State beating Evansville in a snoozer and Drake providing the first "March Madness" image of the 2010 postseason, with a buzzer beater victory over Southern Illinois.  The Salukis had a ten point lead with just eight minutes to go, but then scored only six points to close out the game. 

Big South Semifinals

The first championship game was set last night as the Semifinals of the Big South took place in front of family and friends.  Coastal Carolina took care of UNC Asheville 93-72 and confirmed itself as the heavy favorite to make the NCAA Tournament when the finals hit on Saturday.  In the first major upset of the Big South Tournament, Winthrop beat higher seeded Radford, 61-46 and will not face the fight Carolinas of the Coast on Saturday for the first official NCAA bid and the right to have their faces plastered on the halftime report of CBS games all weekend.

Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals

The first conference that has actually made March "mad" is the Atlantic Sun, where all the top teams are falling and a date in the Play-in game for the champion seems all but certain.  Top seed Lipscomb lost to Kennesaw State (that is a real school), East Tennessee State and Mercer beat higher seeds Campbell and Belmont and now Jacksonville has reached its greatest heights since Artis Gilmore, as it remains the top-seeded team left in the tournament.  The new favorite is probably ETSU, which rides a 5 game winning streak into wackiest tournament currently on the market.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY:

1.  The Most Competitive Day of Basketball You Didnt Know About

They call it "Arch Madness" and for true basketball aficionados, it may be one of the best three-day basketball feasts available.  In the Missouri Valley Conference , they play basketball with fundamentals, grittiness and a lot of Midwestern spunk.  And oh yeah, the teams arent bad either.  When you think of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, you may think of corn and flat land, but MVC basketball should enter into your mind (at least before the vastly overrated "Field of Dreams").  Today may be the best day of that form of basketball that you will see...four games, showcasing the eight best teams.  The schedule:

#1 Northern Iowa vs  #8 Drake:          1:00 pm
#4 Creighton      vs.  #5 Bradley:        3:30 pm
#2 Wichita St      vs   #7 Missouri St    7:00 pm
#3 Illinois St       vs   #6 Indiana St    9:30 pm

If you get the channels where the games are on or live close to St. Louis, watch the games.  They will be good (and Missouri State will upset Wichita State...you heard it here first)

2.  OVC  Semifinals

All season it has seemed that the conference crown would come down to a Murray State vs Morehead State tournament clash.  We saw those two teams play each other on the College Basketball Road Trip and now they each need one more win for a rematch.  Murray State plays Eastern Illinois and Morehead has Tennessee Tech, with both games on ESPNU.  If you love college basketball and have no woman on a Friday night (those two things are not mutually exclusive), then settling down for some OVC battles in Nashville might be a good option.

3.  Atlantic Sun Semifinals

They arent on television and chances are if you say you are watching the "Atlantic Sun", people will think you are attempting to find yourself on a beach while growing a beard.  But there have been no games more entertaining than the ones taking place in Macon, Georgia.  Mercer plays Jacksonville and Kennesaw State battles East Tennessee State, with the winners likely being the biggest surprises to play for an NCAA berth.  And if you are reading this and already know what state Kennesaw State is actually in, then this blog and Championship Week are just for you.

Add to these, the beginning of the Southern, MAAC, Horizon and WCC Tournaments and tonight is as busy a Friday night as you will see in college basketball.  So send the kiddies off to see "Alice in Wonderland", sit back and let One Blogging Moment give you a Friday of basketball goodies.  Or go see the movie...I hear its good.

Matt Jones is the founder of the college sports blog KentuckySportsRadio .


Posted on: March 4, 2010 11:43 pm
 

Rolling With My Boy Drake and other MVC Notes

MATT JONES

11:30 PM



As part of this Championship Week coverage, I am reporting on five conferences.  Most of them have funny names that make you feel like you are heading towards the Oregon Trail and are likely made up, such as "Big Sky" and "Horizon."  Others however are conferences that you are told every year are "mid-major" and are "sleepers" and "Billy Packer hates them with a passion."  One of those such conference is the Missouri Valley Conference, which has produced team after team of guys with floppy hair who can shoot threes better than you.  On the off chance that you were distracted by the baby episode of "The Office", (which was decent but has me worried that the show will become way too baby-oriented and as all people my age can tell you, when your friends become too baby-oriented, they become lame...but I digress) then it is up to me to let you knowthis year's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament actually began tonight. 

Unlike in past years, the Missouri Valley is a one-bid league this year unless its top team, Northern Iowa were to get upset in the tournament in St. Louis.  Thus every game at the MVC Tournament is not only a chance to see Nelly live and in person, but also an elimination game that could spell the end of your postseason, unless you get invited to whatever constitutes that wacky "CBI" Tournament.  Northern Iowa is the distinct favorite, but teams like Wichita State, Creighton and Illinois State are perfectly constituted to pull an upset.  That is why all day on Friday we will be giving you game by game MVC coverage on this blog to let you see what is happening in the "Biggest Little Conference in America", right before the Championship game is played on CBS on Sunday.   

Tonight there were two opening games, and they went like this:

DRAKE 63  SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 61

If you are like me, you probably assumed that Southern Illinois was good this year.  They were picked 4th in the conference preseason, have that coach that every year is called an "up and comer" in Chris Lowery and are located Carbondale, Illinois, a place that just sounds like it should be home to a mid-major champion.  But the reality is that the Salukis have actually been disappointing for two straight seasons, finishing last year with a losing record and this year at .500.  Tonight they lost to Drake on a last-second buzzer beater by Josh Young of Drake, producing the first such game-ending shot of the Championship week season.  Southern Illinois was up 10 with 8 minutes ago but channeled their inner Greg Norman for a choke job that will have the Salukis shaking their heads during the long offseason.  For Drake, the reward is a 1 pm tipoff against in-state rival, Northern Iowa in what will likely be the "game you can skip" of the MVC Tournament.  Although both losses came in close games, Drake is 0-2 this year against Northern Iowa and with the quick turnover in game time and the disparity in talent, will soon be 0-3.  But hey, at least they got one conference tournament victory and were great in "Degrassi."

MISSOURI STATE 52  EVANSVILLE 46

There are certain moments in which you need to take a step back, look at the way you are spending your time and evaluate your life.  One of those moments occurred for me tonight as I desperately searched the MVC website trying to find a live feed of the Missouri State-Evansville 7-10 matchup in the first round of the Conference Tournament.  I ended up spending an hour following along via a live gamecast and recognizing that the worst basketball played outside of the Young Republicans Convention was taking place on a court in St Louis between these two juggernauts.  Both teams shot poorly, played sloppy and in the end, Missouri State pulled out the victory.  Going into the tournament, Missouri State was my sleeper, mainly because they lost their last 6 games by only a combined 20 points and still have 20 overall wins on the season.  They will have to play better than they did tonight, but I am going out on a limb for tomorrow.  MISSOURI STATE WILL BEAT WICHITA STATE IN THE SECOND ROUND

There you heard it here first....the big upset of the MVC Tournament will occur tomorrow night in the late game.  So call all your friends, wake them up, tell them that there is a school they have never heard of called Missouri State and they will beat Wichita State tomorrow night.  Then find new friends.  See you tomorrow.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com