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Panthers Earn No. 3 Seed For 2017 MVC Tournament

Missouri Valley Conference
Source: Missouri Valley Conference

The UNI Panthers earned the No. 3 seed in the 2017 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, which will be played at Scottrade Center in St. Louis this week.

UNI faces 6th-seeded Missouri State at 8:30 p.m. on Friday (March 3, 2017).

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Illinois State is the tournament top seed for the first time in 20 seasons. The Redbirds, who shared the league regular-season title with Wichita State, earned the tiebreaker (overall RPI as of Sunday, Feb. 26). The teams split their regular-season series, but ISU earned the higher seed using the league’s secondary tiebreaker with an RPI figure of 34, compared to Wichita State’s 40 (Collegiate Basketball News RPI Report).

Tiebreakers
(Illinois State/Wichita State for 1st/2nd) – Illinois State (34); Wichita State (40)
(UNI/Southern Illinois for 3rd/4th) – UNI swept the series vs. Southern Illinois
(Missouri State/Bradley for 6th/7th) – Missouri State (216); Bradley (220)
(Indiana State/Drake for 9th/10th) – Indiana State (222); Drake (305)

For the first time in the MVC’s 110-year history, the MVC has co-champions with identical 17-1 league marks. Illinois State (25-5, 17-1) and #25 Wichita State (27-4, 17-1) represent the first co-champs in the MVC in nine seasons.

Notably, only seven previous MVC teams have won as many as 17 conference games, but it’s only happened four times since World War II (Wichita State, 2013-14, 18-0; Southern Illinois, 2003-04, 17-1; Wichita State, 1982-83, 17-1; and Wichita State, 2014-15, 17-1). The last time the league had co-champs was in 2008-09 when Creighton and UNI shared the crown with identical 14-4 league records. Also, the 34 combined wins by Illinois State and Wichita State surpasses the previous combined win total from the league’s top two teams, established by Wichita State (17) and UNI (16) in 2014-15. Both of those teams reached the NCAA Tournament and also became the first pair of league teams to win 30+ games in the same season.

The title is the first for Illinois State since 1998 and is its sixth overall as an MVC member. ISU beat UNI, 63-42, Saturday afternoon at the McLeod Center to secure a share of the title. The Redbirds set program records for most-ever regular-season (25) and conference (17) victories, surpassing previous program bests of 24 regular-season wins and 16 league triumphs. Saturday’s victory also marked the program’s 1,600th overall and the team’s first at UNI since 2004.

Meanwhile, Wichita State claims a share of its fourth consecutive MVC title and fifth in the last six years. The Shockers’ 4-peat is the league’s first since Southern Illinois (2002-05) and just the third since World War II. Coach Gregg Marshall is the first Valley coach in 60 years to win five regular season titles, while WSU finished with 17+ wins in MVC play for the third time in four years.  It’s the 11th regular-season MVC title for Wichita State.

The 2017 State Farm MVC Tournament will feature three rematches from the final day of the regular season. Bradley-Drake, Evansville-Indiana State, and Loyola-Southern Illinois will play one another again after meeting Saturday, Feb. 25. The three immediate rematches is the most in MVC history. It had happened 13 times previously, but never three times in the same season. The winner of the regular-season finale went on to win the tournament rematch eight of those 13 times.

This year’s tournament is the 41st MVC post-season tourney and 27th-straight in St. Louis. The league has drawn over 50,000 total fans in each of the last 14 seasons, and the 2016 tournament total attendance was 50,021.

The top seed of the league men’s basketball championship has won the title eight times in St. Louis, but just five times in the past 10 tries (Drake-2008, UNI-2009, UNI-2010, Creighton-2013, Wichita State-2014).  Notably, only three times has a seed worse than No. 3 won the tournament (No. 4 Creighton in 2000, No. 5 Indiana State in 2001, and No. 4 UNI in 2016). And the tourney’s top two seeds are a combined 51-1 in their first games in the 26 years in St. Louis.

The tournament features nine games in four days and ends Sunday, March 5. For the 12th-straight year, CBS Sports will carry the title game, while the first six games will air on the MVC Television Network. CBS Sports Network will televise the two semifinal games on Saturday for the second-straight year.

Notably, since 2003, the league tournament has featured at least one ranked team eight times (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016). Until 2012, the MVC Tournament had never featured two ranked teams (Creighton and Wichita State entered the tourney as ranked teams in 2012). In 2015, UNI-Wichita State were the second pair to be ranked in Arch Madness. Top-25 rankings this week will be announced Monday, in advance of the tourney. Wichita State was ranked No. 25 in both polls (Associated Press and USA Today Coaches) this past week.

Of current members, Southern Illinois and UNI own the most tournament titles, with five each. UNI — which has won the last two MVC Tournament titles — will be looking to join Southern Illinois (1993-94-95) as the only teams to earn three-straight MVC Tournament crowns in St. Louis.

In 2011, Missouri State became the first No. 1 MVC Tournament seed and regular-season champ in 18 years not selected for the NCAA Tournament. Notably, only five top-seeded teams in 40 MVC tournaments have failed to reach the NCAAs (Missouri State-2011, Illinois State-1993, Southern Illinois-1992, Southern Illinois-1990 and Bradley-1982).

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