In the War Room with Warfel: The Valley is vicious

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

The Valley is vicious. Any team can win on any given night, without any team really staying consistent throughout the entirety of the season.

Men’s basketball sits at 7-7 as of Tuesday afternoon and they are in a four way tie for second place in the Missouri Valley Conference.

There is a three-way tie for first place with Drake, Loyola, and Missouri State all sitting at 9-5 and then there’s a group of four sitting at 7-7 fighting to stay out of the opening day of matchups at the Arch Madness Tournament in March.

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The Salukis looked like their season was in collapse after a loss to then last place Braves of Bradley back in January – SIU reeling with four straight losses.

Since then, Bradley has won six out of their last eight games while the Dawgs have gone 5-3 with losses against Loyola, Missouri State and Drake.

If Drake, Loyola or Missouri State win out the rest of their schedules, they will finish conference play with five losses, which is practically unheard of.

Comparing the Missouri Valley to Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten’s top team is Michigan State, sitting at 12-3 and in the ACC, Duke sits at 11-1.

Even comparing the MVC to another mid-major conferences like Conference USA, the conference’s leader is Old Dominion with an 11-3 record and Western Kentucky sitting in second at 9-5.

You have Bradley, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and UNI sitting at 7-7 while Valpo has fallen to 6-8 in the conference.

In preseason polls, voters thought Loyola would outpace the rest of the conference with Illinois State next, then Southern and Evansville finishing in last.

Out of those four teams, the only one that I would feel confident in saying might match their preseason prediction would be Evansville, while the Aces have played better than expected but still sitting in last with a 4-10 record.

The Aces have a tough road ahead of them to avoid finishing in last with Loyola, the surging Bradley, the suddenly steady Southern team and Valparaiso to end the season.

The Missouri State Bears are the hottest team in the Valley having won seven out of their last eight games that has propelled them straight into a tie for first after defeating Loyola on Sunday.

Saluki fans might ask where I see Southern finishing in the rat race that is the Missouri Valley Conference – I can’t give a definitive answer.

Southern’s road to a two or three seed in the Valley is in their own hands as they travel to Valparaiso on Wednesday, then play Loyola in Carbondale next Sunday. The Salukis then go to Evansville and finish their season at home against in-state rival Illinois State.

If SIU manages to win out that would put them at 11-7 which I believe would be good enough for them to finish third in the conference, this would mean they would play the number six seed in Arch Madness.

I’ll say it again – relax. There is still a light at the end of the tunnel and there is still hope that SIU could finish fourth and become the next UNI.  tough as this season has been there is still light at the end of the tunnel, there is still hope that SIU could finish fourth and become the next UNI.

Sports editor Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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