First of all, just let me say I have no idea what was going on with Tubby's substitution patterns tonight. I also don't know what is going on with the Hollinses, but they were inexplicably terrible tonight. This game was everything we saw against Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois all over again and reminded me of how frustratingly bad this team can be. They're probably still in the NCAA Tournament but at this point barring a huge Big 10 Tournament run they'll be somewhere in the 7-10 range which means even if they somehow won their first round game they'll just get smoked in round 2. Just. I don't know. I should write more but I'm sick and after watching that game I really don't feel like it. So here's what I wrote before the game, previews and stuff.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE
Oddly this is the only tournament kicking off Thursday, particularly since I remember Thursday always used to be the biggest day of the week. It seems a lot of the conferences have switched to Friday or Saturday starts (particularly the SoCon and the Colonial) in order to maximize their attendance and revenue which makes total sense for them but sucks for me so I hate it. Anyway, there's no real intrigue here because Wichita and Creighton are probably both in even if they get dropped in the first round, and nobody else has a chance at an at-large (Indiana State was borderline for a while, but dropped 5 of 6 to close out the season). Even so there should be some good basketball in this one.
FAVORITE: Creighton. At the beginning of the year Creighton was the big swinging dick of the MVC, then they hit a bit of a rough patch and all of a sudden Wichita was the bee knees, then the Blue Jays gave the Shockers a nice beatdown to not only reassert dominance, but also to grab the #1 seed in the tourney. By the way I still haven't figured out how good Doug McDermott really is and I have no idea what I'm going to do with Creighton when the brackets come out - which I guess is the same as every other team because I'm kind of an idiot.
SLEEPER: Illinois State. The Redbirds were supposed to be a MVC sleeper this year, and appeared to be good enough to make my top 68 teams preview at #52, but they struggled a smidge in conference play, dropping their first six MVC games. They finished out at 8-4 and with Jackie Carmichael have the guy who'd be a shoo-in for conference player-of-the-year if Doug McDermott didn't exist, and he's not even the leading scorer on his own team.
W's PICK: Northern Iowa. The MVC is loaded this year (9th best conference) and with the top two squads already assured of NCAA bids you can be the rest of the teams will be in crazy survival mode and that's when weird things happen. So why not take the team with the experienced coach (Ben Jacobson) and senior leadership (3 senior starters) who finished hot (won 7 of their final 8 conference games which included wins over Wichita, Creighton, and Illinois State)? Plus weird shit like this always seems to happen to annoying teams like Northern Iowa.
In meaningful games for Thursday night, we have Kentucky (@ Georgia) and Virginia (@ Florida State) both face pretty much must win road games to keep their bid chances alive, while Butler is on the road as well at UMass and even though they seem pretty solidly in at this point they'd be much better off not losing and giving the committee a reason to reconsider. The best game of the night (bubble wise) is Oregon @ Colorado in the Pac-12. Both are in solid shape, but the winner of this one pretty much punches their ticket, while the other will need to pick up another win elsewhere. Of course the real best game of the night is Wisconsin @ Michigan State, which will matter for seedings and all that jazz and should be entertaining as long as Wisconsin doesn't control pace and gets killed. Pretty slow for a Thursday, but there are games all day starting at 11am with the last one tipping off at 10:30pm, so who am I to complain? I love March.