Missouri Valley Conference

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Introducing Cinderella: Bradley going to its second-straight NCAA tournament

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Bradley hasn’t been anywhere near being the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference the last two seasons, but that hasn’t stopped the Braves from securing the conference’s automatic bid in back-to-back years.

The fourth-seeded Braves won the MVC tourney Saturday with an 80-66 triumph over Valparaiso in St. Louis to go to its second-straight NCAA tournament under coach Brad Wardle.

Darrell Brown scored 21 points while Elijah Childs had 17,  Ja’Shone Henry 16 and Nate Kennell 14 for Bradley, which shot 48.3 percent from the field while making 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range.

LEAGUE: Missouri Valley Conference

COACH: Brian Wardle

RECORD: 23-11, 11-7 MVC

RELATED: Bubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

METRICS:

  • NET: 106
  • KENPOM: 113
  • TORVIK: 109

PROJECTED SEED: Bradley’s resume isn’t overly strong, but the relative strength of the Missouri Valley Conference should be enough to keep them off the 16- or 15-line with a No. 14 seed.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: The Braves’ best win – and their only over a high-major opponent – was against Kansas State, which finished last in the Big 12, in November. They beat Missouri State twice and Indiana State once for three top-120 KenPom wins during conference play.

WHY BRADLEY CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

The Missouri Valley Conference isn’t what it once was when Wichita State and Creighton were counted among its members, but it’s among the strongest one-bid leagues in the country if Northern Iowa, by far the league’s best team, is left out after losing in the conference tournament quarterfinals. Bradley has played against solid competition all winter. And while the Braves don’t launch 3s at a prolific rate, they are excellent at making the ones they do take, ranking 32nd nationally with a 36.8 percent success rate on 3s. Six-foot-6 senior Nate Kennell has shot 44 percent on 186 attempts from distance. He could be a difference-maker in a single-game setting. Darrell Brown and Elijah Childs are proven scorers as well with NCAA tournament experience.

WHY BRADLEY WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

The Braves’ defense is going to be their biggest issue. They’re solid enough – teams have an eFG% of 46.3 – but they give up a ton of 3-point attempts, don’t generate any turnovers and are just OK on the defensive glass. A skilled and/or physical offense is going to cause serious problems for Bradley.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Bradley is back in the NCAA tournament for the second-straight season after two surprising runs through the MVC conference championship. Last year, they knocked off reigning Final Four participant and top-seeded Loyola Chicago in the semifinals before outlasting Northern Iowa in the title game to earn the automatic bid as the No. 5 seed. If you’re a Michigan State fan – or bettor or aggressive bracket-picker – you might remember Elijah Childs and Darrell Brown scoring a combined 36 points to stay within shouting distance of the Final Four-bound Spartans in the first round. Both are back for a second NCAA tourney with the Braves.

AUTOMATIC BID OUTLOOK

Bradley could find itself as a trendy upset pick – depending on its matchup – given the fact it has NCAA tournament experience, talented offensive players and the ability to connect from distance at a high clip. Veteran players and strong 3-point shooting is a formidable underdog combination. Still, though, the defense is going to be the Achilles heel, and if a more talented and athletic high-major program can push tempo, Bradley is probably going to find itself in trouble.

Former Evansville coach Walter McCarty accused of sexual assault by student

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Walter McCarty is facing potential legal issues stemming from a female student who reported she was sexually assaulted by the fired former Evansville head coach.

According to a statement released to the Courier & Press, the student hired Dallas-based Simpson Tuegel Law Firm to handle her case. The release notes that prominent victim’s rights attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel will represent the student. Tuegel previously represented sexual abuse survivors in the high-profile case of Larry Nassar against Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

McCarty was placed on administrative leave on Dec. 27 before being fired on Jan. 21 for alleged sexual misconduct.

Evansville received additional reports of alleged misconduct while McCarty was on administrative leave — leading to his dismissal.

“This was the classic power imbalance,” Tuegel wrote in the release. “He was the town sweetheart, grew up in Evansville, returned after a successful NBA career and coached the basketball team to national success. When McCarty saw that the victim was in too vulnerable a position to protest his behavior toward her, he assaulted her. Thankfully, she reached out to a friend for support and the assault was reported to the university.”

Tuegel also noted in the statement that her firm is investigating the other claims against McCarty. Once Evansville University’s internal investigation is complete, Tuegel will determine if any potential civil actions will come from the victims.

“It’s clear that my client wasn’t the only victim,” Tuegel said. “We have been informed that other women have come forward about McCarty’s sexual misconduct. It’s important that other survivors of this man’s acts know that they’re not alone, and we would encourage them to reach out to someone to report the misconduct. These women deserve to learn and work in an environment free of sexual violence and sexual harassment. My client asks that the community remain supportive of the men’s basketball team, as well as the additional survivors who have come forward.”

It will take some time to determine what Evansville finds in its internal investigation. But things are moving forward quickly now that Tuegel and her law firm are backing the case. McCarty is already in enough trouble to have lost his job despite a promising start to the season. Things will get even worse if more evidence is uncovered.

Walter McCarty dismissed as Evansville head coach

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Walter McCarty was fired as Evansville’s head coach on Tuesday night.

The school officially announced the decision after additional reports of alleged misconduct. On administrative leave since Dec. 26, McCarty was under investigation for Title IX violations.

Bennie Seltzer will remain interim head coach.

“While the investigation of potential Title IX violations will continue under University policies, UE has decided that, based on the facts uncovered thus far, it is necessary to terminate Mr. McCarty’s employment immediately,” the release said.

“There is no place at UE for any behavior by any University employee or student that jeopardizes the safety and security of others,”

The statement also said McCarty received “warnings last year regarding inappropriate off-court behavior with members of the campus community.”

The 45-year-old McCarty was in his second season with the Purple Aces. After an 11-21 finish in the first season, Evansville had a promising 9-4 start. Evansville made national news when the beat No. 1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena earlier this season.

Haldeman shot lifts Northern Iowa over No. 24 Colorado 79-76

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BOULDER, Colo. — Spencer Haldeman stole a pass and raced down the floor for a tiebreaking layup with 49 seconds remaining and Northern Iowa hung on to beat No. 24 Colorado 79-76 Tuesday night.

Northern Iowa defeated a ranked team for the first time since topping No. 25 Wichita State 53-50 on Feb. 13, 2016. The Panthers had lost their previous seven encounters against ranked opponents.

AJ Green and Trae Berhow had 20 points apiece to lead Northern Iowa (9-1), which has won three straight since losing to West Virginia 60-55.

Berhow and Green each hit five 3-pointers. Green’s last 3 with 1:10 left to play evened the score at 76-all after Colorado (7-2) had taken a 76-73 lead on a layup by McKinley Wright IV.

Haldeman then stepped in front of Wright’s pass and broke away for the go-ahead basket. After Green added a free throw, Colorado’s Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert both missed tying 3-point tries in the final seconds.

Siewert scored a career-high 21 points to lead Colorado (7-2), which lost a second straight after opening the season with seven consecutive wins. Wright finished with 16 points.

Leading by a point at the break, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run to start the second half. The Buffaloes got back in the game with a 9-0 burst.

Evan Battey converted a three-point play to put the Buffaloes up 62-60 with 6:41 remaining, but Green and Berhow connected on 3-pointers.

The Panthers led by five points after a layup by Justin Dahl with 3:10 remaining but Wright hit a 3-pointer and Battey muscled in a layup, was fouled and made the free throw as part of 8-0 run that put the Buffaloes in front 76-73 with 1:39 left.

The Buffaloes went without a field goal in the last 5:44 of the first half and Wright hit a jumper that gave Colorado a 30-23 lead. Earlier in the period, Siewert hit 15 consecutive points for the Buffaloes to help Colorado take an early lead.

BIG PICTURE

Northern Iowa: The Panthers, prolific 3-point shooters, made better than half of their shots from beyond the arc (14 of 26) and that was enough to fend off a Colorado team that had leaned on its defense to get off to a solid start.

Colorado: The Buffaloes hallmark early this season has been defense but they let down on the perimeter, leaving themselves vulnerable to Northern Iowa’s prolific 3-point shooters.

UP NEXT

Northern Iowa: Continues road trip at Grand Canyon on Thursday night.

Colorado: Takes on rival Colorado State in Fort Collins on Friday night.

Lomax leads No. 15 Memphis past Bradley 71-56

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Alex Lomax scored 17 points, Boogie Ellis added 12 and No. 15 Memphis survived a poor shooting performance to beat Bradley 71-56 Tuesday night.

Memphis made 36.1% of its shots from the field, but the Braves (5-3) were considerably worse. They hit 26.8%, including just 2 of 23 tries outside the arc.

Tyler Harris and DJ Jeffries added 10 points each for Memphis (7-1). Precious Achiuwa had an off-night scoring with only six points, but he grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. Lomax also had three steals.

Elijah Childs led the Braves with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Danya Kingsby added 12 points.

Bradley’s top offensive players had tough nights. Leading scorer Darrell Brown entered averaging 14 points per game but was limited to four. He missed all eight of his 3-point tries and was 1 of 16 from the field. Nate Kennell was held to two points a week after hitting 6 3-pointers in a win over Kansas State.

Memphis pulled away at the start of the second half, opening with seven straight points.

Bradley shot 25% in the first half, including missing all seven of its 3-point attempts. Memphis was only slightly better at 35.5%, converting a pair of 3-pointers.

Memphis’ 29-19 lead at the break was its largest of the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Bradley: The Braves struggled from the field throughout, missing 10 straight during the first half and coming out of halftime on a 1-of-13 skid. The misfiring, despite the Braves outrebounding Memphis, allowed the Tigers to build the lead to double-digits.

Memphis: The Tigers improved in the second half — only slightly. Eventually, Memphis’ speed and ability to get out on the break overcame its poor shooting as Lomax provided a spark off the Memphis bench.

UP NEXT

Bradley: Host North Carolina A&T on Saturday

Memphis: Plays at UAB on Saturday

Sunday’s Things to Know: Houston wins AAC title; three autobids earned; bubble madness in the Big Ten

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The final regular-season Sunday in college basketball had some drama as a major conference title was decided. On the postseason side, three more autobids were also claimed while the bubble had some action as well.

Houston runs past Cincinnati to claim AAC regular-season title

Houston earned its first regular-season conference title since 1992 with a convincing 85-69 road win at No. 20 Cincinnati. The No. 12 Cougars poured on 48 second-half points as they went on a 35-12 run to put the game away. Corey Davis Jr. scored a career-high 31 points while freshman Nate Hinton produced a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds — knocking down some key three-pointers to ignite the comeback run.

For the fourth time in the last six games, Houston scored at least 85 points, which is a notable accomplishment considering the Cougars generally prefer to play on the slower side (232nd in adjusted tempo on KenPom). Houston already has a top-15 defense, so if its offense is getting hot before the postseason, then it’s a trend to keep an eye on during Championship Week.

Autobids handed out to Bradley, Gardner-Webb and Liberty

Sunday didn’t have very many regular-season games left. But there were plenty of conference tournaments to keep track of with three autobids being handed out in traditionally one-bid leagues.

The Big South kicked the autobid day off as Gardner-Webb earned its first NCAA tournament bid in school history by knocking off Radford for a true road win. With back-to-back true road wins during the conference tournament, the Bulldogs certainly earned their way into the Field of 68 with two difficult wins.

Things got crazy during the second half of the Missouri Valley Conference title game shortly after as Bradley rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to stun Northern Iowa. A day after knocking out a Final Four team from last year in Valley No. 1 seed Loyola, the Braves followed it up with their eighth win of the season in which they were trailing at halftime to come back and win. This will be Bradley’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006 when they stunned the nation as a No. 13 seed who made the Sweet 16.

Finally, Liberty gutted out yet another road win for a team in an autobid situation by advancing in front of a sold-out crowd at Lipscomb. A high-level game featuring two teams who deserve a real look from the NCAA tournament committee, the Flames are back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2013. While Liberty is a potentially-dangerous double-digit seed, Lipscomb remains on the bubble as they have a long week of waiting ahead.

The bubble gets crazy in the Big Ten

Among bubble teams playing on Sunday, things got especially chaotic in the Big Ten. Indiana began the conference’s bubble day with a home win over Rutgers. Winners of four consecutive games, the Hoosiers have played their way back into the serious at-large discussion after a mid-season freefall.

Later in the afternoon, No. 21 Wisconsin outlasted Ohio State for an overtime road win that brutally hurts the Buckeyes’ bubble profile. Rallying from 23 points down to tie the game and force overtime, this was a golden opportunity for Ohio State to add some insurance by getting another Q1 win. Instead, they’ve dropped three straight games as the slide continues entering the postseason.

These two results mean that Thursday’s Big Ten tournament matchup between Indiana and Ohio State will have massive implications for the bubble. Both of these teams appear to be teetering right on the edge of the cut line as this result could ultimately put one team in while leaving the other team out of the proceedings.