The two Missouri Valley Conference teams that expected to be in the NCAA tournament got in, but tough draws for Creighton and Wichita State put an end to their dreams of a Sweet 16.
Wichita State received the five seed in the South bracket, but the 12 seed happened to be last year’s Final Four Cinderella, Virginia Commonwealth. VCU (29-7) won the Colonial Athletic Association after a strong season, but didn’t have any wins over big teams to warrant a higher seed.
But that didn’t stop VCU, who quickly jumped out to a 12-point lead against Wichita State in the first half of their March 15 matchup. Wichita State managed to climb back and took the lead with 2 minutes and five seconds left, but VCU eventually came out on top and ended the Shockers’ season.
Wichita State entered the MVC tournament as the favorite, but they bowed out to Illinois State in the semifinals. If they had made it further in the Valley tournament, who knows how high they would’ve been seeded?
“I’m not worried. Are you worried? You shouldn’t be,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said in regards to where his team would play in the NCAA tournament after the March 3 loss to Illinois State.
To be fair, the reporter asked if Marshall thought they would fall below a five seed in the NCAA tournament, which didn’t happen. But they didn’t get an easy matchup, which could’ve been avoided if they performed better.
Creighton won the Valley tournament, so they did about as much as they could to help their seeding in the NCAA tournament. Creighton played well enough in the regular season to earn more than an eight seed, but a three-game stretch that included losses to Northern Iowa, Evansville and Wichita State doomed the team.
That said, Creighton still dispatched nine-seed Alabama 58-57 in a down-to-the-wire contest. Alabama was nationally ranked in the beginning of the year, so the win by Creighton wasn’t a small feat.
But right away, Creighton knew they would have to face North Carolina in the second round barring a historic upset, so the Bluejays never really had a shot. They lost 87-83 to the Tarheels in their second round match March 18.
But the season isn’t over for fans of Valley basketball: Illinois State still has a shot at the National Invitational Tournament if they defeat Stanford in the second round. The game is scheduled to start after press time, so knock on wood the Redbirds are still alive by the time you read this. Otherwise, it was quite a mediocre year for Valley basketball.
Joe Ragusa is the host of ‘The Saluki Report’ with Sam Donets and Kyle Fisher every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on WIDB.net The Revolution.