The Missouri Valley Conference wrapped up its regular season this past weekend, amid speculation that runs contrary to the conventional wisdom we’ve heard virtually the entire season. Despite what we’ve been told, the league might have an at-large team in its midst after all.
First the final reality for the Valley in 2009:
The Missouri Valley: A Tempo-Free-Friendly League
Conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)
Pace PPP PPP EM
1. N. Iowa 61.2 1.09 0.97 +0.12
2. Creighton 66.3 1.10 1.00 +0.10
3. Illinois St. 62.6 1.05 0.96 +0.09
4. Bradley 61.8 1.03 1.01 +0.02
5. S. Illinois 62.9 1.00 1.03 -0.03
6. Evansville 64.5 0.97 1.01 -0.04
7. Drake 62.5 0.97 1.01 -0.04
8. Wichita St. 62.3 0.99 1.04 -0.05
9. Indiana St. 63.0 0.99 1.04 -0.05
10. Missouri St. 62.4 0.96 1.06 -0.10
(Zounds, two sets of twins in a ten-team conference.)
The Valley is one of those wonderful leagues, like the Pac-10 and the Mountain West, where everyone plays everyone home and away. No need for fretting about SOS. Just look at actual on-court reality.
Northern Iowa and Creighton tied for the regular season championship at 14-4. As seen here the Panthers finished the year as the tempo-free winner, but the Panthers are well nigh cursed, in selection committee terms, by the lackluster ball they played before New Year’s. (Ironically, one of the “worst” losses on the UNI resume was to a Big 12 team. Iowa State, now sporting an RPI of 150, came into Cedar Falls and beat the Panthers in OT on their home floor.)
No, the Valley’s best hope for an at-large is Creighton. The Bluejays are riding a ten-game winning streak and their late-season surge on offense has been well-documented. If Dana Altman’s team can win an Arch Madness quarterfinal Friday evening against either Wichita State or Missouri State, they should at least be in contention for a bid, with their chances increasing still further with another win after that.
Should these pieces indeed fall into place, pity the six- or seven-seed who’s worked hard all year to get to the tournament, only to find they have to defend an “underdog” featuring Booker Woodfox and P’Allen Stinnett in the first-round.