By: Sammy Stava
The opening of Arch Madness this year had a completely different feel. There were limited fans in the stands, players and coaches social distancing on the bench, and other COVID protocols in place. Though it is still conference tournament basketball in St. Louis, and this league deserves credit for that for pulling this off. In fact, the Missouri Valley was the only conference to complete 100 percent of their games this season.
In the first game on Thursday night, No. 8 seed Bradley took on No. 9 seed Southern Illinois. The Braves were looking to become the first team to win three consecutive MVC Tournament titles since the Salukis did so from 1993-1995. To do so, they needed to win four games in four days – something that hasn’t been done before.
Both teams were without key players to start their postseason run. Marcus Domask was out with an injury for the Salukis and Elijah Childs was still serving a suspension for the Braves. That meant somebody else had to step up for both of the shorthanded teams.
For Southern Illinois, it was sophomore guard Ben Harvey – who led the team coming off the bench with 24 points. For Bradley, it was freshman Reink Mast who had a stellar MVC Tournament debut, leading the team with also 24 points. Mast is going to be a key piece for Bradley in the future as they prepare for life without Elijah Childs.
Though, the back-to-back MVC Tournament Champions just didn’t have enough, as Southern Illinois pulled away from Bradley with a 73-63 victory in the opening game of Arch Madness.
The Salukis have advanced to MVC Tournament Quarterfinal Friday for an in-state match up with the top-seeded Loyola Ramblers. They will certainly have their hands full against the No. 20 team in the country led by Larry Bird Player of the Year Cameron Krutwig.
Tip-off comes your way at 11:00 AM central time on The Big 550 KTRS.