For 10 years, I have attended Arch Madness in St. Louis and learned something about new about the Missouri Valley Conference. For example, I learned two years ago that if I was going to criticize how obnoxious the Missouri State fans were acting behind me, I should probably make sure the man I was venting to wasn't the university's athletic director. Whoops.
I've learned never to mess with Creighton or Wichita State fans. I've learned that Northern Iowa's fight song is, by far, the best in the Missouri Valley. I've learned that Indiana State and Drake's students are too busy studying to ever make the trip to St. Louis, that Gregg Marshall's favorite pre-game ritual is pouring a Gatorade bottle into three separate cups and laying them on the scorer's table, that the public address announcer at the Scottrade Center bears an uncanny resemblance to my father, and, by the transitive property, to James Taylor as well.
But I never, ever seem to learn anything about Evansville.
This program and its fans are a mystery to me. They are like aliens from another planet. I have no idea what to make of the Evansville Purple Aces and it kills me. The issue isn't that I can't ever watch Evansville play. I see them on regional television and ESPNU all the time. I know how good Colt Ryan is. I can appreciate Marty Simmons' tactical expertise, as well as his impressive hundred-pound weight loss a few years ago. He looks terrific now and so does his team. They play great defense, they share the ball, and they appear headed in the right direction as a program.
And still, every single season, I ask myself: Who are these guys?
I don't know anything about their traditions. I don't know what their fight song is. I don't know what the town of Evansville is like or what their fan base is defined by. I don't even understand their colors. They hardly ever have any fans in St. Louis, and when they do, they seem to hardly make a sound. I'm not trying to criticize them because I know they love basketball in that state and I know they now support a beautiful new arena. But without much to cheer about until very recently, they are, without a doubt, the most random, mysterious team in the Missouri Valley Conference. It is a phenomenon I can't explain. But say the word "Evansville" and it's like you've asked me to solve calculus.
So I made it my mission to figure these guys out while they played Creighton. After they fell behind by, I don't know, 100 points in the first half, it made it easier for me to focus on these mysterious creatures from Evansville.
By the time the game ended, I had nothing. I watched the coaches, players, fans, trainers, and everybody wearing purple and orange, and I still don't understand this program. Even more frustrating? I don't even understand why this program makes no sense to me. There is just something off, something that doesn't fit.
I'm hearing rumors that the program might fit better in the Horizon League. Don't go, Evansville. We need you in this league because you make the world go round. You make things work in the Missouri Valley, whatever you do and whoever you are.
CREIGHTON 99, EVANSVILLE 71 03/03/2012
EVANSVILLE 16-15 (9-9) -- C. Ryan 3-12 7-9 13; D. Holmes 4-11 0-0 11; T. Taylor 4-5 0-0 8; K. Harris 6-12 4-6 17; N. Cox 2-5 1-1 5; L. Jones 0-4 2-4 2; J. Moore 2-3 0-0 4; R. Sawvell 3-4 2-2 8; R. Cesnulevicius 0-0 0-0 0; J. Nelson 0-2 0-0 0; M. Peeler 1-1 1-3 3. Totals 25-59 17-25 71. CREIGHTON 27-5 (14-4) -- G. Gibbs 2-6 0-0 6; D. McDermott 3-4 8-10 14; A. Young 3-4 7-7 13; A. Chatman 1-3 0-0 2; J. Jones 4-5 0-0 12; J. Manigat 1-2 1-2 4; G. Echenique 8-11 4-5 20; E. Wragge 2-5 2-2 8; W. Artino 5-6 0-0 10; A. Dingman 2-4 0-0 6; M. Dorwart 1-1 0-0 3; D. Sebastian 0-0 1-2 1; T. Stormberg 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 32-53 23-28 99.
Three-point goals: EVAN 4-13 (D. Holmes 3-4; L. Jones 0-1; C. Ryan 0-2; N. Cox 0-2; K. Harris 1-2; J. Nelson 0-2), CREI 12-23 (G. Gibbs 2-3; J. Jones 4-5; M. Dorwart 1-1; E. Wragge 2-5; T. Stormberg 0-2; J. Manigat 1-2; A. Chatman 0-1; A. Dingman 2-4); Rebounds: EVAN 15 (T. Taylor 3), CREI 39 (G. Echenique 9); Assists: EVAN 13 (T. Taylor 5), CREI 22 (A. Chatman 7); Total Fouls -- EVAN 23, CREI 18; Fouled Out: EVAN-T. Taylor; CREI-W. Artino.