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Let the madness begin: MVC tournament preview

Editor’s note: Results of the Drake-Bradley game were not available at presstime.

March has arrived and with it the madness.

If the Bradley men’s basketball team wins four games in four days to claim the Missouri Valley Conference automatic bid, March will live up to its name sake.

The 10th seeded Braves faced the seventh seeded Drake Bulldogs for the second consecutive game Thursday night in St. Louis. It was a rematch of Bradley’s 90-64 win in Peoria on Saturday.

It’s the first time in coach Jim Les’ tenure the Braves were set to play in a Thursday night contest reserved for the league’s four worst teams.

A win Thursday night guarantees a game tonight with the second seeded Shockers of Wichita State. The name of the game is win and advance.

“Other than packing for five days, we’ll take it one game at a time,” Les said. “We’ll do everything we can to win Thursday and hope when the buzzer sounds, we’re moving on to Friday and Wichita.”

The Braves will have their hands full in St. Louis, which is hosting the MVC tournament for the 21st consecutive year. A last place team has never won the conference tournament.

“Playing four games in four days is tough for anybody to do,” senior guard Andrew Warren said. “But you never know what you can do if you get a little March magic on your side.”

A matchup in the second round with Wichita State would not be ideal for Bradley. The Braves lost 79-63 at Carver Arena in January then fell to the Shockers in Wichita 61-41 later in the month.

Southern Illinois and Illinois State squared off in the other opening round game last night. The winner faces the regular season champion Missouri State Bears today. Two other quarterfinal games today will match Northern Iowa and Creighton as well as Indiana State and Evansville.

The winners will advance to the semifinals on Saturday with the championship coming on Sunday.

Warren said all the hard work over the years will be put to the test in what could be his final tournament in a Braves uniform.

“I’ve been at Bradley for five years and we haven’t been to the NCAA’s,” Warren said. “I don’t want to leave this program without helping it reach March Madness.”

All of the MVC tournament games leading up to the championship will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports Midwest. The championship game will be aired on CBS.

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