The Missouri Valley Tournament kicks off tonight at the Enterprise Center. Everyone’s cinderalla story of 2018 Loyola comes in as the #1 seed and the obvious favorite to win the tournament for the second straight season. Despite Loyola-Chicago being the favorite this entire season has seen a conference that has flip-flopped at the top constantly, leaving this very open to all ten teams. The Valley will only be being getting one team in the NCAA tournament, so every team will be playing for their lives over the next four days. Let’s break it down.
The top 4 seeds.
#1 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 19-12 (12-6 MVC)
The Ramblers will welcome back wing Lucas Williamson for this tournament. Immediately making the best defensive team in the conference even better. The Ramblers are not the same team as the cinderella of 2018. They still feature 2018 Player of the Year Clayton Custer, center Caleb Krutwig and potential Player of the Year Marques Townes. The Ramblers are the best defensive team in the conference allowing a meager 60.9ppg in conference play. The offense has disappeared at times during the season. Leading to surprising losses to Bradley and twice to a rebuilding Missouri State team.
The Ramblers rank second to last in scoring offense in the conference they will have to rely on their defense and offensive efficiency if they want to go dancing for a second straight year.
#2 Drake Bulldogs 23-8 (12-6 MVC)
No one expected much from the Drake Bulldogs in 2019. Picked to finish second to last in the preseason polls Drake put together a great season that saw them lose out on the #1 seed by literally one game, still winning a share of the regular season championship. Much different then Loyola the Bulldogs are a strong offensive team leading the Valley in scoring and margin of victory. They are led by two seniors Forward Nick McGlynn and Guard Brady Ellington. McGlynn leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks.
#3 Southern Illinois Salukis 17-14 (10-8 MVC)
A sleeper team that can win it all may be the Southern Illinois Salukis. A team with great leadership from Head Coach Barry Henson and a group of upperclassman. The Salukis are a high level shooting team, 37% from behind the arc during the regular season.
Senior forward Armon Fletcher will lead the way for Southern Illinois averaging 16.6PPG, watch out for Kavion Pippen the nephew of Scottie Pippen protecting the rim. Pippen is averaging 1.9 blocks per game. The key for Southern Illinois will be the play of PG Aaron Cook, if he can play at a high level Southern Illinois could be a team to watch.
#4 Missouri State Bears 16-15 (10-8 MVC)
The Missouri State Bears took major strides under new Head Coach Dana Ford. Seniors Jarred Dixon and Ryan Kreklow have helped provide great leadership for a cast of transfers. Ford has gotten the Bears to buy into the methodical approach, running the clock and working the offense until they get their advantage. The MVC newcomer of the year Tulio Da Silva has been a force on both ends of the floor while transfer Keandre Cook can light up the score board at any moment. The Bears got a great draw with Bradley whom they defeated twice and potentially playing Loyola-Chicago who they have defeated twice in the regular season.
Illinois State defeats Evansville
Illinois State will impose their will, forcing a grind it out game which will play to their advantage.
Indiana State defeats Valparaiso
Indiana State has better shooters that will take advantage of poor Valpo defense
Loyola Chicago defeats Indiana State
The Ramblers play tight defense against the 3 and that is the may offense that Indiana State will bring to the table.
Missouri State defeats Bradley
Missouri State has defeated Bradley twice. The Bears will impose their will on the Braves in a low scoring affair.
Southern Illinois defeats Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa is to inconsistent to match the Southern Illinois offense. The Salukis will have a huge advantage on both ends.
Drake defeats Illinois State
Drake’s offense will be tough to matchup for Illinois State playing on a back to back nights.