2023 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview

by Nelly's Sports

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview

Arch Madness is set and while a few high-profile programs have left the Missouri Valley in recent years, this tournament has provided plenty of exciting games over the years. This tournament traditionally sets the tone for March Madness as one of the earliest conference tournaments to complete. 

The Missouri Valley has had multiple NCAA Tournament teams in five of the past 10 NCAA Tournaments and had a Sweet 16 team two years ago with Loyola-Chicago, who also made the Final Four as a #11 seed in 2018. Loyola-Chicago won the past two MVC Championships, both against Drake, but the program departed for the Atlantic 10 this season. 

Loyola-Chicago was the #4 seed last season and in the past four seasons the tournament champion has been a #4 seed or worse three times. In the past four MVC Championships there is only one appearance each from a #1, #2, and #3 seed as this has been a chaotic tournament in recent years following a 12-year run from 2007 to 2018 in which no team seeded outside the top four ever made the MVC final and the #1 and #2 seeds took 10 of 12 titles. 

In a tight race Bradley has emerged as the regular season champions this season and the #1 seed, taking a 10-game winning streak into the postseason including beating Drake for the outright conference title on Sunday in the regular season finale. Bradley last made the NCAA Tournament in 2019, emerging with a MVC title as the #5 seed. The Braves also won the MVC Tournament in 2020 as the #4 seed but the NCAA Tournament was cancelled. 

There won’t be room for an at-large bid out of the MVC this season with Bradley or Drake likely topping out on the #12 seed line should either team take the automatic bid. Drake is 13-2 in the past 15 games though did wind up with three overtime wins in league play. Drake beat Bradley 86-61 at home in January before losing the rematch in Peoria last weekend. 

Southern Illinois closed the season on a 5-4 run to fall to 14-6 and the #3 seed, going 0-2 vs. Bradley late in the season. The Salukis are the most experienced team in the conference. In its first season in the MVC, Belmont also reached 14-6 for the #4 spot, going 2-0 vs. Bradley in the regular season. The top four seeds receive byes to the quarterfinals, but it is a fixed bracket with no reseeding if there are upsets. Unlike some of other tournaments this week, this tournament spans only four days as the victor will need to win three or four games in as many days. 

#5 seed Indiana State rates as the second best offensive team in the MVC and the up-tempo Sycamores have the nation’s best 2-point field goal percentage at over 59 percent. Indiana State lost its final two games of the regular season to halt a seven-game winning streak and played the weakest schedule in the MVC however, drawing Bradley only once for a big advantage. 

Missouri State was a mild disappointment to fall to 12-8 and the #6 seed as most preseason projections had this group pegged as a top four team. The Bears went 2-0 vs. Drake and had late season wins over Belmont and Indiana State as this is a team that could make a run. A slow tempo team with solid defensive numbers, this squad has sleeper potential though very poor free throw shooting is concern. 

There is a meaningful drop off from the top six in the bracket to the bottom six, though #7 Murray State has wins over Texas A&M and Bradley in an uneven first season in the conference. Ultimately this is a season where the #1 and #2 seeds should be at an advantage as the quarterfinal draws for Southern Illinois and Belmont should be much more difficult barring an upset. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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