In what could’ve been considered the most wide open Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament in recent memory, the “madness” returned to Arch Madness March 7-10 as a No. 5 seed and No. 6 seed competed in the championship game.
Coming into the tournament, there were two MVC regular season champions — Loyola and Drake University — and all odds pointed to one of those teams winning the tournament. Both teams ended up losing in their respective tournament semifinal games.
In the semifinal game of Arch Madness, No. 1 seed Loyola got knocked out by No. 5 seed Bradley University, which ended all hopes of second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
While Loyola’s season isn’t over, after clinching an automatic berth in the National Invitation Tournament because of their champion status in the MVC, redshirt senior guards Marques Townes and Clayton Custers eyes watered in the press conference, with tears threatening to spill over at any moment out of frustration that they couldn’t have a chance at the big dance.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser said he was upset at the result, but said he was proud of all the work his team accomplished.
“Through all of this stuff these guys have been through, they should have no regrets on how hard they worked [or] how hard they led,” Moser said. “They fought through so much with an injury … everything they went through this year to win a Valley championship.”
Townes and Custer played in their last MVC Tournament and said they were disappointed more than anything else.
“I mean, you work so hard all year,” Custer said. “The goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament, and our last year here, [Townes’] last year at Loyola, we got a taste of it last year. We had a goal, and we didn’t reach it, and that hurts a lot.”
While one team walked off with their heads bowed, the Braves were celebrating their first MVC Tournament Championship berth since 2006
The other semifinal had a similar turnout with No. 6 seed University of Northern Iowa upsetting No. 2 Drake in the last few seconds of the game. After overcoming obstacles throughout the year — losing top scorers Nick Norton, T.J Wilkins and Nick McGlynn to injuries by the tournament — the Bulldogs fell to their knees at the sound of the final buzzer, curse words slipping out of their mouths and tears trailing down their cheeks realizing their attempts weren’t enough.
Bradley and Northern Iowa met March 10 to decide who would reach the NCAA Tournament.
In dramatic fashion, Bradley overcame an 18 point deficit to win the championship game. Despite starting MVC play 0-5, the Braves will get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament — their first appearance since 2006.
Bradley’s advancement wasn’t the only dramatic part of the tournament. In an emotional press conference following Southern Illinois University’s quarterfinal loss, head coach Barry Hinson said he made a pact with the Southern Illinois chancellor that if the team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament, he’d step down from his position as head coach.
The loss meant he had no chance at a postseason run, meaning his time at Southern Illinois had come to an end. Hinson was a coach at Southern Illinois for eight years, coach in the MVC for 16 years, a college basketball coach for 38 years and during his career and he never saw an NCAA Tournament.
“If you quote me on one thing, I’d like for you to quote me on this,” Hinson said “I am so sorry. I am so sorry that we couldn’t get back to a tournament. It’s haunted me. It’s haunted me my entire life. But I’m a man of faith, and my dad taught me a long time ago, I know not what my future holds, but I know [God] holds my future.”