Arch Madness preview photo

Demarcus Sharp pivoting around Southern Illinois Salukis' Lance Jones. Missouri State University won 65-53 against Southern Illinois Salukis on Feb. 10.

This weekend the Missouri State basketball team will go to St. Louis to play in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. If the Bears win the tournament, they get a bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Bears finished the regular season 12-6 in the MVC, which was good enough to get the third seed in the tournament behind Loyola Chicago and Drake. They will play sixth seed Valparaiso on Friday, March 5. Tip-off is set for 8:08 p.m.

Missouri State played at Valparaiso twice back in early January. The Bears won both games by the scores of 81-68 and 78-68.

Head coach Dana Ford said the games in January have little bearing on how the team is preparing for Friday’s game.

“It’ll be a little different considering we haven’t played (Valparaiso) in so long,” Ford said during an MVC coach’s media conference. “They’re doing some things differently. We’re doing a lot of the same things, but when you haven’t seen someone in that amount of time, you kind of got to reintroduce them to your team.”

Valparaiso has a 10-17 record but has shown it is capable of pulling off an upset. It was the first team to defeat Drake this season. Up until Valparaiso beat Drake 74-57, the Bulldogs were 18-0.

Valparaiso also beat fourth place team Indiana State 70-58 in the last game of the regular season on Feb. 27.

As for individual players, Valparaiso’s leading scorer Ben Krikke will be the player Ford is focused on trying to stop.

“He’s a very talented player,” Ford said. “He shoots it well, and he can score with his back to the basket. He’s always been a challenge for us.”

In the event the Bears beat Valparaiso, they will advance to the Saturday semifinal round and will play one of three teams: Drake, Northern Iowa or Illinois State. No. 7 Northern Iowa and No. 10 Illinois State will face each other Thursday, March 4 at 8 p.m.

The winner of UNI and ISU gets the chance to play Drake on March 5 at 5 p.m. Drake was on track to finish first in the conference, but season-ending injuries to All-MVC first team player Roman Penn and All-Newcomer MVC player ShanQuan Hemphill were big blows to Drake’s title hopes.

Regardless of the opponent, Ford said he has the same plan as he does every conference tournament.

“We are who we are right now,” Ford said. “We’re just going to try and win one game at a time and focus on that.”

All Arch Madness games will be at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Limited seating is available. Games will be broadcasted on Fox Sports Midwest Plus and NBC Sports Plus, and the championship will be on the CBS Sports Network. Two radio broadcasts will be available for MSU games, one with Art Hains on the MSU Radio Network and another in the St. Louis area on KTRS 550 AM.

Follow Stephen Terrill on Twitter, @stevethe2nd

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