Conference Tournament Primer: Missouri Valley ConferencePosted by Adam Stillman on March 6th, 2014
Day four of Championship Fortnight means three more conferences tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next two weeks of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s conference tournaments. Today, the MAAC, MVC and WCC get started.
Dates: March 6-9
Site: Scottrade Center (Saint Louis, MO)
What to expect: The big story here will be Wichita State’s undefeated season. Can the Shockers become the first team since 1991 UNLV to enter the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished record? Or will Indiana State or Northern Iowa pull an upset and force Wichita State to settle for equaling 10-year-old history? Recall Saint Joseph’s went unbeaten during the 2004 regular season before falling in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The MVC is down compared to years past, undoubtedly exacerbated by Creighton’s departure to the Big East, and it will be a shocker if Wichita State and Indiana State don’t meet in Sunday’s tournament final.
Favorite: Wichita State. As if this needed answering. The Shockers have romped through the Missouri Valley this season, winning their 18 games by an average 15.6 points per game. Wichita State is a top-15 team on offense and defense, according to Ken Pomeroy, and it would be a monumental upset if the Shockers don’t enter the NCAA Tournament with a 34-0 record.
Darkhorse: Northern Iowa. The third-seeded Panthers have won three straight games entering the MVC Tournament, and only lost by an average of 11.5 points in its two games against Wichita State this season. The Panthers have the 33rd-best offense in the nation, according to KenPom, and could pose a threat in a potential title game matchup. In fact, Northern Iowa was the best offensive team from an efficiency standpoint in MVC games only.
Who wins: Wichita State. I don’t think there’s much doubt about this. Indiana State or Northern Iowa could make things interesting for a while, but this is the the Shockers’ tournament to lose. Wichita State should lock up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with an MVC Tournament title.
Player to watch: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State. Ken Pomeroy ranks four Shockers in his top five in the MVC Player of the Year race, led by the senior Early. The 6’8″, 219-pound forward averages 15.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while hitting 35.8 percent of his three-pointers. The Shockers’ star could turn out to be an NBA player.
Bubble implications: None. Wichita State is in the Dance no matter what, and any other team needs to win the MVC Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament.