With two games left for every team in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Missouri State men’s basketball team is tied for first with Drake and Loyola. Again.
After the Bears defeated Loyola for the second time this season on Feb. 17, the Bears moved into a three-way tie for first place in the Valley.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, the Bulldogs defeated Bradley 77-68. As it was the only game on Tuesday, the Bulldogs pulled ahead to a 9-5 record and held first place alone. The Bulldogs had sole possession of first place for about a day.
On Wednesday, the Loyola Ramblers defeated Evansville 70-58 and moved into a tie for first place with Drake. The Bears dropped down to third place after losing to Northern Iowa 63-43. It was an ugly game, and head coach Dana Ford was ejected.
Missouri State bounced back three days later, though, against Indiana State. The Sycamores, who were 6-9 going into the Saturday matchup, gave the Bears a run for their money in the first portion of the game.
The Bears didn’t play as well as they have in the past, and it showed. Indiana State trailed by three at halftime. When Indiana State and MSU first faced off earlier this season, Missouri State took a nine-point lead into half.
The Bears picked up their pace in the second half and capitalized on strong defensive plays. The Bears pulled out a 67-61 win.
The next day, Sunday, Feb. 24, Drake and Loyola lost to their opponents on the road. It brought the league back into a three-way tie for
first place between Missouri State, Drake and Loyola.
What does that mean for the Bears?
If the Bears were to win their next two games — Illinois State and Drake — and if the Ramblers won their next two games — Northern Iowa and Bradley — the Bears would win the conference in a tiebreaker. Both teams would have 12-6 records, and Missouri State defeated Loyola twice, giving them the advantage for rankings.
Now, if all three teams split their final two matches, things get tricky. All teams would be 11-7, but it would depend on who won the Drake-Missouri State matchup on March 2.
If Drake wins, the Bulldogs would take the championship. If the Bears win, MSU would win the tiebreaker through a mini-round robin of the records between the three teams.
The biggest key for the Bears — besides trying to win their last two games — is staying ahead of UNI. The Panthers are one game behind the league leaders, and if MSU ends in a tie with Northern Iowa, UNI would win because of the two victories over the Bears.
Missouri State hits the road for the last time in the regular season to face Illinois State on Wednesday, Feb. 27, and then will return to JQH Arena for a season finale against Drake.