Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Missouri Valley Conference tournament preview

This is part 7 of a 32-part series previewing every conference tournament in the country.  We'll detail what you need to keep track of in each tournament and the various stakes for each team.

The standings:
Illinois St 17-1
Wichita St 17-1
Northern Iowa 9-9
Southern Illinois 9-9
Loyola(Chi) 8-10
Missouri St 7-11
Bradley 7-11
Evansville 6-12
Indiana St 5-13
Drake 5-13

Tournament format:
Four days, Thursday March 2 to Sunday March 5, at a neutral in St Louis.  Straight-up format.

The matchups:
1) Illinois St vs. 8/9) Evansville/Indiana St
4) Southern Illinois vs. 5) Loyola(Chi)
3) Northern Iowa vs. 6) Missouri St
2) Wichita St vs. 7/10) Bradley/Drake

The stakes:
Our first tournament with legitimate bubble stakes.  We're going to need to acknowledge something with Wichita St, who is kenpom 10 and RPI 40:
- if we give them an at-large bid, they have only 2 top 100 wins.  It will be, on paper, one of the worst at-large resumes to ever make the field, if not the worst ever
- if we don't give them at at-large bid, it will be a historic exclusion.  No team this beloved by the analytics has ever missed the tournament, and it wouldn't be close
Wichita St is an outlier.  Period.  It will set a record one way or the other.  Period.  It will break a fundamental rule of bracketology by its mere appearance on the bubble.  So pick a side, and realize that it's going to run contrary to public wisdom.  It's ok.  Of course this is all solved by winning this damned tournament.

Illinois St is in the same boat...but doesn't have nearly the analytic love.  Therefore, I think they're doomed.  I just don't see how they separate themselves from the Nevada/UNC-W/UTA gaggle of good mid-majors without resume heft.  2 Top 100 wins:  Wichita and New Mexico who is fading out of NIT contention.  Only one bad loss among their four (although it IS a stinker).  Despite a non-con SoS around 120, they gave themselves exactly one chance at something resembling a quality win (@TCU) and lost.  It's so tough to justify a resume like this without any depth of substance.  That one win over Wichita just can't carry this.

This is going to be a flashpoint for bracketologists.  If there's going to be a spot where the committee will be unpredictable, it'll be with the loser of this tournament between these two teams.  I can make reasonable arguments the other way, but recent committee trends make me think the MVC is doomed.

The rest of the conference is a tire fire, which doesn't help the cause.  No one near the NIT.  Your 3 seed is 13-15 against D1 competition.  Your CIT-eligible teams are SIU, Loyola, and Missouri St.  Have fun with that group.

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