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Missouri Valley Conference: Loyola and a patched-together Drake roster set their sights on the final

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Can Loyola defend its crown?

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Portraits
The trio of Marques Townes, Clayton Custer and Cameron Krutwig hope to lead Loyola back to the Big Dance
Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — Arch Madness has not gone according to the script. Two teams from the bottom of the bracket have advanced to the semifinals, one veteran coach resigned, and somehow Drake is still alive with a small portion of its roster in tact.

Conventional wisdom said that top-seeded Loyola would reach this semifinal day and the Arch Madness defending champions advanced easily. Their 67-54 victory over Valparaiso wasn’t nearly that close. The Ramblers led 40-18 at the half and idled their way to win No. 20.

Fifth-seeded Bradley edged fourth-seeded Missouri State, 61-58. It is never shocking when a 5 seed defeats a 4, but the Bears defeated Bradley twice during the regular season.

Regular season co-champion Drake came to St. Louis without starting point guard and all-freshman team member D.J. Wilkins. He was having surgery on his ankle instead. In essence, the Bulldogs took on a deep and talented Illinois State team with seven players.

Less than nine minutes into the game, Drake all-conference center Nick McGlynn sustained a knee injury when a teammate rolled into him after a collision with ISU’s Milik Yarbrough. McGlynn never returned and conventional wisdom said the Bulldogs were done for.

Instead, the Murphy twins took over. Tremell scored 26 points and Anthony recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Bulldogs blew out the Redbirds 78-62.

Sixth-seeded Northern Iowa was swept in the regular season by 3 seed Southern Illinois and so of course it won a nail-biter, 61-58, as Freshman of the Year A.J. Green hit the winning basket in the dying seconds of the game.

After the game, a tearful Barry Hinson resigned as SIU’s coach. He cited his inability to guide the Salukis into the NCAA Tournament as his reason for leaving.

Semifinal Matchups

No 1. Loyola (20-12) vs. No. 5 Bradley (18-14) – 2:30 p.m. CT – CBS Sports Network

The two teams split their regular season games, with each winning at home. Loyola’s win came on the last day of the regular season to secure their co-championship with Drake.

This is a battle of Loyola’s precision and Bradley’s physicality. The matchup between two special, left-handed, sophomore post players will be great theater. Loyola’s all-conference center Cameron Krutwig will battle Bradley’s third-team, all-conference member, Elijah Childs.

The 6’7, 225 pound Childs is quicker and will play on the perimeter a bit more, and the 6’9, 255-pound Krutwig has amazing offensive post moves.

Valley MVP Marques Townes (Loyola) and Bradley’s second-team all-conference guard Darrell Brown are the go-to offensive players.

Both coaches, Bradley’s Brian Wardle and LUC’s Porter Moser, played their prep basketball in Chicago, recruit Chicago, and are fierce competitors.

No. 2 Drake (24-8) vs. No. 6 Northern Iowa (15-17) - 5 p.m. CT - CBS Sports Network

If there is someone who can crash this party, it is Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson. He isn’t known as Jake the Giant Killer for nothing. Twice his teams have defeated the No. 1 team in the nation. He guided his 2010 team to the Sweet 16 and his team is deeper than the M.A.S.H. unit we call the Drake Bulldogs.

McGlynn’s status for today’s semifinal is doubtful and they are genuinely down to a six man rotation. Can Valley Coach of the Year Darian DeVries will his team forward one more time to reach the final?

DeVries played his collegiate basketball at Northern Iowa and he and Jacobson both coached under current Creighton coach Greg McDermott. Their similarities are striking and the strategic matchup will be intriguing.

The Murphy twins, Brady Ellingson and freshman center Liam Robbins will have to come up big to survive their way to the Arch Madness finals. UNI’s wave of three-point shooters and tenacious man-to-man defense, might be too much for the duct-taped together Bulldogs.