Arch Madness loss hugs

The Illinois State University men's basketball team traveled to St. Louis for the annual MVC Arch Madness Tournament. The Redbirds took on Drake March 5 in the first round of the tournament and ended up losing 75-65. The loss ends the season for the Redbirds.

With COVID-19 cancellations running as rampant as the disease itself, it’s impossible for a sports writer not to think about the senior athletes missing out on their final season.

While the NCAA has announced eligibility relief for spring athletes, a number of stars stepped off the basketball court without knowing it was their final game. Their final moments have been stolen from them.

No emotions, no curtain calls, nothing.

Plenty of players finished their career with clarity. Losing in their respective conference tournaments with no hopes of taking part in March Madness. But many others were on the bubble, or even tourney locks. Nothing but questions filled the final month of their college careers.

Focusing on the Missouri Valley Conference, how would an eligibility relief program for men’s basketball affect the Valley?

Indiana State would be a team sure to see an improvement if seniors were allowed to stick around for a fifth year. Seniors Jordan Barnes and Christian Williams are set to graduate after completing their senior season for the Sycamores.

The duo represented Indiana State well in the MVC yearly awards, as Barnes took home third-team all-conference honors and Williams was named to the defensive team.

Indiana State finished in a tie for third place in the Valley. They were bounced in their first Arch Madness matchup, being upset by sixth-ranked Missouri State. Mixing super-seniors with their 2020 recruiting class could be a dangerous mix for other teams in the MVC.

Northern Iowa could be right back at the top of the conference if given the chance to let seniors return for a fifth or sixth year. The Panthers also lost in their first Arch Madness matchup, to No. 8 seed Drake.

MVC Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Brown would be back, reviving one of the deadliest duos in the conference alongside Larry Bird award-winner AJ Green. UNI finished 25-6 overall and 14-4 in the MVC, both conference bests. These two on the court together again would be a scary reunion for the rest of the conference to watch.

Bradley would be another threat if given the opportunity to return graduated seniors. Senior guard Darrell Brown led the Braves to a second-straight Arch Madness championship and was primed for a NCAA Tournament appearance. Brown was a second-team all-conference selection, and showed he was a first-team snub in the tourney.

However, Brown showed in an interview with the Peoria Journal Star that not all players would be set on coming back for another year: “I couldn’t be happier with the way we ended our careers. We went out the right way.”

It’s entirely possible that players would simply choose not to return if given the opportunity. Brown may be one of many.

While it’s interesting to imagine if players were granted an opportunity to return, it’s not practical. The NCAA has shown no signs of going back on their original ruling. While fans naturally picture the hypotheticals, keep in mind the athletes that never got a proper send-off.

(1) entry

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