The bracket is set and the men’s basketball Missouri Valley Conference begins March 4 with the championship game March 7. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of each team competing.
No. 1-seeded Loyola University Chicago (21-4, 16-2)
The basics: Loyola, which is ranked No. 20 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll, has its best record through 25 games since 1965-66 (22-3). The Ramblers currently have the best scoring defense out of any other Division I basketball team. This is the team’s third time in four years earning the title of Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season champions.
Key games: In some of its early games, Loyola played two ranked teams in University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Richmond — the Ramblers lost both games. Loyola has only lost to two MVC teams in No. 4-seeded Indiana State University and No. 2-seeded Drake University. Both series were split. The Ramblers defeated No. 9-seeded Southern Illinois University in overtime, winning the MVC regular season.
- Senior center Cameron Krutwig was named MVC Player of the Year and led Loyola with an average of 15 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. In January, he became the fourth player in MVC history to score 1,500 points, 800 rebounds and 300 assists for his career, joining basketball legends Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and Hersey Hawkins. He was also named First Team All-MVC.
- Senior guard Lucas Williamson earned the title of Defensive Player of the Year and was named to both Second Team All-MVC and All-Defensive Team.
- Redshirt senior forward Aher Uguak was named to the Third Team All-MVC, All-Defensive Team and the Most-Improved Team.
- Redshirt sophomore guard Braden Norris earned a spot on the MVC All-Newcomer Team.
- Sophomore guard Marquise Kennedy also landed on a specialty team and sits on the MVC All-Bench Team.
First match: Loyola will play either No. 8-seeded Bradley University or No. 9-seeded Southern Illinois on March 5 at 11 a.m. The Ramblers swept both teams in the regular season.
No. 2-seeded Drake University (24-3, 15-3)
The basics: Drake shocked the MVC with its 13-0 run, earning its way onto the AP Top 25 Poll for one week Feb. 1. Head coach Darian Devries was awarded the title of Coach of the Year after guiding his team to a high level. The Bulldogs were voted to finish seventh in the MVC preseason poll, but it seemed like they were going to lead the MVC for a majority of the season. The Bulldogs only lost three games all season to finish second in the MVC.
Key games: Drake spent most of the season undefeated until No. 6-seeded Valparaiso University gave the Bulldogs their first loss Feb. 7. Drake only has two other losses — one to No. 1-seeded Loyola and the other to No. 8-seeded Bradley. The loss to the Braves cost Drake a chance at sharing the MVC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in Arch Madness.
- Redshirt junior guard Roman Penn was runner-up for MVC Player of the Year and was voted onto the First Team All-MVC after averaging 11.2 points per game. Penn will not play in Arch Madness due to a season-ending foot injury suffered against Evansville University Feb. 21.
- Senior forward ShanQuan Hemphill was named Second Team All-MVC after earning the title of MVC Newcomer of the Year. He also earned spots on the All-Newcomer Team and All-Defensive Team. Hemphill collected the honors despite being out with a foot injury since Feb. 10 and is still unsure if he will play at Arch Madness.
- Junior forward Darnell Brodie was also named to the All-Newcomer Team as he was one of the top rebounders in the league at 6.8 per game to go along with 7.8 points per game.
- Sophomore guard Joseph Yesufu was named MVC Sixth Man of the Year after a breakout sophomore season in which he came off the bench in 24 games before assuming a starting role after Penn’s injury. Yesufu finished his season averaging 11.6 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting.
First match: Drake will play either University of Northern Iowa or Illinois State March 5 at 5 p.m.
No. 3-seeded Missouri State University (16-6, 12-6)
The Basics: The Bears led the MVC in free throw shooting, which also ranked 65th nationally. Missouri State also converted 76.3 percent at the line in Valley games. Missouri State was voted to finish sixth in the MVC preseason poll, but pulled out a third-place finish.
Key games: Missouri State was only swept by two teams in the conference — Loyola and Drake. The Bears also lost to No. 5-seeded Evansville in the last game of the season.
- Sophomore guard Isiaih Mosley earned First Team All-MVC and was awarded Team Captain on the MVC Most-Improved Team in 2021. He leads the MVC in scoring at 20.0 points per game. Mosley also ranks 2nd in the MVC in free throw successes at 84.7 percent.
- Senior forward Gaige Prim earned First Team All-MVC and MVC All-Defensive Team honors as he leads the conference with a 62.9 field goal percentage. He leads the Bears with 26 steals and 25 blocks, while leading the MVC in rebounding with an average of 9.0 per game.
- Junior guard Demarcus Sharp has made 10 straight starts and is averaging 5.6 assists per game over the Bears’ last seven games. He was also named to the MVC All-Newcomer Team.
First match: Missouri State will face No. 6-seeded Valparaiso March 5 at 8 p.m.
No. 4-seeded Indiana State University (14-9, 11-7)
The basics: Indiana State stayed consistent after being voted to finish fourth in the MVC preseason poll, finishing fourth in the regular season. Despite being the winningest coach in Indiana State history, it’s rumored this will be head coach Greg Lansing’s last season.
Key games: The Sycamores were swept by every team with a higher seed except No. 1-seeded Loyola. Indiana State was the first team to knock off the No. 20 Ramblers. The Sycamores also fell to Valparaiso and Northern Iowa during conference play.
- Senior guard Tyreke Key was named First Team All-MVC. Key averaged 17.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game throughout the entire season, and 18.6 points per game in Valley play.
- Sophomore guard Jake LaRavia earned Second Team All-MVC. LaRavia averaged 12.5 points and tied for the team-high in rebounding at 6.1 boards per game.
- Sophomore center Tre Williams was awarded MVC All-Defensive Team honors. He leads the conference in blocked shots with 1.4 points per game and total blocks with 34. He also averaged 9.0 points and 6.1 rebounds on the season, shooting a team-best 52.8 percent from the floor.
First match: Indiana State takes on No. 5-seeded University of Evansville March 5 at 2 p.m.
No. 5-seeded University of Evansville (9-15, 7-11)
The basics: After going 0-18 in the MVC last season, under the helm of head coach Todd Lickliter, Evansville’s program improved greatly and earned a bye from the first round of Arch Madness. The Purple Aces were voted to finish 10th in the MVC preseason poll, but were able to shock fans by finishing fifth.
Key games: Evansville split the series with No. 3-seeded Missouri State and No. 4-seeded Indiana State.
- Junior Shamar Givance was named to the Second Team All-MVC after averaging 13.5 points, 4.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. With an average of 1.5 steals per game, Givance led the MVC. Givance was also named to the Most-Improved Team.
- Samari Curtis earned All-Bench Team honors after playing in 16 games while averaging 10.1 points per game.
- Junior guard Jawaun Newton leads the Purple Aces with an average of 13.9 points per game.
First match: Evansville takes on No. 4-seeded Indiana State March 5 at 2 p.m.
No. 6-seeded Valparaiso University (10-17, 7-11)
The basics: Valparaiso made waves this season when it officially dropped the “Crusader” nickname. In terms of on-court production, Valparaiso performed better than the MVC preseason poll’s projection of eighth place. This comes despite redshirt senior guard Nick Robinson opting out midway through the season and the off-the-court drama that followed.
Key games: Valparaiso handed No. 2-seeded Drake its first loss of the season, knocking off the Bulldogs 74-57 Feb. 7 — pushing Loyola to No. 1 in the MVC for the first time. The Brown and Gold also closed out the regular season with a win over No. 4-seeded Indiana State 70-58 Feb. 27.
- Sophomore forward Ben Krikke was named to the Third Team All-MVC. Krikke led Valparaiso with 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
- First-year guard Sheldon Edwards was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team after contributing 7.8 points per game.
First match: Valparaiso faces off against No. 3-seeded Missouri State March 5 at 8 p.m.
No. 7-seeded University of Northern Iowa (9-15, 7-11)
The basics: Northern Iowa was picked to finish first in the MVC preseason poll. However, 2020 MVC Player of the Year AJ Green suffered a season-ending hip injury three games into the Panthers’ season. The Panthers struggled to replace Green’s scoring — the junior guard averaged 19.7 points per game last season.
Key games: The Panthers knocked off No. 4-seeded Indiana State 70-67 Feb. 7. Northern Iowa also grabbed a pair of wins against Illinois State — the Panthers’ first opponent in the 2021 MVC Tournament — to end the season Feb. 26-27.
- Redshirt junior forward Austin Phyfe was named to the Third Team All-MVC. Phyfe was one of four Panthers to average double figures this season, putting up 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest.
- Senior guard Trae Berhow led the team with 13.2 points per game. Berhow also grabbed 5.0 rebounds and dished out 3.1 assists per game.
- First-year guard Bowen Born was named the MVC Freshman of the Year. Born averaged 11.4 points per game.
- First-year guard Nate Heise joined Born on the MVC All-Freshman Team. Heise averaged 7.7 points per contest.
First match: The Panthers are scheduled to play No. 10-seeded Illinois State March 4 at 8 p.m.
No. 8-seeded Bradley University (12-15, 6-12)
The basics: Bradley has been short-handed to end the season after three players — senior forward Elijah Childs, junior guard Terry Nolan Jr. and senior guard Danya Kingsby were suspended due to a “violation of program standards.” Those three players were out for the final five games of the season in which Bradley went 1-4. However, the Braves’ struggles on the court started long before then, as Bradley ended the year on a 3-11 slide.
Key games: The Braves knocked off No. 2-seeded Drake 67-61 Feb. 27 to keep the Bulldogs from earning a share of the MVC regular season title. Bradley came within a point of upsetting then-No. 14 University of Missouri-Columbia in the Braves’ final non-conference game Dec. 22.
- Redshirt freshman forward Rienk Mast ranks second among MVC first-years with 8.0 points per game and first with 5.7 rebounds per game. He was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team.
- Sophomore guard Ville Tahvanainen leads the Braves with 46 made three-pointers this season. He has shot 34.1 percent from the 3-point range. He leads all activer Bradley Players with 8.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
- Senior forward Elijah Childs was named to the Second Team All-MVC and led the team with 14.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game — Childs is currently suspended and may not play in Arch Madness.
- Junior guard Terry Nolan Jr. put up 11.2 points and 3.3 assists on average — Nolan is currently suspended and may not play in Arch Madness.
- Junior forward Ja’Shon Henry averaged 10.9 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. Henry was previously suspended along with the three other Braves but has been cleared by the university. Henry is not likely to play, per head coach Brian Wardle after suffering an ankle injury against Drake Feb. 27.
First match: The Braves will tip-off against No. 9-seeded Southern Illinois March 4 at 5 p.m.
No. 9-seeded Southern Illinois University (11-13, 5-13)
The basics: Southern Illinois was picked to finish fifth out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll, but the Salukis ended the season just a game ahead of last place. Despite starting the year 7-0, the Salukis ended on a 4-13 skid.
Key games: The Salukis’ best conference win came against No. 5-seeded Evansville in their first MVC game of the season. Southern Illinois went to overtime in the final game of the regular season against Loyola, but the Salukis ultimately came up short and their losing streak stretched to four games.
- Marcus Domask led the Salukis in scoring — averaging 16.3 points — but the sophomore forward has been sidelined since Jan. 4 with a foot injury. Domask could be nearing a return but his availability for Arch Madness is still up in the air.
- Sophomore guard Lance Jones was named to the Third Team All-MVC. Jones was Southern Illinois’ second-leading scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game.
First match: The Salukis are set to play Bradley March 4 at 5 p.m.
No. 10-seeded Illinois State University (7-17, 4-14)
The basics: Three of the Redbirds’ four MVC wins came against teams in the bottom half of the conference. Illinois State was projected to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the MVC, but finished in last place of the conference.
Key games: The Redbirds struggled in conference play with their best win coming against No. 5-seeded Evansville. However, Illinois State scored 177 points — the fourth-most points in Division I history — in a win over Division III Greenville University Dec. 2.
- Sophomore guard DJ Horne was named to the Third Team All-MVC after averaging a team-high 15.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
- Sophomore guard Antonio Reeves had the second-highest scoring average on the team at 12.5 points per contest.
First match: The Redbirds will take on No. 7-seeded Northern Iowa March 4 at 8 p.m.