As the nation is engulfed in March Madness, the MVC begins Arch Madness (the well-appointed nickname of the conference’s championship tournament) in St. Louis.
Thursday night, the lower seeds of the tournament square off to advance and play the elite teams. The MVC lacks the star power of recognizable players like those in last year’s tournament but the first round of games will showcase future stars versus stalwart guards of the Valley.
In the first game, the No. 8 Drake Bulldogs are pitted against the No. 9 Evansville Purple Aces. The guard matchup in this game will be something to pay attention to as UE’s sophomore D.J. Balentine’s scoring talent will be defended by DU’s senior Richard Carter’s savvy, veteran presence. Balentine made first team all-conference and led the conference in scoring (22.3) in just his second season. The Aces’ sensational sophomore will be too much for a shallow Bulldog backcourt to guard.
The No. 7 Bradley Braves face the No. 10 Loyola Ramblers in the second game of the day. While Balentine is good enough to take the conference-torch from Carter, I do not believe Bradley’s Walt Lemon is quite ready to relinquish his spot to Loyola and its freshman star Milton Doyle.
Although Doyle was deserving of freshman of the year in the conference, the rest of LU isn’t really gifted. Lemon is one of the most competitive players in the MVC and will be giving his all to end his collegiate career on a deep tournament run.
The results of either of Thursday’s games may not influence the tournament much, but it is a chance to observe the Missouri Valley’s future. Perhaps the future is now and the young guys have grown enough this season to end Wichita State’s run.