By: Sammy Stava
It was 5 seeded Bradley vs 6 seeded Northern Iowa for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line in the MVC Tournament Championship. That sounds about right for Arch Madness in the most wide-open Valley Tournament that we’ve had experienced in a while.
For the first time since the Missouri Valley Tournament has been here in St. Louis, the No. 6 seed played in the tournament final. For the first time since 2006, a No. 5 seed played in the championship game. Both of these teams showed that they belonged on this stage, because it was one for the ages Sunday afternoon at the Enterprise Center.
In a 27-15 Northern Iowa lead at halftime, Bradley was held to a Valley Tournament title low in points in the first half, a list that they didn’t want to be on. The Braves then made history on a positive note in the second half, making it the biggest comeback in MVC Tournament Championship history in a 57-54 victory over the Panthers. I know “The Arrival” was our slogan, but it really was the comeback for us more than anything,” – Bradley head coach Brian Wardle said. Elijah Childs, who was named the MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, led the Braves with 16 points en route to the title.
“We started from the bottom, now we’re here,” – Wardle said. “We did it for a lot of Braves fans that have been waiting to get back to the tournament, but also to win this tournament in St. Louis. I think it’s been a long time.”
It has been a long time, in fact, the first time in 31 years and the first-ever coming in St. Louis; the Bradley Braves are MVC Tournament Champions, earning them an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. That Bradley team made it to the Sweet 16.
“I just think our guys know you win this tournament, you come out of the Valley, you have an opportunity,” – Wardle said. That’s true, because this Missouri Valley Conference has won ten consecutive first round games in the NCAA Tournament. Wardle added, “we know that our league prepares us for these tournaments on how disciplined the teams we play. We get to play a new team, which is kind of exciting, that doesn’t know us that well.”
Bradley will find out who that new team is as they’re name will be announced on the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday March 17th.
The last four games of this tournament were decided by a combined 10 points, and 550 KTRS is proud to be the St. Louis radio home of the Missouri Valley Men’s Basketball Tournament once again.