Just five days after battling Southern Utah in the regular season finale, Valparaiso will take on the Thunderbirds again Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders begin play at the Mid-Continent Conference Basketball Championship held at the John Q. Hammons Arena at the UMAC in Tulsa, Okla.
Valpo (19-10, 11-3 Mid-Con), the tournament's second seed, split its two meetings with the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah (9-19, 5-9), the number seven seed, posted a 56-49 win on January 27 in Cedar City, Utah before the Crusaders bounced back with a 65-47 victory at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Monday night (Feb. 26). Tip-off for the quarterfinal match up is set for 2:30 p.m.
The winner of the Valpo-Southern Utah contest will advance to Monday afternoon's (March 5) 2:30 p.m. semifinal against the winner of third-seeded Oral Roberts (19-10, 8-6) and sixth-seeded UMKC (10-19, 6-8). That quarterfinal game will be played Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Regular season champion and the tournament's top seed, Oakland (17-11, 12-2) will face number eight seed Centenary (5-24, 1-13) to begin the tournament Saturday at noon. Number four seed IUPUI (13-15, 7-7) will face fifth-seeded Western Illinois (10-18, 6-8) Sunday at noon with those two winners meeting in Monday's first semifinal beginning at noon.
The Mid-Con Championship game is set for Tuesday, March 6 beginning at 12:30 p.m. with the game carried live nationally on ESPNU. The champion earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Valpo has won two Mid-Con Tournament titles, with the last coming in 2004. The Crusaders have appeared in five tournament championship games in the last nine years.