A sampling of Missouri Valley Conference beat writers check in on the league as we hit the final week of the regular season:
1. Does Wichita State need to win the MVC Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament?
A week ago, I would have said the Shockers had to win the MVC Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. They had lost two of three to two teams that have no shot at an at-large bid, Illinois State and Northern Iowa, and the NCAA selection committee always looks for reasons to keep mid-major programs out and BCS league teams in.
Now, after a home win over New Mexico State, the MVC regular-season title wrapped up, and a three-game winning streak heading into the last two games of the regular season, I’d say Wichita State is a near-lock for an at-large bid. New Mexico State is hardly a marquee victory, but even if the Shockers lose their last two games, at Loyola and at home to Illinois State, their RPI is 44 and they have four wins over top 100 teams. They also have six losses, according to KenPom.com, but the committee is supposed to weigh serious injuries earlier in the season.
Without Fred VanVleet, the Valley’s likely player of the year, they lost three straight games in late November and probably would have won two of them (Iowa beat them 84-61). With him back, Wichita State has the No. 1 adjusted defensive rating in the country, according to KenPom.com, and there isn’t a soul in America that could watch them and not think they could win a few games in the tournament this season. I’d say they’re safe.
— Todd Hefferman, Southern Illinoisan
I tweeted about this issue Sunday night after I saw CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm on television say the Shockers wouldn’t get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Even though he gets paid to research that very thing, I disagree. I think if the Shockers win the final two regular-season games, they’ll get a bid (barely) even with a loss at Arch Madness.
According to bracketmatrix.com, the Shockers’ current average projection among a couple dozen prognosticators is a 10 seed. One loss the rest of the way should put WSU in precarious position – possibly a play-in game – but not all the way out of the field. The eye test and No. 10 ranking in the Pomeroy ratings have to be factors in the Shockers’ favor, and the committee will be lenient on the early season losses that came without key players, most notably Fred VanVleet.
WSU is a top-25 caliber team now that it is healthy. So even with a lack of signature wins, I have a hard time believing there are 36 at-large teams that are more deserving.
— Daniel Allar, Evansville Courier & Press
The Shockers probably need to get to the championship game in order to breathe a little easier on Selection Sunday should they not win the AQ in St. Louis. If not, it could be a long week in Wichita waiting to see what happens. Of course, this is assuming they win their final two regular-season games. If Loyola or Illinois State upsets the Shockers in the final week, winning in St. Louis is mandatory.
— Jim Benson, The Pantagraph
2. Final judgement on the way officials called games this season and the 30-second shot clock – did those moves help the game?
The officiating has not been the disaster we all feared it would be, and the 30-second shot clock has been a nice change. Both moves helped the game.
Officials were instructed to hunker down on defenders pushing offensive players with an extended arm, or two, and that has been the most consistent thing they’ve done this season. The block/charge calls this season, in my eyes, have been awful even with the bigger circle underneath the rim but that’s still the hardest decision they have. I’m OK with officials going to the monitors to check players’ feet when they shoot a 3 or a long two, or trying to decide who knocked the ball out late in a half.
Seven of the Valley’s 10 teams are averaging more points than last season, overall, as of Monday so that’s a positive. Even Drake, which has a worse record, is averaging about nine more points a game for the season. The shot clock has pushed teams to get into their offense a bit sooner than before and given teams more possessions late, which has aided some memorable rallies. I like the rule and think it’s been a big positive.
There have been some hard-to-watch foulfests due to the renewed emphasis on allowing more freedom of movement for players. Most of those came early in the season, however, as either the players have adjusted or the officials have backed off those directives slightly.
Overall, scoring seems to be up, which is good for the game. The shorter shot clock, especially, has been a nice change. Teams aren’t struggling to cycle through their offenses and get quality shot attempts, which shows that the additional five seconds were extraneous to begin with. The main difference is late in games when a defense may be able to play one additional possession without fouling, or a methodical team has a bit tougher of a time milking the clock to secure a win. That makes for more exciting finishes.
I think both moves definitely helped the game. Players and coaches seemed to adjust to the rules quite easily. When they didn’t, fouls were called nonstop, even in February. The 30-second clock obviously increases possessions, which, in turn, should increase scoring. Seems to have worked.
3. Should the MVC Tournament consider a move from St. Louis, and if so, where? How much of an issue is the condition of Scottrade Center?
I still think St. Louis is the perfect place for the tournament, and the event has developed a nice history there. There have been some upsets, which is always a good sign of the impact of a neutral floor, but the top-two seeds have done very well, too.
The Scottrade Center is the perfect size for Arch Madness and doesn’t appear outdated. It’s got everything we want, as the media, in a reasonable amount of space, and typically draws well so I imagine the fan experience is pretty good, too. I was intrigued about it going to Kansas City, Missouri, when it was bid on last year, but St. Louis is where it should stay until the league expands west.
This will only be my second time covering Arch Madness, so I’m not the most qualified person to answer here. However, I don’t see a problem with St. Louis. It’s centrally located and the neutral site provides each team a fair shot. I wouldn’t want to see the MVC go the route of some smaller conferences and host the tournament at campus sites.
The MVC Tournament is perfect in St. Louis. It is the middle of the league’s footprint and has built up a brand in the city. Not sure what is wrong with the Scottrade Center. Seems fine to me.