Bubble teams are going to be watching intently on Sunday afternoon in the Gateway to the West, as the Missouri Valley Conference title will be handed out to either the Creighton Blue Jays and the Illinois State Redbirds.
The Redbirds are trying to spoil the party for a team that is on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Normally speaking, a team that is 20-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference would at least have a shot of getting into the dance regardless, but with computer numbers in the 100s, there is no other option for Illinois State but to win this game if it wants to go dancing. The Redbirds have already posted a pair of upsets in two great games, taking down the Northern Iowa Panthers and the Wichita State Shockers, and that win over Wichita State on Saturday was clearly the team’s biggest win of the year. This defense does a great job in the conference, averaging 63.8 points per game allowed. Teams are also shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor, and the team is going to have to win this game on this side of the court. Tyler Brown has had a huge tournament for the Redbirds, especially coming up with a 25 point effort against Wichita State just yesterday. He is averaging 13.0 points per game, but he has been incredibly inconsistent all year long.
Creighton’s offense didn’t look all that special against the Drake Bulldogs in the first game in this tournament, but matters got a heck of a lot better against the Evansville Purple Aces. The 99-71 win had to be validating for the Blue Jays, who needed overtime to beat Evansville at the end of the regular season and were also beaten by it just a month ago on the road. Odds have it, Creighton is going to be on the No. 5 line or so in the NCAA Tournament, and though a game against Wichita State would have done more for the team’s overall ranking, this is clearly a better chance to win the conference tournament crown. The Blue Jays rank No. 6 in the land in total offense at 79.9 points per game, and they shoot 51.0 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from downtown. Doug McDermott is a force to be reckoned with, as he is averaging 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He is the best player in this conference, and regardless of what goes down on Sunday, it is clear that he is going to be a man that no one wants to see in March Madness.
The Final Word: Like we alluded to at the beginning of this article, other bubble teams are going to be watching and hoping that Illinois State doesn’t steal a bid to the dance. Don’t be all that shocked though if that’s what happens. This has always been a wild tournament, and it might be one that has a wild ending. Don’t be shocked if the Redbirds are dancing when this day is said and done with.
Illinois State Redbirds @ Creighton Blue Jays Pick: Illinois State Redbirds
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.