Northern Iowa at Illinois State (Missouri Valley)
Redbird Arena - Normal, IL
8:05 PM EST
And so we approach the end of one of the most strange, random, Bizarro
MVC regular seasons in memory. Hopefully next year at this time, we'll be discussing two, three and four bid possibilities -- or rather, the normal course of events that we've grown accustomed to. As it stands at the moment, we're looking at a key game in which nobody's sure exactly what's being fought over.
Elsewhere this evening, 12-4 Creighton is playing at Missouri State
, a likely W for the streaking Bluejays given the rebuilding Bears' anemic 3-13 Valley record. Should Creighton win tonight and Northern Iowa lose, the Bluejays would open up a one-game lead in the standings with a game to go. UNI would need a win over Evansville Saturday as well as a Creighton loss to these Redbirds to activate the Elginator 3000
, the league's complicated system used in cases of head-to-head ties. Back to tonight, though. Northern Iowa (12-4) has lost three straight overall (including the Buster drop at Siena
) and four of five, relinquishing a four-game cushion in the BVC. Ball control, which had been a necessity and a hallmark, has been slipping. The Panthers have been +8 on turnovers over the last five games.
And, of course, there's still the possibility that Illinois State (11-5) could win both its remaining games to finish 13-5 and that Creighton and UNI could lose twice to end at 12-6, which would mean that the Redbirds would win the title outright and ride the No. 1 seed into Arch Madness. A run to (and loss in) the title game would put the squad at 26-7, a superior record to the 24-9 that nearly got Illinois State into the Dance last year. But it's a very hard sell and a catch-22, for sure: looking at their NCAA team sheet
, the only top 50 win would undoubtedly be nullified if Creighton took on more losses, and there are those two bad drops to Indiana State over in the RPI 200+ column. Next year, for the love of Pete, get into a Multi-Team Event and play up to your level, Redbirds. The Valley's future resurgence depends on it.Basketball State Preview/Box