Arch Madness underway

By Tyler Dixon

After months of anticipation, 10 Missouri Valley Conference teams will converge in the Gateway to the West to cement their place in conference history and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

For the next four days, Valley fans across the country will focus on the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Wichita State University Shockers claimed the tournament’s top spot. WSU ended the season at 31-0 and are the first team since St. Joseph University in 2004 to finish the regular season undefeated.

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WSU is the overwhelming favorite but any team could play well three or four days in a row. The Shockers are led by Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year winner Fred VanVleet along with Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker. All three players were named All-Conference First Team performers.

The tournament started Thursday with four teams vying for two spots in the quarterfinals. The Shockers play the winner of the Drake University against the University of Evansville while Indiana State University plays the winner of Bradley University and Loyola University-Chicago.

Friday will be a full day at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Quarterfinal games start at 12:05 p.m. with SIU playing in the final game of the day.

The semi-finals begin Saturday at 1:35 p.m. with the second semi-final slated for a 4:05 p.m. start.

The championship game will be Sunday at 1:05 p.m. with the winner getting an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Salukis will open up their MVC Tournament against the Panthers of Northern Iowa University Friday at 8:35 p.m. This is the first season since 2009 the Salukis would not have to play Thursday in the conference tournament.

SIU split the two meetings with UNI this season. The team squeaked out a 68-66 victory Jan. 14 over the Panthers at SIU Arena but on the road was a different story for the Dawgs. Northern Iowa controlled the game from the start and came away with a 73-54 win.

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Junior Seth Tuttle leads the Panthers in scoring with 15.4 points per game this season and SIU Coach Barry Hinson said Tuttle is the best big man in the Valley.

Along with Tuttle, UNI receives production from guards Deon Mitchell, Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun.

The Salukis were able to claim several spots on All-MVC teams. Senior Desmar Jackson and sophomore Anthony Beane were named to the All-Conference Second Team while Jackson was named to the All-MVC Defensive First Team. Beane was also named to the Most Improved Team and is a Scholar-Athlete selection.

Shockers Coach Gregg Marshall was named MVC Coach of the Year while Hinson finished second in the voting.

All games can be seen on the MVC TV Network with the championship game being on CBS Sports at 1:05 p.m. Follow @DEsalukis and @tdixon_DE for all the action throughout the weekend.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at [email protected] or @tdixon_de on Twitter.¬†

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