ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team will be the No. 5 seed in the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. UNI will take on the No. 4 seeded Illinois State Redbirds on Friday at 2:38 p.m. in the Scottrade Center.
Gregg Marshall's Wichita State Shockers take the No. 1 seed into the State Farm MVC Men's Basketball Tournament, which begins Thursday, March 1, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Wichita State, ranked in the Top 25 in each of the past two weeks, is the top seed for the third time (1981, 2006) in its history. Wichita State has twice previously won the MVC Tournament (1985 and 1987), but has not claimed a title since the event moved to St. Louis in 1991. The Shockers enter the State Farm MVC Tournament having won eight-straight and 16 of their past 17 games.
Top-seeded Wichita State (16-2) and No. 2 seed Creighton (14-4) have a five-game gap between them and the rest of the field, but only a single game separates MVC teams ranked Nos. 3-8 in the standings, and five teams tied for third place with 9-9 records (Indiana State was just a game back). It's the tightest the middle of the pack has ever been in the league's 105-year history (only one other time - in 1926-27 - has fewer than three games separated 3rd place from 8th place.)
This year's tournament is the 36th Missouri Valley Conference post-season tourney and 22nd-straight in St. Louis. The league has been over 50,000 fans in each of the last nine seasons, and the 2011 tournament total attendance was eighth best for the tournament in its history (35 events). Last year, 50,305 fans attended during the four-day, nine-game event.
Notably, the top seed of the league men's basketball championship has won the title six times in St. Louis, including three of the past four years (Drake-2008, UNI-2009, UNI-2010), but before 2008, that hadn't happened once since 1998. Only twice has a seed worse than No. 3 won the tournament (No. 4 Creighton in 2000 and No. 5 Indiana State in 2001).
The tournament, which features nine games in four days, culminates on Sunday, March 4, and for the first time in league history, all nine games will be televised nationally (in HD). For the seventh-straight year, CBS Sports will carry the title game, while the first eight games will air on the MVC Television Network. Radio partner 101 FM (WXOS) will air all nine tournament games in St. Louis, while Westwood One will air the title game nationally.
For the first time in league history, the league tournament will begin with two teams that enter tourney play with 25 or more wins (Wichita State has 26 and Creighton has 25.) Notably, since 2003, the league tournament has featured a ranked team four times (2003, 2004, 2007, and 2008). No MVC Tournament has ever featured two ranked teams.
With 10 crowns, Creighton owns the most MVC Tournament titles of any Valley school, its last coming in 2007. Indiana State is the defending champ and will be looking to become the sixth team to repeat. UNI most recently accomplished the feat, winning back-to-back State Farm MVC Tournament crowns in 2009 and 2010.
Until last year, the league's No. 1 seed had earned an NCAA Tournament berth in 17-straight years (either as an at-large selection or as the league's tournament champ). Indiana State (No. 3) beat Missouri State (No. 1) in last year's title game.
2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
Thursday, March 1 -- Session I
Game 1 -- #8 Indiana State (17-13, 8-10) vs. #9 Southern Illinois (8-22, 5-13), 6 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 2 -- #7 Drake (16-14, 9-9) vs. #10 Bradley (7-24, 2-16), 8:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Friday, March 2 -- Session II
Game 3 -- #1 Wichita State (26-4, 16-2) vs. Winner Game 1, noon [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 4 -- #4 Illinois State (18-12, 9-9) vs. #5 UNI (19-12, 9-9), 2:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Friday, March 2 -- Session III
Game 5 -- #2 Creighton (25-5, 14-4) vs. Winner of Game 2, 6 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 6 -- #3 Evansville (15-14, 9-9) #6 Missouri State (16-15, 9-9), 8:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Saturday, March 3 -- Session IV
Game 7 -- Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 1:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]Game 8 -- Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 4 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Sunday, March 4 -- Session V
Championship -- Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 1 p.m. [CBS Sports, Westwood One, Sirius XM Radio] [WXOS Radio]