Team look for upsets in weekend tournament

Team look for upsets in weekend tournament

By Demario Smith-Phipps

After an exciting and contentious regular season, the Missouri Valley conference will hold its championship tournament Thursday in St. Louis. The MVC has had four different champions in the last six seasons, and Northern Iowa is the last team to repeat in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The No. 8 seed Bradley Braves will face the No. 9 Drake Bulldogs in the first tournament game Thursday. Drake might have one of the conference’s most balanced rosters, but Bradley possesses MVC Defensive Player of the Year senior guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards. Along with fellow Bradley backcourt member junior guard Walt Lemon, Jr., the Braves’ perimeter defense will provide too large a challenge for the Bulldogs.

The No. 10 Salukis will battle the No. 7 Missouri State Bears in Thursday’s second game. SIU, winner of four of its last six contests, has been one the hottest teams in the conference since their Feb. 2 64-62 win over Wichita State. MSU lost three of its last five games, including a Feb. 27 85-50 Illinois State drubbing. Although Bears’ freshman guard Marcus Marshall is a solid scorer with great potential, SIU’s senior leadership will propel the Salukis to a win.


Top-seeded Creighton will square off against Bradley during Friday’s first tournament game, but the Braves will be unable to account for All-Conference junior forward Doug McDermott and the Jays’ offensive presence.

The second Friday game puts No. 4 Evansville against No. 5 Indiana State. INS is one team projected to be on the cusp of a NCAA tournament bid, so the team needs a great tournament run to increase its chances of receiving a bid. The Aces’ All-Conference guard Colt Ryan will lead Evansville’s offensive attack, but fellow All-Conference member guard Jake Odum of Indiana State has more help on both ends of the floor.

The No. 2 Wichita State Shockers will face the Salukis in Friday’s third tipoff. Both games between the two teams were close this year with each team claiming a win. Creighton crushed the Shockers in their last game, so they will be focused early in the tournament. Saluki head coach Barry Hinson will ensure his team exerts its best effort, but WSU’s talent will outmatch Southern Illinois.

Friday’s final game will be a rematch between No. 3 Northern Iowa and No. 6 Illinois State. UNI has played well against conference opponents this season, but second team All- Conference senior guard Anthony James is recovering from a leg injury. Even if he was completely healthy, the Redbirds have elite post and perimeter talent in seniors Troy Brown and Jackie Carmichael. ISU will get its revenge.

Creighton is paired against Indiana State for the first game of Saturday’s semi-finals, but the Sycamores’ reserves will not be enough to defeat a talented Jays squad.

The battle of the state teams puts Illinois State against Wichita State in the second semi-final game Saturday. Despite WSU’s combination of length, size, speed and scoring, the Redbirds will defeat them on timely shooting and high-percentage shots from senior power forward Jackie Carmichael.

Sunday’s championship game will come down to Creighton and Illinois State. The Redbirds’ difficult journey through the MVC tournament will better prepare them for a tight championship, and Creighton usually struggles in games where McDermott doesn’t perform well. Unless he has another 41-point MVC game, Carmichael and Brown will push ISU past the Jays.