March Madness is here! As some of the power 5 conference teams finish up their regular season, postseason play begins for some of the mid-majors. Today, a few of our writers will be giving their thoughts on the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
#8 Drake vs. #9 Illinois State
#7 Valparaiso vs. #10 Evansville
#1 Northern Iowa vs. #8 Drake/#9 Illinois State
#4 Bradley vs. #5 Southern Illinois
#2 Loyola Chicago vs. #7 Valparaiso/#10 Evansville
#3 Indiana State vs #6 Missouri State
Who will win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament?
Aram: #1 Northern Iowa (25-5, 14-4 in the MVC)
We are in for a terrific tournament with Northern Iowa and Loyola-Chicago heading in as heavy favorites to make the Final. AJ Green has had a phenomenal season, shooting roughly 40% from deep. I’ll always trust someone who shoots above 90% from the line. Green has this team ready to roll through the Missouri Valley Conference to meet with Loyola-Chicago where they have split the series so far and had both games go into OT.
Pat: #1 Northern Iowa (25-5, 14-4 in the MVC)
Northern Iowa is one of the best mid majors in the country, and own some impressive wins in non-conference play over Colorado and South Carolina. The Panthers are the clear cut favorite and should cruise to the title game where they’ll face a tough opponent from the bottom half of the bracket. They proved they’re the most complete team in the regular season and I like them to get the job done in March Madness.
TJ: #1 Northern Iowa (25-5, 14-4 in the MVC)
The Missouri Valley appears to be a two team race between Northern Iowa and Loyola Chicago. Sister Jean just turned 100 this year which could be pretty special but I think this is Northern Iowa’s year. Ben Jacobson’s teams are always ready for a challenge and with an impressive win over South Carolina and a near upset over WVU, the Panthers look poised for a run. The Panthers are led by guard AJ Green who scores in bunches and have size particularly in the form of 240 lb junior Austin Phyfe, 230 lb freshman Noah Carter, and the 7’0 260 lb senior Justin Dahl. Look for Northern Iowa to wear teams down and take the Missouri Valley title.
Which team is a Dark Horse Candidate to take home the title?
Aram: #7 Valparaiso (16-15, 9-9 in the MVC)
Valparaiso has Ryan Fazekas back after he had an injury in the beginning of the season that saw him miss every game between early November and mid-January. He shoots the ball very well from deep (51.4% on 74 3PA) and is the player that has stepped up to help Javon Freeman-Liberty in the scoring department. I expect a tight battle with Loyola-Chicago that could see them pulling off an upset.
Pat: #6 Missouri State (15-16, 9-9 in the MVC)
The six seed Bears are a sneaky good team. They’re really athletic and defend the ball well, and while they’re not the best offensive team, they can hang with anyone when their shots are falling.
TJ: #3 Indiana State (18-11, 11-17 in the MVC)
Indiana State has an 18-11 record on the year and have been giant killers this year. The only problem is that they have also been the prey too. The Sycamores started February with a huge win over #2 seed Loyola Chicago, a game they won by 29 points I might add. They also added quality wins over Valparaiso and Northern Iowa in February. However, they have also lost to all three of the teams mentioned earlier as well. I still see Tyreke Key, Jordan Barnes, and company doing enough for them to make some noise in the Tournament.
Who is one player that NBA teams should keep an eye on?
Aram: Trae Berhow, Junior G – Northern Iowa
I remember seeing Trae Berhow in his freshman year at Pepperdine as someone who could one day play professional basketball. He has only improved his game since then. His shooting splits are fantastic on the year (51/45/84) and I’m intrigued to see how he performs in this Tournament.
Pat: Lamont West, Senior F – Missouri State
I’m going really off the radar here, but Missouri State forward Lamont West is an NBA level athlete who’s struggled to put it all together on offense during his collegiate career. However, the West Virginia grad transfer does a lot of other things well, including defend and rebound, and if he can get some scoring going and help lead the Bears on a magical title run in St. Louis, he may earn himself an NBA summer league invite.
TJ: Javon Freeman-Liberty, Sophomore G – Valparaiso
The 6’3 Sophomore has quietly been on NBA radars all year long. JFL is a shot creator who is averaging 19 PPG, 3 APG, and 6 RPG. He is a quick twitch player who uses his light feet to play pesky defense and rack up steals. His consistent scoring is attractive as he has put up 25 or more six times on the year. Please do yourselves a favor and tune into a Valpo game.