Missouri Valley Conference Basketball

Missouri Valley Teams Get Screwed


It was a March Madness Selection Sunday that had more surprises than a CSI episode and Jerry Springer show combined. One major area of controversy focused on the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), which this year was honored with four seeds in the tournament-- Southern Illinois, Wichita State, Bradley, and Northern Iowa all won berths.

Some analysts, such as CBS’s Billy Packer and Jim Nantz, expressed dismay that so many teams from the ten-team MVC, which is not considered as competitive as the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, and others, received bids. Southern Illinois won the conference tournament, which earned them an automatic slot. The other three teams from the MVC have strong conference and non-conference records. Incase Mr. Packer and Mr. Nantz haven’t been paying attention this college basketball season, here is a little run down of the Missouri Valley schools, why they are deserving of five bids, and how the committee screwed them.

Northern Iowa was 23-9 overall and 11-7 in conference. Non-league wins included an impressive OT victory over number 12 Iowa (67-63) and another big OT win over number 24 Bucknell (65-61). The Panthers also went into LSU’s backyard and knocked off one of the SEC’s best teams. That’s right NIU beat the impressive Tigers on the road, something that not one SEC club was able to accomplish this season. All this was no good in the committee’s eyes as they stuck the Panthers with a 10 seed and shipped them off to play Georgetown in the first round.

Wichita State topped the MVC at the end of the season going 14-4 and 24-8 overall. Out of conference, they lost a nail biter to NCAA Tournament fourth seed Illinois (55-54) and another close one to tournament eleventh seed George Mason (67-70). During the regular season Wichita State was the strongest and most consistent team in the MVC. The Shockers were the only team in our opinion that did get a fair shake drawing a 7 seed and getting to play an overrated Seton Hall club.

Bradley, at 11-7 and 20-10, may be the most controversial pick from the conference. Not so much because of how they played, but the fact that they were chosen over Missouri State, which had a 12-6 conference record and a 20-8 overall mark. Missouri State, which earned wins over NCAA Tournament teams Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Oral Roberts, had an RPI ranking of 21, while Bradley’s was 33. In the RPI, the Bears were between Kansas (20) and Boston College (22). Both are fourth seeds in the tournament. Missouri State has the dubious honor of being the club with the highest RPI mark ever to not be invited to the Big Dance. It’s not so much that the MVC has been given preferential consideration with four spots but that one of those seeds belonged to Missouri State and not Bradley. With that being said Bradley is still one of the best at large teams left in the pool and should have been chosen. The Braves did have some injuries and player suspensions during the season that thankfully the committee took into consideration placing Bradley in the Big Dance.

Back to Missouri State. We really have a gripe about the Bears getting left out, not because of the 21 RPI, but because of the teams that were selected ahead of them. Off the top of my head UAB, Air Force, Seton Hall, Texas A&M, and Utah State, are all teams Missouri State would be favored by at least a bucket on a neutral court against yet all these teams are tournament bound and Mizz State is playing in the NIT.

Head coach Gary Williams said he would like to play Missouri State on a neutral court 3 times to see who the better club is. Gary Williams better watch what he says as I am sure the Bears would gladly take him up on that offer. In this hypothetical situation at this point of the season I am sure the oddsmakers would made Missouri State about 3-5 point favorites in this contest. Gary may get his wish as these 2 teams are matched up on opposite sides of the NIT bracket and could play if both make it to the championship game on the 30th.

In terms of the MVC being “favored” by the NCAA selection committee as some have put it, nothing could be father from the truth as outlined below. Southern Illinois drew a tough West Virginia team in the initial round, a senior laden team who went to the elite 8 last year and played in the Big East, the best conference in America. If the Salukis get by the Mountaineers, they’ll probably have to meet Iowa, the Big 10 Champs.

The committee didn’t do Bradley any favors as they will battle with fourth seed Kansas the best number 4 seed out there, who is a borderline 2-3 seed with the way they are playing now. If the Braves can some how win that one, they will most likely take on Pittsburgh, another prominent Big East school.

Northern Iowa will meet Georgetown in round one, a very difficult opponent. Georgetown as a 7 seed is another joke in itself. The Hoya’s played in the best conference in America and also took out #1 Duke earlier in the season. Regardless a terrible draw for the Panthers as they are now 4 point underdogs instead of being 2-3 point favorites against some of the other 7 seeds, namely Marquette and Cal.

Wichita State the only team with a favorable draw goes against Seton Hall and in the next round, if they get that far, probably Tennessee. Like we said the Shockers are the only team from the Missouri Valley conference that got a fair shake but that was probably because the committee ran out of Big East teams to match the MVC up with. Thankfully at least 1 MVC club should be able to advance to the second round.

If any of these teams get through the Second Round and make it to the Regional Round, they will certainly have proved their mettle. If there’s anything amiss here, it’s that Missouri State will not be playing in this post-season classic and the NCAA and the selection committee doesn’t want the Missouri Valley teams to do well in this seasons tournament.

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