Friday, March 4, 2005

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview

The Missouri Valley Conference is one of the deepest mid-major conference in terms of NCAA Tournament caliber-teams. They have four teams that are in contention for a bid to the Big Dance. Southern Illinois won 8 in a row and 10 of their last 11 to win the regular season title, while Wichita State faltered down the stretch.
Favorites: Southern Illinois is the hottest team in the league. The Salukis have the best backcourt in the league, as well as the best player overall in Darren Brooks. Wichita State is playing terrible ball lately, losing five of their final six. Kyle Wilson, Paul Miller, and Jamar Howard form a great frontcort, with Randy Burns the perimeter option. Northern Iowa are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league, led by Ben Jacobsen and a deep supporting cast. Creighton has won their last five games by an average of 15 points per game, and have a great player in Nate Funk.
Sleepers: With the logjam at the top, there is little room for a cinderella team to make a run. However, there are a couple of possibilities. Illinois State is home to a solid inside-outside combo in Trey Guidry and Lorenzo Gordon, but they have lost six of seven. Southwest Missouri State has won 9 of 12 and have the best field goal defense in the league.
Prediction: Southern Illinois should win this tournament, but I would be wary of Creighton if I were the Salukis. The Blue Jays are hot and can shoot the three better than anyone in the conference. Southern Illinois' experience will prevail in the end, though.

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