The MVC rankings shuffle has finally come to an end! Northern Iowa won it all against Loyola, clinching the No. 1 seed and the regular season championship outright in overtime, 102-96 in a sold-out McLeod Center. That’s of course what we all expected to happen after the 28-point beatdown in Chicago less than two weeks ago.
The atmosphere in McLeod Saturday evening could only be described as deafening (I think my ears are still ringing), and it’s a great sign of things to come for Arch Madness this week. With COVID cases dropping (for now), fans will be in full capacity in the Enterprise Center for the first time since 2020. Read on for match previews!
**All match times in Central, detailed streaming info here**
#8 Illinois State and #9 Indiana State will play Thursday evening at 6 p.m. to determine who advances to play UNI. This will be the second time the teams play one another in five days. The series between the two is split, with the first one being a three-point win for Indiana State and the second being a 20-point victory for Illinois State. The winner advances to play UNI at noon on Friday. The game will be aired on Bally Sports and ESPN+.
#7 Valparaiso and #10 Evansville face off Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m. to decide who will face Missouri State. Valpo swept the regular-season series with a 20 point win in the first game and a five-point victory in the second. This will be the third time the teams have met since Feb. 19. The game will broadcast on Bally Sports, ESPN+, and will be joined in progress on NBC Sports Chicago.
#4 Loyola and #5 Bradley meet at 2:30 p.m. on Friday in what has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Bradley played their way into title discussions with a seven-point win over Loyola on Feb. 9. Their first meeting was an overtime victory for the Ramblers, also by a seven-point margin. The game will air on Bally Sports, NBC Sports Chicago Plus, and NBC Sports Indiana Plus.
#3 Drake and #6 Southern Illinois will cap off quarterfinal action at 8:30 p.m. on Friday. Drake won the series narrowly (by one- and two-point margins). This will be their second matchup in under a week, and it’s very possible for SIU to pull off an upset here. Drake’s ongoing injury problems add to the mix of what will be another thrilling game. The game will air on Bally Sports, NBC Sports Chicago Plus, and NBC Sports Indiana Plus.
#1 Northern Iowa will kick off Friday’s quarterfinal round against the winner of Illinois State/Indiana State. UNI swept their series with both teams, however an early January match with Indiana State went into overtime and they escaped the Redbirds by the skin of their teeth two weeks ago in Normal, Ill. It’s hard to say which team the Panthers would prefer to face, although they’re certainly looking to avoid the disaster that befell them the last time they were the top seed. The game will air live on NBC Sports Chicago and Bally Sports.
#2 Missouri State will start its Arch Madness appearance at 6 p.m. on Friday to face the winner of Valparaiso/Evansville. The Bears won their series with both teams by pretty comfortable margins. That being said, this is Arch Madness, so there are no guarantees. The game will air live on Bally Sports, ESPN+ (Indiana), NBC Sports Chicago Plus, and NBC Sports Indiana Plus.
- Drake: The Bulldogs have a roster with several key players injured and practicing limited minutes. Day one of Arch Madness shouldn’t be an issue endurance-wise, but if they continue to advance, they might find themselves in trouble thanks to the grueling schedule.
- Loyola: Expect the Ramblers to play hard. Bracketologists have predicted that they still have a chance at an at-large as one of the last four in, but they don’t want to leave anything to chance. They also need to be careful to conserve fouls. Two players fouled out (Chris Knight and Tom Welch) and three more had four fouls (Lucas Williamson, Braden Norris and Tate Hall) at UNI.
- Northern Iowa: The Panthers clinched their second regular-season title in three years, and that can be attributed to having a bench that’s almost ridiculously deep. AJ Green dropped 32 points, Noah Carter had 24, and Bowen Born had 20. Long story short: there are a lot of different routes to the basket. UNI looks to be peaking at the right time, but is it enough to vanquish the ghosts of Arch Madnesses past?
With 13 different games being decided in overtime this season, expect Arch Madness 2022 to be the craziest in recent history. Clear your schedules, grab your snacks, and buckle up!