Nick Knacks

Column: Ties in MVC Standings Will Put the ‘Madness’ in Arch Madness

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixLoyola head coach Porter Moser calls out a play.

After a whirlwind of a men’s basketball season, we’ve finally found the weird, confusing haze at the end of the tunnel.

The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament is coming up March 7-10 in St. Louis. But with two games left on the schedule, a regular-season champion has yet to been crowned. It could be Loyola, but it could also be Drake University or Missouri State University. Hell, it could even be University of Northern Iowa.

Can any of these teams actually string together three straight wins in St. Louis? Someone has to, but it’s hard to say which one will.

Loyola — the preseason favorite — has gone on one three-game win streak in conference play. Drake’s had two, and so has Missouri State. Northern Iowa’s won four straight, and is searching for a fifth against Loyola tonight.

This year’s edition of Arch Madness is going to be the craziest in recent memory.

It doesn’t even matter who’ll get the No. 1 seed at this point. It’s all about which team will show up to win three games in a row.

Henry Redman | The Phoenix The craziness of the MVC regular season could continue into Arch Madness March 7-10.

A 6-10 seed has never won Arch Madness. A No. 5 seed has won once, and a No. 4 seed has won twice. But given the other craziness in The Valley this year, that could change. 

They call it “Arch Madness” because it’s in St. Louis, home of the famous Gateway Arch. This year, the “Madness” has a whole new meaning.

Last year, it was pretty much a consensus that Loyola was going to win. The year before, Wichita State University — which left the conference after that championship season — was also expected to win despite tying for first with Illinois State University.

This is the first time in a while I have no idea who’ll come away with the MVC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

At the beginning of the year, I would’ve told you it’d be Loyola and Illinois State in the championship game, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you who’d win. Given the Redbirds’ underwhelming year — sitting tied for fifth at 8-8 — that prediction, like many others, got thrown into the trash. But the fact that the Ramblers have done their best rendition of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” I can’t confidently pick them, either.

Henry Redman | The Phoenix Loyola men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser cuts down the net after winning Arch Madness in 2018.

Will it be fun? Absolutely. There’s nothing better in college basketball than unpredictability. But will it also be stressful? Yes.

There are still 1,024 ways the standings can shape out (but who’s counting, right?). Matt Hackman, an MVC fan who keeps track of seeding probabilities on Twitter, gave Loyola a 39 percent chance at the No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed. He also gave Drake a 25 percent chance at the top spot and Missouri State a 30 percent chance. Northern Iowa is the only other team in contention, with a six percent chance of sitting atop the standings.

As much as I love looking at predictions and projections and trying to figure out which team will win the league, none of it matters when we get to St. Louis. It’s a whole different animal at Enterprise Center — win or go home.

“They call it ‘Arch Madness’ because it’s in St. Louis, home of the famous Gateway Arch. This year, the ‘Madness’ has a whole new meaning.”

Nick Schultz, sports editor

So which Loyola team will show up? Will Drake continue its consistency? Will Missouri State continue to play well? Will Northern Iowa sneak into the No. 1 seed?

So many questions, and just a week to answer all of them. This would be so much easier if these teams could create some separation, wouldn’t it?

Nah, that’s too easy. This is The Valley, after all.

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